Challenges Friars Face in the Wooden Legacy

David Duke
David Duke – Photo Courtesy Providence College Athletics

The Providence College men’s basketball program is headed to Anaheim, California this week for Thanksgiving where they’ll take part in the Wooden Legacy.

The Friars will play three games in eight days with the hope being that the experience will help to bond a team that has had their fair share of struggles to start the season.

They open with Long Beach State on Thursday before facing Wake Forest or College of Charleston on Friday. Depending on how the bracket shakes out they could see any of the other four remaining teams on Sunday – Arizona, Penn, Pepperdine, or Central Florida.

Here’s a quick synopsis of each of the potential seven opponents:

 

LONG BEACH STATE (2-4)

Conference: Big West – Head Coach: Dan Monson, 13th season

Early Season Results: The Beach are more dangerous than their record may appear as their losses have all come on the road against either Pac-12 or nationally ranked programs including a narrow 69-65 decision at UCLA to start the season.

Top Players: Chance Hunter is a 6-foot-6 sophomore currently averaging 14.5 points per game in his first season after transferring from Cerritos College. He’s shooting 11-19 from behind the three-point line on the season. Michael Carter III, a Washington transfer, is the team’s second leading scorer at 11.8 points per game and their starting point guard, but has nonetheless been both turnover prone and in a shooting slump to start the year.

Michael Carter III
Michael Carter III – Photo Courtesy Long Beach State Athletics

KenPom Statistical Blueprint: They played pretty fast, currently rating 53rd overall in the country in adjusted tempo. While they haven’t been efficient on either end of the floor, the defensive end has been especially problematic. Opposing teams are converting an effective field goal percentage of almost 58%, which is one of the worst in the country, while shooting over 42% from the three-point line. Conversely, LBSU is a decent three-point shooting team themselves but extremely turnover prone on the offensive end.

 

WAKE FOREST (3-2)

Conference: ACC – Head Coach: Danny Manning, 6th season

Early Season Results: They lost their ACC opener on the road at Boston College to start the season and fell in overtime at Charlotte but are coming off their best win of the season against Davidson.

Top Players: It all starts with Brandon Childress, who leads the team in both scoring and assists at 17.8 points per game and 5.8 assists per game. He’s asked to do a ton for the Demon Deacons but needs to shoot it better from the outside (33.3% 3pt) and be less turnover prone (3.8topg) for this team to be at their best. Chaundee Brown is a physical specimen with a high-motor and a walking double-double currently putting up 15.8 points per game along with 9.8 rebounds.

Brandon Childress
Brandon Childress – Photo Courtesy Wake Forest Athletics

KenPom Statistical Blueprint: Statistically speaking they’ve been solid on both ends of the floor. Offensively, they take very few threes but make a high percentage of the ones they do attempt. They don’t turn the ball over much as a team, get the to free-throw line enough, and will look for run-outs when possible. Defensively, their trademark is that they do a traffic job rebounding the ball (2nd best in the country) but force almost no turnovers.

 

COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON (3-2)

Conference: CAA – Head Coach: Earl Grant, 6th season

Early Season Results: Having won 24 or more games in each of the last three years, Charleston has held serve to start the season, winning home games against South Carolina Upstate and Georgia State, before falling to Oklahoma State. They had a nice road win at Marshall and then played UCF very close on the road last Saturday, before falling 72-71.

Top Players: Senior guard Grant Riller is the team’s star and a player who stuffs all columns of the state sheet. He’s currently averaging 21.4 points per game along with 5.0 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.8 steals. The one thing he hasn’t done yet is make threes (25% 3pt) but he’s been very good at the stripe (84.6% FT). His backcourt running mate Brevin Galloway is the team’s second leading scorer at 12ppg and also their best three-point threat. Jaylen McManus leads the frontcourt with 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

Grant Riller
Grant Riller – Photo Courtesy University of Charleston Athletics

KenPom Statistical Blueprint: Their offense has been better than their defense to start the season. They play at a slower tempo with the ball but attack the rim, finish inside at a high rate, get to the free-throw line, and rarely turn it over. They are not a good three-point shooting team. Defensively, they’re struggled to protect their own rim and given up a lot of second chance points as well.

 

ARIZONA (6-0)

Conference: Pac-12 – Head Coach: Sean Miller, 11th season

Early Season Results: They’ve been relatively untested so far, winning five of their six games by 20+ points and playing only one other high-major school, Illinois, in that time. South Dakota State was the only opponent to give them a true test yet, but the Wildcats prevailed 71-64.

