The Friars are back in the NCAA Tournament for a school record 5th consecutive season and will take on the Texas A&M Aggies in the first game of Friday’s session. The game will be played in Charlotte with a stellar announcing crew of Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill and Tracy Wolfson on the sidelines. PC is coming off an inspiring run in the Big East Tournament where they won two games in overtime against Creighton and Xavier before falling to Villanova in overtime of the championship game. TAMU fell victim to a Collin Sexton buzzer beater in the SEC tournament but before that were winners of 3 straight to close the regular season. The Aggies are led in scoring by junior center Tyler Davis (14.5 ppg) and in rebounding by sophomore forward Robert Williams (9.0 rpg). The later this evening goes and the more Bud Lights that are drank the less likely this preview comes so let’s get right to it.
Crier’s Keys to the Game
Dont Get Dominated by the Bigs
Texas A&M are built around their big men and are 5th in the nation in rebounds per game at 41.3. There is no surprise that Ed Cooley has been preaching to his team to box out all week long. Tyler Davis is a beast down low both on the offensive and defensive end. DJ Hogg is a 6’9″ versatile forward who is a matchup nightmare and potential lottery pick Robert Williams has had a bit of a sophomore slump but is a real rim protector for the Aggies. The Friars are going to need all hands on deck in order to contend with the Aggies’ bigs. Alpha Diallo is key here as he’s been a rebounding machine as of late and will probably be matchup up against Hogg. PC is also going to need freshman Nate Watson to step up on the big stage, which was no problem for him in the Big East Tournament. The only team that compares to the size that TAMU has that the Friars have played has been Xavier and PC had success against them, so hopefully that can continue.
Guard Play, Guard Play, Guard Play!
Where the Friars seem to have the clear advantage in this game would be guard play. TAMU’s guard play is suspect at best and losing former Marquette guard Duane Wilson to a knee injury clearly didn’t help. While the guards appear to be the achilles heel for these Aggies the Friars can’t sleep on their guards. Admon Gilder has shown to be a capable scorer and TJ Starks has really come on as of late to be a distributor that TAMU so desperately needs. At the end of the day though the Aggies don’t have the type of playmaker from the guard position as the Friars do with Kyron Cartwright. Kyron has the ability to take over a game by either scoring himself or dishing out to his teammates. What I think is a big aspect of this game is Kyron’s ability to dribble drive, stop on a dime and drain a jumper. If he’s able to do that consistently like he did in the Big East Tournament it would be huge because it may be tougher to finish in the paint with TAMU’s bigs. What also goes in PC’s favor is all the guard/wing hybrids that the Friars have with Diallo, Jackson, Bullock and Lindsey. I don’t believe TAMU has played a more versatile roster than these Friars.
Who Wants It?
Besides a lack of guard play, another thing that hinders a talented TAMU roster is a lack of effort and focus. Texas A&M has been blown out this year by Alabama, Florida, Arkansas and LSU and a lack of engagement has been the term that SEC analysts use when describing the Aggies. While this may have been a concern as well for the Friars a few weeks, those days are long gone. After getting blown out by DePaul on their home court the Friars have since played with heart, grittiness and toughness. It’s a moniker that is typically a staple of an Ed Cooley coached team and it’s once again starting to show it’s face exactly at the right time. When SEC announcer Sean Farnham says he’s picking the Friars due to the fact he doesn’t believe Williams, Hogg and Gilder can stay engaged for a full 40 minutes tells you all you need to know. I think early in this game we will find out what TAMU team shows up and if its the one that doesn’t give great effort the Friars are advancing to the next round.
This time last year the Friars had already found the exit door to the NCAA Tournament losing their First Four game against USC, while blowing a 15-point halftime lead in the process. It certainly left a bad taste in the Crier’s mouth and I’m sure it did for PC’s three rising seniors as well. Now here we are a roller-coaster of a year later and PC has a chance at redemption and a trip to the Round of 32. Texas A&M’s size is a real concern for PC but they’ve been able to get gauged down low before and still come out with the victory. When it all comes down to it Kyron Cartwright is going to be the difference maker in this game. If he has another big night I really don’t see PC losing because TAMU isn’t going to have a guard to match his production. TAMU’s Tyler Davis was quoted saying he didn’t know what Providence’s mascot was or where the school is located, he’s going to find out Friday afternoon.
Friars 77 TAMU 70