Sports

Rothstein: Big East Sleeper? 5 Observations From Providence

Ed Cooley's Team Could Be Better Than Anticipated On 'D'
Kris Dunn #3 of the Providence Friars (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Kris Dunn #3 of the Providence Friars (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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By Jon Rothstein
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1. DUNN DEAL

Nearly one year after suffering a shoulder injury that kept him out half of last season, Kris Dunn is ready to take the next step. At 6-4 and 195 pounds, Dunn has developed his body and looks more than capable of having a breakout year. The wiry point guard averaged 5.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists as a freshman — and all those numbers figure to go up this season when he’s a sophomore. Dunn has the tools to be a lock-down defender, and should regularly be assigned to the opponent’s top perimeter scorer.

2. LENGTH PERSONIFIED

Ed Cooley’s team is downright physically imposing. Other than Bryce Cotton who stands 6-1, every other player in Providence’s rotation will be 6-4 or taller. The Friars have length, athleticism, and undeniable versatility. Look for Cooley to maximize his team’s abilities by mixing and matching different lineups with regularity. This has a chance to be a better defensive team than people anticipate.

3. BRANDON GETS BUCKETS

I’ve said repeatedly that Providence freshman Brandon Austin could very well be one of the favorites for Big East Rookie of the Year, and after watching him play on Tuesday it’s hard not to back off that proclamation. At 6-6, Austin is an effortless scorer and has the longest pair of arms I’ve ever seen. This will be a big time addition to the Friars. Look for Austin to average close to double figures as a freshman — he’s that good.

4. TYLER’S EVOLUTION

After spending his first season in college at NC State, Tyler Harris really took advantage of his red shirt year. The 6-9 lefty changed his body and fine tuned his outside shot. No one talks about this skilled forward when they elaborate on the Friars’ personnel — but that will change once the games start. Harris is going to have an impact for Providence. Think a poor man’s Tayshaun Prince.

5. BIG EAST SLEEPER

The Friars aren’t mentioned among potential contenders for the new Big East Conference — but they have all the requisites to be a legitimate sleeper. Cooley has three all-conference caliber players in Cotton, LaDontae Henton, and Kadeem Batts along with the best depth he’s had since he took over the Providence program in 2011. The key will be how Dunn develops along with the offensive production from Austin and Harris at the small forward spot.

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