The big news at Providence is that Keno Davis has kicked leading scorer Jamine Peterson off the team. Peterson, an athletic player who is a very big rebounder that can score both inside and outside, will be a key loss. He and Sharaud Curry were by far the two best players on Providence this past season, and with Curry's graduation and Peterson now gone there's no question that Providence will have a lot to replace.
That said, this underscores the fact that Keno Davis is entering an important season for both him and his program. He got the job after one year at Drake where there were questions about how much of the success had to do with him, and how much had to do with the situation he was handed by his father. In Year One at Providence he went 10-8 in the Big East, but that was a fluke on a lot of levels. They benefited from extraordinary luck with the unbalanced Big East schedule, and they also just won a disproportionate number of close games. In addition, they were a very experienced team, and everybody knew that they were going to lose a lot heading into 2009-10, Davis's second season. This past season was a tougher one for Providence, going 4-14 in the Big East, but the computers actually viewed them as approximately as good as the 10-8 team from 2008-09. In addition they were much younger. They had five freshmen in their regular rotation in 2009-10, the best being Vincent Council, who was second on the team in assists and fourth in points per game.
Their 2010 recruiting class isn't as good as the 2009 class, but it's still good. And the third season at a program is a key season to show that your recruits are starting to pay off, to prove that you have the program going in the right direction. The loss of Peterson puts a lot of pressure on Bilal Dixon, as well as Kadeem Batts, who is now a redshirt freshman after sitting out the 2009-10 season and who is considered to be a really good big man prospect. I'm still not totally sold on Keno Davis, so I'll be watching this coming season intently to see how Providence appears to be heading as a program.
Meanwhile, over at Memphis comes the news that Roburt Sallie will go elsewhere for his final year of eligibility after graduating this summer. Sallie has never turned into a star at Memphis, other than that one ridiculous game he had against Cal State Northridge in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, but he was an established starter who had a lot of experience. Memphis is bringing in a recruiting class that is arguably the best in the country, and they're going to be very talented, but they're going to be insanely young and inexperienced. The only returners from their rotation are Wesley Witherspoon, Will Coleman, Angel Garcia and D.J. Stephens, with Witherspoon the only one that has a lot of experience and put up a lot of production this past season.
This will be a key season for Memphis, because the 2010 recruiting class had a lot to do with John Calipari, who recruited a lot of those kids and who also had the type of success at Memphis that attracts blue chip players. This 2010-11 season is going to be a difficult one for Josh Pastner, who is very young and inexperienced as a coach. He's going to have a very talented team, but extremely young, raw and full of huge egos. John Calipari makes it seem easy to deal with all of these star freshmen, but it's actually really difficult. Dealing with just one is hard - dealing with a whole bunch of them is going to be brutal. If the season goes badly then it's going to affect Memphis recruiting long term. They still have a chance of getting sucked up by the Big East if the conference loses a few teams to a Big Ten expansion, but if they're stuck in Conference USA then Pastner is going to have a lot of work to do to keep convincing star high school players to come to Memphis. Losing Roburt Sallie will just make that more difficult.