Welcome to this new segment here on Friarblog. It was truly to be honored to be asked by Dave to really get involved here with the site, as I have been an avid reader basically from the first day this blog started. Dave once inspired me to start my own blog, which unfortunately got discontinued due to the fact it became constant complaining about how poor of a job Keno Davis was doing with the Friars.
When Dave asked me to get involved here on a weekly basis with the site, it was a no-brainer. The work that they put in here is amazing, and I am honored to be part of the team. The Crunch is going to be for the statistics geeks out there like myself, breaking down the stats of past and present games to show strengths, weaknesses, improvements, and flaws for the Providence Friars from game-to-game, season-to-season. It will dive into the positives and negatives about a given game from a unbiased point of view, which is the reason Friarblog became my number #1 source of Friars news so many years ago.
With that said, let us dive right on in …
In the first game of the season yesterday afternoon at Alumni Hall, Providence dismantled the Assumption Greyhounds from up in Worcester, 88-45. This is the first time Friar fans have really gotten to see how the Friars will look this season, at least for the non-conference portion of the schedule as they wait for Kris Dunn to heal and Sidiki Johnson to gain his eligibility. That said, there were many telling stats in this game.
1,632 – The amount of people who crowded into Alumni Hall, many for the first time since millions of dollars were spent to improve it (and listed as a sellout by the school).
The differences between Alumni of this year and last year are remarkable and noticeable when you first step foot into the gym. The seats are very comfortable and spacious (definitely a concern when trying to cram them into a tight gym), and the video scoreboards are a wonderful addition. It isn’t just because we live in a society where people need instant access to replays, but they just look sharp, impressive. To be honest, having a practice facility like that is simply another recruiting tool, and Alumni now looks like a Big East caliber practice facility.
70.4% – The percentage from the floor PC shot in the first half against the Greyhounds.
In what was one of the most exciting halves I have seen as a Friar fan in a while, PC legitimately dominated Assumption from start to finish, ending the half with 19 made baskets on 27 attempts, and started the game up 7-0 and eventually up 17-2. It is my belief that Vincent Council is a huge reason for this, asserting his dominance from the opening tip. Last year, I thought one of the biggest problems PC had was controlling the tempo in games, and with a guy like Council, PC is obviously going to want to get out and run and attack, which they did to perfection on Saturday. There was a lot of concern that losing Gerard Coleman would hurt PC’s ability to run, but I can’t help but feel that Josh Fortune is a perfect complement to the run and gun style PC would like to run. Both he and Cotton have the ability the attack the basket and get big air on dunks and alley-oops, but they also are more than capable at hitting difficult shots from the perimeter, which in turn gives Council space to drive into the paint and make decisions. Their spacing gave Council many creases to carve apart on the break, and he made the right decisions for the most part. He still had 4 turnovers, but his 12 assists all came off of him baiting the defense, a thing of beauty. Providence scored 27 points off of turnovers, and credit Council for getting them moving in the right direction. As long as Council can maintain his composure (which seemed to become an issue down the stretch of games as fatigue set in last year), PC should win more close games this upcoming season.
68.6% – The amount of baskets in which the Friars assisted on against Assumption.
If you go back to last season, the key for the Friars winning a game was typically having a A/SM ratio of over 65%, and today was no exception. PC lost only 1 game last year when having a ratio of 65% or greater, a game at home against Georgetown when they had 11 assists on 14 made baskets. You could tell early on that PC is not afraid to make the extra pass, and having a player like Kadeem Batts in the post who can really work the ball inside-out is a major bonus when the defense collapses. Plus, Josh Fortune is an additional weapon wing also helps to keep this ratio high with his ability to thrive in a catch and shoot offense. If the ball goes to him outside, he can sink the shot. Last year, that same play was going to Gerard Coleman, and he was going to do what he had to do to score, which didn’t always help the team.
59.1% – Free Throw Percentage for the Friars against Greyhounds.
We can chalk this up to a bad day, but I was shocked by the amount of missed free throws and who was missing them. Josh Fortune, known for his shooting ability, was only 3-5 from the line. Henton, who shot 70.6% last year, was 2-5, and even Bryce Cotton, ice from the line, missed a free throw. Again, hopefully a bad day, but hopefully the trend doesn’t continue.
33.3% – Shooting Percentage for Assumption Against the Friars
Providence suffocated Assumption all day from the field, which was tremendous to see as the Cooley improvement and toughness factor on the defensive end can most definitely be seen. As I will discuss later on, rotations by the bigs was impressive and the Friars controlled the boards 42-21, which is a huge reason for their dominance in the game. Just look back to last year, Assumption out-rebounded the Friars 38-33, and had 14 offensive boards, mostly early, which kept the game a lot closer than it should have been.
Alumni Hall has been a house of horrors for Greyhound leading scorer Kevin Donahue. You would never guess that by his two appearances here (1-9 2012; 3-16 2011), and the Greyhounds 2nd leading scorer Tim Beinert did not register a point, shut down by LaDontae Henton. Terrance Bobb-Jones, a transfer from Quinnipiac, was the only Greyhound to have any impact on the game, scoring 19 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
26 – Points scored by the “big men” against Assumption.
