Wake up Friartown, a new season is finally upon us! This season was not ruled just a partial qualifier by the NCAA. This season did not injure it’s shoulder requiring serious surgery and grueling rehab. I know twelve months ago it may have been tough to imagine this season starting without Ricky Ledo and Kris Dunn, but their time will come. Instead, the Friars will be moving forward with the pieces they have in order to make continual progress in the Ed Cooley era.
The first opponent to kick off 2012-2013 is NJIT. PLEASE CALL THEM NJIT. Don’t call them New Jersey Tech or NJ Tech — seriously it’s specifically called out in their game notes. You may remember them from such losing streaks as “51 losses in a row, an NCAA record!”. The Highlanders had a rough start to their Division I days which began in 2006, but have become much more competitive in the Great West Conference over the last few years. However, Ed Cooley and the Friars should be able to ease into the season against a less talented team that is half full of newcomers.
WHAT TO: KNOW
Game Time: Saturday, 2 PM
Location: The Dunk
Ken Pom: Providence: #75, NJIT: #319
ESPN Pickcenter: Providence 73.5, NJIT 63.5
TeamRankings.com Projection: Providence 73.8, NJIT 64.2
Coming to the game?: “Please bring a canned food item to support the Rhode Island Food Bank’s Holiday Food Drive. For your generosity Providence College and Webster Bank will give you two tickets to a future Friar game!”
WHAT TO: VOTE FOR
WHAT TO: LOOK FOR
Friars Health: With only 7 scholarship players available this semester, everyone needs to stay healthy. That hasn’t been the case so far during the last few weeks. Bryce Cotton missed the last exhibition game due to an injured thumb, and Kadeem Batts has missed several practices and was limited in the RIC game due to bursitis in his shoulder. Both are expected to play on Saturday, but could be a little off after missing some time and possible lingering effects of their injuries.
Buckets Becoming Buckets: LaDontae Henton has been quiet so far in all of the exhibition games, but I am not worried one bit. However, the season is starting and the roster is dangerously thin. While it’s more important for Buckets to step up as the competition rises, I would still like to see a little more something from him to help me sleep at night.
Life Without Wilkerson: NJIT will be looking to adjust without the reigning Great West Conference Player of the Year Isiah Wilerson, who graduated and was drafted into the NBDL. The 6-2 guard led the team in scoring and rebounding, and is the best player to have ever graced NJIT in their short Division I career. To pick up the slack, the Highlanders will be looking for the leadership from three senior players. Guard Chris Flores will most likely be the focal point of the offense as the top returning scorer. He’ll take a lot of threes, and have decent success (36.1). PJ Miller is their point guard, but on their website they touted the fact that he had “more assists (62) than turnovers (61)” — that doesn’t exactly instill much confidence. In his first three seasons he has typically turned the ball over on 1/4 of his possessions, something the Friars will definitely be looking to exploit. Wing Ryan Woods is someone who the Friars need to watch on the perimeter, as he drilled 41% of his long balls last year.
Hit Your Freebies: NJIT only has six returning starters, but last year’s team put up some troublesome stats in the foul department. The team committed 20.7 fouls per game, which came out to a foul on 26.1% of the total plays. PC’s foul shooting has been hit or miss lately, as it seems to make me queasy anytime I see anyone other than Ice Cotton at the line.
Oh Canada: Among one of the 5 new players on the NJIT roster expected to play big minutes right away is freshman Mitch Farrell, a 6-3 guard from Ontario. Apparently he was one of the top guards in all of Canada in the class of 2013. I’m not really sure what that means, but I bet he is a huge Robin Sparkles fan.
Speed them up: If the last several years of Jim Engles’ coached NJIT teams are of any indication, the Highlanders are going to play a relatively slow game compared to the Friars. Last season NJIT came in at 65 possession a game, which was 221st in the country. Let’s see if they can keep up with Vincent Council.
WHAT TO: READ
Friars.com: Gamenotes [PDF]
Scouting NJIT: The NJIT Highlanders posted a 15-17 mark last season and a 5-5 record in the Great West Conference. The team lost two starters of a squad that i nished third in conference play. Senior guard Chris Flores (Dorchester, Mass.) is the team’s top returning scorer and rebounder. Last season, the 6-2 guard averaged 13.1 ppg and 3.7 rpg. Head Coach Jim Engles enters his fifth season as the head coach at NJIT. Former Friar guard Michael Brown is in his first season as an assistant coach of the Highlanders.
NJHighlanders.com: Men’s Basketball Preview at Providence
- NJIT attempts to win its first game against a Big East opponent, having started 0-11.
- NJIT will try for its sixth D-I road win excluding teams that comprise the GWC. The Highlanders have won at Manhattan (11/11/06), Longwood (2/19/07), Wagner (12/28/09), Farleigh Dickinson (2/1/11) and Army (11/30/11).
- NJIT (15-17) is coming off a season in which the team was 20 minutes away from a Great West Conference title. Despite an eventual 75-60 loss to North Dakota in the tournament finals, the Highlanders continued their rapid ascension with back-to-back 15-win seasons — after winning a total of 15 games during their first four seasons with a Division I schedule.
