Butler opened up the 2022 Big East Tournament by upsetting Xavier in overtime 89-82. With this win, Butler likely eliminates Xavier from the NCAA Tournament. Providence has defeated Butler twice this season (69-62 and 71-70), and I anticipate the third will be another good one in The Big Apple.
We break down the keys to victory in Madison Square Garden below:
Recap of Prior Games
69-62 Game 1 Recap: https://theprovidencecrier.com/2022/01/24/cooley-passes-gavitt-friars-beat-butler-69-62/
71-70 Game 2 Recap: https://theprovidencecrier.com/2022/02/21/big-picture-takeaway-after-providence-escapes-with-a-win-against-butler-71-70/
Keys to Game
- Get Reeves QUALITY looks early – Reeves, simply put, is the type of player who can propel himself into the NBA draft with a strong Big East and NCAA Tournament. He has the prototypical 2 guard size at 6’6 and is currently on quite a hot streak (averaging 18 in his last 3 games and 17-27 from deep). Cooley does a great job of manufacturing good looks for Reeves; however, I don’t want to see Reeves force it if the looks aren’t there early. Play within the rhythm of the game and run a quality offense. The Friars aren’t the Friars of old where they only have 1 or 2 guys on the floor who can score. Be aggressive, but disciplined in shot quality.
- Bynum needs to be in attack mode – The last game against Butler, Bynum had 18 points. Bynum is playing at an incredible level both off the dribble and from deep. He needs to continue to penetrate and attack. That will help suck the defense in and create looks for the rest of his teammates. Aaron Thompson will likely be assigned to him, and he is quite a strong defender. It’ll be a tough test for Bynum.
- Be the aggressor – Providence is no longer the plucky underdog story. They are #1 seed in the Big East Tournament and regular season champions. There is no sneaking up on teams. Teams are dying for the opportunity to knock off the Friars. PC needs to come into the game with a swagger that they are the best team in the Big East. They need to jump all over teams early and play from the opening tip with confidence exuding out of them.
- Play with a chip on the shoulder – Along with playing with swagger, I want to see the Friars play with an edge the entire weekend. They had no first team all Big East players despite winning the conference and continue to be slighted nationally and in the media (exemplified by having 3rd best odds to win BET despite being the 1 seed). Making a run to the championship game starts tomorrow.
- Watson needs to own the paint – Nze and Golden cannot match Watson, and Providence needs to exploit that match-up from the opening tip. Butler does not have the size to match Watson, so he should be prepared for double teams flying his way. Watson 1:1 is an almost automatic bucket, but he cannot force the issue if Butler sends two players at him once he gets his touches.
- Does Minaya match Harris, Hodges, or Lukosius? Normally, I would say Minaya should guard Harris or Hodges, but Lukosius carried the Butler team in the second half and overtime against Xavier. He put up 27 and 7 on 6-13 shooting. His match-up will likely depend on game flow. Whomever guards Hodges needs to box out and prevent him from creating second chance opportunities for them. In both games against Providence, Hodges grabbed 8 boards. Providence needs to play disciplined basketball and tough defense against a Butler team with a few players coming on at the right time of the season.
- Don’t Do What Xavier Did- Xavier did take care of the ball against Butler but what cost them this game is something the Friars can’t do. That is missing free throws and making silly fouls in crunch time. The Musketeers shot 13/29 from the charity stripe, including 4 consecutive misses late leaving the door open for the dogs. The Muskies also put Butler to the line with some silly fouls late. PC’s free throw percentage has been solid this year and their late game execution excellent, let’s keep it that way.
BOC: Providence pulls away in the second half, as the Bulldogs tire out after a grueling overtime match against Xavier. 75 – 65 Friars. On to the semis.
Crier: I thought if PC played Xavier it would be a tight one and if it was Butler they’d win convincingly. So no turning back now. Providence blown out Butler the two times they squared off in the Big East Tournament and I expect something similar today. The layoff does the Friars wonders and they roll 82-67.