Monday Friar Mailbag: David Duke Recruitment, 2017-18 Lineups & More

Each Monday I’ll do my best to answer some of your questions. The below are actual e-mails and tweets from readers. In some cases I have cleaned up the questions for grammar and clarity.

I got lots of questions about Providence native and top 2018 recruiting target David Duke. Let’s start there…

Tim C. asks:

Updates on David Duke? When should we expect a decision? Are the Friars still the front runners after he scheduled official visits to Florida and Virginia Tech?

Clearly Friartown is locked in on the recruitment of 2018 guard David Duke. The Providence native has long been thought to be leaning toward the hometown school, but recent developments of official visits scheduled with Florida and Virginia Tech, combined with two visits from Jay Wright in 7 days have those same people questioning whether that lean might be changing. FWIW, I’ve continued to be confident that Duke will end up in a Providence uniform. Recent conversations with insiders has dinged that confidence a bit but not enough to change my mind because the overall sentiment is mostly that people still think Providence is the leader. As for when a decision should be expected, I’d be surprised if this recruitment wasn’t over in October.

And to piggyback on this discussion…

2018 shooter Noah Locke will likely decide before Duke, so any noting that he’s waiting on Duke to commit isn’t accurate. Locke has continued to say he will take all five of his official visits before committing, but his father gave a strong indication The Michigan Insider over the weekend by stating “I believe [a commitment] is going to happen right after his last visit.” I’m in the camp that believes Locke has virtually made up his mind on a school but is remaining loyal to the process of giving each a fair shake and visiting each of his final five of Florida, Michigan, Ohio State, Providence and Xavier. He just returned from the Michigan visit and Florida will be his last and final trip the last weekend of September, which is a week after Duke will be in Gainesville. My guess on Locke is either Xavier or Michigan, but the Friars made a great impression on both Locke and his parents on their trip to Friartown, so never say never.

Tim C. asks:

Who do you think (and want) the last two available scholarships to go to and why?

I think the want is easy: Duke and Locke would make the 2018 Providence recruiting class elite. Running the Class Calculator at 247Sports.com projects the class would be ranked 2nd nationally behind Arizona based on their rankings with AJ Reeves, Kris Monroe, Jimmy Nichols and then Duke and Locke.

As for what I think, my gut says Providence gets Duke, as I mentioned above, and then the other scholarship becomes a “best player available” type of thing with a big 2018 class and a very good haul in 2017 giving Cooley and staff flexibility to either keep targeting 2018 recruits or look more aggressively for a transfer, either sit-out or 5th year.

Tim C. asks:

Who will be the starting 5 and then the first, second, third off the bench? How deep will the bench be this year?

Starting 5 would seem to be the same as the majority of last season:

  • Kyron Cartwright
  • Alpha Diallo
  • Jalen Lindsey
  • Rodney Bullock
  • Emmitt Holt

That was the starting group for 11 of Providence’s 33 games, including the the final 6 of the 2016-17 season. As for first three off the bench, I’d guess Kalif Young, Isaiah Jackson and Makai Ashton-Langford. There is flexibility with Lindsey being able to float between 2 and 4 in certain lineups that would allow MAL and even Maliek White to see minutes alongside Cartwright.

Speaking of that…

@davidpal asks:

How do you see MAL and Cartwright co-existing on the floor together?

Cooley has had no problems playing multiple guard lineups and he had planned to play Kris Dunn with Brandon Austin and Ricky Ledo — imagine? Nah, we shouldn’t — and he played Dunn with Cartwright early and often in Cartwright’s career at Providence. I see no reason why Cartwright and MAL can’t co-exist on the floor at the same time. The issue will be, where do minutes come from for guys like White and Drew Edwards? White showed signs of developing as his freshman season went along and was often the first or second player off the Providence bench last season. Edwards, now fully healthy after a slow recovery from knee surgery last June, had a solid freshman season and showed the ability to be a jack-of-all trades type of guard. Both players could provide value, but Cartwright is the senior leader and MAL is the top-40 recruit. Something will have to give.

