(WPRI) – The warm New England temperatures hung around a few weeks longer than normal, but who was complaining? It got us to basketball season. Now, the goal for a few teams is still to be playing the next time those 70 degree days return.
As the temps outside begin to drop, play begins to heat up. We are officially one week into the 2022-23 season. All four of of our Men’s Division I teams in Rhode Island have played at least two games to this point, with at least one of those on its home floor. We’ve laid our eyes on all of the teams live and in-person with the exception of Bryant (man was that a massacre).
Let’s get to the first weekly, in-season College Hoops Column here on WPRI.com. Thoughts and observations are below. You can always reach out via email email@example.com or Twitter @MHershgordon. Let’s keep everything rational. We’ve got a long way to go.
Last: 89-65 win vs. Northeastern on Nov. 12
This Week: Host Stonehill Nov. 15 at 5 p.m., Face Miami (Fl.) Nov. 19 at 4 p.m., Face Maryland or Saint Louis Nov. 20 TBA
Plain and Simple: The Friars found a way
It was expected that PC would have some early growing pains. But the Friars were down 10 at halftime to Rider and not many expected that score 20 minutes in on opening night when the program had just hung a Big East Regular Season championship banner for the first time ever. In the second half the Friars dug in, got the lead and then held on for dear life. Rider had possession down by one with 10 seconds to play when Allen Powell tripped over his own feet as he crossed the timeline which gave PC the 66-65 win. It was not pretty. But it was Game No. 1. And after seeing what happened across the sport in the first week, winning a buy-game is far from a given.
Hard Truth: Ed Cooley will need to sure up his rotation
I tweeted this out right after the game against Northeastern. Through 80 minutes, the Friars are -8 in the first half and +33 in the second half. While much of it has to do with feeling out the other team and adjusting to a new opponent, that doesn’t tell the entire story On both occasions, Cooley trimmed his rotation to seven in the second half instead of nine or ten like he had done in the first half. After the win over the Huskies, he acknowledged that chemistry improves when he shortens up the rotation. Going deeper might work against the low and mid majors, though come this weekend when PC meets Miami (Fl.) and then either Maryland or Saint Louis, Cooley will have to play the entire 40 minutes like he’s done the final 20 minutes of each of the first two games.
Last: 70-66 loss vs. Texas State on Nov. 12
This Week: Host Stony Brook Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.
Plain and Simple: The fan base needs to be patient
It will take Archie Miller some time to get a grasp of his roster. At times, Saturday’s game against Texas State looked like it should have been played on ice with sticks and helmets. There were constant substitutions. The URI staff searched for a cohesive lineup. Miller is doing everything he can to impact the game. Most notably, he benches guys immediately after making mistakes, letting them know why the mistake was made, a better alternative for the next time a similar scenario arises and then lets the player take a breather on the bench to process the information. Once there’s a spot to re-enter the player, Miller will sub him back into play. Miller yanked SeBastian Thomas twice, the first coming 15 seconds into the game, when he penetrated the lane and was called for two offensive fouls. There are a litany of examples from the game against Texas State. If you’re down at the Ryan Center on Tuesday against Stony Brook, or at some point this season, it’s worth it to pay close attention to the bench.
Hard truth: 15 wins will be tough to accomplish
The habits are just not good enough and the skill is not there for URI to expect to win more than 15 games. It is quite early to make that statement and might be a bit of an overreaction, but I’m fairly confident in what I’ve watched on the floor and heard from Miller. And these two games were both at home. Nuetral site and road contests invite more room for error from a young, inexperienced team. Miller knows Year No. 1 will be a grind. Laying the foundation and setting the standard will be what this program hangs its hat on for the next four months.
Last: 89-70 win at Dartmouth on Nov. 11
This Week: Face Florida Atlantic Nov. 17 at 7 p.m., Face Florida International Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.
Plain and Simple: Bryant deserves better than Thomas College (Me.)
Jared Grasso and Bryant beat Division III Thomas College from Maine 148-39 on opening night. It was one of three non-Division I teams the Bulldogs were forced to schedule at the beginning of the year. Earth to PC. Earth to UConn. What about BC? Even URI? Any regional power conference team or high mid-major want to play a program that will resemble what you might see come March? Gol-ly. I was following the Saint Peter’s-Seton Hall game this past weekend and came across a postgame quote from ex-SPU coach now Seton Hall head coach Shaheen Halloway that resonates. “I would love to play a lot of the local teams,” Holloway said. “It’s up to the local teams to want to play us. If we won’t play, it won’t be on me. I’ll play them — I’ll play any local team.” The Pirates renewed the matchup with the Peacocks after Kevin Willard called it off for years not wanting to potentially risk losing to an inferior school in the state. But Halloway gets the bigger picture. Eight months ago, he was in charge of a small, budding program. So too was Ed Cooley (Fairfield), Danny Hurley (Wagner, URI) and Earl Grant (College of Charleston) once upon a time. Jared Grasso and Bryant would walk to the AMP, Storrs, Chestnut Hill or Kingston tomorrow — and for free — if one of those programs picked up the phone.
Hard truth: Jared Grasso upset some people by running up the score
Let’s get this out of the way first: Jared Grasso does not care what you think. He is going to coach his team the way he feels he gets the most out of them. With that said, Monday’s margin of victory caught the eye of many in the area and even some college basketball pundits across the country. Grasso did not have his team let up even when they reached the 100-point mark early in the second half. But there’s nothing else he can do. He has a new team just like PC, URI, and Brown. His squad is filled with new faces that have minimal game experience together. They need live reps to improve like the others do. Playing hard for a full 40 minutes despite the score is what every head coach preaches.
Last: 75-70 loss at Loyola (Md.) on Nov. 13
This Week: Host Stony Brook Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.
Plain and Simple: The Bears opened up with two tough opponents
Mike Martin challenged his guys right off the jump. The first four days of the year saw Brown play two NCAA Tournament regulars. First was a trip to America East preseason favorite Vermont and then came a game against Patriot League preseason favorite Colgate. With only two returning starters back, the Bears grew with each experience. They cut a 15-point hole to three late in the second half against Colgate. They had plenty of chances to win on Sunday against Loyola (Md.) when they went 11-30 from the foul line and committed 23 turnovers. There are glimpses.
Hard truth: Lack of depth will hurt Bears
The Bears starting five is formidable, though in an ideal situation one or two would come off the bench on a deeper, stronger team. Kimo Ferrari is a nice role player, albeit his size. Perry Cowan has been slow to develop. And it is obvious Malachi Ndur and Aaron Cooley haven’t made enough of an impression during practice to earn Martin’s trust.