By Jon Rothstein
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Ed Cooley still has a long ways to go in making Providence a Big East power but the first-year coach has done an admirable job with the Friars during the early portion of the season.
After losing to both Iowa State and Northern Iowa in South Padre over Thanksgiving, Cooley has led the Friars to seven consecutive wins putting them at 11-2 heading into tonight’s game against St. John’s at Carnesecca Arena.
Providence isn’t expected to be a postseason team this year but have the pieces to make a jump in 2012-13 if they can add a legitimate post player in the Class of 2012.
Junior point guard Vincent Council has emerged as one of the better point guards in the Big East and both Bryce Cotton and Gerard Coleman have developed into capable offensive threats on the perimeter. This trio combined with next year’s freshmen duo of Kris Dunn and Ricky Ledo give the Friars the potential to be one of the more high octane scoring outfits in the conference next season.
Freshman forward LaDontae Henton has also shown glimpses of being a capable of “glue guy” with his toughness. The 6-foot-6 undersized power forward is averaging 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game for the Friars.
OBEKPA VISITING CINCINNATI:
Our Savior New American power forward Chris Obekpa will visit Cincinnati when the Bearcats play Louisville on February 23rd. The 6-foot-8 shot blocker is considered one of the elite big men in the Class of 2012 and would immediately give Mick Cronin a piece to plug into the middle once Yancy Gates graduates after the season.
Speaking of the Bearcats, they’ve incorporated elements of the “dribble-drive” motion offense during their recent four-game winning streak, which has seen Cronin use a four-guard alignment to maximize speed and penetration ability.
The offense, which was branded by Kentucky coach John Calipari when he was at Memphis, focuses on constantly attacking the defense and uses minimal screening. The “dribble-drive” is tailor made for Bearcats guards Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick, who have played their best basketball of the season during the winning streak.
Anxious to see how this team fares Thursday night when they host Oklahoma.
LINDSEY TO LASALLE?
Former St. John’s guard Nurideen Lindsey would have preferred to transfer to La Salle but multiple sources said Tuesday that wasn’t likely due to eligibility issues.
Lindsey, who started for the Red Storm early in the season initially committed to the Explorers out of high school and would have liked to return to his native Philadelphia but with his academic standing in question, there was no guarantee the talented guard would have been eligible in December of 2012.
Both Memphis and Arkansas showed initial interest. With potential transfer destinations dwindling, look for Lindsey to explore a direct route to the NBA.
There may be transfers that may be able to play well as Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie — but no one is playing better.
The former UTEP power forward has been off the charts for the Bulldogs, averaging 17.8 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.
“His motor never stops,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said of Moultrie.
Really looking forward to seeing this team’s showdown versus Baylor in Dallas tomorrow night. Should feel like a Sweet 16 type of game.
Wichita State has five players averaging in double figures and is showing tremendous balance early in the season.
The Shockers are getting their trademark steady play from wings Toure’ Murry and David Kyles but point guard Joe Ragland, big man Garrett Stutz, and 6-foot-5 forward Ben Smith have all posted major statistical increases from a season ago.
This team already has wins over UNLV and Utah State and has a big time match up looming against Creighton on December 31st.
The key according to Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, is the continued growth of JUCO transfer Carl Hall, who is averaging 9.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
“He’s our X-factor,” Marshall said.
It’s still early but Umass has gotten off to a 10-3 start, including a solid win over Davidson last week.
The Minutemen will have to prove they can win on the road in the Atlantic-10 to be taken seriously but Derek Kellogg may finally have the back court he’s needed in Hofstra transfer Chaz Williams and talented wing Jesse Morgan.
If these two can be consistent and not turn the ball over, Umass should have a chance to win between 18 and 20 games.
FILL THE STOCKING:
I’ll be guest hosting on the Tim Brando Show all week long on the CBS Sports Network.
Tune in as some of the nation’s top coaches in college basketball join me to discuss the start of conference play.