Providence Friars 66 (1-0)
Rider Broncs 65 (0-1)
My, Oh, My, it’s good to have college basketball back. The Providence Friars kicked off their 2022-2023 basketball season by unveiling their first ever Big East Conference Regular Season Championship banner at The Dunk (it’s still The Dunk as far as I’m concerned) in front of a packed house.
The Friars come into the season with 8 fresh faces on their squad which could take some time to them find their team chemistry, define their roles, and develop a familiarity with each other. A slow start in some of these early games this season is to be expected so let’s not all step up to the ledge just yet and expect this team to take off right out of the gates.
As much as everyone, including Ed Cooley, have tried to distance this year’s team from the magical bunch from last year, what do they do in the first game of the season? They win a close game at home by 1 point after coming into the contest favored by 13. Get KenPom on the phone because we’re starting our luck factor off with a monster one to start the season. I feel like the team is just doing this to spite him from now on, and I’m here for it.
Rider came out fast and ready to play from the first whistle. The team sports a starting lineup of 5 Seniors, including one 5th year Senior, who have played a combined 470 college basketball games with 308 games started between them. That’s an average of 94 games played with 62 games started per player. Four of the Rider Broncs who started last night’s game are in their 3rd year of playing together. Here’s a breakdown of the starters’ collegiate careers going into the game: 82 games (79 starts), 109 games (55 starts), 81 games (45 starts), 116 games (84 starts), 82 games (45 starts).
Now compare that to the Friars starting lineup.
Bryce Hopkins: 28 games played (6.4 mpg), 0 games started
Ed Croswell: 110 games played, 34 games started (0 in the last 2 seasons)
Devin Carter: 30 games played, 7 games started
Jared Bynum: 79 games played, 54 games started (21 in the last 2 seasons)
Noah Locke: 124 games played, 104 games started (the most games played & started of all players last night)
Average: 75 games played, 40 games started with 3 of the players never having played for Providence
The Friars were down as much as 15 points in the game before turning up the defensive energy in the 2nd half and storming back to start the 2022-2023 season off with a win. It wasn’t a pretty one and there are some obvious things that this team needs to get to work on, but a win is a win and the Friars did what they needed to do in order to pull this one out.
- Let’s start out with some of the new faces in Friartown.
- Bryce Hopkins led the Friars with a team-high 18 points while playing a team-high 36 minutes.
- Hopkins got to the line a ton but left some point on the board, going 11-16 from the stripe. If he can tighten up his free throw shooting and finish a few of those ones through contact around the basket, he is going to be in for some really big scoring nights. I could have easily seen him scoring 25 points if a few bounces went his way last night.
- Hopkins looks like he is going to be a nightmare matchup for opposing teams with his size and quickness and his ability to get to the rim. Good luck if he starts hitting threes consistently too.
- Bryce was a bit slow on a couple of close outs on the defensive side of things but that might have to do with playing 36 minutes in his first ever start of his career.
- It’s official, I love Devin Carter.
- All it took was one game and I can tell that I absolutely love how he plays. He’s essentially a much more athletic Justin Minaya who can jump out of the gym, lock people up, and get to the rim at will.
- It’s as if Ed Cooley created his ideal type of player in a lab.
- Carter did a little bit of everything, scoring 9 points with 7 rebounds, an assist, a block, and FIVE steals. His 5 swipes were a career high and in fact, the most steals he had in a single game during his Freshman season at South Carolina was 3, which he only did once. He had a total of 26 steals last season, so he’s already 19% of the way to that total through just 1 game.
- Noah Locke looked like a player who was used to the big moments, never shying away from taking a shot. That type of mentality was sorely needed in a game when most of the other guys on the team were just getting their feet wet.
- Locke didn’t have the best of shooting nights, going 3-11 from the floor and 2-8 from three. He finished with 10 points and 2 assists but was also the only player to make all of his free throws for the game (2-2). Locke has finished each of the last 4 seasons with free throw shooting percentages in the 70’s ranging from 71.4% to 77.8% so he might be one of our go-to guys to seal games down the stretch.
- Ed Croswell finished the game with a double-double, scoring 13 points and securing 10 rebounds. He looks to be back to his La Salle ways of dominating the offensive boards, taking down 7 over his 25 minutes on the floor.
- We need to get that free throw shooting up do at least 50% if he wants to be on the floor at the end of games. Ed went just 3-7 from the free throw line.
