Breaking Down Providence’s 2016-17 Non-Conference Opponents, Part 1

Providence released their 2016-17 non-conference schedule and it features some interesting matchups to go along with the usual amount of buy games. The Friars home schedule is boosted by an improved Rhode Island Rams squad that has a chance to be ranked in the top 25 in the preseason with the return of EC Matthews from a knee injury suffered in URI’s first game last season. The Friars are again playing in the Gavitt Tipoff Games against a Big Ten opponent and they will play in the Emerald Coast Classic for their multi-team exempt event in the 2016-17 season. Below I’ll give a brief preview of each of Providence’s 7 non-conference games in November with some information on how those teams fared in 2015-16 and what to expect from them in 2016-17. The 6 non-conference games in December will get the same treatment.

November 14th – vs. Vermont (H)

  • 2015-16 Record: (23-14)
  • 2015-16 RPI: 126
  • 2015-16 Kenpom: 144
  • 2015-16 Postseason: Lost to Stony Brook in America East Tournament Championship; Lost to Nevada in Semifinals of the CBI
  • Key Returning Players: Trae Bell-Haynes (12.2 ppg, 3.5 apg), Ernie Duncan (11.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg), Kurt Steidl (11.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Cam Ward (9.1 ppg), Darren Payen (6.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
  • Key Incoming Players:  Anthony Lamb (2016 commit), Payton Henson (Tulane transfer), Josh Hearlihy (Tulane transfer)
  • Key Departures: Ethan O’Day (11.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) – Graduation

Vermont is coming off their 8th straight season of 20 or more victories and their second straight appearance in the semifinals of the CBI Tournament. The Catamounts were a win away from reaching the NCAA Tournament by losing to Stony Brook in the America East Tournament Championship game. Head Coach John Becker returns 4 of 5 starters from the 2015-16 squad and expectations will be high for Vermont in 2016-17. They will be the presumptive favorite to win the America East next season.

The Catamounts brought in two sit-out transfers from Tulane last year and both will be eligible this season after sitting in 2015-16. Early reports on Payton Henson are that he may surprise and is the most athletic player on the team. Vermont doesn’t have a 7-footer to contend with, but they have pretty good size positions 1-4 with their tallest player being 6’8. Providence will have to slow down Trae Bell-Haynes and defend the perimeter. The 2015-16 Vermont team shot 38.2% from beyond the arc, good for 30th nationally per Kenpom.com.

November 17th – vs. Ohio State (A)

  • 2015-16 Record: (21-14)
  • 2015-16 RPI: 74
  • 2015-16 Kenpom: 80
  • 2015-16 Postseason: Lost to Michigan State in Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals; Lost to Florida in the Second Round of the NIT
  • Key Returning Players: Marc Loving (14.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Keita Bates-Diop (11.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Jae’Sean Tate (11.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg), JaQuan Lyle (11.2 ppg, 4.2 apg, 4.7 rpg), Kam Williams (8.3 ppg), Trevor Thompson (6.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
  • Key Incoming Players:  CJ Jackson (2016 commit; 26th ranked by 247Sports Composite National Ranking), Derek Funderburk (2016 commit; 73rd ranked by 247Sports Composite National Ranking)
  • Key Departures: Daniel Giddens (3.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg) – Transfer

Providence will again be participating in the annual Gavitt Tipoff Games this season. After hosting Illinois in the inaugural Gavitt Tipoff Games last season, the Friars will travel to Columbus to take on Thad Matta’s team that is coming off their first NCAA Tournament miss since 2008.

The Buckeyes return all 5 starters and their top bench player from last year’s team and appear ready to make a run at a top 4 spot in the Big Ten in 2016-17. Last year was a younger team that will be looking to take another step forward with their core returning in the form of a senior, four juniors and a freshman. They’ll also add top recruits CJ Jackson and Derek Funderburk to the mix and this writer believes Ohio State will be better in February than November and will make a return to the NCAA Tournament.

November 21st – vs. Grambling (H)

  • 2015-16 Record: (7-24)
  • 2015-16 RPI: 350
  • 2015-16 Kenpom: 346
  • 2015-16 Postseason: Lost to Mississippi Valley State in the First Round of the SWAC Conference Tournament
  • Key Returning Players: Ervin Mitchell (11.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Deonte Hearns (11.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Nigel Ribeiro (10.9 ppg), Remond Brown (10.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg)
  • Key Incoming Players: Travious Fielding (2016 commit)
  • Key Departures: Mark Gray (6.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg) – Graduation

This will be Shawn Walker’s 3rd season at the helm of the Grambling program and in that time 5 of their 9 wins have come against non-Division I opponents. In fact, their only 2 wins in the 2014-15 season came against non-Division I opponents. Last season they lost to Marquette, 95-49 at the Bradley Center in early December. The Tigers went 4-14 last year in the SWAC, which was ranked 31st of 32 conferences by Kenpom.com. Walker has pledged that his team won’t finish last in the SWAC this season, but this is the kind of game that Providence should fold up shop if they lose. The Tigers get onto Providence’s schedule as part of the campus site portion of the 2016 Emerald Coast Classic.

November 23rd – vs. St. Francis (NY) (H)

  • 2015-16 Record: (15-17)
  • 2015-16 RPI: 276
  • 2015-16 Kenpom: 280
  • 2015-16 Postseason: Lost to Mount St. Mary’s in NEC Conference Tournament Quarterfinals
  • Key Returning Players: Yunus Hopkinson (12.2 ppg, 2.9 apg), Glenn Sanabria (8.5 ppg, 3.2 apg)
  • Key Incoming Players: Darelle Porter (Polk State College transfer)
  • Key Departures: Tyreek Jewell (12.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg) – Graduation, Chris Hooper (11.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg) – Graduation, Antonio Jenifer (8.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg) – Graduation, Amdy Fall (5.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg) – Graduation

Providence’s other campus site opponent for the 2016 Emerald Coast Classic is the Terriers of St. Francis. Glenn Braica’s club is coming off a 15-17 season after winning a school-record tying 23 games the year before and making the NIT. The Terriers lose their leading scorer in Tyreek Jewell to graduation, along with their leading rebounder Amdy Fall and 3 other seniors.

