A coaching change isn’t stopping the Providence Friars from fielding a contending team in the Big East.
Kim English replaces longtime head coach Ed Cooley, and did a fine job of bringing in talent. You could question his George Mason-heavy team, as three former Patriots will now move into the Big East. However, Josh Oduro has the talent to be a very impactful big man alongside Bryce Hopkins. Ticket Gaines is a unique player who could find a niche. Justyn Fernandez could use this year to get ready for his future with the team.
There’s no doubt that Hopkins, Devin Carter, and 4-star Garwey Dual give this Providence Friars team a lot of talent. One question is in the backcourt. Jayden Pierre had a good assist-to-minutes ratio as a freshman, but will likely be thrust into a much larger role this season. How he is able to lead this team will impact how good they can be.
Living up to Ed Cooley won’t be easy, and it isn’t fair to put all of that pressure on English in year one. But, he has a pretty good roster that should stay competitive in the Big East.
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Head coach: Kim English (3rd season, 1st at Providence)
2022-23 record: 21-12 (13-7)
2023 postseason finish: Lost to Kentucky, 61-53, in first round of NCAA Tournament
Notable departures: Ed Croswell (Pro), Noah Locke (Graduated), Jared Bynum (Transferred to Stanford), Alyn Breed (Transfer Portal), Clifton Moore (Graduated)
Notable non-conference games: vs. Wisconsin (Nov. 14), vs. Kansas State (Nov. 17 in Bahamas), vs. Miami-Fla OR Georgia (Nov. 19 in Bahamas), vs. Rhode Island (Dec. 2), at Oklahoma (Dec. 5)
PG: Jayden Pierre (6-2, 180, So.)
2022-23 stats: 2.5 PPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 RPG, 11.0 MPG
SG: Devin Carter (6-3, 195, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 13.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.8 SPG
SF: Ticket Gaines (6-7, 190, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 7.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.2 APG, 34.3 3P% (George Mason)
PF: Bryce Hopkins (6-7, 220, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 15.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.3 APG, 36.4 3P%
C: Josh Oduro (6-9, 240, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 15.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.6 APG, 55.1 FG% (George Mason)
6: Garwey Dual (6-5, 190, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 38 rated recruit
7: Corey Floyd Jr. (6-4, 210, Rs.-So.)
2022-23 stats: 2.6 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 0.4 APG
8: Rafael Castro (6-11, 220, Rs.-So.)
2022-23 stats: 1.8 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.3 APG, 6.5 MPG
9: Justyn Fernandez (6-5, 208, So.)
2022-23 stats: 4.1 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.5 APG, 37.0 FG% (George Mason)
10: Eli DeLaurier (6-10, 220, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 216 rated recruit
Providence Friars MVP: Bryce Hopkins
You don’t have to overthink this. Hopkins was the Friars’ leading scorer last year, and returns, while five of the top seven scorers do not. It’ll be up to Hopkins and Devin Carter to offer experience and leadership to the newcomers.
Hopkins was a newcomer last year, coming to Providence after a one-year stint at Kentucky. Things didn’t work out in Lexington for the former highly-rated recruit, but Ed Cooley found a way to make Hopkins a star in the Big East. The big man was named to the All-Conference First Team.
This season, there’s a good chance Hopkins gets votes for Preseason Big East Player of the Year. His strength inside, ability to make plays and shots on the perimeter, and even handling the basketball, make him a very tough player to guard. You couldn’t give English a better star in his first year coaching Providence.
Providence Friars make-or-break player: Jayden Pierre
How will the young point guard adjust to a bigger role? In a tough Big East conference, Pierre is easily the least experienced of the point guards.
In 11 minutes per game last season, Pierre averaged about 2 assists per game. That gives some confidence that he can be one of the top-floor generals in the conference.
But playing 11 minutes per game in relief is a lot different than leading the charge for 25-30 minutes per game. I’m sure Carter and Corey Floyd Jr. can help with handling the basketball, but it will be up to Pierre to give Providence a strong backcourt.
Key analytic: Rebounds per game
It doesn’t get easier than this, and frankly, the Providence Friars could be one of the best rebounding teams in the Big East.
Last season, the Friars finished 29th in the country with 38.1 RPG as a team. They bring back Bryce Hopkins, who led the team in that department. Josh Oduro comes in as George Mason’s leading rebounder in 2022-23. Ticket Gaines was right behind him in that department, as a 6-7 guard. At 6-3, Carter is also an above-average rebounder for his size.
Off the bench, the Friars have depth at guard, which is important, but Rafael Castro and Eli DeLaurier could also help out on the boards.
But let’s break it down even simpler. Hopkins and Oduro are arguably the best frontcourt duo in the Big East. This will lead to a strong rebounding team. When you play Providence, bring some extra padding.
Providence Friars 2023-24 projections
Projected conference finish: 7th in the Big East
Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16 Appearance