While much of the offseason has been focused on recruiting (who is coming, who is not coming, who is ineligible, who is injured, what waiver is granted, etc.), it seems that lost in the shuffle is the fact that PC does not have an immediate answer to this crisis: For the first portion of the schedule, what is the play of the center going to be like?
Kadeem Batts was supposed to be the answer last season, but struggled outside of the Louisville game to really get going, likely a result of missing the first semester due to his suspension. Brice Kofane showed a lot of potential because of his shot-blocking ability, but did not have the strength or basketball awareness to contribute consistently in Big East play. Lee Goldsbrough was very solid early in the non-conference portion of the schedule, simply throwing hard screens and grabbing rebounds, but again was not built enough for Big East play. So now we enter this season, and until Sidiki Johnson is able to play, that is what we are relying on to solidify the core of our defense, and they were strong today. Just look at the line of Batts, Kofane, and Goldsbrough:
Batts – 18 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover, 30 minutes
Kofane – 8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 turnovers, 1 steal, 23 minutes
Goldsbrough – 0 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 3 steals, 18 minutes
Total – 26 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 turnovers, 4 steals
We know Ladontae Henton is going to be solid as a rock playing the power forward position (his role on the team right now barring foul trouble pushing him to the #3), but I have viewed the big men as a wildcard to the early-season success. Today, they did a variety of things well. They attacked the glass, they made the right decisions with the ball in their hands, they through strong screens, they rotated well on defense. Granted, it was against D-2 Assumption College, but those are attributes in their individual games that have clearly been addressed and that they have practiced since last March. You can definitely see improvement in that regard. How that translates to Division 1 competition remains to be seen, but the fact that we can see improvement (especially in Batts and Kofane) means hopefully PC can stay competitive, especially when they head to Puerto Rico next month.
12 – Minutes played by PC Walkon Ted Bancroft against the Greyhounds.
Bancroft, typically seen as the walkon who jacks up threes when PC is winning by 30 points at the end of a non-conference game, is going to be thrown into the action this year. Loved by Coach Cooley, and with only three guards, Bancroft could play an important role this year for the Friars until Kris Dunn is healthy. Last week in the mal-brown scrimmage, he completely shut down Bryce Cotton while on defense, and continued his solid play today. While on the court, he minimized his mistakes and played well as a teammate. He was 1-1 from the floor, with 1 rebound and 2 assists. He had a turnover on a shot attempt when his arm was hit and the ball went out of bounds, but not quite his fault. Regardless, Bancroft needs to remain comfortable and confident when he is called on, and fulfill the role just like he did today.
7 – Minutes Bryce Cotton played Point Guard against Assumption.
Cotton did a very good job managing the point against Assumption, at least in the sense he did not really struggle to get the ball down the court. But I just can’t help but feel that if Council gets injured or into foul trouble before Kris Dunn gets healthy, PC could find themselves in real trouble. I think a large part of this opinion comes because of the fact Cotton, while a leader off the court, does not have the personality to lead on the court. He is more passive; He doesn’t like to take a semi-contested shot, he doesn’t want to force the issue. It got to the point where Cooley cursed him out for pumping on a pretty decent look late in the second half, let the defender come at him, and as a result Bryce traveled when trying to establish his dribble. Cotton, while dominating from the perimeter and pulling out a highlight-reel alley-oop early in the 2nd half, I just don’t think he has the instinct to run the point. Fortunately, Assumption ran a lose man-to-man never really forcing him to make tough decisions, so he didn’t necessarily do a bad job, but the sample size relating back to last year definitely poses a concern if Vincent can’t be the iron man for whatever reason.
5 – Starters in Double Figures for the Friars against the Greyhounds.
Bryce Cotton (23 points, 7-10, 5-6 3), Kadeem Batts (18 points, 8-14), LaDontae Henton (14 points, 6-12), Joshua Fortune (12 points, 4-8), and Vincent Council (11 points, 5-8, 12 assists) led a very balanced attack for the Friars against Assumption. The beauty of the scoring was that each player did the scoring within the flow of the offense. No guy forced his game to benefit his own stat sheet. Having players who complement each other is the only way PC will surprise opponents and steal some wins once big time opponents show up on the schedule.
2 – Double-Doubles by the starting PF and C for Providence against Assumption.
LaDontae Henton (14/11) and Kadeem Batts (18/11) were fantastic in not only grabbing boards and scoring points, but also in getting the ball to Council as fast as possible and getting him out running. While PC did force 20 turnovers, that was not the sole reason for their ability to start running. Those guys were able to grab the board and catch Council running, the old “outlet” pass that coaches drive into your head from a young age. Both Batts and Henton showed significant improvement on their midrange game, and looked comfortable in that position. They also showed finesse in attacked the basket, something Henton will likely have to do more now that Fortune will be occupying his space on the perimeter more often.
I look forward to getting our Sunday Morning Crunch on when the games really get rolling and there are more numbers to breakdown.
For more information and insight, always remember to follow on twitter: @rjsuperfly.