Transition is the key word in Providence these days.
Ed Cooley and the Friars have said their goodbyes to stars Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil, and now it’s time to move in a new direction. While Providence will likely take a step back this coming season, the big question is: How much?
There is some talent for Cooley too work with, but the talent is either inexperienced, unproven or laden with question marks. Cooley has his work cut out for him if he is to guide the Friars to their fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Here are five questions that will define whether Providence has a successful season or not.
— BIG EAST Conference (@BIGEAST) August 3, 2016
5. Who are some potential breakout players to watch?
Several players are expected to get increased minutes with Dunn, Bentil, and rotation member Junior Lomomba gone.
Look at the wing position for breakouts: Cooley has a host of players ready to step up. Jalen Lindsey, Drew Edwards, Ryan Fazekas and George Mason transfer Isaiah Jackson all have the opportunity for extra responsibilities in Cooley’s rotation.
A pick to click is Fazekas (5.1 points per game on 34.3-percent shooting from three-point range). He can stretch the defense with his shooting. He is waiting to be unleashed.
Either way you look at it, at least one of the aforementioned players has to break out if Providence is to continue its winning ways. The Friars could dearly use two.
4. Will Alpha Diallo make a difference as a freshman?
Perhaps the most talented player on Providence is freshman forward Alpha Diallo.
The four-star freshman is a gifted scorer and is best when in transition. He loves getting into the lane and attacking the basket. Diallo is quick, versatile and explosive, a player Cooley will now build around in the post-Dunn/Bentil era.
While he may have his ups and downs as a true freshman, there is a very good chance he’ll be one of Providence’s leading scorers, and he is almost a sure bet to make the Big East All-Freshman Team.
3. Can Rodney Bullock go above and beyond the call of duty?
With Dunn and Bentil gone, Providence’s third-leading scorer will be asked to carry a huge load. Can Bullock handle it?
Bullock averaged a more-than-respectable 11.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game last year. After being injured for most of his career prior to last season, Bullock finally showed everyone what he is truly capable of. Bullock is active around the rim and can take his game to the perimeter as well.
More teams will now gear up to stop him. While Bullock has the talent, how he plays is not really the question. It’s more about the supporting cast stepping up around him.
In the end, Bullock should increase his production, but it’s unknown if he can legitimately “carry” the Friars.
2. How will the frontcourt play? Can Emmitt Holt help?
Even with Bentil around, depth in the frontcourt was always a major issue for the Friars. Now that he is gone, the panic surrounding the frontcourt is heightened.
Bullock is back, of course, but he is best suited at playing the three. That’s where the addition of Holt, who played at Indian Hills Community College (by way of Indiana), is vital.
Holt showed some promise at Indiana even though he endured some turbulent times with the Hoosiers. With a fresh start, expect Holt to blossom under Cooley and make the most of his second chance.
Outside of Holt there are not a lot of big men on the roster. Kalif Young is a promising freshman, but he will likely need time to develop.
1. Who will assume the role of point guard?
The job of replacing Dunn will go to either junior guard Kyron Cartwright or four-star freshman Maliek White.
It's green screen day in Friartown! Kyron Cartwright lookin' tough ???????? pic.twitter.com/6qFgib91wA
— PCFriarsMBB (@PCFriarsmbb) July 20, 2016
While White may possess more talent and a bigger upside, Cartwright has been biding his time for two years and has the experience and guile to run with the job come November. Cartwright is a savvy court leader who loves to attack the rim and create for others.
He averaged 5.9 points and 4 assists in 24.2 minutes per game last year behind Dunn. If Cartwright plays 5-8 more minutes a game, Providence should have a solid Big East point guard.
That said, White won’t be denied and his raw talent will allow him to get productive minutes, too.