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!
- #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.
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.