Game Preview: Xavier @ Friars 2/15/17 6:30 FS1

The Providence College Friars return to action this Wednesday in a rematch vs the Xavier Musketeers, at the Dunk. The Friars (15-11, 5-8) are looking to avenge their biggest defeat of the season, as they were blasted by the X-men by 26 points back on December 28th at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati. A lot has transpired since the last time these two teams met, including the fact that the Xavier Musketeers (18-7, 8-4)  has got a serious case of the injury bug. Back on January 29th the Musketeers’ lost their star point guard Edmond Sumner to a torn ACL in a 82-77 victory over St. Johns. Xavier has played better then expected since the injury join 3-1. However, in their most recent game they were run out of the gym by Villanova and adding insult to injury leading scorer Trevon Bluiett reinjured his ankle and is now questionable to play against the Friars. The Friars on the other hand are coming off arguably their biggest victory of the season, a 71-65 victory over Butler, on Saturday. With the victory the Friars have put themselves into the bubble conversation and Wednesday’s game is another great opportunity to enhance their resume with another  RPI top 25 victory. With that my keys to the game.

Keys to the Game

  • Does Bluiett Play? If so how much?– You hate to have a key to the game be whether someone plays or not, but with a player of Trevon Bluiett’s caliber his status changes the game entirely. In the first meeting between the two teams Bluiett and Sumner combined for 35 points on 12/21 shooting, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. In the three victories since Sumner’s injury Trevon was averaging 20 ppg and then when he hurt his ankle vs Nova the team only put up 57 points. If Bluiett can’t play there will be a lot of pressure on J.P. Macura and big man RaShid Gaston to shoulder the scoring load. I believe Bluiett will at least give it a go but at the same time the fact Chris Mack is keeping his status close to the vest may suggest he won’t play. I’m sure Coach Cooley will game plan for Bluiett playing but it will be a situation I’m sure both fan bases will monitor.
  • Can Isaiah Jackson have a Repeat Performance?– In the win against Butler the performance of Isaiah Jackson may have gone unnoticed, but he was great that game. Coming off the bench Jackson had 8 points on 3/4 shooting with 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Cooley putting Jackson on the top of the zone really seemed to disrupt Butler’s efficient offense, as he hounded Tyler Lewis all game long. He has become a real swiss-army knife type player for the Friars being able to do a little bit of everything. On top of all of that Jackson led the Friars in scoring in the first meeting with a season high 17 points.
  • The Friar Bigs MUST Come to Play– In the first matchup between the two teams the Friar big men Rodney Bullock, Emmitt Holt and Kalif Young did not come to play. They combined for 11 points on 5/18 shooting and 9 rebounds and this can’t happen again if the Friars want to come away with the victory. The Xavier front line of Gaston, Kaiser Gates and Sean O’Mara are solid but the Friars bigs should absolutely be able to be up for the task. The Friar bigs had a much better game against Butler, attacking the post and extending the defense by hitting shots from outside. The Friars will need a similar effort in order to take down Xavier.

Prediction Time

When the news broke the Xavier guard Edmond Sumner would be out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL I wrote a post about how the Big East Conference could become wide-open. While the top four teams in the conference standings haven’t changed it appears the middle of the Big East is starting to slowly catch up to the top of the league. Outside of Villanova the rest of the league seems vulnerable and if Nova were to get unexpectedly knocked out of the Big East Tournament a number of teams would be capable to walk out of MSG as conference champs. This game is a huge opportunity for the Friars to put themselves square on the bubble and I expect Cooley’s bunch to be up for the task. If the Friars can continue to defend the three-point line and knock down a fair share of their own the Friars should be in good shape. The Trevon Bluiett injury plays a huge factor in this game and while I do expect him to at least attempt to play, I’m not sure he can be that effective. While I expect Chris Mack to employ his 1-3-1 zone that has given the Friars fits over the years, it will be interesting to see how good defensively they can be without Sumner and a limited Bluiett.

Friars 74 Xavier 65

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