Fresh off a season in which they won their first Big East regular season title in school history, were top-10 in the country, and made an appearance in the NCAA tournament’s “Sweet Sixteen,” the Providence College men’s basketball team faced high expectations heading into this season. Those expectations were only raised when head coach Ed Cooley reeled in a big-time transfer class, led by sophomore forward Bryce Hopkins ’25.
After their first three games in the season, it looked like the team could live up to those expectations. Despite a close win against Rider University, which was likely due to three out of the five starters being new to the program, the Friars started the season 3–0 and with some pretty dominant wins.
However, since then, the Friars have won just three out of their last six games, losing to any team that they’ve played with a winning record. Ugly losses to power-5 schools University of Miami and Texas Christian University and a close loss to St. Louis University had the Friars wondering what they could be. The talent was clearly there, but they hadn’t been able to put a consistent product on the floor and compete against better teams. These losses were even more confusing considering their comfortable wins against Columbia University and Merrimack College. Sure, these were teams that the Friars were expected to beat, and by a lot, but it was still surprising to see great performances against them and lackluster ones elsewhere.
After their big win this past Saturday, Dec. 3 at the University of Rhode Island, the Friars hope the worst of their season is behind them. While URI didn’t enter the game with a winning record, nor were they favored to win, this still represented a big game for the Friars. The in-state rivalry between URI and Providence is as intense as it gets. Among the student body, it can feel like the Friars’ biggest rivalry outside of Villanova University. The atmosphere is electric, and all eyes in the state are on that game. The magnitude of this game was emphasized with the surprise court-side spectators: Miami Heat all-stars Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry. Neither of those two are strangers to Big East basketball; Butler attended Marquette University and Lowry attended Villanova. However, the trip to the game seemed a bit out of the way for the two stars. The Miami Heat faced the Boston Celtics on Friday, Dec. 2 and then flew to Memphis to face the Grizzlies on Monday, Dec. 5. While it isn’t exactly hard to make the trip from Boston to Rhode Island, it still seems a bit inconvenient for two NBA stars in the middle of a road trip. That just speaks to the magnitude of this game.
This presented a unique opportunity for coach Cooley: a game that his team could hopefully adjust and tighten things up, yet still have the pressure and intensity of a big-time matchup. And the Friars didn’t disappoint. Despite being favored to win by nearly 6 points, the Friars more than doubled that total, beating the Rams by 14 with a score of 88–74.
The man with the biggest impact in that game was Bryce Hopkins. Hopkins has really shown immense talent in his short time at PC. The transfer from the University of Kentucky put up 14 points in this contest, tied for the most on the Friars, and did so with great efficiency from the floor. Yet more impressive was his all-around impact. Hopkins also added a steal, four assists (second on the team) and a massive 15 rebounds (first on the team) giving him a double-double. But Hopkins wasn’t the only transfer who impacted this game. Noah Locke ’23GS added 13 points himself, Devin Carter ’25 had 10 points along with two blocks and a steal, and Clifton Moore ’23GS added 14 points with two blocks and two steals in a tremendous defensive effort. What was amazing though is looking at everyone who contributed on this roster. The other two major contributors in this game were Ed Croswell ’23 and Jared Bynum ’23GS, both of whom had 10 or more points. They too transferred into coach Cooley’s program over the previous couple of seasons. Looking at this Friars roster, it appears the main rotation now except for Rafael Castro ’25, Alyn Breed ’24, and Jayden Pierre ’26 are all transfers and not players that initially committed to PC. Really is fascinating.
Coming off the momentum of their big win over their in-state rivals, PC now gets two more tune-up games before Big East play starts. These next few games are going to be key for them, as the Friars need to do well in Big East play if they want to have a good shot at the tournament this season. They had a weak non-conference schedule that already has yielded them no quality wins. And the Big East is not going to be a cakewalk this season, with multiple ranked teams looking fiercely competitive.
The Friars face Manhattan College Wednesday, Dec. 7 at home, then on Saturday, Dec. 10, they host the University of Albany. Exactly a week after that, they travel to New Jersey to kick-off Big East play against Seton Hall University. These next few games will be key for the Friars, but it certainly feels like this URI game may have been a turning point.