Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Providence-Rhode Island game will be even more memorable later

December 6, 2015 Columns No Comments

SOUTH KINGSTON, R.I. – While it’s always been one to watch if you’re a New Englander, the annual meeting between Providence and Rhode Island is one that has ebbed and flowed a bit. For a few years when the Rams struggled over a decade ago, it wasn’t as big a game. But as both teams have been better of late, especially this season, the game has been bigger and better. And with apologies to Providence head coach Ed Cooley, it’s a rivalry game, one that on Saturday night delivered everything you could want unless you were a Rhode Island fan.

And it’s a game that will be a little more memorable when we see these teams later in the season.

Before the season, the Rams were generally thought to be more of a contender in their conference (Atlantic 10) than the Friars in theirs (Big East). Rhode Island entered this season clearly trending up, fresh off a year of immense growth in so many ways, and then Memphis transfer Kuran Iverson was declared eligible immediately. Providence, on the other hand, entered with some questions about how the support cast for Kris Dunn would shape up.

The results to date? Rhode Island suffered a major blow on opening night when E.C. Matthews tore his ACL, but there’s every reason to believe it’s far from a fatal blow. Providence, meanwhile, is seeing the support cast fill in around Dunn already, to the point where they beat Arizona and gave Michigan State all they could handle in the Wooden Legacy.

And it was part of that supporting cast that ripped the hearts of Rhode Island fans right out at the buzzer.

Providence isn’t lacking talent, but how it would come together wasn’t easy to figure. Now, though, it seems clear: Ben Bentil, who tipped in a miss by Dunn just before the buzzer (replay showed there was about 0.2 left) to cap a 23-point, eight-rebound night, is the primary complement, and emerging as someone who could contend for All-Big East honors. Rodney Bullock has helped and should only get better, because we have to remember that he’s shaking off two years of rust between a suspension and an ACL injury. Freshman Ryan Fazekas is a serious three-point threat. Junior Lomomba is emerging as the consummate role player. Jalen Lindsey is plenty talented, though that hasn’t translated just yet.

The end result is a Providence team that is 8-1, including a 3-1 mark away from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. That’s a good place to be in early December, and with just one more true road game (a trip to UMass) on tap before Big East play. The Friars could be 12-1 when they travel to Butler on New Year’s Eve to open conference play. The Friars turn the ball over less than ten times a game while forcing nearly 16, helping them win despite being out-rebounded on the season.

Rhode Island, meanwhile, has had players fill in with Matthews done for the season. They have become a more balanced team in the scoring department, with five players averaging between 10.5 and 11.6 points per game. There’s enough talent that several players are capable of larger offensive roles on this team, and that includes Iverson taking on a more prominent role than perhaps was first expected, though he’s always had the talent to be a star. Hassan Martin has grown tremendously since he first arrived in South Kingston, while Jarvis Garrett figured to be a very important piece.

Garrett, in particular, showed why this team is in great shape despite the loss of Matthews. He was the big reason the Rams battled back after Providence controlled Saturday night’s game early, between how he ran the show, made shots and was in a lot of plays. He scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds, both career highs, and has a 2.9 assist-to-turnover ratio on the season. As he continues to grow, so should this team.

Not having Matthews will probably hurt in spots, because basketball is a tough game to win without a go-to guy, but the early returns suggest the Rams aren’t going to fall flat. They are 5-3, with no bad losses although two have come at home (Valparaiso is not a bad loss, even if it is a team an Atlantic 10 contender should beat at home), and have more opportunities ahead. They have three true road non-conference games left, and although it’s not clear any will provide resume-building win opportunities, wins at Nebraska or Old Dominion would help. They likely will need to get big wins in the Atlantic 10, which they should be capable of.

Providence should get better as the support cast around Dunn continues to emerge, as there is plenty of room for players to grow. Dunn has also shown that he understands it’s up to him to take control when the game is on the line; he did it against Arizona to carry them despite foul trouble, and he did on Saturday night, even battling adversity with a couple of missed dunks a little earlier in the game. In addition, the Big East right now looks wide open after Villanova; Providence is as good a pick to be right in the mix as anyone else based on the first few weeks of play.

Rhode Island should likewise get better with their balance. Martin is continuing to emerge and should be in the discussion for first team All-Atlantic 10 honors. Iverson has always been a talent and is now back close to home. Garrett is growing and is a big barometer of this team’s results.

When March rolls around, both teams will be better than they were now. This win will be a bigger one for Providence than it appears to be right now. And this game will be one to look at even more, because it was a classic between two teams that showed their ceiling was not close to where they were at the time.

Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 18, 2018

January 18, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about big road wins for a few teams, including a couple of bluebloods that looked destined for losses, as well as an unsettled Big Ten beyond one team, an SEC where you shouldn’t pay attention to bracketologists, and the problems with a proposed earlier start to the college basketball season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 11, 2018

January 11, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about several big pieces of news away from game play, one of which puts a lot in perspective. We also talk about the lack of dominant teams and how this has shown up in the results, especially this past weekend.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 4, 2018

January 4, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we start with a big game in the Big East, then move on to the sudden lack of undefeated teams, a big injury in the ACC, and a powerhouse that looks vulnerable in a stacked conference they have long ruled.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – December 8, 2017

December 8, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about a bizarre finish to an early-season tournament game, the Pac-12’s early struggles, Florida teams going in different directions and two northeast teams trending less relevant even as they excite fans at a famous arena.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – November 22, 2017

November 22, 2017 by

In our pre-Thanksgiving podcast, we look at a key injury that is likely to be devastating for his team and an under-the-radar 4-0 week, then move on to some early SEC impressions and a couple of teams that just continue to win.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.