Rhode Island will visit Providence Thursday night in a battle of two up-and-coming teams with depleted rosters.
How depleted are they?
So depleted that the most interesting game between the two teams might be a hypothetical three-on-three contest between each team’s best unavailable players.
Consider that Rhode Island (2-6) has transfers Gilvydas Biruta (Rutgers), Jarelle Reischel (Rice) and DeShon “Biggie” Minnis (Texas Tech) sitting out this year per transfer rules.
Providence (6-2), meantime, has All Big-East preseason pick Vincent Council (hamstring), Ricky Ledo (partial qualifier), Kris Dunn (shoulder injury) and Sidiki Johnson (transfer) sitting for various reasons. The 6-10 Johnson, an Arizona transfer from Harlem, is set to debut Dec. 18 against Colgate.
“Obviously, I’m not concerned with the guys that are not playing,” Providence coach Ed Cooley told SNY.tv. “I think those guys have a chance to be good. I’m more focused in on the guys that are playing.”
The status of Providence junior guard Bryce Cotton, the team’s leading scorer at 22.1 points per game, is also unclear after he twisted his knee while landing after a 3-point shot in the first half of Saturday’s win over Mississippi State.
“The MRI was good, now he’s just really, really sore,” Cooley said. “He’ll be doubtful, he probably won’t play.”
Without Cotton, the Friars have just five scholarship players and one walk-on.
“Think about it, I got one sub right now,” Cooley said.
First-year Rhody coach Dan Hurley, who shares a mutual respect with the Providence coach, has it good compared to Cooley. He has nine scholarship players on his roster, eight of whom are in the rotation.
Yet the bulk of the scoring is done by four guys — Xavier Munford (18.9 ppg), Nikola Malesevic (12.7 ppg), Andre Malone (10.4 ppg) and Mike Powell (8.1 ppg).
“People could make jokes about our rosters for this year’s game but it’s going to be a national game shortly,” Hurley said of the Providence rivalry. “And on Thursday night there will be two teams that play as hard as anyone in the country.”
It’s hard not to look ahead to the potential for both teams next year, and Cooley agreed that things should be different when the mentioned guys above all get healthy and/or eligible.
“I think both teams take a dramatic step in a different direction as far as just the amount of players we have on the court,” Cooley said, “let alone the talent level.”