As for Diallo and Jackson, I expect a similar dynamic to a season ago but I also think Cooley will play a bevy of lineups with Diallo and Jackson having similar flexibility to Lindsey. There will likely be some small ball lineups with Lindsey at the 4, Bullock or Holt at the 5 and Diallo/Jackson at the 3 with Cartwright and one of MAL, Edwards, White at the 2. On the flip side, there could be times when Bullock slides to the 3 and you get Holt at the 4 with the  beef of Young/Watson or the height of Dickens at the 5.

Depth isn’t something Cooley has had in many years and certainly never at Providence. To me, seeing the mix and match of players and lineups will be one of the most compelling story-lines to follow all season.

I think 6 is probably overestimating this team. 8 may be possible, but there are two factors that could impact Providence’s final W-L tally negatively: tougher than they are getting credit for right now non-conference schedule and the meat-grinder that is Big East play.

The non-conference schedule has some potential landmines. There’s a tough early season matchup against Minnesota — a team that is expected to contend for a Big Ten title — plus the potential for a difficult matchup against Virginia Tech in the 2K Classic at MSG — a team that is expected to contend for an ACC title, despite injury and transfer — and a road trip to the Ryan Center to take on URI — a team that is the favorite in the A10. All three of those teams were receiving votes in the final AP Poll and could end up being in the Top 25 in 2017-18.

After navigating through the non-conference the Friars will have the pleasure of opening Big East play on the road for two straight games, first at St. John’s and then Creighton. More on the RI Comic Con and Disney on Ice situation below. Then there are tough stretches…everywhere pretty much. The Big East has always been a league that has seen their teams beat up on each other, both physically and in the standings. That hasn’t changed with the defections of some “old-school” Big East teams and the addition of Butler, Creighton and Xavier.

What I’m trying to say is that 8 losses is probably a solid expectation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Friars had 10 losses and still comfortably made the NCAA Tournament for a fifth-straight season.

And finally…

I can’t speak for Ed Cooley and I haven’t asked him how frustrated, if he is, about conflicts at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center that are causing his team to open the season in November at the ~2,000 seat Alumni Hall on campus and Big East play on the road for a third-straight season. Having been around Cooley enough over the last few seasons at press conferences and other events my guess is he ain’t too happy about it. But what is the alternative? The Friars can’t reasonably play their home games on campus since they have 3 or 4 times the amount of season ticket holders as seats at Alumni Hall. There is no space on campus to build a larger arena, nor would there likely be enough money in the budget after the $50MM Ruane Friar Development Center is built and ready to open in August 2018. The reality is that Rhode Island Comic Con is a boon for both the Dunk and the city of Providence over 3-days in November and Disney on Ice is also a big money maker. The Friars are a critical tenant for the Dunk and their opinion should hold weight, but both sides know there isn’t a viable alternative for Providence’s home games.

One potential solution to the mid-November issue could come from the NCAA. Currently, the men’s basketball regular season begins on the second Friday of November, this year November 10th. New legislation proposed by the Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Oversight Committees would change the start date to the Tuesday before the second Friday, or three days earlier than now. That would likely take care of the Comic Con concern.

Disney on Ice took over the Dunk last year from December 28th through January 1st with multiple shows on the 29th through 31st. This year, the block is shows is from December 27th through January 1st. In 2015 there was a show on December 23rd and then multiple shows from December 26th through 28th. All in all, Disney on Ice appears at the Dunk around 15 times a year with other shows also happening in September and sometimes March. They are a key booking for the Dunk. I’m not sure how this issue gets resolved but my guess is that the solution will have to come from the Friars, the Dunk, the Big East and Fox Sports all working together.

That wraps up the first ever Monday Friar Mailbag at pcbb1917.com and it was fun for me. Hopefully you enjoyed it too. Thanks to everyone that submitted questions!

Have a question you want answered? Email mhopkins@pcbb1917.com, tweet me @pcbb1917 or leave a comment on the Facebook page.

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