Yunus Hopkinson is their leading returning scorer and he arrived at St. Francis via Lee Academy in Maine. St. Francis is one of only 5 Division I programs to never make the NCAA Tournament and I think their streak will live for another year as another Friar opponent later in the schedule is the favorite to win the NEC this season.

November 25th – vs. Memphis (N)

  • 2015-16 Record: (19-15)
  • 2015-16 RPI: 139
  • 2015-16 Kenpom: 72
  • 2015-16 Postseason: Lost to Connecticut in the AAC Conference Tournament Finals
  • Key Returning Players: Dedric Lawson (15.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg), KJ Lawson (8.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Markel Crawford (5.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
  • Key Incoming Players: Christian Kessee (Coppin State graduate transfer), Jimario Rivers (Southwest Tennessee transfer)
  • Key Departures: Shaq Goodwin (14.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg) – Graduation, Ricky Tarrant (11.7 ppg, 3.2 apg) – Graduation, Trahson Burrell (10.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg) – Graduation, Avery Woodson (9.6 ppg) – Transfer

Providence will take on Memphis in the neutral court portion of the 2016 Emerald Coast Classic down in Destin, FL on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The Tigers parted ways with Josh Pastner this spring and brought in veteran Tubby Smith to replace him. The last two season were “down” years for the Memphis program with 18 and 19 wins, respectively. Those seasons resulted in no postseason beyond the AAC Conference Tournament after Pastner had led the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament the 4 years prior to 2014-15.

It’s hard to pinpoint how good Memphis will be this season with a new coach and some key pieces not being back from last season. However, Tubby Smith still has the Lawson brothers, namely Dedric, who are both very talented and he has two impact transfers coming in while also still recruiting for a couple open spots. Memphis figures to be fighting to be in the top half of the AAC this season after an 8-10 conference record placed them 7th in the league standings.

November 26th – vs. Iowa/Virginia (N)

Iowa is coming off  a season that saw them ranked as high as 3rd in the AP Poll but they only managed to advance to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to eventual national champion Villanova. Fran McCaffrey also loses key pieces Jarrod Uthoff, Anthony Clemmons, Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury to graduation. Uthoff was the team’s leading scorer at 18.9 ppg and finished just behind Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine for the Big Ten scoring title. They do return Peter Jok who was the team’s second leading scorer at 16.1 ppg and bring in top-75 recruit Tyler Cook, but it stands to reason the Hawkeyes will take a step back in the Big Ten this season.

Virginia is also losing an excellent veteran player in Malcolm Brogdon who was the team’s leading scorer and 3rd in the ACC in scoring at 18.7 ppg during his senior season. The Cavaliers lost to Syracuse in the Elite Eight last season after losing to North Carolina in the ACC Conference Tournament Finals. In addition to Brogdon, Tony Bennett will lose Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey to graduation. Bennett is reloading with a stellar 2016 recruiting class that is made up of top-40 guard Kyle Guy, top-50 guard Ty Jerome, top-60 forward Jay Huff and top-100 wing DeAndre Hunter. Having seen Guy a few times on the grassroots circuit, he is going to be a player for the Cavaliers. Also eligible this season is Memphis transfer Austin Nichols who sat out last season, per NCAA transfer rules. Nichols is a former top-25 recruit from the class of 2013 who played 61 games at Memphis with career averages of 11.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg and 2.2 bpg. I expect Virginia to be a top 3 team in the ACC this season will the potential for the Cavaliers to be ranked inside the Top 10 in the AP Poll all season. The Cavaliers are the more desirable opponent for Providence in this slot.

November 30th – vs. New Hampshire (H)

  • 2015-16 Record: (15-17)
  • 2015-16 RPI: 177
  • 2015-16 Kenpom: 208
  • 2015-16 Postseason: Lost to Vermont in the America East Conference Tournament Semifinals; Lost to Coastal Carolina in the Second Round of the CIT
  • Key Returning Players: Tanner Leissner (15.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Jaleen Smith (13.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Jacoby Armstrong (11.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Daniel Dion (9.2 ppg), Iba Camara (7.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg), Joe Bramanti (4.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.6 apg)
  • Key Incoming Players: John Ogwuche (2016 commit)
  • Key Departures: Ronnel Jordan (8.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg) – Graduation

All Bill Herrion has done the last two season at New Hampshire is tie the school record of 19 wins and then surpass that record last season for the Wildcats’ first ever 20-win season. Those were Herrion’s 10th and 11th seasons as the head coach and the veteran coach returns all 5 starters from that 20-win squad that lost to Vermont in the America East Conference Tournament Semifinals before ending their season with a Second Round loss to Coastal Carolina in the 2016 CIT. Beating Fairfield in the First Round of the CIT gave New Hampshire their first ever postseason victory aside from conference tournament wins. They have never played in their conference tournament’s final game.

The Wildcats return an experienced squad this season that beat Brown by 11 last year on the road. The Wildcats don’t have much size aside from Iba Camara who is listed at 6’9 and two incoming freshman who are listed at 6’8. The America East will be a tough league to win this season with Albany and Vermont looking to take over for Stony Brook who won the conference’s automatic bid last season behind a veteran squad that was led by Jameel Warney.

To see the full non-conference schedule, click here.

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