|Cooley's first year at Providence has gone relatively well. (Getty Images)|
By Jeff Goodman
Ed Cooley's Providence team had no business going toe-to-toe with top-ranked Syracuse last night.
But that's exactly what happened for the first 35 or so minutes - when Providence somehow was in a two-possession game after Gerard Coleman's bucket with a little more than five minutes left.
The first thing you notice with this Friars team is that they are attempting to guard. Keno Davis is a terrific guy, but his teams couldn't -- no, make that didn't - check anyone.
Cooley has a rebuilding job in Providence, but he's exactly what this program needs - a high, energy native who will get his players to go hard and also become a face in the community.
He inherited a team with a couple of Big East guards in Vincent Council and Gerard Coleman, but not much else. There was virtually nothing up front.
Cooley managed to land two elite recruits in point guard Kris Dunn and local talent Ricky Ledo, so the perimeter could be loaded next season -- if Ledo qualifies and is cleared by the NCAA (he's attended multiple schools).
Cooley's passion, though, is unquestionable and contagious. Because he was an assistant under Al Skinner at Boston College, there was a perception -- one that was completely off-base -- that he would being a similar approach to PC.
While Cooley did learn from Skinner, he couldn't be any different from his former boss. He's high-energy, enjoys interacting with the fans and loves to get out on the recruiting trail.
Syracuse shot 61 percent from the field and 58 percent from beyond the arc in Wednesday night's 87-73 victory that wasn't nearly as lopsided as the score indicates.
Cooley only played six players: Council, Coleman, tiny guard Bryce Cotton, freshmen bigs LaDontae Henton and Brice Kofane and sophomore Kadeem Batts.
Henton went for 11 points and 13 boards and while Batts (14 points) played well, Cooley is one big man away from potentially becoming a factor in the Big East.
But much of that could rest on the shoulders of Ledo.
Ledo's talent level is unquestionable. He's a big-time scorer, but he has maturity issues. Cooley maintains Ledo has made significant progress in that area -- and if that's accurate (nothing would make me happier), the Friars could soon have the talent to match Cooley's passion.
That could be a scary combo.