Friar Basketball

Friars Fall Apart in Queens, Now What?

AJ Reeves Friars.com Providence College Athletics

The mirrors are cracked and the smoke has now cleared.

After a dreadful non-conference portion of the schedule, Providence rebounded with a win over Texas and somehow started 6-4 in the Big East, despite an offense that could be generously described as pedestrian. 

PC’s Big East record left Friar fans checking the NET ratings and wondering how Providence would have to finish to give themselves a chance at an NCAA tournament berth come March. Those notions look silly in mid-February. It simply can’t happen with the offense playing like it has for most of the season.

Following an aberration against Creighton, in which PC made 12-20 from 3-point range in a 73-56 victory, the offensive attack regressed to the mean the past two times out.

On Saturday, Providence let a winnable game slip away at Xavier because they scored just three field goals in the game’s final ten minutes.

On Wednesday at St. John’s the bottom fell out.

Providence turned the ball over 24 times, missed 12 foul shots, and made just 6-22 from deep. They took a whopping 23 free throws in the second half, yet were still outscored 47-44 over the final 20 minutes by a St. John’s team that:

a. Hadn’t beaten anyone in the league other than DePaul, and

b. Were without second leading scorer Mustapha Heron.

Something was lost in translation this week. Ed Cooley spoke before the game of the importance of taking care of the ball against the Johnnies. Not only did the Friars turn the ball over throughout, the turnovers were quite often unforced errors. There were mind-numbing passes and a lack of concentration on display all evening.

It got so ugly that some fans wondered if the team had checked out. That would be surprising considering how hard they have played since conference play began. This has not been a good offensive team by any stretch — their issues have been execution, not effort. Providence is the lowest scoring Big East team in conference play, and their .400 shooting from the field barely edges out St. John’s (.396) for the bottom spot in the league.

Those numbers have been beaten to death at this point. They aren’t going to chance over the next month.

For the second year in a row, the finger is being pointed directly at the point guard position. CBS Sports sideline reporter Jon Rothstein said during the game that he believes Jared Bynum, a St. Joseph’s transfer who will suit up for the Friars next year will solve PC’s point guard woes come November. He then doubled down on Twitter following the game.

Where have we heard this before from Rothstein? Last spring when Providence signed Luwane Pipkins.

This is both unfair to Bynum and a bit of a cop out for Providence. Friar fans can be excused for rolling their eyes at Rothstein’s comments after Makai Ashton-Langford did not pan out here and Pipkins’ decision and shot making abilities have been subpar.

Former Providence Journal editorialist Jim Donaldson was in a far less forgiving mood.

Donaldson is a contrarian, and his point isn’t completely unfair, but it felt like piling on at an opportune time.

The program is in a different place in this iteration of the Big East with Cooley at the helm than it was in 2011. It isn’t fair to place the 14 years preceding Cooley’s arrival on him. The lack of NCAA tournament wins is a blemish, but this was a program that made the tournament twice from 1998-2011 and hadn’t reached the Big East Championship since 1994. Cooley’s five tournament appearances, Big East title, and overtime loss to eventual national champion Villanova in the 2018 Big East title game should not be grouped together with those years.

But frustration and questions about regression over the past two seasons are more than fair.

The frustration of the fanbase this year likely has less to do with anything dating back to 1997, but more that the program has taken a step back over the previous two years. Many in the fanbase saw the Kyron Cartwright/Rodney Bullock/Jalen Lindsey class as a the bridge between the Kris Dunn/Ben Bentil era and a next step headlined by a roster filled with top 50-100 talent. That obviously hasn’t been the case.

Providence entered this season with high hopes. Cooley said he thought this team could be special. With six games left in the regular season the focus should be on building positive momentum and carrying that into a 2020-21 season that is starting to feel like a critical one for the long term future of this program.

12 Comments

  1. JIm Jackson

    February 13, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    I posted here in December saying they would be lucky to finish over .500.

    Hopefully Bynum and Horchler gel with next year’s squad.

  2. rayi

    February 13, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Some teams just don’t gel. This group has certainly looked like it this yr and last yr was not much better. Something just not right with this group. No team leader or leaders on floor. I still cannot believe the number of unforced turnovers.

