By Jack Belanger ’21
After making their fifth straight appearance in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball tournament, the Providence College Men’s Basketball Team is poised to take the next step and compete for first place in the Big East and surpass the PC Men’s Hockey Team as the best winter sports team on campus.
The basketball team is loaded with talent at every position and has a high potential to succeed this season in a conference that has gotten much weaker since last season. All the uncertainties around this team, such as the return of Emmitt Holt ’19RS and a promising freshman class, will fall in PC’s favor.
With the loss of offensive leaders Kyron Cartwright ’18 and Rodney Bullock ’18, Alpha Diallo ’20 will be ready to take on a larger role after having a breakout sophomore season. Last season, Diallo averaged 13.2 points per game and ended the season by scoring 21 points against Texas A&M University in the national tournament. This season he was named to the All-Big East Preseason First Team. Diallo will be one of the best players in the Big East this season which will make it difficult for any team to beat the Friars.
There has been plenty of speculation as to how Holt, a forward, will perform this season after missing all of last season due to injury. During the 2016-17 season, he averaged 12.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. The Friars missed his presence underneath the hoop last season and his return will be a big boost for the young squad.
Before this season, Head Coach Ed Cooley put together possibly his greatest recruiting class during his time at PC. Highlighted by four-star recruits, David Duke ’22 and A.J. Reeves ’22. The freshmen will be able to step in immediately and produce right away. With the other teams in the Big East losing a lot of talent, the freshmen should not be terribly overmatched come conference play.
Despite the loss of three starters, the Friars have been able to reload on the fly and have the potential to improve from their overall record 21-14 and 10-8 record in the Big East. PC still has plenty of returning players that have lots of potential to improve. Christopher Novak of SB Nation is picking the Friars to finish in the top half of the conference this year. He predicts ”this Friars team being good enough to earn a Top 4 finish in the Big East and get one of their highest seeds in the NCAA Tournament in recent memory.”
While the men’s hockey team may be ranked third according to the USA Today poll, the team has yet to play top-15 ranked opponents such as the University of Denver, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Northeastern University, all of which will be tough games for the Friars to pullout. Likewise, Villanova University is the only team in the Big East that is ranked, which means PC will fair much better against the conference this season.