In preparation for the annual Rams/Friars throw-down tomorrow, Craig Belhumeur from FriarBasketball.com was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about this PC squad, including who’s playing, who’s not, and he even weighed in with an incredibly biased and misguided a well-thought out prediction for this one. Here’s what Craig had to say:
Rhody Rampage: First things first – is there any chance that Bryce Cotton plays tomorrow?
Friar Basketball: We are hopeful that he will be able to play. Kevin McNamara reported that the results of Cotton’s MRI showed no structural damage. With the injury occurring during the first half of Saturday’s game against Mississippi St., that gives Cotton five days to recuperate.
RR: It looks like Rhody is catching PC at the right time. We know Council is out; if Cotton cannot play either, what ball handlers do the Friars have left?
FB: If all the above occurs, it is a scary thought for PC fans. Without Cotton, Ed Cooley will have just 5 scholarship players at his disposal (If Kris Dunn is held out as well) and one walk-on player, Ted Bancroft. Three of those five scholarship players cannot and will not dribble the basketball. With that being said, the ball handling duties would be left for freshman two guard, Joshua Fortune, sophomore forward LaDontae Henton, and walk-on Ted Bancroft. None of these players have consistently shown that they are capable of bringing the ball up against pressure, but they will have to do their best if Cotton and Dunn are unable to go.
RR: Rhody has done a pretty good job defending guard play this year, but what do you expect to see from Josh Fortune?
FB: Ed Cooley said it himself that what he is asking out of his freshman two guard is far too much, but he has to deal with the hand he has been dealt. With the injuries to Vincent Council, Kris Dunn and Bryce Cotton, Cooley will be forced to hand the ball to Fortune a heck of a lot more. As a two guard, he is much more comfortable playing off the ball but with such limited options, he’s the best healthy ball handler that the Friars have. When left open he can nail an open three and has a very nice looking shot. Out of the presumable 6 active players (Fortune, Batts, Kofane, Goldsbrough, Henton, Bancroft), Fortune would likely be PC’s third scoring option behind Batts and Henton. It is difficult to project how many looks he will get since Cooley will be relying on him to bring the ball up and run the offense.
RR: Conversely, the Rams have had some difficulty defending in the low post. What kind of problems is Kadeem Batts going to present?
FB: Kadeem Batts has been playing better than he ever has. In last Saturday’s game against Mississippi St., Batts recorded a career high 32 points on 12 of 18 shooting from the field and finished 10 of 12 from the line. He also grabbed 8 rebounds. Batts has shown at times that he has added a post game to his repertoire, but he seems to be most comfortable hanging out around the free throw line. Batts excels when facing up to the basket and knocking down a 15 foot jumper. He will enter Thursday’s match up with URI averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds a game.
RR: You kind of touched on this earlier, but there are rumblings that Kris Dunn could be available for this game. What’s the latest on that?
FB: It remains unclear whether or not Ed Cooley will utilize the number 2 point guard from the 2012 recruiting class. Cooley has said repeatedly that he will not jeopardize the bright future that Dunn has by bringing him back too early. If he doesn’t play, the likely debut for him will come December 18th against Colgate.
RR: Who on the Rams do you think will present the biggest problem for the Friars in this one?
FB: Obviously with Xavier Munford’s ability to score the basketball, he has to be Ed Cooley’s biggest concern. In the Auburn game he was able to toss in eight threes, so it will be important for Bancroft and Fortune (likely the two players in the top of the zone) to close out and deny the ball to Munford. If PC moves to a man-to-man defense, Cooley would likely put Josh Fortune on Munford.
RR: We’re interested to get an outsiders perspective on this one: What are your thoughts on the Dan Hurley hire, and what are your thoughts on the Rams for the coming years?
FB: Like Ed Cooley, Dan Hurley was a great hire for URI. A former Big East standout, the son of perhaps the best high school basketball coach in American history, and the brother of one of the NCAA’s all-time great performers, he certainly comes with the lineage. He has already made noise in the recruiting world with the Hassan Martin and E.C. Matthews pick ups, which were great signings for the Rams. With his brother and Preston Murphy on staff he has a young – but connected – group that should lead to a talent influx. It is great to see that both programs are on the rise and are moving away from the irrelevancy that was seen during the Jim Baron and Tim Welsh/Keno Davis eras.
RR: Speaking of the future… Realistically, when do expect to see Ricky Ledo in a game?
FB: The Ricky Ledo story has been a long process for PC fans. From the Christmas 2010 verbal commitment to the de-commitment and eventually to the ineligibility ruling, we are still left waiting to see Ledo in a Friars uniform. There were rumors that Cooley and staff would push for a second semester debut for Ledo if they were able to prove academic progress, however that notion has slipped away. With that being said, we likely won’t see him in action until next year, if Ledo decides to return for his sophomore year at Providence.
RR: Finally, it’s time to weigh in with your prediction for Thursday.
FB: With a full PC squad, this prediction would be much easier to make seeing how the Rams are struggling at 2-6 thus far. But with a depleted PC roster and the history of this rivalry, this game could be won by either team. If URI is able to pressure the PC ball handlers and get Kadeem Batts into foul trouble, this game can very easily be won by the Rams. However, with the tremendous effort and will that Cooley’s bunch has shown thus far this season, FriarBasketball.com predicts a 75-67 victory for PC.