The narrative around the Providence team all season has been about how their performance defies metrics, insinuating a sense of luck. The underlying message here from the national media is that this luck would run out come tournament time. Well, there was nothing lucky about this game. Providence led from start to finish. The game was never in doubt, and these Friars continue to make the analytically minded folks look quite foolish.
Below, we detail what Providence did to limit the Richmond Spiders, along with some themes to carry over heading into the game against Kansas.
Revisiting the Keys to Game
We previewed the Richmond game (https://theprovidencecrier.com/2022/03/18/providence-richmond-preview-friars-look-to-advance-to-sweet-16/#more-4741) here. After a win like this, it’s always fun to revisit the themes and see how well Providence executed.
- Stay engaged defensively – Check. Providence held the Richmond Spiders to their lowest point total of the season at 51 points, which is approximately 20 points below their season average. Couple that with the win against the Jackrabbits, and Providence has held their two NCAA opponents to their lowest point totals of the season and 20 and 29 points below their season average. We’ve talked all year about the length and physicality of this defense, and it is really starting to show in the NCAA Tournament. Richmond shot 40% from the floor and was 5 percent from 3. While the 3 point average is certainly an anomaly, I do feel like, in a similar capacity to SDSU, Providence’s length bothers teams from deep.
- Contain Tyler Burton – If the casual basketball fan doesn’t know about Justin Minaya before this tournament, they certainly should now. Burton was completely taken out of this game by Minaya, going 1-8 from the floor with 5 total points. Compare that to the Iowa game where Burton scored 18 points with 11 rebounds. Not only does Minaya erase players from games, he also does the little things like box out. There was one play in particular where Minaya effectively sealed off Burton from getting a board, and Burton crashed to the floor. He was clearly upset and frustrated, which is just a common theme of players when going up against Minaya. I’ve said time and time again he is the most important player on this Providence squad.
- Look for Breed to see more minutes – Breed put in yeoman’s work with 13 minutes, but the real story is how Providence muzzled Richmond’s two stars in Burton and Gilyard. I thought Bynum took the match-up personally due to their history in the A-10, and Gilyard just couldn’t get on track at all in the game. Gilyard finished with only 4 points on 2-10 shooting and o-7 from deep.
- Dominate the glass…again – Providence outrebounded the Spiders 38 to 27, again showing how their length and size just wear on teams as the game progresses. Horchler continues to be a match-up nightmare. Not many players can go 4-6 from deep and also grab 14 rebounds. As a collegiate player, he’s a nightmare to play against. Croswell was also his normal effective self on the boards with 5 rebounds off the bench.
- Be true to Friar basketball – Coach Cooley said after the game that this was the best they’ve played all year, and I’d be hard pressed to disagree with him (maybe the Creighton game at home?). The defense was suffocating and came at the Richmond Spiders in waves. The shots were falling unlike what we’ve seen all season. Providence did a good job of taking care of the basketball. It was without a doubt one of the most well rounded games of the year, which is certainly saying something.
- When Providence is hot from deep, I don’t think there is a team in the country that can beat them – This may be a “hot” take, but I really do feel this way. Providence is always going to put forth a strong defensive effort, but usually the games are tight because PC is struggling to find their mark offensively. If Providence shoots above 40% from 3, they can pair that stellar defense with an explosive offense. I don’t anticipate Providence to shoot 55% from deep against Kansas like they did against Richmond, but if they can go 40% or better, I really like the chances of the Friars.
- The depth of Providence continues to be elite – Normally, the two players who were All Conference choices would be leading the team in scoring in the NCAA tournament, no? It hasn’t been the case, which is a testament to how well rounded this team is. Of the 79 points against Richmond, Bynum and Watson only totaled 20 points (25%). Of the 66 points against South Dakota State, Bynum and Watson combined for 18 points (27% of total points). Durham and Horchler led the way in scoring against the Jackrabbits, while Horchler led the way against Richmond. This team has, at a minimum, 5 different players who can lead the team in scoring on a given night.
- Providence is a match-up nightmare – How do you defend this Friar squad? If you double Watson in the post, you leave sharpshooters like Horchler, Reeves, and Bynum open. With Kansas, we may see them match McCormack 1:1 against Watson, and it may be Watson’s night to take over. There is no easy answer when trying to defend this team. Beyond Watson, how do you guard Horchler? He’s too quick for a traditional 4 to guard him on the perimeter, and a smaller wing will have the three ball buried in his face. There are just so many offensive options, and it is why this team has advanced to the Sweet 16. Most important, everybody is unselfish and team first. The players are completely bought in to what Cooley is preaching.
We are awaiting game times, but the Friars will take on the #1 seed Kansas Jayhawks Friday night in Chicago. Unchartered waters for these Friars, but I think they will show up hungry and with a chip on their shoulders.