On Monday the Providence Friars jumped one spot in the Top 25 without playing a single game to #21. It is a position many teams across the country have faced as the Omicron variant makes it’s way through the US. PC will get their first shot as playing as a ranked team this season when they host #15 Seton Hall at the Dunk Wednesday at 7pm EST on FS1. Providence hasn’t played in 11 days and apparently has players in COVID protocol. Seton Hall, on the other hand, haven’t played since dispatching instate rival Rutgers on December 12th. Given the lay-off, the boys at the Providence Crier have no clue what to expect going into a normally massive conference game.
Things to Watch
COVID’s Impact on the Game – It’s the number one question going into this showdown. As mentioned earlier, Seton Hall hasn’t played since December 12th. PC’s last game was December 18th, when they beat ranked UCONN on the road. PC did not play against Georgetown last due to lack of players available for the Hoyas. With the understanding that PC has players in COVID protocol, it will be interesting to see who takes the court for both teams. This isn’t like foul trouble where an impact player may miss portions of the game. The coaches have to be matchmakers and try to find the best rotational fit given the availability of their players.
Additionally, given how strong both teams had been playing prior to the pause, this much time off between games isn’t great for either program. The rust factor will definitely come into play for this one, but who does it impact more? My opinion is it won’t hurt the home team as much but time will tell.
What Bryce Aiken will come to play- When Bryce Aiken transferred from Harvard to Seton Hall, his first year in South Orange didn’t go the way he had hoped. Battling injuries throughout his career at Harvard, a change of scenery didn’t keep the injury bug away last year. He would only appear in 14 games, averaging 14.4 mpg, 5.7 ppg and a low 31.9% from the floor. This year, he’s been a much better source of offense, as he is second on the Pirates in scoring at 11.2 ppg. Aiken dropped 22 against Rutgers, but he had a 3 game stretch scoring only 16 points total. If PC’s guards can get Aiken to have an off night, PC should be able to get a win.
Will Homecourt Advantage Exist? – Providence and the Dunkin Donuts center is aptly named the arena where “Ranked Teams Go to Die”. Normally, I’d say a Wednesday evening game during the holidays would lead to a sold-out stadium. With the ever-annoying COVID present and front and center on seemingly every news station, I am concerned that this may detract folks from attending the game. I hope I am wrong, but I fear the home crowd may not be as raucous as we’ve come to expect.
Slowing Down Jared Rhoden- Going into the season The Crier said he didn’t love Hall this season because Jared Rhoden was crowned their best player. To the Crier, he’s more of a Robin than a Batman. Welp, 9 games in the Hall is 15th in the country and Rhoden is leading the way at 17.4 ppg and 7.3 rpg. Rhoden has taken another leap in his development and certainly has made the Crier eat crow. Rhoden can expect a healthy dose of Justin Minaya, and it will probably be the key matchup to this one. If there is one thing that is lacking in Rhoden’s game, it’s his 3-point shooting (26% on 3.8 attempts per game). Look for Minaya to be on Rhoden and make him more of a jump shooter than threat at the rim.
Another Test for PC’s Frontcourt- The best frontcourt that PC will face this season probably was in an exhibition vs Purdue. UConn has a formidable frontcourt as well, but with no Sanogo PC accustomed itself quite well in the post. Seton Hall will bring a different challenge. Tyrese Samuel is finally showing his promise 3 years after being a big time recruit who had originally committed to Syracuse. He’s a solid scorer and rebounder, plus adds 1.2 blocks per game. Alexis Yetna is a transfer from USF and is an inside-out big. Ike Obiagu is still at Seton Hall and despite only playing 16 minutes a game he averages 2.7 blocks per game. Look for Obiagu to get more time to try and contain Watson. We said in previous articles and on our podcasts that UCONN’s frontcourt may be the most daunting challenge for Watson and the Friars, but this frontcourt certainly gives the Huskies a run for its money.
Take Care of the Basketball – Seton Hall has a plethora of pesky defensive players on its roster. The veteran Cale averages over 2 steals a game, while 3 others average more than 1 a game. This Hall team will beat you up in the frontcourt and pressure you throughout the game. It is imperative that Providence minimizes turnovers and doesn’t allow Seton Hall to score in transition.
This isn’t the way you’d want a top-25 showdown to go down with both dealing with long covid pauses. I honestly don’t know how either team will respond. Given PC is at home and has better guard play I give them the slight advantage in this one. PC wins 76-72
I normally have a pretty good pulse on this Providence team. With the long delay after the UCONN game due to the COVID pause, I have no clue what to expect, to be honest. This is an instance where the stoppage in play probably hurt the Friars, as they are in the midst of a 6 game winning streak. Also, I have no clue who the heck is and isn’t playing. This is all a very confusing time when analyzing your favorite sports teams and predicting a score.
I’ll go with a close one 73-71 Friars, but that is honestly a throw at the dartboard.