Woonsocket Call: Cooley hopes zone defense pays off for Friars
Fast forward to the just-completed preseason camp, where Cooley and his assistants spent much of the time stressing how to construct a zone that protects the limited numbers the Friars will have available when the program’s 86th season tips off Saturday afternoon. All told, Cooley will have seven scholarship players at his disposal against the New Jersey Institute of Technology, meaning playing zone defense is born out of necessity more than anything else.
“We’ll give teams multiple looks, but on our depth alone, we need to be wary of foul trouble and injuries,” Cooley stated. “We need to be a chameleon and be able to adjust to everything.”
Pawtucket Times: Friars look to defy basketball critics this year
“My expectations are always high, but I have to have reality when you’re developing a group,” said Cooley on the eve of PC’s season opener, on tap Saturday afternoon at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center against the New Jersey Institute of Technology. “I did not anticipate not having Kris or Ricky, but you’ve just got to make adjustments. I’m optimistic to get on the floor and see where that takes us.”
If you can get past the fact that Providence will come after opponents in the season’s early going with a skeleton crew – just seven scholarship players are at Cooley’s disposal – you’ll see a core in Vincent Council, Bryce Cotton and LaDontae Henton that’s as solid and formidable as any in the Big East.
NJHighlanders.com: NJIT Men’s Basketball 2012-13 Preview
The success of this year’s team will depend heavily on the three most experienced players in the program – seniors Chris Flores, PJ Miller and Ryan Woods. Players that Engles expects to pick up a bulk of the team-high 16.2 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game lost with the graduation of Isaiah Wilkerson. Plus, the losses of Lamar Kearse (transfer) and Arjun Ohri (graduation) will further challenge NJIT’s ability to light up the scoreboard.
“Chris, PJ and Ryan have already shown that they can step up and take up the burden of the points,” said Engles. “All three have been through the program and have all had very good preseasons.”
Great West Conference: Coaches Choose Two-Time Defending GWC Champion Utah Valley to Repeat in Men’s Basketball
NJIT was chosen to finish second in the coaches’ preseason poll with one first-place vote and 17 points.
Coach Jim Engles will have to replace last season’s GWC Player of the Year Isaiah Wilkerson, and will depend heavily on three seniors–Chris Flores, Ryan Woods and PJ Miller–to lead his team.
Three-time All-GWC second-team honoree Flores averaged 13.1 points and 3.7 rebounds last season and led his team with 3.3 assists. He also had the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the league at 1.6 as the Highlanders finished third in the conference and made a run to the GWC Tournament championship, upsetting Utah Valley in the semifinals before falling in the title game to North Dakota. Flores, who was named to the GWC All-Tournament team, scored a tournament-tying record 27 points in the upset of Utah Valley.
Woods, a proficient long-range shooter, averaged 9.7 ppg last year and was third in the GWC in 3-point percentage with .415, while Miller, a three-year starter for the Highlanders, averaged 6.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg and 2.1 apg last season.
College Basketball Talk: Great West preview: All of the talent, with none of the perks
G: Stephon Carter, California State-Bakersfield
G: Chris Flores, NJIT
G: Brandon Provost, Texas-Pan American
F: Ben Aird, Utah Valley State
F: Jeremy Robinson, Chicago State
Player of the Year
Jeremy Robinson, Chicago State
1.) Utah Valley State
2.) California State-Bakersfield
4.) Texas-Pan American
5.) Houston Baptist
6.) Chicago State
NJIT: The Highlanders continue to make strides in the right direction, as the team went 15-17 last year, with an even 5-5 mark in Great West action. The team saved its best for last though, making a surprising run to the conference tournament title game before falling to North Dakota. Fifth-year head coach Jim Engles has enough to work with this season to close the perceived gap between Utah Valley and the rest of the league. Despite the loss of Great West Conference Player of the Year Isaiah Wilkerson, a trio of seniors in Chris Flores, PJ Miller and Ryan Woods will attempt to fill the void. Flores, a 6-0 guard, was an all-conference second-team member last year after averaging 13.1 ppg. Woods (9.7 ppg) and Miller (6.8 ppg) should provide scoring depth.
WHAT TO: WATCH
Abu Bakr and Kevin McNamara discuss Council’s rise to a player capable of being a Big East Player of the Year.
I missed this last year, but FriarTV got some good video of “The Walk”. Cooley makes the team stay at the Westin during home games, and wants to create a tradition of them walking across to the Dunk. Something tells me by next year this walkway is going to be incredibly crowded.
As I mentioned above, NJIT had a FIFTY-ONE game losing streak several years ago. They finally ended it by beating Bryant in February of 2007.
I guess this really motivated them!
Mitch Farrell, the Canadian freshman mentioned up above.
Here is a full game video from last years NJIT vs. Fairleigh Dickinson game.
NJIT senior guard Chris Flores on the competition at JSBL and several reasons as to why he chose NJIT after having zero Division I interest out of high school
WHERE TO: FOLLOW
Twitter.com: I’ll be unfortunately missing the game, but there will be a Live Blog here. You can also follow the #pcbb hashtag as always.
WHERE TO: WATCH
WHERE TO: LISTEN
NJHighlanders.com: Free Web Stream
Radio: WEEI 103.7 FM