This was the first year I can remember in which every single game went as predicted. The win at Rutgers is the possible exception, but if one were to realistically run down every game in the preseason they could have pegged this season down to a tee. There were no shocking losses or major upsets, and for the second year in a row the Friars failed to even make the NIT. The NIT is a disappointment, not a goal.
Yes, the Friars were young, and yes Sharaud Curry and Geoff McDermott are building blocks for the future, but failing to make the NIT for the second consecutive season is unacceptable.
It is disappointing to say "wait 'till next year" before the conference tournament is still going, but that is what we are forced to do. It is time to look forward to next year already.
What do we know about the Friars going forward? They will have an outstanding point guard for the next three years. I caught myself asking what the 2004 team could have done with a lead guard like Sharaud Curry. He can shoot, penetrate, create, grab an occassional rebound, and plays with more intensity than many recent Fiars we have seen.
Geoff McDermott is a pillar. If he can bring his free throw shooting up to 75% he is a double double guy every night. He looked uncomfortable from 15-17 feet, when teams zoned PC (a role that DeSean White might have thrived with his mid range jumper). McDermott hesitated at times, but with experience and confidence he is going to be really solid. I don't know if he will become the offensive threat that so many are hoping, but at the least he is going to be one of the top rebounders in the league for the next three years, a role that Friars desperately need him to fill. He draws fouls, takes charges, and hits the floor more than most players in Welsh's tenure.
The center spot is going to be make or break for next year's Friars. Expectations were high for Randall Hanke this year, but I expect him to bounce back next season. For all of the flack he got for being soft (fair criticism most of the time) he did show flashes towards the end of the season. He gave Pitt fits at the Zoo and he dominated the Marquette game with 23 points and 15 boards. If Randall turns into an average defender he gives the Friars a nice presence with his scoring ability.
Herb Hill turned it around at the end of the year. It is not a coincidence that when he played well, the Friars won. If Providence can get consistent play in the middle from Hill or Hanke, or better yet both, the Friars will be dramatically different than this year. Both will be upperclassmen and could quite possible hold the Friars fate in their hands.
Weyinmi Efejuku is a kid I like a lot. His turnovers and defense left something to be desired, but when he gets into the lane or finishes in transition his talent is on display. Tim Welsh has been knocked for players not improving under his watch. In Efejuku, he has an amazing athletic talent, with a world of playing time in front of him if he improves. Shooters can be found, players can learn defense, but not a lot of players can initiate contact and hang in the air like Efejuku can. Put him on the Raymond Felton offseason shooting program and he will take off.
There is always room for a guy like Jon Kale. He has more of an offensive game than he flashed this year. It is rare that a freshman big man, who gets sporatic minutes, is going to look polished on the offensive end. He has good hands, a decent touch, and a good worth ethic. He might surprise some people next year.
Charlie Burch reminds me of Chris Rogers. Their games are nothing alike, but both are the type of players who get more appreciation on a good team. He shot 40% from 3 point land, 83% from the line, and quietly hit some big threes this year.
The loss of Quinton Hosely hurt. He put up huge numbers at Fresno State this year and played a position at which the Friars are sorely lacking. Put a kid who scores 18 a night and grabs 9 boards with McGrath, Curry and McDermott and a lot of those near losses are wins.
What do they need from the freshman coming in? Ray Hall might become an important piece if Hanke and Hill continue to struggle against more physical players.
The guards will be even more important. For all of the interior struggles PC had this year, they are returning two players who have started at center, a good rebounding power forward, and a physical presence in Kale.
The loss of Donnie McGrath opens up a ton of minutes for the incoming guards. A healthy Curry wil be looking at 35 minutes a night, but there are still 40 minutes a night to be had at the off guard spot. I won't even begin to guess as to who might step up and take the playing time between Jamal Barney, Corey Lowe, and Brian McKenzie. The only one I've seen play is Lowe and it had to have been one of the worst games of his career. I will hold off judgment until I see him again.
At this time a year ago, Curry and McDermott were unsigned. A year later, they are the cornerstones of the program. Welsh and Co. have to find another gem. What the Friars could really use is a Rob Sanders type small forward and a shot blocking big man.
They have to trust that they made the right decisions in signing McKenzie, Barney, and Lowe. For all of the attitude issues Sanders had, he brought an aggressiveness and extreme athleticism that was key in PC turning things around in 2003. A player in the Sanders/Erron Maxey mold would fit in well with Curry and McDermott.
If Providence is going to be so reliant on the zone, they need a presence in the middle. The zone in 2004 was effective for one reason: Marcus Douthit. His offensive game was a mess, but he altered so many shots. He was as valuable on defense as Gomes was on offense. The defense was horrible with him on the bench and has been poor since he left. It was simply too easy to score in the paint against PC over the past two seasons.
The athletic 3 could take on another team's best scorer and a shot blocker makes everyone a better defender.
More than anything, Welsh need to bring the buzz back to the program. 2004 was on the verge of being magical. The Dunk was alive again, there was a national buzz about the program, and recruiting was picking up.
Welsh has no choice but to bring the excitement back to the program. The goal should not be the Big East Tournament or the NIT. Next year's goal should be the NCAA tournament.
The Friars return a fifth year senior and a junior at center, a potential All Big East point guard, and one of the top three rebounders in the league. They will not be playing with only eight scholarship players and the Dunk is being renovated. There is no reason why this team shouldn't be very competitive in 2006-07.
There are whispers about Welsh's future right now and if the Friars are sitting home at this time next year, the whispers will only get louder.
Kevin Farrahar: State of the Program
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