Providence’s Noah Locke is one of 8 new Friars this season (Photo: PC Athletics)
Ah, the days when we’d write 100 inches of college hoop preview copy are long gone!
But the excitement remains. Here is a snapshot for each men’s basketball program in Rhode Island.
Opener: Tuesday vs. Rider
Preseason Picks: Friars picked 5th in the Big East
Mr. Inside/Mr. Outside: Bryce Hopkins & Jared Bynum. Friar fans nearly saw Hopkins leave Chicago for Providence two years ago and his experience in Lexington with John Calipari only scratched to surface of his promise. The 6-7 forward is very versatile and owns a smoothness about his game that’s tough to quantify. Bynum exploded onto the scene as a major offensive weapon a year ago and will now be a marked man as the team’s Head of the Snake.
Non-Conference nightmare: Nov. 30 at Texas Christian. Jamie Dixon has the Horned frogs in the Top 25 and guard Mike Miles is a likely first round pick.
The Skinny: Ed Cooley and his staff perfectly mixed last year’s batch of transfers but the difficulty of such a chore should not be easily dismissed. This year’s influx of talent is deeper and maybe even more impactful but the mixing part is the special sauce. Friar fans will love the skill of Hopkins and excitement of Devin Carter, but two huge keys are the expected impact and consistency that guard Noah Locke and big man Clifton Moore need to show. Ed Croswell is ready for big things, especially if he can stay on the floor for 28 or so minutes a game. Bynum owns the keys to the show and how he balances his scoring with improving his assist rate (4.0 per game last year) is also vital.
This is a team – no, a program – that now expects NCAA Tournaments and there are enough pieces in place to expect the same. A soft non-league slate will place huge emphasis on four games (Miami, Maryland/SLU, at TCU, at Rhody) and force at least a 10-10 Big East record, which won’t come easily.
Opener: Monday vs. Quinnipiac
Preseason Picks: Picked 9th in Atlantic 10
Mr. Inside/Mr. Outside: Alex Tchikou & Brayon Freeman. Tchikou played just five minutes last season while struggling with injuries at Alabama and is excited about a fresh start in Kingston. The Paris native is 6-11, 230 pounds and can run so there’s a lot to work with. Freeman (10.3 ppg, 3.7 apg, 43% 3’s) was a breakout freshman at George Washington who will continue to thrive in the A-10 and beyond.
Non-Conference nightmare: The Rams fly to the Cayman Islands later this month to face Kansas State, which is down. Tourney also features Nevada, Tulane, LSU and more.
The Skinny: Archie Miller is compiling talent but much of it is young. We do like the collection of guards with Freeman, Cranston’s Sebastian Thomas and Ishmael Leggett. If Jalen Carey finds his game, the group would further elevate itself. Challenges in the frontcourt could be substantial but you have to like tough guys Malik Martin and Seton Hall transfer Brandon Weston.
Opener: Monday at Vermont
Preseason Picks: Picked 6th in Ivy League
Mr. Inside/Mr. Outside: Nana Owusu-Anane & Kino Lilly. The sophomores both made big impacts a year ago but must take major steps forward right away this season. The talent is there, these two guys will pair with Paxson Wojcik to form the core of what the Bears are attempting the accomplish on offense. The group’s defensive challenges are an issue.
Non-Conference nightmare: Nice guarantee checks but tests at Big Ten power Michigan State and Northwestern in December can also be major teaching tools.
The Skinny: The Bears lost a ton of physicality off last year’s team but that group finished just 5-9 in Ivy play. This one may (better) be more explosive offensively but challenges off the backboards and in the paint on defense need to be eased.
Opener: Monday vs. Thomas College
Preseason Picks: Picked 2nd in America East
Mr. Inside/Mr. Outside: Earl Timberlake & Charles Pride. Timberlake is a true inside/outside player but we’ll slot him inside in Smithfield. He’s the rare NBA prospect at the low-major level, if healthy. Pride averaged 17.7 ppg. last year sharing spotlight with Peter Kiss (25.2 ppg). He’ll be sharing again this time around with a new cast that also includes transfers Antwan Walker (URI) and Doug Edert (St. Peter’s).
Non-Conference nightmare: At Cincinnati (Dec. 4), at Tulane (Dec. 6). A double-dip through The American gives the Bulldogs two chances at upsets.
The Skinny: Jared Grasso is playing the transfer portal like a fiddle and stocking his program with players who can shine in America East. Vermont is vulnerable (4 starters down) so Bryant should contend in its new conference.