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Providence needs to look in the mirror after losing to DePaul

Providence College lost to DePaul in Chicago on Tuesday night. Just let that fact sink in.

This was the 11th-ranked team in the country losing to a program that hasn’t won more than 12 games in a season since 2007. What does that make Providence?

Providence did lose the Big East’s leading scorer, Ben Bentil, in the second half. Bentil went down with an ankle injury that will require X-rays, but the loss exposed why the Friars are in the top-12, at least for the week, but sit much lower than that in many pundits’ brackets.

Simply, there is no depth on this team.

Bentil and point guard Kris Dunn are excellent players, but beyond that the team is paper thin. Take a look at the list below. It takes the scoring average of the top two scorers on every team in this week’s AP Top 25 and determines the percentage of points they create for their team.

Oklahoma – 47.8 percent

UNC – 34.2 percent

Nova – 37.5 percent

Maryland – 36 percent

Iowa – 41.2 percent

Xavier – 33 percent

Kansas – 37.7 percent

Texas A&M – 42 percent

Virginia – 44.7 percent

MSU – 40.6 percent

PROVIDENCE – 50.9 percent

SMU – 36.2 percent

Iowa State – 41.1 percent

West Virginia – 32.8 percent

Baylor – 35.6 percent

Oregon – 38.6 percent

Miami – 35.8 percent

Purdue – 31.4 percent

Louisville – 36.8 percent

Kentucky – 42.3 percent

Wichita State – 37.1 percent

Indiana – 39.2 percent

Arizona – 36.6 percent

Dayton – 40.3 percent

South Carolina – 33.2 percent

Providence is the only program in the top 25 which has more than half its scoring tied up in two players. Bentil, the team’s leading scorer, went down and offensive production ground to a halt against a team with the 212th-best defense in the country.

Rodney Bullock is the only other player on the team averaging in double digits with 12.3 points a game, but he is inconsistent. Bullock averaged 14.4 points a game during the 2015 portion of the schedule, but his production has fallen off to 8.9 points a game since the calendar flipped. After Bullock the next most productive player is Jalen Lindsey, who is scoring only 6.5 points a game.

Without a consistent third scoring option, this team is living on the roof of a house of cards. With Bentil’s health now in question, it certainly seems like a bad time to have to play Villanova on Saturday.

In the end, though, college basketball is a coach’s game, and Providence’s Ed Cooley did his team no favors late in Tuesday’s tussle with DePaul. Cooley put his team into a zone defense against the Blue Demons, the 248th-ranked offense in the country, which allowed DePaul to run long, extended possessions while also neutralizing his own squad’s ability to attack defensively, something Dunn — and the Providence guards in general — do especially well.

In an even more bizarre move, Cooley called timeout after a momentum-building dunk by Dunn with 4:18 left in the game, leaving Providence with just one remaining. If he had waited a few more seconds he’d have made it to the under-4 media timeout. He therefore would have saved a timeout he could have used after he burned the last team timeout with 1:25 left in a four-point game after a made three. Providence missed all five field goal attempts in those final 85 seconds.

So what is Providence? Is it the team that started 14-1 or the team that has gone 4-4 in its last eight games? Unless PC can find a consistent third scoring option, it’s almost impossible to tell. Dunn could carry the team far into March, or it could continue to play helter-skelter basketball and be like last year’s team that bowed out to a far less athletic Dayton squad in the tournament’s first round. With eight games left in the season, we’ll soon get some answers.

Mike Abelson

About Mike Abelson

I've been covering sports at all levels throughout New England since 2007. A lover of professional wrestling, college football, and pretty much every other game that keeps score. Tweet me @ABELS0N.

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