The fact that success depends on good guard play is the worst kept secret in college basketball.
If a team cannot control the pace of the game and distribute the basketball they’re going to lose lots of games.
That’s why Saturday’s win over South Carolina was such a promising sign for the Providence College Men’s basketball team. It wasn’t the fact that the Friars rallied in the second half to post a 76-67 victory on what was basically a home court game at nearby Mohegan Sun Arena.
What was promising was the fact that highly touted, homegrown, top 50-recruit and starting point guard David Duke finally looked comfortable on the floor.
Duke scored 20 points in the game, including some big baskets during crunch time. Sure, he only had 2 assists, which set up another poor turnover to assist ratio, but he finally passed what sports fans call “the eyeball test”. In other words, he looked good on the floor.
Duke, the team’s high scorer, was aided by another standout performance from Junior guard Alpha Diallo. Diallo scored 17 points and notched 7 assists. Fellow Freshman guard AJ Reeves posted 10 points–the only other Friar who scored in double figures.
But make no mistake: the win wouldn’t have happened without Duke’s first standout performance. As the competition gets more difficult as the season progresses, the Friars will continue to rely on tremendous games from their highly touted freshman guard.
Tomorrow’s Learning Opportunity
Look no further than tomorrow, when they play Michigan at 1:30 pm, who just happened to make the NCAA championship game last year, and trounced defending champs Villanova last week. Michigan boasts a handful of good guards. Win, lose, or draw, the game should be a good experience tomorrow that the team will be able to build upon moving forward.
It was frustrating and disconcerting to hear members of the credentialed media, who should know better, and some fans say that the we need to be patient and not expect too much out of Freshman players.
First, that’s an outdated mindset that would have held true three decades ago when superstars played four years in college. College hoop fans that watch some big-time programs constantly see Freshman players contributing in key roles.
All on David Duke
Secondly, if the Friars cannot rely on David Duke to make big-time contributions, then they’re in for a very long season.
Coach Ed Cooley’s success over the last-five years, in which he’s made 5 consecutive NCAA tournaments, has been predicated upon the strong play and leadership of upperclassman point guards. Bryce Cotton, Kris Dunn, and Kyron Cartwright have all led the team with poise and stellar play over the last 5-years.
The Friars are going to need that strong play and leadership from the point guard position if they’re going to make a 6th straight NCAA tournament. But it won’t come from an upperclassman.
It’s going to have to come from Freshman David Duke, since fellow highly-touted point guard Makai Ashton-Langford only played 7 minutes on today. The sophomore’s dad has taken to social media to voice his frustration with his son’s lack of minutes.
Junior Malik White is a nice player, but he cannot lead this team to the promised land.
In short, as Duke goes, so will the Friars.
To that end: fans better hope the potential superstar freshman doesn’t need any more time to get acclimated.