Top Players: They’re relying on a trio of freshmen to lead the way. Nico Mannion and Josh Green were both five-star recruits, and have lived up to that so far, but Zeke Nnaji has stolen the show. The 6-foot-11 big man, who was also a top 100 recruit, is averaging 19.5 points on 80.7% shooting from the floor (that’s not a misprint) and even making 80% of his free-throws. Mannion, who runs the point, has been equally efficient with 14.8 points and 5.0 assists per game against just 2.3 turnovers while shooting 52.8% from the field, 48% from behind the arc, and 80.8% from the stripe. Green, an explosive athlete on the wing, isn’t a consistent shooter but still putting up 11.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.7 steals.

Josh Green 2
Josh Green – Photo Courtesy University of Arizona Athletics

KenPom Statistical Blueprint: They’re playing with a ton of pace offensively, rating in the top 5% of average possession length on that end of the floor, but grinding teams out defensively. Otherwise they’re similarly efficient on both ends to start the year. They’ve managed to take care of the ball while playing fast and that’s allowed them to shoot a very high percentage, even from three. Defensively, they’ve been able to force turnovers and contested shots alike and currently have the 20th best defense in the country in terms of adjusted efficiency.

 

PEPPERDINE (3-3)

Conference: WCC – Head Coach: Lorenzo Romar, 2nd season

Early Season Results: They’re coming off a disappointing loss to Pepperdine following a hard-fought loss to USC a week prior. They were on a three-game winning streak prior to that after opening the season with a road loss at California.

Top Players: Colbey Ross is their primary playmaker, but Kameron Edwards and Kessler Edwards are potent weapons as well. Ross is averaging 20.7 points along with 7.0 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game and also shoots it well (40.9% 3pt & 90.9 % FT). Kessler Edwards is a 6-foot-8 sophomore who puts up 13.7 points and a team high 8.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while Kameron Edwards is a 6-foot-6 senior averaging 17.5 points and 6.3 rebounds.

Colbey Ross
Colbey Ross – Photo Courtesy Pepperdine Athletics

KenPom Statistical Blueprint: Offensively, they play fast and are efficient. They shoot it well from the three-point line and draw a lot of fouls but can leave points on the board with missed twos. Defensively, they can struggle because they haven’t guarded the arc well to date and are also very foul prone so far.

 

PENN (3-2)

Conference: Ivy – Head Coach: Steve Donahue, 4th season

Early Season Results: They’ve been difficult to figure early in the season, winning on the road at Alabama and Providence, while also knocking off LaSalle, but then falling on the road at Rice and Lafayette.

Top Players: AJ Brodeur is one of the best players in the Ivy League. He’s averaging a double-double to start the season (18.0ppg & 10.2rpg) and also leading the team in assists (4.0apg) and blocks (1.8bpg). Freshman guard Jordan Dingle has provided an immediate offensive weapon to the tune of 17 points per game while Ryhan Betley is the team’s best shooter and third leading scorer at 13.4 points per game. Devon Goodman is a quick playmaker on both ends averaging 11.6 points and 1.8 steals per contest.

AJ Brodeur
AJ Brodeur – Photo Courtesy Penn Athletics

KenPom Statistical Blueprint: They’re undersized and completely reliant on Brodeur inside, but have balanced that out by taking good care of the ball. The Achilles heel so far has been their three-point shooting as they’re only converting a collective 30.5%. Defensively, they won’t turn you over and haven’t guarded the arc as well as they would like but are otherwise very solid statistically.

 

CENTRAL FLORIDA (3-1)

Conference: American – Head Coach: Johnny Dawkins, 4th season

Early Season Results: They’ve won the games they’re supposed to win thus far, but by a very narrow margin, opening the season with a 73-69 win over Prairie View, defeating Illinois State 67-65 on the road, and Charleston 72-71 over the weekend. Their one loss came to a young Miami team.

Top Players: Collin Smith is their leading scorer at 15.3 points per game but they have six different players averaging at least seven per game, the last of which also leads the team in assists (Ceasar DeJesus at 3.0). In short, they are very balanced and don’t rely on any one player to beat you.

Collin Smith
Collin Smith – Photo Courtesy University Central Florida Athletics

KenPom Statistical Blueprint: Offensively, they are statistically more efficient around the rim, rating well in offensive rebound percentage, free-throw rate, and two-point field goal percentage. They have struggled on the perimeter though, both shooting the ball and with turnovers. Defensively, they rate in the upper third of the country. They do an excellent job of guarding without fouling and limiting opposing teams’ three-point attempts (although teams have converted relatively high percentage of the looks they have had from three).