In lieu of tonight’s game against St. John’s, I exchanged some questions with the St. John’s Blog “Rumble in the Garden” along with Kevin from Friar Basketball. For our answers to his questions, head on over there.
Friarblog: Providence and DePaul are the only games this year being played at Carnesecca Arena. Is that how the Friars are perceived in New York? The same level as DePaul??
Pico: Um… yes. Providence has been at the bottom of the league, and there’s no USF or Rutgers or Seton hall on the schedule at home. It’s a nice intimate environment!! (I can’t believe Cincinnati is getting the Garden. Really?)
Friarblog: Who is going to be the key to stopping Vincent Council?
Pico: The Red Storm play a lot of team-oriented defense, so no one person is the key, especially in the zone. It’s going to defend on the Johnnies’ ability to defend in transition and keep the Friars from getting easy looks at all. If Council starts going off, the stopping job should fall to Sir’Dominic Pointer, a better defender than Phil Greene and maybe better than Malik Stith at this time.
Friarblog: The Johnnies have a pretty poor 45% assist rate. Are they scoring lots of their points on fast breaks, or simply not passing the ball well? Does losing Lindsey and adding Amir Garrett change this aspect of the game at all?
Pico: It’s a combination of not hitting their shots and players needing to create their shots off of the dribble. At their best, the Red Storm generates points in transition, where no assist is needed. Still, the lack of passing is an indicator that the Red Storm offense isn’t fluid enough or organized enough to put up big assist numbers.
The big question for me is how does Garrett’s presence change things? Lindsey wasn’t much of a passer, but could hit an open God`sgift in transition or when he had a comfortable rental home’s worth of space by the charge circle. I think the passing numbers will drop even further.
Friarblog: Opponents aren’t getting many trips to the line. Gerard Coleman is 35th in the nation in foul shots attempted. What will give?
Pico: Depends on the zone’s recognition on the defense of Sir’Dominic Pointer and Phil Greene. Sometimes, they are effective at keeping opponents out of the lane, forcing outside shots. Other times, there is enough penetration that it breaks the zone down.
Kevin (Friar Basketball.net): They played both Arizona and Texas A&M close in November, but have struggled a bit over the last month. Why? If I remember correctly, they went through a similar slump just before the Big East started last year – any similarities to this season?
Pico: This season’s struggles have some similarities to last year, in that the coaching staff is focused more on teaching the new system to players who haven’t played it. The defense, in both years, has been a issue as the team figures out the right balance between keeping opponents out of the paint, trapping on defense, and covering shooters.
Ah, but the details this year are different. Some differences in opinion about how the team should play led to Nurideen Lindsey’s slump and subsequent departure. When Lindsey was on, he was a major part of why the Red Storm were able to draw so many fouls on offense.
But with Lindsey not ineffective (and sloppy with the turnovers), the Red Storm attack stalled. The team has to create in the half court and off of the dribble. Without Lindsey – despite his lack of offensive efficiency, lack of a jump shot, and turnovers – generating points has been a bit more difficult.
Kevin (Friar Basketball.net): Do you expect Harkless and Harrison to compete for BE Rookie of the Year? I love Harkless’ game and thought Harrison looked good against Arizona and was wondering what your thoughts were on the two.
Pico: Earlier this year I would have thought that Harkless would lose out on Rookie of the Year voting to Andre Drummond or someone else on a top team. But having seen the numbers Harkless has put up, I think he has a really strong shot for Rookie of the Year…
…so far. Neither Harkless or Harrison has stepped into Big East play. And both are developing their games; both may be on an upwards arc. Harrison hasn’t really gotten into his groove. Without Lindsey, Harrison may find himself creating more offense and using more possessions. Harkless is also settling into his offensive game, where he can get points in every way on the floor. Will he continue to rebound solidly for an out-of-position small forward? If he can maintain that rebounding rate, he has a solid shot of Rookie of the Year.
Kevin (Friar Basketball.net): Thoughts on Nurideen Lindsey moving on?
Pico: Lindsey (as mentioned above) was a player with glaring flaws. But the things he did well on the floor – pure transition speed, an ability to draw fouls, defensive rebounding, and offensive relentlessness – will be hard to replace on this team, and maybe even in the next recruiting class.
But there’s only so far a team can go with a a player who doesn’t want to play his role. And Nurideen’s high usage rate kept the ball out of the hands of a number of players who needed a few more touches to develop.
For winning games this season, Nuri’s departure might hurt. For the development of the talent on the roster, for the team effort, and for developing a style for the next three years, Nuri’s absence might just help.
Kevin (Friar Basketball.net): If Providence is going to upset St. John’s Tuesday night, how will it happen?
Pico: It’s hard to say. The team has struggled on offense for the past two games, and it’s hard to imagine how performances like that will earn a win against any Big East team. But with new forward Amir Garrett and a few days off, the team might work in a few wrinkles.
I’d say that if Providence doesn’t get back in transition, and if they foul the Red Storm a lot – especially in battles for rebounds off of St. John’s missed shots – the Friars could have problems. And if the outside shots aren’t falling for the Friars (and specifically Bryce Cotton), St. John’s can at times make things for players who need to slash into the paint (like Gerard Coleman, from what I’ve seen).
Kevin (Friar Basketball.net): How much of a buzz has Cooley created outside of Providence? Fans here are in a near frenzy about next season with Kris Dunn and Ricardo Ledo joining an already good frontcourt – I can’t imagine what will happen if they land a big man to join them. Is the rest of the Big East in touch with how much Cooley has energized Providence?
Pico: I think the Big East sees how Cooley has gotten PC excited, but it’s not like he’s making new fans in New York yet. A lot of people haven’t seen the new Providence in action, but know they are managing to keep a couple of New England players at home. But it’s a long road to respectability, even with high-end talents. It’s exciting to have Providence on the way back. And playing defense.