Ed Cooley has engineered a turnaround at Providence, albeit a moderate one: The Friars aren't going to be competing for a Final Four anytime soon, but they aren't nearly as bad as the Keno Davis days (and beyond). But given the circumstances, the many 7-2-offsuit hands Cooley has been dealt, the work done to date is all the more impressive.
For most of the season, Providence has been without Dunn, who re-injured a torn labrum in his shoulder during an exhibition game back on Nov. 2. Dunn missed the first three games of the season, returned for four (against Vermont, Vanderbilt, La Salle and Maryland), played a combined 106 minutes, during which he averaged 3.8 points and posted a drastically low 69.8 offensive rating. He clearly looked hurt, in other words, and both player and program seem to be making the prudent decision: repair, heal, take your time.
That decision might be less of a blow to Dunn than the original injury, or these weeks of stop-and-start hope. The sophomore guard arrived at Providence alongside Ricky Ledo, backcourt gems of Cooley's startling 2012 class, and neither player's career has gone as planned. Ledo, a top-five point guard, failed to qualify academically, never played a game in a Providence uniform, and went pro at first opportunity. (There is an argument to be made that Cooley should have known as much and stayed away, and maybe he did. But was the risk not worth taking?) Dunn's ordeal is just plain bad luck: He missed most of his freshman year with the first torn labrum instance last fall, and he still hasn't had a chance to really play healthy, worry-free basketball.
What's worse, this year's promising pair of recruits -- four-star forward Brandon Austin, the No. 12-ranked small forward in the country; and Rodney Bullock, a three-star win -- haven't played a minute between them. Both players were suspended indefinitely by Cooley for team rules violations; they have yet to be given a reprieve.
Fortunately, Cooley has seniors Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts, junior LaDontae Henton, and sophomores Tyler Harris and Josh Fortune. Cooley has recruited well, despite the mishaps; he has a quality blend of players. But a Big East title run, or an NCAA tournament berth? Those expectations, like Dunn's injury, might require more patience.