Providence 2014-15 Record: 22-12, 11-7 in the Big East
Key Players Lost: LaDontae Henton, Carson Desrosiers and Tyler Harris (transfer)
Key Players Coming Back: Kris Dunn, Ben Bentil, Paschal Chukwu, Jalen Lindsey, Kyron Cartwright, Rodney Bullock (redshirt) , Tyree Chambers and Junior Lomomba.
New Recruits: Drew Edwards, Ricky Council, Ryan Fazekas and Alex Owens
Powered by the fantastic duo of LaDontae Henton and Kris Dunn, the Friars had another fine season and made it to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year, which is the first time the program has accomplished that feat since 1990.
Simply put, Henton and Dunn were marvelous. Henton led the Big East in scoring (19.7 points per game) while Dunn led the conference in assists (7.5 assists) and steals (2.7). Predictably, both made first team all-Big East, with Dunn nabbing Co-Player of the Year and Co-Defensive Player of the Year as well.
The Friars had a solid showing in the non-conference portion of their schedule, beating the likes of Notre Dame, Florida State and Miami. From there they would go on to have a solid season in the Big East, even making the top-25 at one point this season. Providence finished in fourth place in the conference with a 11-7 record.
Providence would reach the semifinals of the Big East Tournament before losing to Villanova. The Friars would then get a 6-seed in the Big Dance. However, luck was not on their side as they played and lost to Dayton (who had won a play-in game against Boise State) in the Round of 64 in nearby Columbus, Ohio, which did put them at a disadvantage.
In all it was a good season for the Friars, and the magic that Henton and Dunn shared made this a memorable year for the fine people of Friar Town.
2015-16 Look Ahead:
Chances for the Friars to make it to three-straight NCAA Tournaments remain high heading into the 2015-16 season. The primary reason for that is the return of Dunn, who did flirt with declaring for the NBA Draft.
Dunn could be in discussion for player of the year next season. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 15.6 points, 7.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game, making him a triple-double waiting to happen. His assist numbers may dip next season as he takes on more of a scoring load with Henton gone. However, his other numbers should spike as he clearly becomes “the guy.”
The Friars will not be a one-man team by any stretch. While the loss of Henton, Desrosiers and Harris will sting, it will create opportunities for other players; namely Ben Bentil and Paschal Chukwu. Both Bentil and Chukwu are a couple of sophomore big men who will help fill the void left by Henton and Desrosiers along the frontline.
Bentil is your prototypical power forward, as he has above-average athleticism and good moves along the post. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 6.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game on .436 shooting from the field. Don’t be surprised if Bentil has a breakout year.
Chukwu is a towering center—he is listed at 7’2”, 226 pounds—and is just beginning to scratch the surface of his immense potential. Not that gifted offensively yet, Chukwu can do damage as a rim protector. He averaged 2.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game while shooting .660 percent from the field. Chukwu just needs some polish.
The sophomore class also boats a couple of other intriguing players in 6’7” wing Jalen Lindsey and guard Kyron Cartwright. Expect Lindsey to fill in for Harris and take on more of a scoring load next season. Lindsey is a former top-100 recruit. With more time he’ll have a chance to shine.
Although Dunn is the unequivocal point guard of the team, expect Cartwright to get a lot of paying time alongside him, as he is a capable ball-handler and scorer, too. Both could share the floor and do some damage together.
Adding depth will be junior guard Junior Lomomba and pretty-good recruiting class highlighted by 6’3 guard Drew Edwards. Also, don’t forget 6’7” power forward Rodney Bullock is back after red-shirting last season.
Even if the supporting cast turns out to be less-than stellar, Dunn is a player capable of carrying a squad. With that said, the Big East is truly up for grabs next season and expect the Friars to be in the mix next year while contending for a third-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.