- Croswell has already matched his double-double total from last season when he dominated URI with 13 points & 15 boards. He didn’t record a double-double during his first season with the Friars but with his increased minutes, I don’t see him having just 1 double-double this season. Ed did have 9 double-doubles over his two seasons at La Salle when playing starters minutes before coming to Providence.
- Jared Bynum had a rough night to start his season as a Pre-Season First Team All-Big East selection.
- Bynum shot 1-9 from the field (0-4 from three) for 5 points. Bynum scored 5 points or less in just 3 of the last 22 games of the season last year.
- It appeared that Bynum’s shot was coming up short of the rim all game long and he was tending to fade away on some of his jumpers which didn’t help either. His last couple of possessions of the game when Rider was clawing back were pretty rough. It seemed to be having a bit of a snowball effect where one bad decision was bleeding into the next one. I have full confidence that he’s going to bounce back in the next game and if I could have less than 0% worries about him, I would.
- As usual for star players who have an off shooting night, they make up for it in other areas of their play. Bynum took down 6 rebounds, dished out a game-high 5 assists to just 1 turnover, and recorded a steal. Better games are ahead for the lead guard.
- I did not know that Clifton Moore had that shot blocking ability. We haven’t had a legitimate shot blocker down low at PC in a long time.
- Moore did average 2.8 block per game at La Salle last season, so I’m not sure why I didn’t see this coming but it was awesome to see.
- Moore came off the bench and took a couple minutes to get into the flow of things but once he got comfortable, his impact on the game was glaring. He finished with 8 points on 3-5 shooting including a monster three that he let fly immediately following a scramble from a three that he missed.
- He held it down under the hoop on defense swatting away a game-high 4 shots, twice as many as the entire Rider team had for the game.
- Alyn Breed played some solid back-up minutes during the game and I can see a line-up of Breed & Carter terrorizing opposing guards on defensive with the added support of knowing Moore is there to clean things up on the back end.
- I was somewhat surprised to see Jayden Pierre get some run so early in the game (6 minutes) but Ed Cooley and his staff have raved about him all off-season. Pierre has a lot of length for a smaller guard so I’m interested to see how his role grows within the Friar rotation going forward.
- I really, really liked what I saw from Rafael Castro in his limited time (4 minutes) on the floor. Castro had a terrifically athletic block to go with an emphatic dunk on the other end.
- If he keeps playing like he did last night, it is going to be hard to keep him off the floor. Just like everyone else, he needs to make his free throws (0-2).
- The Friars left a lot of points on the board by missing 17 freebies, shooting 26-43 (60.5%) from the free throw line. They made this first win a lot harder than it had to be but so far, it looks like they still know how to finish out close games with a win.
- The Rider Broncs (why are they not the Broncos?) have a three-headed attack with guards DJ Murray Jr. & Allen Powell, and Mervin James.
- Murray came out on a mission scoring 10 of the team’s first 18 points over the first 9 minutes of the game. However, he didn’t score again until 4:45 remaining in the 2nd half. He all but disappeared after noticeably being the best player on the floor to start the game. Not sure why he decided to take a back seat for so long but I wholeheartedly appreciate it. Murray finished with 18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals to lead the way for his team.
- Allen Powell had too good of a game (15 points) for him to trip over his own feet trying to get down the floor for a game-winning shot attempt. If not for him nailing a step-back to get with in 1 points, they wouldn’t have been in that position in the first place so hopefully he keeps his head up ’cause he played really well all game.
- If there was one player I would want on my team from Rider it would be Mervin James. That dude plays with both a joy and fire that is contagious for a team to feed off. Jones finished with 12 points on 6-11 shooting with 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block. Unfortunately for James, he was in foul trouble for a decent part of the game, eventually fouling out after playing 23 minutes.
- Also, this might be the best thing I’ve ever seen.
- Not only is John Fanta the best but Providence is now 15-0 when Fanta is calling their games.
- The crowd picked up right where they left off last year as noted by Coach Cooley.
- Just one little note for the student section, maybe try not to sing Taylor Swift when we’re at the free throw line, especially when we’re already struggling to sink them beforehand. Otherwise, Swift is open season for the game.
- Another reminder, that’s 1-0 on the year.
Next Up, the Friars stay home to take on Northeastern on Saturday at 8 PM on FS2.