There is a ton of great reporting and analysis from various publications, blogs, and message boards to keep the Friar fan informed all throughout the year. I’d like to introduce a new feature here called the Friartown Roundtable that tries to bring all that together in one place to have the ultimate collection of expert opinion on the latest topics in PC basketball. In the future, I hope to also spur some discussion and debate around the same group. For the inaugural edition at the semester break, I just posed the following question:
What is YOUR biggest takeaway from the team after the first semester, and how do you see that changing with the guys coming back from injury/eligibility?
My biggest takeaway is the emergence of Kadeem Batts as a potentially high impact front court player in the Big East. No one, and I mean no one, had Batts scoring the ball with such productivity at this point in the season. He obviously has to prove he can remains major factor when the opponent meter jumps considerably in 3 weeks but all signs point to PC having a legit low post/high post big man scorer for the first time since Ryan Gomes.
The biggest takeaway I have is this team’s ability to fight. They’ve gotten mentally tougher, and just seem more willing to scrap and claw…which they’ve obviously had to do. That, and Kadeem Batts’ improvement in the post. He can go with either hand, has a dead-eye shot from 18 feet…and is now a difficult match up for alot of bigs.
I don’t think that changes alot for him with Sidiki’s arrival…but also hope that the fight the team shows continues. I think it will, which hopefully bodes well for a successful conclusion.
Richard Coren, ScoutFriars.com
A couple of things have impressed me over the first nine games.
First, I think the unsung heroes of this team are the strength and conditioning coach, Kenneth White and the trainer, Bryn VanPatten. Think about it – you’ve got six scholarship players, and these players know they have to play major minutes. There’s no choice. The work done over the summer and in the fall in terms of conditioning was extraordinary. Each of these players were prepared to play a full 40 minutes, every game. That’s not easy – not with how hard these guys play. The conditioning work, led by White and the job done by VanPatten to keep these guys on the court, has been exemplary. Let’s face it, Providence could not have afforded to lose one more player, so keeping players on the court through their nicks and bruises was key.
The other thing that jumped out at me was the improvement that this team has shown over the first nine games. That’s directly attributable to coaching. Typically, when a team loses its best player, it rallies and plays well for a short period of time, and then the quality of play erodes to adjust for the loss of that talent. This team, however, has continued to improve. You can visually recognize the cohesiveness and chemistry now that was missing in the exhibition games. To improve and to move forward while dealing with all of the difficulties that having such a limited number of players brings is coach of the year territory. Frankly, I do think there will be challenges with introducing two to three players to the rotation in the second semester, and that will manifest itself in the first couple of games back, but I’m confident in this coaching staff and their ability to navigate through those tricky situations.
Kadeem Batts and Bryce Cotton have not just improved offensively, but diversified their games. Sometimes when players improve they get better in areas in which they were already serviceable, but these two were limited offensive players a year ago who can do so many more things with the ball in their hands now.
Entering the season, it was fair to think that virtually all of the offense would come from the creative ability of Vincent Council. Nearly 60% of Cotton’s shot attempts came from beyond the three point arc last season, and despite playing almost 39 minutes per game he attempted just over three fouls shots a night.
Since his freshman year Cotton had a nice floater, but with an improved handle he’s able to create off of the dribble for himself more frequently and finish with the floater over bigs, or all the way to the rim. With two more made two point field goals a game and over seven free throw attempts, he’s managed to bump his scoring average up to over 20 points per, while shooting virtually identical numbers from three point range, even with Council creating for him.
Who knows if we see this much of an offensive game from him if Council logs 40 minutes per with the ball in his hands. Suddenly, Providence could have one of the better backcourts in the Big East if Council can return to form.
In regards to Batts, I broke down his game in an article this weekend, noting how much more assertive he’s been. This was a player who closed his freshman year not taking a free throw in his final four games (despite playing over 20 minutes in each) and last season went seven Big East games without shooting one. Plus, he had 10 other games last season in which he made only one or two free throws.
This year he’s taking seven free throws a game, and his face up jump shot has been far more consistent — automatic on some nights. His shooting percentage is up over 50% after hovering below 40 as a sophomore. He’s flashed a back to the basket game at times, but my sense is where he’ll be most effective against the iron of the Big East will be when he’s facing up from 18-20 feet. After a quiet couple of games against Holy Cross and Fairfield (16 points combined) he exploded when PC needed him most, scoring 55 in the final two games of the first semester versus URI and Mississippi State with Cotton gimpy with a knee injury.
Batts final two games were indicative of what these two have done offensively so far this year – emerging when PC most needed them. Their combined improvements have given PC fans a lot more hope heading into January than they had two months ago.
Providence has experienced more than their share of hard knocks this year, from eligibility setbacks to devastating key injuries.
Despite that, Ed Cooley and his program have shrugged off adversity, and gone 7-2 with six scholarship players. With four players logging nearly 40 minutes a game, they play consistently intense and disciplined basketball, and are among the top 2 in nation in 3 point defense.
The takeaway is that the Friar program has made its own luck this year, on the basketball court and on the recruiting trail, where they’ve built on last year’s impressive class by adding 2013 Top 100 prospect Brandon Austin, further establishing Providence as a growing destination for elite recruits under Ed Cooley.
