Providence coach Keno Davis has already beaten a top-ranked team, but now his Friars have an even bigger challenge of climbing back into the top half of Big East this season. (Photo courtesy of Connecticut Post)
Two years ago, Keno Davis was seemingly on top of the world after guiding Drake to a surprise top 25 ranking and an NCAA tournament appearance. His success led him to Providence, where soon after, his Friars established themselves as a force to be reckoned with after their home victory against then-top-ranked Pittsburgh. One year removed from a 12-19 campaign that ended with an exciting Big East tournament game against Seton Hall; one in which the Friars trailed by 29 points before almost coming back to beat the Pirates in the final minutes, Davis is back on the sidelines in the Ocean State with a young and deceptively talented squad that could surprise some critics in the Big East this season.
Despite losing breakout star forward Jamine Peterson and veteran guard Sharaud Curry, the Friars return everyone else from last year's group, including eight freshmen as they look to mount a comeback to the world of postseason play. Aside from senior Mrashon Brooks, (the lone senior of Davis' pupils) Vincent Council returns for his second season as Brooks' backcourt partner after an impressive debut last season. Providence also gets help up front with returning sophomores Bilal Dixon and Ray Hall, but the Friars remain relatively undersized after that.
Nonetheless, PC will look to prove their critics wrong as they attempt to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004 with a favorable start to its schedule that is highlighted by a trip to Boston College in December before starting the Big East slate at the Carrier Dome against Syracuse. After the Orange, Providence gets two home games; the first being a New Year's Day tilt against St. John's and new Red Storm coach Steve Lavin, as well as a matchup with Pitt, who returns to the Dunkin' Donuts Center for the first time since Providence's 81-73 upset of the then-No. 1 Panthers on February 24, 2009. In fact, the Friars nearly knocked off Pitt last year at the Petersen Center also, but fell short by the final of 73-71 as Ashton Gibbs hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave the Panthers the victory.