Friar Basketball

Big East Power Rankings (and more on two major debuts)


Providence is on the verge of what should be one of the most highly-anticipated non-conference games in quite some time.  For the first time in nearly 20 years the Friars will welcome a McDonald’s All American as guard Kris Dunn makes his debut after missing the season’s first nine games following shoulder surgery in July.

He’ll be accompanied by 6’9 Arizona transfer Sidiki Johnson, who sat the first semester per NCAA transfer rules.  While head coach Ed Cooley admitted this weekend that both Johnson and Dunn are playing through mistakes in practice, he’ll welcome the talented duo with open arms against Colgate on Tuesday, “Their athleticism and size will give us a totally different look from what we’ve seen.”

Cooley noted that the Friars’ quickness will “much improve” with the athletic Dunn on the floor, before calling Johnson a “physically imposing” big man who passes the ball well.  Where Johnson may help most, according to the coach, is in rebounding on the back-end of their zone.

Providence has gotten fine efforts from Kadeem Batts and LaDontae Henton on the glass this season, but several games stand out over Cooley’s first year and a half in which that backside rebounding cost them.  Last season’s lost to West Virginia is first to come to mind.

The Friars limped home at the end of the first semester according to Cooley, and while there will be an adjustment incorporating Dunn and Johnson into the offense, the energy and focus of this group should see a much-needed bump with the added depth.

In Dunn and Johnson the Friars are getting far more than depth.  They’re both physically gifted players who could dramatically sway the fortunes of this 7-2 team if they can seamlessly transition into the lineup.

And now, the Power Rankings:

1. Cincinnati (10-0): Syracuse may have more talent, but Cincy has defeated three high major teams, while the Orange have seen only one.  Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick are playing as well as any backcourt in the Big East and they’re leading the country in rebounding.

2. Syracuse (9-0): So many weapons.  Michael Carter-Williams has been perhaps the league’s best player to date and he leads four Orangemen who average double figures in scoring.  CJ Fair remains one of the most underrated players in the Big East.

3. Louisville (9-1): The only blemish was a five point loss to #1 Duke.  They whipped up on #13 Missouri and took out Memphis this weekend.  Rick Pitino’s bunch welcomes Kentucky just three days prior to kicking off the conference schedule against Providence.

4. Notre Dame (9-1): An overtime loss to St. Joe’s is the only blemish for Mike Brey’s group that has collected wins over Purdue and then-#8 Kentucky.  Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins form perhaps the league’s most under-appreciated backcourt.  Both are averaging over five assists per game.

5. Georgetown (9-1): Pittsburgh was the gut choice here, but who have they beaten?  The Hoyas defense can be scary good.  Unfortunately, the offense has had moments when it’s been a nightmare itself.  Still, we saw their upside in an overtime loss to then-#1 Indiana, and Otto Porter remains the most versatile forward in the league.

6. Pittsburgh (10-1): Jamie Dixon’s group is a close loss to a terrific Michigan team away from an 11-0 start.  Trey Zeigler has been so-so, while Talib Zanna has finally emerged in his fourth year.  Freshman point guard James Robinson has been quietly solid.

7. Connecticut (7-2): A win over Michigan State is better than any Marquette or Providence can boast of – by a good amount – so they land here.  Still, the formula is there for an inconsistent season – relying on a streaky and small backcourt and an abnormally poor rebounding front line.

8. Marquette (7-2): Victories against Wisconsin and USC are better than any the Friars have had to date, and one of their two losses came by a point to Butler.  The other?  82-49 against Florida.

9. Providence (7-2): How Ed Cooley blends Dunn, Johnson and Vincent Council will be key.  Suddenly, the Friars look to have a lot of options with Bryce Cotton, Kadeem Batts and LaDontae Henton holding down the fort through nine games.  The suit contingent shrinks beginning tomorrow.

10. St. John’s (8-3): I’m willing to let a loss to San Francisco slide considering they flew across the country for that one.  The other two came against a dangerous Murray State group and a beating at the hands of Baylor.  JaKarr Sampson has been terrific as a freshman with three double doubles already.  He’s a 14.5 point 7.4 rebound performer.

11. Seton Hall (8-2): They survived an early-season injury to the steady Aaron Cosby, while Fuquan Edwin has been a star (19.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.9 spg, 54% from the field, 54% from three).  Pretty embarrassing I left him off the top five in the Big East to date.  Only two losses have come to high majors and massive (6’9, 290) newcomer Gene Teague is putting up numbers – including 21 and 9 versus Rhode Island.

12. Rutgers (7-2): Sophomore Myles Mack is emerging.  How so?  16 points per game on 59% shooting from the field, 50% from three and 96% at the free throw line.  Decent numbers for a kid who doesn’t look much more than 5’10.

13. Villanova (7-4): Yuck.  It’s been ugly at times for Nova, who lost four of five, including an embarrassing 75-57 defeat at the hands of Columbia.  A win over St. Joe’s was very necessary.  They’ve now taken three straight.

14. DePaul (8-3): Lost three of their first four games before ripping off a six game win streak with victories over Arizona State, Auburn and Fairfield.  Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young are now juniors with a ton of experience.

15. South Florida (5-3): Wasn’t feeling the Bulls before the season and they’ve done little to change my mind.


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