2008-09 Providence Basketball Preview: #93
Overall Rank: #93
Conference Rank: #10 Big East
2007-08: 15-16, 6-12, 12th
2007-08 postseason: none
If Coach Keno Davis can do what he did at Drake last year with Providence, watch out for the Friars. Coach Davis took his father’s group of underachieving upperclassmen and turned them into a dominating force in the Missouri Valley Conference. And that only took one year. Can he do the same thing for this veteran group in the Big East? Lightning could strike twice in the same place, but we are not in Iowa and the MVC anymore.
Charles Burch was the only senior on the roster last year. The forward did not play too often, but he was good for a foul and a rebound or two per game. The bigger loss is Dwain Williams. The point guard has opted to transfer after averaging 11.0 points and 2.2 assists last year. Williams started 17 games in place of the injured Sharaud Curry before going down with an injury of his own. His absence creates some concern if Curry’s foot is not fully healthy by November.
Williams’ absence is an issue, but Providence will not notice as much now that Curry is back. Two years ago Curry scored 15.3 points and dished out 4.4 assists per contest. In 2007-2008 he played in just one game. That is a big reason for the Friars underachieving and why this is a team that could possibly make a surprise run through the Big East. However, Curry needs to stay on the floor and develop into a steady floor leader. The lone freshman on the Friars is Bilal Dixon. The 6-8 forward will do the dirty work around the basket and will add some much needed toughness to the frontcourt.
Who to Watch:
Curry will lead a deep and talented group on the perimeter. Jeff Xavier, Weyinmi Efejuku, Brian McKenzie and Geoff McDermott all averaged double-digit scoring. Xavier is the best outside shooter of the bunch, although McKenzie also shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc. Efejuku often found himself in the doghouse under the former coaching staff and could find a starting spot opposite Xavier on the wing this year. Efejuku’s ability to hit the glass is very important to the team. If he were to slide into the starting five, McKenzie would be the likely odd man out, but having a sharpshooter like McKenzie coming off the bench could turn into a very effective strategy. McDermott, a 6-8 wing, struggled with injuries most of the 2007-2008 campaign. His size will force him back into the power forward position, but McKenzie plays like a small forward. His outside shot is not great, but he can knock down the mid-range jumper quite well. Yet, it was his 8.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists, despite the injuries, that is most impressive.
McDermott will grab more than his fair share of rebounds and do some scoring inside, but what about the rest of the frontcourt? Randall Hanke can score a bit, but he lacks the strength to be an effective rebounder or defender in the Big East. Jonathan Kale is the only other forward with starting experience. He is tougher and a decent defender, but Kale will not do much scoring. Ray Hall, who only averaged 6.9 minutes per game in 18 contests a year ago, will have to provide some quality depth up front, especially if Dixon is not ready to contribute as a freshman. The lack of a major defensive presence under the basket can be dealt with effectively in some conferences, but not the Big East. If somebody does not step up and prove they can battle with the talented big men in the conference, Providence will not do much better this year than they did last year.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Sharaud Curry, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Brian McKenzie, Junior, Guard, 10.9 points per game
Jeff Xavier, Senior, Guard, 12.4 points per game
Geoff McDermott, Senior, Forward, 10.3 points per game
Randall Hanke, Senior, Center, 8.7 points per game