Providence, the 4 seed in the Midwest region, is taking on the 13 seed Jackrabbits of South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits finished the year 30-4 and 18-0 in the Summit Conference and are known best for their deep ball shooting ability. As one loyal follower of the Jackrabbits said, “They are essentially the Villanova of the Summit League in how they play offensively”.
Below, we give a breakdown of what you need to know about the Jackrabbits ahead of Thursday’s afternoon match-up.
Jackrabbit Roster Breakdown
Douglas Wilson – 6’7 senior averaging 17 and 6 boards on the season and shooting 40% from deep
Baylor Scheierman – 6’6 sophomore averaging 16, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists on season while shooting 47% from deep
As a team, they have 6 players averaging over 20 minutes a game and 9 players over 15 minutes a game. This team likes to run and gun, and their depth allows them to do so. Offensively, they average 86.7 points a game on 44.9% from deep. Defensively, they only average 6 steals and 2.5 blocks.
In a loss to Alabama earlier in the season (the closest comp to Providence from a talent quality point of view), Bama beat them on the boards by a margin of 9. The Jackrabbits were much below their season average from 3, going 9-31.
In a loss to Washington, they were cold from deep (for them) going 6-17 (35%). The rebounding totals were equal at 31 a piece. Notice a trend here when they play high level of competition? Note that Washington went 17-15 this year as well.
Keys to Victory for Providence
1. No slow starts – While I question the actual caliber of this Jackrabbit squad, the fact remains they know how to score in bunches. Providence is prone to 4-5 minute offensive ruts at least once a game. I don’t want this happen at all during the game, but especially at the start. This cannot happen against South Dakota State. The last thing you want to do against an underdog is give them confidence from the opening tip. The longer the higher seeded team hangs around, the more confident they become that they can pull off an upset. Providence needs to be on its “A-Game” offensively if they want to secure a win and must be ready to play from the opening tip.
2. No answer for Nate Watson – Watson should feast on the offensive end. The Jackrabbits don’t have the size and/or athleticism to match up with Nate, and Providence can effectively slow the game down to their pace by getting Watson touches constantly in the half court set. Running with the Jackrabbits is a recipe for disaster. Providence cannot (repeat: cannot) fall in love with shooting the perimeter shot. Watson and Croswell need to combine for 20-25 shots to maximize the chance of winning, in my opinion.
3. Three point defense needs to be sorted out ASAP – If I’m South Dakota State, I’m salivating watching tape of Providence continue to butcher their pick and roll defense. As much as Nate is an asset on offense, he has been a liability in pick and roll defense this season. Cooley needs to reiterate time and time again this week that they should never go under any screens set and should have the bigs hedge on every pick set. There is no excuse for leaving any of these players open in the perimeter. Force them to try to beat you inside the three point line. They haven’t shown the ability to do that against the high major opponents they’ve played this year.
4. Own the Glass – Providence has a massive size advantage over South Dakota State. Minaya, Horchler, and Watson should theoretically each get 7-10 rebounds in this game. There were too many times in the Creighton game where the Bluejays attained second chance opportunities. With a team that has the firepower of South Dakota State, every missed bucket should lead to a defensive rebound for Providence. Offensively, we know the Friars will never be confused as a top tier squad. Thus, when shots are missed, Providence needs to gang rebound and give the Friars more opportunities to score. You can impose your will on this team on the glass, and that will suck the life out of the Jackrabbits if Providence continues to get second and third chance opportunities.
BOC: Providence 80, South Dakota State 76. While the talk all week will be about the winning streak of the Jackrabbits and their offensive abilities, I don’t think the advantages the Friars possess in this game can be overlooked. The Friar frontcourt should thrive in this game, and I anticipate Horchler and Minaya to put up a double double each. The only reason I think this game is so close is because we have shown to fall asleep too many times on defense, and I think that’s what keeps the Jackrabbits in the game. If Providence stays truly engaged defensively and takes this match-up personally, I can see a double digit win; however, they haven’t shown the ability all year to step on an opponent’s throat and close them out. Another nail-biter for the Friars.
Crier: I think this Friar team tries to make a statement against the Jackrabbits. People seemed to have questioned this team all season long yet the Friars went out and went 25-5 and Big East regular season title. The Jackrabbits have a potent offense sure, but they’ve shown it off in a conference that boasts horrific defensive efficiency metrics. Also the Friars offense is not too shabby either. South Dakota hasn’t played a team with the physicality that the Friars bring. Look for PC to try and impose their will on the interior. Whether it be Nate Watson post touches or Durham and Bynum attacking the basket and kicking out to open shooters when need be. Look for PC to try and slow the game down a bit and try to run the Jackrabbits off the three point line. Minaya vs Scheierman is going to be a fantastic matchup to watch. Friars advance with a 77-65 victory.