I want to start this preview with Ed Cooley’s introductory press conference 11 years ago. You can watch the entire thing but wanted to focus on the 4:13 mark. Cooley exclaiming that it is our program with the big line “once we realize that we will absolutely light this place on fire. If you’re late, don’t come in”.
It appears Cooley’s declaration is coming to fruition, as the #8 Friars host #10 Villanova Tuesday night. This isn’t the first time Cooley has hosted a top-10 matchup, in January of 2016 the #10 Friars hosted the #7 Xavier Musketeers. The place was rocking but it was the X men who came out with a 75-68 victory.
While that was certainly a big game for the program, Tuesday’s tilt seems bigger. Providence has a 2 game lead in the loss column over Villanova with the Friars having 5 games left. If they can get one of the two games against Villanova, Providence will in all likelihood win their first ever Big East regular season title. That is what is on the line Tuesday night. Thus, The Crier is declaring that this is the biggest regular season home game in the history of the program. Let’s get to the preview.
Keys to the Game
Clean Up the Glass- The Friars actually won the battle on the glass vs DePaul by one. For the majority of the game, however, the Blue Demons dominated the boards. DePaul doubled PC’s offensive rebounds with 10, and it led to 10 more shot attempts. Villanova isn’t a great rebounding team 38.3 rpg, but are a capable team on the offensive glass. Providence can ill afford to give Villanova extra possessions and more shot attempts, as they will make you pay. Friars have to do a better job on the glass.
Don’t Dig Yourself a Big Hole- Obviously nobody wants to dig themselves a hole in a big basketball game. The crowd for this game will be wild, but Providence can’t bank on coming back from a 13 point 2nd half deficit like they did against DePaul. As good as DePaul played Saturday they were complicit on letting the comeback happen with poor foul shooting. That won’t happen with Villanova. In that Xavier game from 2016, Providence found themselves down 17 points with under 8 minutes to play. Despite a late run, they came up short. It’s imperative that Providence doesn’t get too far behind, especially with the crowd likely going to be engaged from the tip.
Get the Bigs Paint Touches- Going into the season Villanova’s glaring weakness was their big men, with Jeremiah Robinson-Earl leaving for the NBA. Eric Dixon has been a pleasant surprise for the Wildcats averaging 10 ppg and 6.7 rpg. However, he is only 6-8 and the tallest player that gets significant minutes on Villanova’s roster. Look for the Friars to try and exploit this with plenty of paint touches for Watson, Horchler and Croswell.
Who Will Minaya Guard – This will be a matchup to look for in this one. Does Minaya just try and thwart Jermaine Samuels and let Al and Bynum check the guards? Or does he guard leading scorer Justin Moore and try and slow him down? I’m very intrigued to see what Cooley and staff come up with for a defensive scheme. I think we should have Minaya start off on Moore, personally.
Run Nova off 3 Point Line – There is not a better team than Villanova when you think about perimeter ball movement and using head and pump fakes to attain open looks from 3. The Friars may have to be content with Nova getting quality looks from the 3 point line and in. No leaving of the feet is imperative, but much easier said than done.
Play with Championship Mentality – There is a ton on the line Tuesday night. Providence has been building towards this moment all season long. One only needs to look at their record in close games. Securing a Big East regular season crown would not only be big for the program, but it’d also put them in position for a potential 1 or 2 seed. come March. If you want to increase your chances at success in the NCAAT, seeding is a huge part of it. So for the Friars, they need to take care of the basketball, be tough on defense, and make timely baskets. Don’t get too high or don’t get too low on the runs that are bound to happen in this game. Friars need to do whatever it takes to leave the Dunk with a W, whether that’s Nate dominating the paint, Bynum putting on his cape, or Al attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line. As the saying goes if you got a shot at the king you best not miss.
Crier: I could be over hyping this game but there is a lot at stake Tuesday night. If the DePaul game was any indication of the atmosphere at The Dunk, it’s going to be tough for the Wildcats to leave with a victory. However, if there’s a program that could handle it it’s Villanova. Look for a big game from Nate Watson. Bynum and Durham will chip in with their scoring and playmaking and the Friars get the big win 73-68!
BOC: I think this may be the best atmosphere of any college basketball game all season. I really do feel that way. If Providence can stay engaged defensively and not let Villanova go off from 3, I like their chances. My one odd concern is that crowd being a negative for the Friars at the start of the game, with the players playing with too much nervous energy. I feel as if we’ll know almost immediately if the Friars can win this one. Final prediction: Providence edges out Villanova in another nail biter 68-65.