Team Name: Providence Friars
2013-14 Record: 23-12 (10-8 Big East)
It would be a banner season for Providence in 2013-14, as the Friars would win their first Big East Tournament championship in twenty years, giving them their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004.
It seemed like dramatic finishes were a part of this team's DNA last season after they played six overtime games, including four that went into double overtime. After being on the bubble for much of conference play, the Friars would start to find their stride at the right time, winning four of their final six before the Big East Tournament.
They took down St. John's in the Tournament's second round in what essentially became an NCAA Tournament play-in game, and after holding off Seton Hall in the semifinals, the Friars officially removed themselves from the bubble after a 65-58 upset win over Creighton to take home the title.
Their NCAA Tournament run would end early, however, as they were barely held off by the favored North Carolina 79-77 in their opening round matchup.
G Bryce Cotton (21.8 PPG, 5.9 APG), F Kadeem Batts (12.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG), G Josh Fortune (8.4 PPG, 3.0 RPG)
Guard Bryce Cotton, who last season led the Big East in assists and finished second in the conference in scoring, finished out his spectacular final year in Providence after the Friars were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in March.
Cotton finished his senior season as the 2014 Big East Tournament MVP, along with being named to the 2014 First team All-Big East, and there's no doubt that he was the most impactful player on last year's surprising Tournament team.
Forward Kadeem Batts also graduated after last season, leaving Providence without their second-leading rebounder and third-leading scorer. His presence in the paint will surely be missed going forward.
Also important to note is the offseason transfer of guard Josh Fortune from the program. Fortune was a reliable shooter for the Friars last season and finished second on the team with 77 3-pointers made.
C Paschal Chukwu (Westport, CT), F Jalen Lindsey (Franklin, TN), F Ben Bentil (Middletown, DE), G Kyron Cartwright (Compton, CA), G Tyree Chambers (Germany)
Head coach Ed Cooley was able to bring in five recruits this offseason, including four-star center Paschal Chukwu and four-star forward Jalen Lindsey. The 7'1" Chukwu, along with 6'8" forward Ben Bentil, should be able to cover up some of the holes left in the frontcourt after Batts' departure.
Lindsey, ranked as the 84th best player overall and 23rd best small forward by ESPN, should see a good deal of playing time this season as well. Also hopefully playing his first season for Providence in 2014-15 will be forward Rodney Bullock, who spent all of last season as a redshirt after he was suspended in November following an alleged sexual assault.
He would ultimately be cleared of the charges this past summer, but now faces another setback after suffering a knee injury a few weeks ago that could sideline him for the season. [UPDATE: Bullock is out for the season.]
Key Players Returning:
F LaDontae Henton (14.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG), F Tyler Harris (11.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG), G Kris Dunn (3.8 PPG, 5.0 APG), F Carson Desrosiers (3.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG)
Forward LaDontae Henton comes into his senior season as Providence's leading returning scorer and rebounder from last year. He will likely be expected to take over the leadership role voided upon Cotton's departure.
Junior forward Tyler Harris will also play a huge part in the Friars frontcourt this season after averaging just over five rebounds per game in 2013-14. Also worth noting is the return of heralded sophomore guard Kris Dunn, who missed all but four of the Friars games in last season due to injury.
Many are calling Dunn a potential breakout player not only for Providence but around the country as a whole this season. Forward Carson Desrosiers, who led the Big East last season during conference play with 38 blocks, also returns for his senior year.
Returning Minutes, Points, Rebounds
Key Non-Conference Opponents:
Notre Dame (11/23), @Kentucky (11/30), @Boston College (12/5), Miami (12/22)
Providence will take part in the 2014 Hall of Fame Tipoff in Connecticut, with games scheduled against Notre Dame and Florida State. The Friars will also hit the road for two straight tough road games, first going to Kentucky to take on the Wildcats in Rupp Arena before returning north just five days later to play Boston College. They'll close out non-conference play with an interesting holiday matchup against Miami in the Barclays Center.
Most Intriguing Conference Matchup:
Creighton (12/31) (Big East Opener)
After Providence surprisingly knocked off Creighton in the Big East Title game last season, it's only fitting that these two should meet to open up conference play on New Year's Eve.
After the loss of the legendary Doug McDermott, the Bluejays likely won't be as much of a threat this season, but nonetheless last year's championship loss should still remain very clear in the heads of most Creighton players. With the script seemingly flipped this season, can Creighton return the favor and knock off the likely favored Friars?
Projected Big East Finish: 4th
Projected Overall Finish: NCAA Tournament Appearance
Despite the losses of Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts, Providence still appears primed to make their second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament after a 10 year drought. I
f LaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris are able to take control in the frontcourt, and if Kris Dunn can run the offense effectively in his first healthy season at the helm, then the Friars could legitimately be looked at as a threat in the Big East this season.
Couple those three with a talented recruiting class coming in, and things look even better for Providence in 2014-15.