Ranking the Friars Men’s Basketball Non-Conference Schedule for the Upcoming 2019-2020 Season

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This will be the third year that I have ranked the Men’s Basketball Non-Conference schedule for the Friars in anticipation for the upcoming season, so I guess I can officially call it my annual rankings.  Here’s the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 rankings if you’re interested.

Overall on the Friars schedule, they have two true away games (Northwestern & Rhode Island) and three neutral court games (Texas, Wake Forest/College of Charleston, & UCF/Penn/Pepperdine/Arizona – depending on who wins what games at the Wooden Legacy Tournament).  Those are important to note with the quadrant system being used by the NCAA selection committee these days.

Providence starts with their first game against Sacred Heart on Tuesday, November 5th and finishes their Non-Conference slate at home against Texas on December 21st.  Then, after a short Holiday break, they kick things off in Big East Conference play on one of my favorite game days, New Year’s Eve against Georgetown.

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Without further ado, here is my 2019-2020 Non-Conference rankings for the Providence Friars upcoming season.

14. Saturday, November 16th vs. Saint Peter’s

Last Year: 10-22 (6-12; 10th place in the MAAC Conference)

2018-2019 KenPom Final Rank: 316

2019-2020 KenPom Pre-Season Rank: 316

No Post-Season Tournament Last Year

The Friars always have one Non-Conference opponent who is comfortably in the 300+ range of any metric in which teams are measured.  This year, they’re keeping it Catholic with St. Peter’s.  The Peacocks (Peacocks?) are projected to be just as bad as they were last year, a year in which they finished 10-22 overall.

I know that I shouldn’t throw stones, considering the Friars mascot is the thing of nightmares, but what is this thing?

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13. Tuesday, November 19th vs. Merrimack

Last Year: 22-10 (14-7 in Division II)

2018-2019 KenPom Final Rank: N/A

2019-2020 KenPom Pre-Season Rank: 285

No Post-Season Tournament Last Year

This year is Merrimack’s first season in Division I as they move into the Northeast Conference joining fellow Rhode Island school Bryant.  It’s a little hard to gage just how good or bad Merrimack will be this year, but I’m pretty, pretty, pretty sure that they aren’t going to be that well prepared for the elevated competition.

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12. Thursday, November 28rd vs. Long Beach State

Last Year: 15-19 (8-8; 5th place in the Big West Conference)

2018-2019 KenPom Final Rank: 225

2019-2020 KenPom Pre-Season Rank: 309

No Post-Season Tournament Last Year

Long Beach State is still a very young team, having only one Senior on their returning roster.  Although Jordan Griffin may be lonely on Senior Night, he’s averaged less than 6 points per game in his first three seasons with the 49ers, so the team will be relying on the young guns to provide the scoring this season.  With 10 players on their roster being underclassmen (6 Freshman & 4 Sophomores), it looks like this will be a season used for building experience for the majority of the squad.  I have a feeling that the next two seasons are going to show some really good growth for the team as a whole but they aren’t there yet.

And the mascots are getting a little weirder…

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11. Tuesday, November 5th vs. Sacred Heart

Last Year: 15-17 (11-7; 4th place in the Northeast Conference)

2018-2019 KenPom Final Rank: 240

2019-2020 KenPom Pre-Season Rank: 232

No Post-Season Tournament Last Year

The Friars open up the season against Sacred Heart on Tuesday, so there’s a little more anticipation than there otherwise might be from me on this one.  The Pioneers lost their leading scorer, Sean Hoehn (17.9 ppg) but return 5 other players who all averaged over 8 points per game last season.  The group should at least challenge for the Northeast Conference top tier this season after finishing 4th in the conference last season.

Jesus, what is this thing.?!?

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It’s always scarier when the mascot is an actual human figure.  Not a human dressed up as a mascot, like Notre Dame, but a mascot dressed as a human. There’s no way it can’t be creepy with whatever face you decide for it to have.  I’m feeling better (only slightly) about the Friar mascot as I keep finding these frightening figures (but not really).

