Friars Look For History As They Host Creighton on Senior Night

In the words of Ed Cooley, “the stage is set”. It’s senior night for a veteran group with a chance to make history in Friartown. After a gutty, thrilling 3OT victory over Xavier Wednesday night (recap here at https://theprovidencecrier.com/2022/02/24/an-instant-classic-providence-bynum-beat-xavier-99-92-in-triple-ot/#more-4600), the Friars are in uncharted waters. If the Friars end up victorious Saturday night against Creighton, they will be able to win the program’s first ever Big East regular season championship.

When you think about where this program was when Ed Cooley took over, and where they are now, on the verge of program history, it’s truly remarkable. Ed Cooley deserves this. The players who have grinded, connected, and grown together all year long deserve this. The PC community that has made the Dunk a mad house deserves this.

We all know, though, that a Big East regular season championship isn’t deserved, it’s earned. The Friars will certainly have to earn it as Creighton comes in as winners of six straight. So let’s look at the keys to bringing a Big East title home to Friartown!

The Deets

  • #11 PC vs Creighton
  • 8:30pm FS1
  • On the Call- John Fanta and Donny Marshall
  • Ken Pom- PC 44 CU 63

Keys to the Game

1. Putting Pressure on Creighton’s Guards- Creighton winning their 6th straight game came at a cost. Freshman sensation Ryan Nembhard (11.3 ppg, 4.4 apg) fractured his wrist against St. John’s and is out for the season. Nembhard is Creighton’s best ball handler and playmaker. He also plays 34.8 mpg because the Jays don’t have great guard depth. With him out the Friars need to take advantage. BOC suggested on the pod we should press all game. At the very least they should try and put consistent pressure on Creighton’s guards both on the offensive and defensive end.

2. Establish Watson in the Post but Don’t Force the Issue- Nate Watson had gone three scoreless halves against Xavier before finishing Wednesday’s victory with 12 points. I’m sure Cooley and co will look to get Watson going early but don’t try and force the issue with Kalkbrenner anchoring the paint. For Watson he should try and get deep post position and put Kalkbrenner in tough spots defensively. If the Friars can establish the paint it will only open things up for a team that is showing they can make threes.

3. Minaya vs Hawkins- It seems like Minaya’s defensive assignment consistently is a key to the game for us. That’s what happens when you’re a contender for Big East defensive player of the year. Ryan Hawkins has been a hidden gem for Greg McDermott and the Blue Jays. He’s a big bodied 6-6 forward that can score from distance (37.8% 3pt) and attacking the rim. Hawkins made the transition from DII look easy, as he leads Creighton in scoring. He’s unquestionably the guy you want to slow down, especially with Nembhard’s absence, and think Minaya will be up for the challenge.

4. Use Experiences to Your Advantage- The Friars rank 6th in KenPom’s experience rating while Creighton comes in as 310th. It makes the job Greg McDermott has done with this group extremely impressive. For Providence, it needs to use that to their advantage. PC needs to take care of the ball and do the things a veteran group will do to get a win. If I’m the Friars, I look to take it to Creighton early and see if they can counter your initial punch.

5. Get to the Charity Stripe- Believe it or not this Creighton team is actually a defensive group. They rank 26th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency and a big reason why because they have the 6th lowest FT rate as a defense. The Friars make a living getting to the line but it will be tough against a sound defensive squad. If PC can attempt 20+ free throw attempts they should find themselves winning.

Predictions

Crier: Saturday has the potential to be a special night in Friartown and couldn’t be more excited to get to the Dunk for one last time during this special season. To see the Friars clinch their first ever Big East regular season championship is something I’ll never forget. It would be such a great moment to see them cut down the nets in-front of a sold out crowd. Creighton is definitely an impressive team and aren’t just going to walk into the Dunk looking to lose. However I just feel like the time is now for this Friar team and with Creighton having to play their first game without their floor general it’s a tough ask. We will be celebrating at the Dunk, PC 85 Creighton 67

BOC: This one isn’t going to be easy. McDermott is a stellar coach. The loss of Nembhard is ultimately the difference maker. He is the team’s engine, and I don’t foresee a flowing offense with him absent. Providence wins at home in front of a raucous crowd, 82-74.

4 thoughts on “Friars Look For History As They Host Creighton on Senior Night”

  1. Hey Crier & BOC,

    Great work as always. I still can’t believe the opportunity we have in front of us Saturday. That said, I’m honestly feeling terrified. After listening to the podcast I had a lot of thoughts:

    1) I think I tend to agree more with BOC that this is going to be a battle. This Creighton defense is no joke (and Nembhard was never what drove that). Watching their game against St. John’s, it seemed that ?Androkashvili? made the defense even better when he came on after Nembhard got hurt. Idk but it’s maybe a height difference thing (Nembhard at 6’0, Andro at 6’4?). They also just got back their other top-50 recruit from last year Kaluma, who is 6’7 and a defensive nightmare.

    2) I went back today and watched a bit of Creighton-UConn from when the Bluejays beat the Huskies at XL earlier in the month, That was a 59-55 defensive win, and I’m convinced that’s what Coach Cooley should be preparing for. Kalkbrenner locked down Sanogo, Kaluma/Hawkins/Alexander played switch-y wing defense… and Nembhard did hardly anything. Whaley drove UConn’s scoring which makes me think that:

    3) We need the Horchler redemption game. Xavier and Creighton are very different squads. While Xavier was less equipped to take away Bynum but more equipped to limit Horchler, it looks like the reverse in this situation. If Creighton switches a wing onto Bynum and Kalkbrenner shades that way, then Horchler is going to have chances (like in the Butler or Seton Hall games). If this game is in the 70+ point range and Horchler has ~15, that seems like the party is on in the Dunk 🙂

    4) I’m a little older than you two, so I can remember the 1993 Notre Dame football season (stay with me on this one). Second to last week of the season, #2 Notre Dame beats #1 Florida State, and goes to number 1. That was the BIG game. All that was left was to beat a Boston College team that had never defeated ND to go to the national title… and you can guess what happened next. I’m wondering if the fairytale season will need a true fairytale ending: we beat Nova on the road, and all the UConn fans can shut-up about KenPom luck. This Creighton team has literally nothing to lose: no one believes they can do it without Nembhard and they are going to be the darlings of the conference next year. It screams TRAP to me.

    5) Alternative theory: Cooley and Mac are great friends, and maybe McDermott would rather see a party in the Dunk than another year of Nova fans being obnoxious.

    In the end, I’m just trying to jinx the jinx. Would love to hear thoughts on some of this, but either way, thanks for all your coverage. Gonna be a fun one tomorrow.

    Like

    1. Well said John- certainly Creighton has been a good defensive team which is rare for the Jays. The Crier isn’t trying to downplay the Jays or jinx the Friars but think this will be a tough ask for Creighton.

      Like

      1. SO rare! I think I liked it better when they just threw up 3’s and Kalkbrenner was a baby giraffe. My prediction: PC 71 CU 65

        Like

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