Providence, fresh off a 10-1 non-conference start, jump right into the thick of Big East play with a road matchup against the Connecticut Huskies. We break down the Huskies below, keys to the match-up for Providence, and provide game predictions.
Providence at UCONN, 5PM EST on FOX
UCONN Season Overview
Ranked #20 Nationally at 9-2 with notable wins over St. Bonaventure, VCU, and Auburn. Losses to Michigan State and West Virginia
Leading Scorer: RJ Cole at 16 points/game. Secondary scorers Adama Sanogo at 15.6 and Tyrese Martin at 12.9.
Shoot 74.2 from free throw line and 35% from 3
Noteworthy Talking Points
- How do injuries impact both teams heading into this game?
Both teams are a bit banged up heading into the Big East opener. Adama Sanogo and Tyrese Martin are both questionable to play with injuries, while Providence’s starting point guard Jared Bynum is a game-time decision.
In my opinion, Sanogo and Bynum do not play, while Martin gets the start. I think Hurley and Cooley both realize that, while this game is important, their respective teams still need to get healthy for the remainder of the Big East play. The last thing they need is reinjury and putting the season in jeopardy.
2. How do both teams handle the raucous environment?
5PM Tip on a Saturday during the holidays certainly means that the crowd will be properly lubricated and ready to go for this one. I expect the crowd to be loud and energized, as this is the first Big East game for the Huskies with fans since they returned to the Big East. PC should travel well, and I’d anticipate the fan breakdown to be somewhere around 80/20 UCONN-PC.
We discussed on our podcast, but it is imperative that Providence stays afloat for the first 5 minutes of the game. UCONN is going to come at them in waves to start the game, and Providence needs to not succumb to the environment and atmosphere. If Providence can stay in the ballgame and keep its composure heading into the first media timeout, I like their chances of keeping this one close for the duration of the game.
3. How does Hurley handle defending Nate Watson?
The Crier and I both agree that it is probably in every team’s best interest to not allow Watson to operate 1:1 when he gets his touches. Virginia had a ton of success against the Friars doubling Watson the moment he touched the ball. I’d expect all teams Providence plays to replicate this; however, I could see Hurley trusting his guys to defend him solo. UCONN does have size and length to disrupt Watson, and I wonder if Hurley leans on that.
His approach to guarding Watson will be an interesting one to monitor throughout the game.
Keys to Friar Victory
- Rebounding Needs to be a Team Effort – UCONN averages 43 boards a game, compared to Providence’s 36. This is one of the few match-ups where Providence is overmatched physically and athletically, so Providence needs to compensate with all-out effort. Minaya is going to be an X Factor in this game with his energy and effort. Everybody on the floor should be focused on securing the rebound because UCONN certainly has the advantage on the glass.
- Get Nate Involved Early – With Sanogo potentially missing this game, Watson needs to get into a flow from the start. These 3 or 4 minute periods where we settle for perimeter shots and don’t feed the post cannot happen against UCONN. Watson is a game-plan wrecker, and he holds the keys to a Providence victory.
- Knock Down Perimeter Shots – We’ve gone on about the shooting woes for the Friars, and this is one where the guards are likely not going to be able to get points in the midrange. UCONN has too much length, and their forwards will alter too many shots if we dare to have our guards attack the rim. UCONN averages 7 blocks/game, so I’d like to see us emphasize a 4 out, 1 in type offense. If the help comes to double Watson, the other 4 players need to be ready to knock down an open look. If we cannot do this, it may be a long night for the Friars.
- Maintain Composure – This one seems rather obvious, but it is imperative that Providence keeps its collective head. The stadium is going to be a zoo, and it will be the craziest environment to date this year for the Providence team. This is where the veteran experience of Durham and Watson needs to become a factor. Silly turnovers and mishaps cannot transpire because that will just feed the crowd’s energy more. A UCONN run (or two) is going to happen, and Providence needs to be ready to counterpunch. That is what good teams do, and I think Providence has it in them.
BOC – This UCONN team is ranked for a reason, and it is because they are a quality squad. Being on the road for Providence and the first game for UCONN with fans since they returned to the Big East is not a great combination. I predict a closer game than the score indicates, but UCONN ultimately pulls away 72 – 65.
Crier – Similar sentiments to BOC. UCONN uses home court to its advantage and wins a tight one 72 – 68.