10. Saturday, December 14th vs. Stony Brook

Last Year: 24-9 (12-4; 2nd place in the American East Conference)

2018-2019 KenPom Final Rank: 166

2019-2020 KenPom Pre-Season Rank: 228

Roman CBI Tournament, Lost in the 1st Round to South Florida

We’ve finally arrived at our first team who actually participated in a Post-Season Tournament last season.  Stony Brook had a really good year, finishing 2nd in the American East Conference and amassing 24 wins overall.  The Seawolves don’t have a single Senior on this upcoming season’s roster and only had one last year, but the team is jam-packed with Juniors (9).  The team is returning two all-conference players and the sixth man of the year in the conference.  Last year’s team was able to beat South Carolina and Rhode Island last year, so they should be a tougher match-up than you would suspect at first glance.  The Friars should definitely not overlook these guys.

9. Saturday, November 9th vs. NJIT

Last Year: 22-13 (8-8; 5th place in the ASUN Conference)

2018-2019 KenPom Final Rank: 183

2019-2020 KenPom Pre-Season Rank: 140

CollegeInsider.com Post-Season Tournament, Lost in the 2nd Round to Hampton

I had no idea that the CIT Tournament is now called the CollegeInsider.com Post-Season Tournament, but apparently it is.  It sounds much more like a College Football bowl between two 6-6 teams than a basketball tournament.  NJIT fully transitioned to Division I in 2009 and has been on a slow but steady upwards trajectory since then.

Also, Highlanders is an awesome nickname.

8. Saturday, November 23rd vs. Penn

Last Year: 19-12 (7-7; 5th place in the Ivy League)

2018-2019 KenPom Final Rank: 130

2019-2020 KenPom Pre-Season Rank: 112

No Post-Season Tournament Last Year

The Friars could technically end up playing Penn twice if they were both get to the final game of the Wooden Legacy Tournament but that would also mean that Penn most likely beat both UCF and Arizona to get there…probably not going to happen.  The Quakers return 4 of their 5 leading scorers from last year’s team that just narrowly missed out on a 20-win season, including unanimous first team All-Ivy League selection AJ Brodeur who led the team in points (17.6 ppg), rebounds (8.3 rpg), assists (3.6 apg), and blocks (1.3 bpg).  Just think of him as the Quakers version of Alpha Diallo last year.

P.S. Yikes.

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7. Thursday, November 28th – Sunday, December 1st vs. UCF – Wooden Legacy Tournament

Last Year: 23-8 (13-5, T-3rd place in the American Athletic Conference)

2018-2019 KenPom Final Rank: 34

2019-2020 KenPom Pre-Season Rank: 102

9 Seed in the NCAA Tournament, Lost in the 2nd Round to Duke

Our first team that is included on more of a hypothetical situation.  UCF has the potential of meeting Providence if both teams make the final of the Wooden Classic, but who knows if that will actually happen.  UCF had a really good season last year, making it to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament behind my dude Tacko Fall.  I mean, who doesn’t like Tacko Fall??

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Unfortunately for the UFC Knights, Fall is no longer on the team.  Fall led the team in rebounds and blocks last season and the team should naturally take a step back defensively this year.  On the offensive side of the ball, the Knights also lose their leading scorer B.J. Taylor who finished his career with UCF as the 7th all-time leading scorer (1,618 points) and 6th all-time leader in assists (324).  They also are without their 2nd leading scorer from last year, Aubrey Dawkins (Johnny Dawkins’ son and Michigan transfer), who is currently in the NBA G-League.  Tacko Fall was 3rd on the team in scoring so they currently have no players on this year’s roster that averaged double-figures last season.  It’s going to be really tough for them to replace the contributions of those players.

