Providence is heading into a massive week as they near the conclusion of regular season Big East Play. The Friars match up against the Musketeers at The Dunk after escaping from Hinkle Fieldhouse with an overtime victory against Butler. With 3 games remaining on the Big East slate for the Providence Friars, Providence is looking to stay atop the Big East with a win against Xavier.
Here are some key themes heading into the game and what the Friars need to accomplish to secure the season sweep of Xavier.
In case you missed it, we have attached our game preview and recap from the first match against Xavier, which PC won on the road 65-62.
Key Items to Watch
- Will Al Durham Play? – Providence was, quite frankly, very fortunate to win against Butler. They were down for the vast majority of the game, and the loss of Durham was felt throughout the entire game. The starters all logged more than 30 minutes, with 4 players logging 35 minutes, and 3 players logging 40 minutes or more. Providence has a deep team, but that minute distribution isn’t sustainable for the long term. Providence needs Durham back to lighten the load off Bynum as an additional ball handler. Additionally, they sorely missed him at the end of game, where Watson, Bynum, and Minaya all combined to miss 7 free throws.
- Get Nunge in Foul Trouble – In the first match-up, Nunge got the better of Watson. Nunge went for 15 and 9, while Watson was held scoreless in 18 minutes. Watson needs to play through contact and not shy away from the length of Nunge. While Nunge certainly has the length advantage, Watson has the strength to play through contact. Getting Nunge in foul trouble early completely alters the defensive strategy of Xavier. Additionally, Watson must prevent himself from fouling Nunge. It will be quite a chess match.
- Replicate Three Point Defense from Game 1 – Xavier went 4-18 from the 3 point line, with Johnson and Kunkel going 0-8. Xavier isn’t a particularly impressive team on the offensive end, but these two getting going is a way to unlock this offense. Johnson didn’t play the last game against UConn so it will be interesting to see if he suits up for the Friars.
- Get Bynum Attacking Off Dribble Early – Bynum had a good match-up against Xavier earlier in the season, scoring 16 on 50% from the floor. I doubt Scruggs guards Bynum, as you’ll likely see him against Reeves. Odom is likely the guy tasked with guarding Bynum. While Odom is a very physical guard, I am not sure he has the foot speed to keep up with Jared. I’d put Odom on notice from the moment the game tips off to see if he has the defensive chops to keep up with Bynum as he penetrates. That should be a fun one to watch on both ends, as I really like his game.
BOC: I should pretty much just predict Providence wins by 5 points or less, no? I’ll roll the dice here and say Providence wins 67 – 64 in a defensive struggle of a game.
Crier: There’s been a troubling trend developing with Xavier. 2019-2020 the X men started 11-2 and finished 19-13, had there been a tournament in 2020 they would’ve probably missed it. 2020-2021 X once again started 11-2 and finished 13-8 and missed the NCAA tournament. This season they started, you guessed it, 11-2 and now find themselves at 17-9. The point is this team has a tone of talent and will be certainly desperate to squash this trend. The Friars got to clean up the pick and roll defense- Nunge/Scruggs make for a nice P&R duo. Having said all of this the Friars have a ton on the line as well. Depending on the result of UConn/Nova Tuesday night the Friars could take care of business on this two game home stand and cut down the nets for a Big East championship. I expect the Friars to be ready and build an early lead. This time they will close it out without too many nervous moments PC 76 X 66