There's no question that it's been a topsy-turvy early season for Providence College. One filled with both positives and negatives... but really, what else could you expect from a team that plays eight freshmen or sophomores?
It was expected that junior Dwight Brewington would be an integral part of this year's squad, but the 6'5 swingman quickly decided that he did not like his role.
From the day that he was recruited, Brewington envisioned being the Friars' point guard, a latterday Jason Kidd. As a prep school player, Brewington saw Donnie McGrath playing the point, and tried to decommit from PC, but was talked out of it by his coaches.
When he arrived at PC, Brewington chafed at playing anywhere but the point, and his relationship with several teammates was strained. The coaching staff gave him several opportunities to play the point, but Brew was a turnover machine and was not well suited to the position. The staff spoke to him on a regular basis about his role, but what they told him was not what he wanted to hear. Despite starting and averaging thirty-three minutes a game last year, along with 13.3 points, the thirty-three minutes were not at point guard, so Brew was unhappy. Now he's gone.
Which leaves PC a much younger team. Yet, the Friars have not had a problem replacing Brew's scoring. The offense has been a pleasant surprise. PC has scored under 75 points only once, notching 69 against URI. And PC put up 89 points against a very talented, very athletic Memphis team, that was 7th in the nation in field goal percentage defense.
The defense, on the other hand, has been a major disappointment. PC has, quite simply, had trouble stopping teams from scoring. In particular, PC's interior defense has been porous.
A major hue and cry went up from Friar fans when Tim Welsh sat Randall Hanke for twelve minutes during the second half of the Memphis game. What those fans failed to realize, is that during those twelve minutes, PC continued scoring, while the defense, with Jon Kale in the middle, started playing tougher, and PC trimmed the Tigers lead from 13 points to two.
Hanke continues to shoot the ball at an incredible rate... over 75%... but he needs to show the same interest in playing defense that he does in scoring. As a sophomore, Hanke still needs to bulk up, so he can hold his own inside, but he has the time to develop into one of PC's best centers if he puts his mind to it.
While defense remains a huge concern, and will likely determine PC's fate this year, it appears that the Friars have found a future point guard in Sharaud Curry. Curry's play has enabled Donnie McGrath to shift to the two, where he is looking more comfortable with every game. He torched Memphis for 28 points, and Welsh tinkered with the offense to get McGrath open looks against the Tigers' tough defender, Rodney Carney.
In addition, Geoff McDermott has brought a new toughness and sttitude to the squad. PC was hurt immensely when McDermott crashed to the floor late in the first half against Memphis, and barely played in the second half. His lower back and hip tightened up, but he should be good to go against Norheastern.
Which brings us to the next four games. PC plays Northeastern, Yale, San Diego State and Loyola of Maryland before the end of the year, and these four games are critical to the Friars' hopes of postseason appearances this season. We'll say it right here: No excuses, no moral victories... there is no reason that PC should not sweep the next four games.
Yes, Northeastern is a toughie. It's guard, Jose Juan Barea, and forward, Shawn James, are a formidable twosome. Add to that the fact that PC is coming off a ten day break, and you never know how a young team will react to that. But the game is at home, and the Friars have a more talented overall team.
Yale and San Diego State both graduated a lot of talent from last year, and the Friars should clear advantages in both of these contests. Loyola is building nicely, but impact big man Hasan Fofana becomes eligible in January, so PC misses him.
No excuses. With the exception of the URI game, every game has pretty much gone the way fans might have expected prior to the season. If the Friars play with the same intensity and purpose that they showed against Memphis, there is no reason that they shouldn't be 7-4 heading into the Big East. Anything less, and Friar fans will have a reason to gripe.
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