6. Thursday, November 28th – Sunday, December 1st vs. Wake Forest – Wooden Legacy Tournament

Last Year: 11-20 (4-14, 13th place in the ACC)

2018-2019 KenPom Final Rank: 174

2019-2020 KenPom Pre-Season Rank: 80

No Post-Season Tournament Last Year

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The second team that the Friars could potentially play in the Wood Legacy Tournament and one that I’m a lot less confident in putting this high on the list after an 11-20 record last year.  In all honesty, I should probably switch Wake Forest with UCF but the Friars have a much better chance of actually playing Wake Forest in this tournament, so it’s a little more realistic of a game.  Plus, Wake will have multiple chances to beat some high level teams in the ACC, which in turn could help the Friars’ resume if they end up beating Wake come tourney selection time.  The only major contributor that the Demon Deacons lost from last year’s squad is Forward Jaylen Hoard (13.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg).  The rest of the the team pretty much comes back.  Still after managing just 11 total wins last season and only 4 in conference, there needs to be a lot of growth from a lot of players for Danny Manning’s team to make any sort of tangible strides.

Also…

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5. Wednesday, November 13th at Northwestern – Gavitt Games

Last Year: 13-19 (4-16; 14th place in the Big Ten Conference)

2018-2019 KenPom Final Rank: 74

2019-2020 KenPom Pre-Season Rank: 87

No Post-Season Tournament Last Year

I love the Gavitt Games but it seems like Providence always seems to get the shaft a little bit when it comes to opponents.  I’m not exactly sure why it only consists of 8 games between the Big East and the Big Ten each year, but that’s what they decided when they started the series back in 2015.  There are a couple years left on the 8-year deal for the annual conference matchups, so the Friars should have two more years in which to get a high-level Big Ten team…fingers crossed.

2015: PC beat Illinois at home 60-59

2016: PC lost at Ohio State 72-67

2017: PC lost to #14 Minnesota (and PC alum Richard Pitino) at home 86-74

2018: Did not participate

2019: PC will play at Northwestern

Now, even though Northwestern finished 14th in the Big Ten last year and had a losing record of 13-19, they still found themselves at #74 in the KenPom rankings by season’s end.  The Wildcats lost their top three scorers from last season, Vic Law (15.0 ppg), Derek Pardon (14.0 ppg), & Ryan Taylor (9.8 ppg).  Law led the team in points, assists, steals, and blocks last year, so he’s going to be pretty damn hard to replace.  Pardon was 2nd on the team in points but led the squad in rebounds (7.8 rpg).  Overall, between those three and center Barret Benson (2.2 ppg), the team saw 62.2% of their scoring depart from last season.

The team has some young talent but it looks like they’re at least a year away from putting together a type of season like they had in 2017 when they made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 78 years.  The Wildcats have 7 new players on this year’s team so there are a lot of unanswered questions going into 2019-2020.  Providence should be able to take advantage of that.  The most interesting player is going to be Graduate Transfer Pat Spencer from Loyola.  Spencer is a 4x All-American, 2nd all-time in scoring, and the all-time NCAA leader in assists…in lacrosse.

It’ll be interesting to see Spencer’s transition from lax to basketball but at 6’3” with obvious athleticism, it could very well produce some good results.

4. Friday, December 6th at Rhode Island

Last Year: 18-15 (9-9; T-8th place in the Atlantic 10 Conference)

2018-2019 KenPom Final Rank: 142

2019-2020 KenPom Pre-Season Rank: 83

No Post-Season Tournament Last Year

I hate to be cliche with this one, but every year these two teams meet, you can throw out the records for the Ocean State Rivalry.

I’m hoping that David Cox can fill Dan Hurley’s shoes for being completely easy to hate and make it feel just as natural to root against him.  It’ll just take a little more seasoning to get up to that level.  He’s been with the program as an Assistant before he took over as Head Coach so he knows the stakes of this annual game more than ever.

