Survive and Advance: Providence Friars beat South Dakota State Jackrabbits 66-57 in 1st Round of NCAA Tournament

The 4 seed Providence Friars seemed to be the trendy pick to be upset in the first round against the Summit League champion South Dakota State Jackrabbits. Instead, the Providence Friars did what they have done all season by mucking up the game, slowing down the pace, and frustrating the Jackrabbits enough to hold them off.

We break down the game below, detailing how the Friars were able to advance to the Round of 32.

Revisiting Keys to Victory

In case you missed it, we wrote a detailed analysis of the Jackrabbit squad and spoke to what the Friars needed to do to win (

  1. No Slow Starts – Well, I was off here. The Jackrabbits came out of the gates with the confidence of a team that was 30-4 heading into the game. Baylor Scheierman started off 4-4. What was most surprising to me was how effectively he was scoring against the defensive stalwart Justin Minaya. Providence wasn’t getting back on D, and they were making the Friars pay with an array of alley-oops and transition buckets. Even with their hot start, Providence remained within reach through the first 10 minutes of the game.

This hot start wasn’t sustainable, however. While Scheierman started 4-4, he finished the game 3-13. Minaya got his feet underneath him after a slow defensive start and made life incredibly difficult for the Summit League MVP for the rest of the game. Once Providence settled in a bit, they limited the transition buckets and were able to eventually pull ahead for good.

2. No answer for Nate Watson – Watson had a pedestrian 6 and 3, but there should be an asterisk next to those stats. It was clear South Dakota State’s game-plan was to double him upon touching the ball. Watson did a great job of not forcing things and finding the open man when the double came. That’s easier said than done for the super senior in his potentially last game as a Friar. Kudos to Nate for the unselfishness. His time will come in this tournament, but today just wasn’t the day.

3. Three Point Defense needs to be sorted out ASAP – Providence, similar to Alabama and Washington, held the Jackrabbits well below their 45% 3 point field goal percentage, shooting 30% on 7-23 shooting. It was apparent that Providence was content with letting South Dakota State try to beat them in the mid-range, and they just weren’t able to do so. The length and physicality of the Friars was evident against South Dakota State and likely led to the subpar offensive game.

4. Own the Glass – Insert Ed Croswell. The back-up big man was arguably the most important player in the entire game. Croswell had 9 rebounds and had a streak during the game where he had multiple offensive rebounds. Providence had the size over the Jackrabbits, and it showed. Providence outrebounded SDSU 41-32.

Highlights of Game

  1. Durham leads the way – Al Durham had a great game on both ends of the floor, putting up 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists (3:1 assist to turnover ratio). Durham has a calming presence on the court, and nobody can doubt his will to win. With Durham on this squad, Providence is always going to be in a position to win. He’s been a homerun transfer. Most important, he appeared to be healthy, which is critical if the Friars plan to continue making a run in this tournament.
  2. Stifling Defense – Providence held the Jackrabbits to 29 points below their season average. As mentioned above, they also shot 15% below their 3 point season average. Providence may not be the most beautiful team offensively, but they are always so consistent on the defensive end. That’ll keep them in every ballgame, no matter how the offense is going.
  3. Tempo Tempo Tempo – Despite the flow of the first 8 minutes of the game, Providence was able to control the flow of this game and have it operate at their speed. With a team like the Jackrabbits who want to run the entire game, it is easy to get sucked into playing that style. Throughout the game, you consistently heard Cooley’s whistle from the bench directed to the point guard to slow down and operate the half court offense. It was a masterful display of coaching.

Providence advances to play the winner of Iowa/Richmond on Saturday with a Sweet 16 birth to Chicago on the line. Go Friars!

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