Tonight the Providence Friars begin a 3-game road trip and visit the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia to take on the #1 ranked Villanova Wildcats. For the Friars (14-6, 5-2) they will try and extend their winning streak to five games after beating Creighton 85-71. Villanova (18-1, 5-1) has won five straight games of their own with their blowout win over UConn at the XL Center 81-61. The Wildcats are led in scoring by junior guard Jalen Brunson (19 ppg) and in rebounding by junior forward Mikal Bridges (6 rpg). Let’s get right to the keys to the game.
Crier’s Keys to the Game
Keep the First Half Close
The past two games for Villanova they’ve come right out of the gate and have pummeled their opponent. On Saturday against UConn the Wildcats had a 21 point lead by halftime and the prior game against Georgetown they had a 31-8 lead with almost eight minutes left in the first frame. Villanova will want to continue their trend of fast starts tonight and the Friars are going to have to weather the storm. It will be key for the Friars not to get overwhelmed when Nova goes on runs because it will happen. PC will need to counter a Nova run with of their own and try to end the first half within striking distance. If they can end the first half at worst down by 12 the Friars will put themselves in a solid position to score the upset.
Continue Lockdown Defense
During the Friars’ four-game winning streak they’ve held opponents to 66.75 points per game, including holding a potent Creighton Blue Jay offense to only 71 points. The Friars are really going to need to bring their “A” game on defense against a Villanova team that is off the charts offensively. Villanova not only puts up a lot points, ranked 5th nationally at 87.9, they are very efficient in doing so. The Wildcats are ranked 6th in field goal percentage at 51%, 8th in 3-point percentage at 41.7% and 32nd in free throw percentage at 76.1%. While Nova has been lighting it up offensively I do believe Lindsey, Jackson and Diallo could give their shooters problems on the perimeter with their length. The Friars really need to put the clamps down on defense to have any shot in the game because we wont win a track meet against Villanova.
In Villanova’s lone loss of the season the Butler Bulldogs were able make a lot of three pointers and covert at a high percentage (15/22, 68.2%) . When Tennessee had a 12-point halftime lead against Villanova in the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Volunteers made 5 first half threes. The three-point shot is going to be very important for the Friars in this game. This is due to the fact that Villanova is going to make their fair share and the 3-ball can easily stop a Villanova run. PC ranks 64th in the country in 3-point shooting percentage but they’ve been streaky. If the Friars can knock down at least 10 threes tonight I think that will put them in good position to try and steal a road win.
The three-game road trip the Friars are about to embark on is arguably the hardest three-game stretch in the Big East this season. After winning their last four games as a fan I just want them to get one of these three road games. If the Friars were to win tonight, barring a February collapse, lockup their 5th consecutive tournament bid. If the Friars were to get the victory tonight it would put them in first place in the Big East, believe it or not. While the Friars have the pieces to matchup against Villanova, I don’t see the victory happening tonight. Villanova is just so locked in right now that if they continue to play this way they could feasibly go 17-1 in a talented Big East. They move the ball with such precision it seems like you’re watching the Golden State Warriors or the San Antonio Spurs. Brunson, Bridges, DiVincenzo and Phil Booth have all been lethal from deep that its going to be tough for the Friars to slow them down. I just want to see the Friars show that they can compete against a team like Villanova and if we were to steal a road game that’d just be gravy.
Friars 65 Villanova 77