Getting It Dunn

Getting It Dunn

Joe Clark, Sports Writer

Despite not even being projected as a preseason tournament team by some, the Providence Friars have been one of the best teams in college basketball this season. Even though they lost Friar legend LaDontae Henton, 7’0 Carson Desrosiers, and the surprise transfer of 7’2 stud Paschal Chukwu, the Friars are one of the top 15 teams in the country, as they are ranked #12. Under the tutelage of Ed Cooley, the Friars, led by Player of the Year candidate Kris Dunn, are 15-2 with marquee wins over Arizona on a neutral court at the Wooden Legacy Tournament, and on the road against Big East foe Butler. Their two losses are to Michigan St with a healthy Denzel Valentine, and to Marquette, led by projected top 10 pick Henry Ellenson. Kris Dunn has been the key to the Friars success, putting up 17.9 PPG, 7.5 APG, and 6.4 RPG in addition to leading the NCAA in Assist Percentage according to KenPom.com, as he assists on an unreal 47.8% of the Friars possessions while on the court. He is also 4th in the country in steal percentage, at 5.53%, showing his defensive prowess in addition to his offensive skill. Dunn hasn’t been the only star for the Friars this season however, as sophomore forward Ben Bentil has taken a huge step forward from his freshman season, leading the Big East in scoring at 19.1 PPG, while adding 7.9 RPG as the Friars’ starting center. Providence arguably has the Player of the Year in Dunn, the Coach of the Year in Cooley, who has done a fantastic job in his 5 seasons at Providence and is one of the best coaches in college basketball, and the Most Improved Player in Bentil, who could also end up as a 3rd team All American.

Just with every good team though, PC has a reliable 3rd option in redshirt sophomore Rodney Bullock (13.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG), and bench depth in guys like freshmen Ryan Fazekas, a knockdown 3 point shooter (40%) who missed a good chunk of the season so far due to mono, and fellow freshman Drew Edwards (3.3 PPG, 1.9 RPG) who has started to see some big minutes for the Friars off the bench lately. One guy who really makes a difference for the Friars is junior Junior Lomomba. Lomomba, the Friars’ starting SG, is their “glue guy.” A defensive menace, Lomomba has an uncanny ability to force turnovers and move the ball on offense, even if he isn’t scoring. He has been more aggressive on offense this year however, as he’s frequently attacked the rim this year, putting in 4-8 points every game, which is reflected in his season average of 6.0 PPG. Lomomba has also added 2.8 RPG and 2.1 APG. Joining Lomomba in the backcourt is backup PG Kyron Cartwright. Cartwright, has done a good job of backing up Dunn, scoring 3.3 PPG while racking up 3.3 APG. He is also shooting 46% from three point range, a dramatic improvement from the 12% he shot last season. However, his overall FG% has dipped (47% to 35%) and he has been terrible from the FT line, shooting 50%, down from 74% last season. Cartwright has shown flashes of dominance however, and projects to be a solid starter next season when Dunn heads to the NBA. Jalen Lindsey has also been a key contributor for the Friars. With 7.6 PPG and 4.6 RPG this season, Lindsey is currently the Friars starting SF. However, he is only shooting 38% and only 27% from 3.

pc friars

The Friars have been at their most effective recently when playing a lineup of Dunn-Cartwright-Edwards-Bullock-Bentil, which they have   used 9.6% in their last 3 games, good enough for their 2nd most used lineup in that span, behind their starting lineup of Dunn-Lomomba-Lindsey-Bullock-Bentil. Playing Cartwright and Dunn together allows Dunn to play off the ball, which often leads to post up opportunities where he can use his 6’4, 220 size to his advantage over smaller guards. Another effective lineup combo has been Dunn-Edwards-Lomomba-Bullock-Bentil, which has been used 7.9% in their last 5 games, the Friars’ 3rd most used lineup.

Looking ahead for the Friars, they have a tough upcoming schedule, as the Big East might be the strongest it’s been since the “old” Big East broke up. On January 16th, PC takes on Seton Hall at home, before an unforgiving 4 game slate against Butler at home, then on the road against a very strong Villanova team that is ranked #6 in the country, before returning home to take on #7 Xavier, led by Trevon Bluiett and potentially Edmund Sumner, who hasn’t played since suffering a scary head injury in a loss against Villanova. After the Xavier game, PC travels to DC to take on the Georgetown Hoyas, who despite some early season missteps have looked really good in Big East play so far. Despite what happens in the rest of the season, it has already been a special season in Friartown. This is a team that looks poised to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, but even if they don’t all PC fans can look back on this season as one of the best in recent memory.