  3. Jim Sweeney

    February 13, 2020 at 7:00 pm

    Team is a disaster. They are a blot on the great history of the program. Responsibility rests with the players primarily. There have been many games where they simply can’t score in last ten minutes. Last night was different and similar to the disaster against Florida in December. Coach Cooley can’t avoid responsibility. The team has never come together. That is Cooley’s job.

  4. Bat Man

    February 13, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    No point guard, Pipkins playing hero ball, Diallo very disappointing and has regressed, no shooters, Coach recruiting very good athletes and no shooters, and that 1970s flex offense is a disaster ……

  5. Cool as a flaming hot cucumber

    February 13, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    Last night may have been the worst game of basketball I have watched in a decade. It is unbelievably painful to watch this team make the same mistakes over and over and over again. I’m not sure what the problem is, but it’s time to hold Cooley accountable. I love the guy, but this is unacceptable. I judge a person not on their failures, but their ability to recognize those failures and make the necessary changes to rectify them. Cooley has not done that. He has an arsenal of experienced assistant coaches including a former D1 coach in Bob Walsh who prides himself on X’s and O’s. How can a team with this much talent continue to play like this without someone stepping in and taking a hard look at what isn’t and isn’t working. It’s the same stuff every game. Yes, we don’t have a PG who can truly run an offense, but why are we running the same offense we did in our losses against Charleston and Long Beach St as we are now? Mind boggling. That being said, biggest mistake of the season was Cooley not brining in an immediate grad transfer that is a true PG. We didn’t need a Pipkins, we have a enough scoring options. We needed a guy who can distribute and get our scorers the ball in the right spots to make plays and play to their strengths. Instead we are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Atrocious basketball with no sense of purpose or urgency. I’m just so frustrated with this team and I’ve watched every game for the past 10 years. I’m finally at my breaking point. Shame on this team and shame on my favorite coach of all time – Ed Cooley

  6. Mark Fitz

    February 13, 2020 at 10:18 pm

    What he said ^

  7. G

    February 14, 2020 at 1:03 am

    They can’t score. They haven’t had a true scorer. Since cotton

  8. Brad

    February 14, 2020 at 1:07 am

    Ed needs help coaching offense. Every big game we lose comes down to lack of offense of execution. The flex is brutal. His substitutions make no sense. AJ and Dunn are our best scores but everyone else is taken the shots.

  9. Jack

    February 14, 2020 at 4:05 pm

    When your two best percentage 3pt shooters are taking far less threes than your worst shooters( Diallo, Pipkins and White), you have a problem. I love Coach, but if the team is dysfunctional, that’s on the coaching staff. It would appear to me that the seniors(except Young, who is what he is and always gives great effort) are playing for themselves.

  10. Russ

    February 14, 2020 at 7:56 pm

    Easy fix. Ed, your philosophy of recruiting 6’3 to 6’7 athletes who can play multiple positions is not and really has not worked so start recruiting a true point guard, an actual shooting guard who can actually shoot a decent percentage, a power forward with rebounding and shooting skills and and finally an actual big man who alters shots. That means you might have to recruit players who may not be athletic and beasts on defense but are skilled position players. It’s time to incorporate European players, Juco players and any 5th year seniors. We’ve got nothing coming in for the incoming freshmen class but we do have transfers that may help. Remember the old saying “If you do what you always do, you’ll get what you always get.”

  11. Gary

    February 16, 2020 at 11:04 am

    It’s time to be bold and bring in Pitino! We need a guy like this that can do multiple task and handle a multi million project. He would be welcomed back with optimism, would be very hungry and back to his first program he always loved. Cooley has had his time and things are getting worst. It a tough program to be in charge of but it’s 2020 now. So many other great coaches that have comeback and made it happen. Go get him while he would love this opportunity with open arms and our fans will embrace it!!!!!!!

  12. Marty

    February 16, 2020 at 8:52 pm

    I’ve. Said it before and I’ll say it again, this is the worst passing team I’ve ever seen. Seniors not playing well at all. Diallo is just not the player he was last year. The game with 24 turn overs was horrible. Come on guys 6 games left in league play. Let’s play with some pride.

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