The Rams are led by their backcourt of Senior Jeff Dowtin and Junior Fatts Russell.  Russell is quickly climbing the ranks of my least-like URI players but like I always say, people don’t hate nobodies.  Plus, I can always admit when a name is awesome.  URI returns 6 of their top 7 leading scorers from last season, including three players who averaged 14+ points per game a year ago.  After going 18-15 last year and much like PC, returning almost all their key contributors, the Rams should be looking at a 20+ win season.

P.S. URI Sucks.

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3. Thursday, November 28th – Sunday, December 1st vs. Arizona – Wooden Legacy Tournament

Last Year: 17-15 (8-10, T-8th place in the Pac-12 Conference)

2018-2019 KenPom Final Rank: 94

2019-2020 KenPom Pre-Season Rank: 24

No Post-Season Tournament Last Year

Even though Arizona had a piss poor season last year and the off-season was filled with numerous allegations of serious recruiting violations, somehow they come into the season with the number 6 recruiting class in the country and one of the Freshmen that I most looking forward to catch a glimpse of this season, point guard and projected lottery pick, Nico Mannion.

I don’t want that to overshadow the fact that they also have another five-star recruit suiting up for this season with Josh Green.  I feel like he’s being overlooked with the hype surrounding Mannion and he should definitely not be, because that dude is special.

The last time the Friars played Arizona, they were able to take down the Wildcats to get to the Championship game of this same exact tournament when Arizona was ranked #11.  If they meet this year, it will only be in the Championship game of the Wooden Legacy.  The Wildcats are starting the season ranked #21 in the AP Poll and #17 in the Coaches Poll.  Either way, it would be a great Non-Conference win for the Friars.

2. Saturday, December 21st vs. Texas – Big East/Big 12 Challenge

Last Year: 21-16 (8-10; 6th place in the Big 12 Conference)

2018-2019 KenPom Final Rank: 25

2019-2020 KenPom Pre-Season Rank: 32

2 Seed in the NIT Tournament, Beat Lipscomb in the Championship Game

The Friars were able to beat Texas at their place last season so it’s cool to see them get a chance to do it at home this year.  The Longhorns won the NIT Tournament last year which is…I’m not totally sure what the analogy for winning the NIT should be.  Do you hang that banner if you’re Texas?  I don’t think they would but I’m not 100% sold on that because they have never won an NCAA Championship.  They have made 3 Final Fours but have yet to get the job done in the final.

The Longhorns bring in a Top-20 recruiting class this season and Shaka Smart has a ton of pressure to finally show some sort of results because they have not been all that good since he took the Head Coaching job.

P.S. I’m so proud of myself for not mentioning the P.J. Tucker game.  I’m still bullshit over that.

 

1. Tuesday, December 17th vs. Florida at the Barclay’s Center – Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational

Last Year: 20-16 (9-9; 8th place in the Southeastern Conference)

2018-2019 KenPom Final Rank: 26

2019-2020 KenPom Pre-Season Rank: 12

10 Seed in the NCAA Tournament, Lost in the 2nd Round to Michigan

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Easily the best team that Providence will play next season.  They have even been picked by many people to win the NCAA Championship this season.  The Gators have the #8 ranked recruiting class this year and have been ranked 6th in both the AP and Coaches Pre-Season polls.

Virginia Tech Graduate Transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. is a pre-season All-American and immediately took Florida from being a Top-25 team to a real threat at being the best team in the country.  That’s what kind of a difference he makes for the Gators this season.  Florida also happens to be the only school in Providence’s Non-Conference schedule that they have a losing record against in their history.  In fact, PC has never beaten Florida, going 0-4 in their matchups until now.  Let’s hope that’ll change this year.

PC and Florida will face off in Brooklyn as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic that the Friars seem to always find themselves in.  The only thing that sucks, at least for me, is that the game is on a freaking Tuesday.  How is this not a Saturday game?  What the hell.

It’s always nice to see this guy though…

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Once A Friar, Always A Friar.

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