Well, the nightmare is over. Like a vacation from hell the Friars escape PR with a few injuries but the team intact, and leaving you wondering if Robert DeNiro is still alive.
The Friars left Puerto Rico with a 1-2 record, all three games coming to the wire by a possession or less (except for the last one, which technically was two possessions thanks to some last second free throws). Let’s take a look at some of the key things to take away.
Depth: The Friars came into PR with the depth of a kiddie pool, but played like they weren’t going to see a basketball court again. With Council out the Friars only had 7 players including walk-on Ted Bancroft for UMass. However, Cotton injured his ankle against the Minutemen and the Friars were reduced even further to 6 players for the following night’s matchup against Penn State. Cotton regained health and was able to play against UNC Ashville (thank God) and was the key difference maker, but the depth hurt us in more ways than simply rest alone. Providence had to get creative with positions, especially against Penn State, putting freshman Josh Fortune in the point guard position.
Offense: The offense is something Providence struggled with, especially the second night against Penn State, where nobody could seem to find their groove shooting wise. In a 55-52 loss that went into overtime Providence shot 15-44, good for 34%. Not the worst shooting percentage for a team, but certainly not something you want to see from an offensively talented team.
Turnovers/Muscle: Here’s something interesting from the UNC Ashville game – the team had 20 turnovers. Fortune alone had 8. Over the course of three games in four days, Providence had a staggering 51 turnovers. Whether you want to claim this was because Council wasn’t playing or because Providence did a piss-poor job protecting the ball is your perspective, but regardless 51 is not a number you want to see in that column. Additionally, Providence was outmuscled by allowing the three teams to they played to combine for a total of 49 offensive rebounds. Now, to be fair Providence did tie UNC-A for rebounds at 35, outrebounded UMass at 35-31, and fell short to Penn State 32-33. Still, in games like these where the result is based on a possession, you can’t help but look back and be disappointed by those numbers.
Henton: LaDontae struggled in Puerto Rico…at least, that’s the perception. He scored in double digits for every game, and had a double double against UNC-Ashville and UMass. So why the perception that he struggled? Chalk it up to bad plays at bad times. He would struggle getting boards, hitting shots he normally hits, and making poor decisions (notably the last possession against UMass that resulted in an offensive foul on him, turnover, and subsequently the game for UMass). This isn’t a knock on Henton by any means – he’s a sophomore who struggled doing the things he does well. That happens, and it’s just as frustrating for him as it is for any fan to watch. This is an observation backed knowing that Henton is talented enough to do much better, and that despite this hiccup we’ll see the former All-Rookie Big East freshman exceed our expectations in time.
Batts: Batts said at media day that he grew a lot in his game, especially his post moves. Kadeem, congratulations – you’ve just proven your point. Cotton could arguably be the player of this tournament, but if I had a vote I’d give mine to Kadeem. Not only did he play hard through three games he never stopped hustling on both ends of the floor and gave it his all. I applaud him not only for the shots he made, but for the effort he gave. I’m proud to see him in the black and white now more than ever.
Effort: This team has no quit. Six players? We’ll play. Cooley wasn’t going to forfeit those games, and if he was planning on coaching them the kids were damn sure planning on playing in them to win. And they almost did. This wasn’t a question of “who has more talent” or “did the Friars play hard enough” – it’s a result of hard work and just having a few bad breaks. Things could have gone differently in both losses, things could have been done better, but given the circumstances and given the effort I can’t say I’m disappointed or even mad because the Friars are doing what we’ve always wanted them to do – play like there’s no tomorrow. Which, if they keep getting injured, may be next week.
Keep an eye out for Dave’s full recap of the PR tournament later, and look out for post coming tonight “Friar-osophy 101″. I gave the lesson plan for Friar-ology, and now I’m teaching some more philosophical stuff in light of the PR performance. And while you’re waiting why not head over to my new website and vote for Kadeem Batts as last weeks New England Player of the Week and Providence vs. Bryant as last weeks New England Game of the Week?