Let’s face it, every year the Providence and Rhode Island game is a bookmarked night around the state. But this year, it means a little bit extra for the Friars.
Providence, who seemed to have more depth than they’ve seen in years, suddenly has a paper thin lineup. Not only that, but it’s the players that they’ve lost to make their active roster paper thin that’s hurt the Friars the most.
Tomorrow night’s game at the Ryan Center against the Rams isn’t just another game in an outstanding rivalry, but it could make or break the Friars’ season.
Providence has yet to have a “bad” loss yet on the young season, but one or two could be a slippery slope without a true point guard.
Vice versa, if the Friars come out of the Ryan Center with a win Thursday night, they’ll follow that up with home games against Yale and Maine, games they should win, before traveling to UMass to take on a ranked Minutemen team on the 28th.
Providence will look to tread water for an undisclosed amount of time, all while Kris Dunn’s future remains unknown. Following a 79-65 loss to Kentucky, head coach Ed Cooley said “Dunn is really hurt. I don’t expect him back anytime soon, at all.”
His absence really showed against the Wildcats, as Bryce Cotton was the primary ball handler in a game in which he also put up 21 shots from the floor. Although Cotton scored 23 points, the Friars’ offense was stagnant and nearly non-existent, with Cotton bailing his team out on a number of possessions in the first half.
Ultimately, the Friars still have an edge on the Rams. But it’s certainly a scary game, particularly with little depth in the back court. The Friars can’t afford for Cotton or Fortune to get into foul trouble, or they’ll encounter serious issues moving the ball up the court.
If Providence can find a way to fight through the rest of their non-conference schedule, then hopefully they can get some reinforcements back for conference play. But the Friars need to pull out a tough game on the road at the Ryan Center Thursday night with a depleted lineup.
This game means more to Providence and its fans than they ever would’ve thought before the season started.