It has been about 45 days since Providence and Xavier first played. Providence had the game won on the road in Cincinnati before a horrendous late game collapse. Xavier hit a late 3 to win 74-73. The Musketeeers, to their credit, overcame a 7 point deficit with 73 seconds left to win the game.
Xavier is coming off a 12 point win over Butler and is looking like a safe option in the NCAA field, while Providence is coming off an 8 day break after losing to UCONN by 12.
See below for key themes and objectives to look out for heading into the Wednesday night showdown.
If you need a refresher, we’ve copied the first game’s preview and recap below:
Key Themes for a Providence win
1. Slow Down the Dribble Drive – One of the huge swings in the first game was the play of Adam Kunkel. Towards the end of the game, he was isolating the Providence defenders and either attacking the rim for a lay-up or drawing an extra help defender, which allowed for an open perimeter shot for one of his teammates.
Providence all season has been below average at defending the dribble drive, but I’d start here if I was devising a game plan to beat Xavier. If they can’t stop this, Providence is going to struggle mightily on the defensive end.
2. Emphasis on Boxing Out and Winning Rebounding Battle – This all comes down to “want-to” and emphasizing the fundamentals of rebounding. Xavier is second in the Big East in rebounds/game, with Freemantle leading the Big East in rebounding. If Providence cannot equal the rebounding numbers of Xavier, let alone win it, it could be a long game.
3. Run Nate Johnson off 3 point line – I am stealing this from the first preview, but it still rings true almost two months later. Johnson is second in the Big East in 3point FG percentage. In the first game, Providence allowed him to attempt 6 three pointers, making 4. That cannot happen again in this game. It needs to be drilled into the scouting report by the staff. No mental lapses can transpire when guarding a sharpshooter like this guy.
4. Nate Watson Needs A Bounce-back Game – Watson had a rough go of things against UCONN (in fairness to him, the entire Friar team did as well). Things don’t get much easier for Big Nate, as he faces off against Zach Freemantle, who is averaging approximately 17 and 9.
If Providence is going to win, Watson needs to step up as an upperclassmen and take this match-up against an elite Big East big man personally. Watson has the offensive ability to get him in foul trouble. It’ll be interesting if they leave Freemantle to guard him 1:1 or if they bring an extra defender to trap him. Freemantle in foul trouble changes the entire dynamics of this game.
5. Bynum Needs to Return to Form: I’m hopeful that the 8 day break allowed Bynum to get his legs underneath him and return to his normal playing ability. I still have faith, even after the team’s lackluster showing, that a 3 guard line-up of Breed, Bynum, and Duke will be effective down the stretch.