Providence to contend in 2014?

Earlier this week, Ricardo Ledo announced that he would declare for the NBA draft and never suit up for Providence. Ever since Ledo was ruled a partial qualifier this past fall, there had been talk that he would never play for Ed Cooley; the wing would sit out his initial year, work out with the squad (and according to some accounts, put on several dazzling shooting displays), and then decide to play professional ball. Along with the loss of Vincent Council, the Friars' sensational guard who has the ability to register dimes in the tightest of half-court offensive sets, one would assume Cooley's team will struggle in 2013-14; however, the combination of the returning players and the newcomers, mixed with the experience gained towards the end of last season, might propel PC to postseason play.

Even though he plays (and will continue to play) in the Big East, Bryce Cotton is the nation's most underrated BCS conference player. The 6-foot-1 guard registered an offensive rating of 123.3 (per Ken Pomeroy, one of the highest rates in DI), and surprisingly for a player who attempts more threes than twos, Cotton has high shooting percentages (36 and 54 percent, respectively). He also gets to the free throw line frequently -- nearly five fouls drawn per 40 minutes -- and hardly turns the ball over, essentially making Cotton the most dangerous offensive player on the court. After rehabbing an injury, Kris Dunn was inserted into the starting lineup later in the season and a full offseason of workouts should greatly benefit the soon-to-be sophomore; LaDontae Henton and Kadeem Batts, PC's sole interior threats, return, and will be paired with Carson Desrosiers, a transfer from Wake Forest. Although Desrosiers failed to show an offensive touch while in the ACC, he was a stout rebounder, particularly on the defensive glass.

Even though Cooley does not rely often on his bench, it would not be surprising if PC's newcomers -- Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock -- earn extensive minutes at some point during their inaugural season. After he decommitted from Penn State, Austin was one of the most intensely pursued players on the recruiting trail, and though his jump shot is reportedly developing, his ability to get to the bucket should create openings for Cotton from the perimeter.