Daniel James, Friarblog/ScoutFriars/Friarpod, Twitter: @TheWarriorFriar
The biggest takeaway I’ve gotten from this team so far is how far developed Kadeem Batts is compared to last season. Arguably Bryce Cotton has had just as much growth (especially having to adjust to running the point) but the step up in Kadeem’s game has been nothing short of astounding. The Friar frontcourt is finally looking as competitive and dynamic as our backcourt, and that’s largely in thanks to the work and progress Kadeem Batts has made.
wtm97, Co-Mod of PC Friar Fan Forum
The bench coaching of Ed Cooley and the staff has been an eye opener as they have done much with so few while winning with a surprising purpose on both sides of the ball. Their game prep and adjustments even kept us in the two games we lost right down to the wire. The addition of a front-line banger along with true PG play will do much to enhance this team’s prospects going forward.
Chris Torello, Friarpod; Twitter: @ChrisTorello11
Going into the season Ed Cooley proclaimed Vincent Council as the best point guard in the country – then he got hurt in the season-opener and is most likely out until Brown (12/28). Kris Dunn was supposed to be the second-in-command when Council was not out on the floor to dish out assists. Then Dunn had shoulder surgery in July and has still not taken the floor for the Friars. So if you would like to know the biggest takeaway for the first half of the season, it has to be the ball-handling skills and leadership skills of Bryce Cotton. He is only averaging 2.3 turnovers per game, with his highest turnover number landing at 4, which only came on two occasions (vs. Bryant, vs. URI). Not to mention he is also averaging 36.8 minutes per game, nearly 21 points per game and has 4.8 assists per game. Could the assists be higher? Of course. But let us remember that he has to score for this team that only has one other guard who is capable of scoring from the perimeter (no offense to Ted “White-Lightning” Bancroft).
Bryce Cotton has been the hardest working player on this team since he came in as a late addition to Keno Davis’ final squad (#fireupchips). I remember watching this kid putting in an additional hour after practice each day to improve his shooting. He does not know what lazy means. He wants to get better and play through any ailment. Just look at the UNC-Ashville performance in Puerto Rico (30 points, 11-19 shooting, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds) after hurting his ankle against UMass, and his gritty effort against URI following his knee injury in the Mississippi State game.
Cotton has lead by example this season. He will obviously welcome back Dunn and Council once they are ready to play. And who knows, maybe the Friars can possibly get on a run in the Big East and get some timely passing and shooting from Council, Dunn, Cotton, and Fortune. Hey! Take your pick. But when we look back on this first half of the season, be glad that when there were very few options to choose from, we had Bryce Cotton.
I feel cautiously optimistic about the additions of Council and Dunn, who are both back from injury by the start of Big East play, if not sooner. I think it is nice to know that we have a guy like Sidiki Johnson (ESPN #94 in the 2010) to come in and show everyone what he couldn’t at Arizona. I am excited to see the Friars headed into the homestretch of their Non-conference schedule with a legitimate shot at 10-2. Yes, the teams this Friar squad went up against have not been from the hierarchy of college basketball. But after everything Ed Cooley and his team have had to endure thus far, I think any Friar fan would take 10-2, no matter what, and run with it to Louisville.
Here is where I am optimistic: Council is back and will automatically provide a spark in the flow of the offense. Cotton did an admirable job in his absence, but Council is the true leader of this team. I think he will be able to set-up Cotton and Fortune on more screen sets to allow for 3-point shot opportunities. I think the addition of Sidiki will bring a nice 1-2 punch with a very confident Kadeem Batts right beside him ready to score and rebound the ball. I also think it will allow a guy like LaDontae Henton to step out along the perimeter a little bit more and contribute with the long-range jumper. He is more of a 3, in my opinion, though I know he can give the Friars minutes at the 4-poisiton as well.
Here is where I am cautious: Dunn and Sidiki will both try to prove something when they return. Dunn will try to prove he can be the combo guard who can pass, shoot, drive, rebound, etc. He will make mistakes and he will turn the ball over. Do I expect to see more good than bad out of Kris Dunn? Absolutely. It is simply worth noting that he is a freshman and he will make errors just like any freshman would. Sidiki will look to be that force many of us got a small glimpse of during the Mal Brown Scrimmage in Alumni Hall back in October. He will come out ready to be the beast in the paint. And this could benefit a guy like Batts, who we know enjoys taking that 15-foot jumper. However, maybe he goes too hard and turns the ball over, forces low percentage shots, and shows visible frustration when he does not get the ball. You know, like the old Kadeem Batts. I think Sidiki will be a good player, but the efforts of Kofane, Goldsborough, and Henton will still be needed because I see Sidiki getting into foul trouble and I see him needing time in Cooley’s system to get acclimated. I hope nothing but the best for Sidiki as he plays this final half of the season. Lord knows he looks like Dwight Howard next to Brice Kofane, and Shaquille O’Neal next to Lee Goldsborough. And, as I said in my opening of this response, I am cautiously optimistic.