2022 Stonehill College vs Providence - Women's

Providence Women's Basketball Preview: Young Friars Learning, Improving

Providence Women's Basketball Preview: Young Friars Learning, Improving

Providence hopes lumps it took last season will pay off, as will having five of its seven highest scorers from a season ago still on the team.

Oct 15, 2022 by Ron Balaskovitz
Providence Women's Basketball Preview: Young Friars Learning, Improving

For the majority of the 2021-2022 season, the Providence Friars were a tough out in BIG EAST play, sitting a couple games under .500, and putting scares into good teams at UConn and Marquette.

Unfortunately for the Friars, they limped to the finish on their way to a 11-19 mark, going 6-14 in league play, finishing the year by dropping five straight and losing 10 of their last 12 after starting 4-5 against BIG EAST opponents.

That might have been expected of the Friars, who were, and still are, an extremely young team, with three of their top scorers last year being freshmen. This year, the team features one freshman, six sophomores, two juniors, two seniors and a graduate transfer.

Providence hopes the lumps it took last season will pay off this year, as will having five of its seven highest scorers from a season ago still on the team.

2021 Season Review

At one point, the Friars were 9-9, but their youth caught up with them down the stretch, along with injuries that forced a pair of key contributors out of the lineup down the stretch, robbing the team of what little depth and experience it had.

The issue for Providence, as is the case with many teams that lean heavily on freshmen, was its inability to score, finishing next to last in the BIG EAST at just 59.9 points per game for the season, ahead of only 1-27 Butler.

Just one player, Janai Crooms, averaged double-figures a season ago, and the usual struggles that come with being unable to score were the culprits - Providence was in the bottom four of the league in shooting percentage, free throws, 3-point percentage, dead last in the league in assists and next to last in turnover margin.

When you can't score or hold onto the ball, points are going to be hard to come by.

While the offense was a struggle all year, the defense for the Friars was borderline elite. Despite the youth, Providence surrendered just 63.9 points per game, fourth in the league, held opponents to the second lowest shooting mark in the league at 37 percent, were top half of the league in defending the three and were the best in the league at blocking shots, averaging a whopping 5.8 blocks per game, tops in the BIG EAST by more than a shot per game. 

Four players averaged over a block per game, and two of those players in Crooms and Olivia Olsen return, which should give Providence a strong 1-2 punch down low.

In addition to cleaning up in the lane, the Friars dominated the defensive glass, too, collecting a league-best 28.1 defensive rebounds per game, again tops in the league.

Needless to say, their defense is in place, and if the offense can make even modest improvement this season, the Friars could be a sleeper pick to make noise in the Big East.

Key Returner

Janai Crooms, G, Senior, Cranston, Rhode Island

Despite being a guard, Crooms did it all for the Friars during her junior season, leading the team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals, and she was second in blocked shots. 

As one of two seniors on the roster, that's a great leadership piece and on-court presence to have back.

And, it wasn't just Crooms shooting for the sake of shooting on a team that lacked scorers, she was over 45% inside the arc and hit nearly 39% of her 3-pointers. Taking just 44 long balls last year, Crooms may be counted on to try and take a few more this season.

Crooms also did it on the glass, grabbing 7.2 rebounds per game, including a team-best 65 on the offensive end.

Defensively she averaged over a steal and a block per game, combining for 73 on the season, so she'll be leaned on as the team's stopper as well.

If there's areas for Crooms to clean up, she turned the ball over 127 times last season against 102 assists, both highest on the team, and struggled at the stripe, connecting at under 63%.

Key Addition

Logan Cook, F, Grad Transfer, Iowa

If there's a team badly in need of experience in big games, Providence is it, and Cook is the perfect addition to help mentor the team.

Cook joins the Friars after spending four seasons with the Big Ten's Iowa Hawkeyes, where she appeared in 53 games and was a member of two Big Ten title-winning teams that advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2019 and the Elite 8 last season.

The 6-foot-1 Cook gives the Friars another long body in the post that could bolster their defense.

Cook appeared in just two games last season, but during 22 games in her junior season, she shot 63% from the floor.

Games To Watch

Dec. 2 at Villanova, Dec. 4 vs Villanova

The Friars will play one of the busiest nonconference schedules in the country, playing a whopping 15 non-league titles, including 11 games in the month of November alone.

Once that run ends, the Friars get to open BIG EAST play against last season's top-two teams.

The Friars actually crushed Villanova in last season's BIG EAST opener in Providence, winning by 19, and played UConn to within eight points later in the season.

It's a tough opening slate to league play, but the Friars will quickly find out how they stack up against the league's best, before getting three more nonconference games to try and clean things up for the stretch run.