By Jon Rothstein
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– It’s tough not to feel for Providence coach Ed Cooley this week. The Friars built palpable momentum on the recruiting trail in the past year by landing Top 30 talents in Ricky Ledo and Kris Dunn and now neither will play to start next season. Ledo was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA this past week meaning he can participate in practice but not in games, while Dunn will be out until at least early December with a shoulder injury. Without Ledo, Providence does still have arguably the best guard in the Big East in Vincent Council but we’re starting to wonder if that will be enough for Cooley and the Friars to avoid what could be an awfully long season.

– Purdue coach Matt Painter seems more than comfortable with handing point guard responsibilities over to freshman Ronnie Johnson. “He’s going to have a lot of responsibility for us right away,” Painter said of Johnson. “He’s a very instinctive player. Ronnie can blend with anybody, he just needs to understand the other guys he’s playing with. He’s going to get a lot of assists.” The Boilermakers will begin a new chapter this year as they move on without two key veterans in Lewis Jackson and Robbie Hummel. “We’re going to have a really young team,” Painter said. “Our entire roster has practically turned over.”

– We’re hearing Syracuse is either going to start C.J. Fair, Rakeem Christmas, and freshman DeJuan Coleman in their front court with James Southerland as their sixth man, or use Southerland at small forward with Fair and Christmas at power forward and center. Either way, the Orange are beyond loaded and look primed to be one of the top five teams in the country. The real sleeper for Jim Boeheim’s team? Freshman forward Jerami Grant, who continues to grow and is now over 6-10. Scary, scary stuff for a prospect that has guard like skills in that type of a body.

– Harvard sophomore guard Wesley Saunders was really strong offensively during the Crimson’s trip to Italy and should conceivably take some of the perimeter scoring pressure off Brandyn Curry during the upcoming season. With Saunders and freshman point guard Siyani Chambers, Curry should have more freedom within the confines of Tommy Amaker’s offense and more opportunities to play off the ball. Harvard plays a vicious non-conference schedule which includes trips to Umass, UCONN, Cal, Saint Mary’s, St. Joseph’s, and Memphis along with home games against Manhattan and Fordham.

– Former Michigan State commit Dwaun Anderson has made an immediate impact on Wagner’s rookie coach Bashir Mason. “He doesn’t look like a freshman,” Mason said of the 6-4 Anderson. “You just need to get the ball in his hands and he can you get 17 on any given night.” With Anderson, who initially committed to play for Tom Izzo out of high school, and fellow freshman wing Eric Fanning, the Seahawks are conceivably more talented than last year’s team that won 25 games under Danny Hurley, who is now the head coach at Rhode Island. “Our issue isn’t talent,” Mason said. “I just want to make sure I have people I count on. The toughest players will play and that’s not going to change.”

– In a league full of really good guards, not enough people in the Atlantic 10 are talking about Dayton’s Kevin Dillard. “He’s set up for a great senior year,” Flyers coach Archie Miller said of Dillard this week. “Kevin is definitely one of the best players in our conference but I’ve told him and I’ve told other guys on our team that recognition comes with winning.” Dillard, who spent the first two years of his career at Southern Illinois, averaged 13.3 points, six assists, and 2.7 rebounds per game last season. His presence is the main reason why Dayton is one of many teams in the Atlantic 10 that will enter the season with a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. “10-11 teams in this conference are going to compete for bids,” Miller said. “We’re a four to six bid league.”

– Oregon potentially becomes an intriguing team in the PAC-12 with the addition of 6-11 big man Waverly Austin, who opted for the Great Northwest after failing to qualify at South Florida. With Austin and Tony Woods, Dana Altman has two legitimate big men along with two capable front court players in E.J. Singler and Carlos Emory. Also keep an eye on Ducks freshman guard Dominic Artis, who could really produce with major minutes.

– You never want to see key players lost for the duration of the season but USC losing Maurice Jones for the year for academic reasons may actually help the Trojans’ role allocation. Yes Jones led USC in scoring a year ago but Kevin O’Neill has an entirely different team and has two potential All-PAC-12 back court players in Jio Fontan and Wake Forest transfer J.T. Terrell. Freshman point guard Chass Bryan will backup Fontan along with Terrell.

– Villanova got a real tough draw in the 2K Sports Classic. The Wildcats will play in a two day tournament at Madison Square Garden on 11/15 and 11/16 with Purdue, Alabama, and Oregon State, but it was announced this week that Jay Wright’s team will have to face an upstart Marshall team during one of their two home games prior to to MSG. This is not good news for a young Villanova team that lost their starting back court in Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek. Tom Herrion’s Thundering Herd are talented enough to win Conference-USA and likely have the conference’s top scorer in Deandre Kane. Marshall also has the front line to match up with the Wildcats with Robert Goff, Nigel Spikes, and Dennis Tinnon.

– We’re really happy to see Fordham elevate assistant David Duke to Associate Head Coach. Duke has been at Tom Pecora’s side for the last 14 seasons and is more than ready to have his own program. He’s had his tentacles on every major recruit the Rams have gotten since Pecora went to the Bronx in 2010 and was the point man when Hofstra initially recruited current Golden State Warriors guard Charles Jenkins from Springfield Gardens in Queens.

Can Providence turn lemons into lemonade this season? Be heard in the comments below!


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