Providence, standing at 10-3 and 2-0 in the Big East, starts their Midwest tour with a match-up Thursday against the 8-5 Butler Bulldogs. Butler is currently 0-2 in the Big East after losses to UCONN and Creighton. Below, we preview the match-up and what Providence must do to get another road win in the Big East. We also have the podcast previewing the Butler and DePaul game below.
If Providence can somehow go 2-0 on this road trip, they’ll be in prime position to be nationally ranked ahead of the gargantuan match-up against UConn at the AMP on 1/4. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though.
Butler By The Numbers
Chuck Harris – 14.2 Points at 45.8% from Floor and 34.5% from 3
Manny Bates – 13.5 Points at 62.6% from Floor, 6.3 Rebounds, 2.5 Blocks (leads Big East)
Jayden Taylor – 13.5 Points at 46.1% from Floor, 33.3% from Deep
Simas Lukosius – 11 points, 4.5 Rebounds, 3.5 Assists, 41% from Deep
Eric Hunter Jr. – 10.9 Points at 45.9% from Floor, 36.4% from Deep
Butler Team Statistics
- All five starters in double figures in scoring.
- All five starters play more than 30 minutes/game. The next closest player is at 17 minutes.
- Butler is second to last in Big East in points at 71.3 points. Providence is 10 points higher at 81.3 points.
- Butler last in Big East at 31.6 rebounds. Providence is 2nd in Big East at 40 rebounds.
- Butler is last in the Big East in free throw attempts at 14.1 attempts/game. Providence is 2nd in Big East at 24.8 attempts/game (Marquette fans, look away).
Keys to Game
- Providence’s frontcourt versus traditional big man in Bates – Providence has feasted in the frontcourt in their first two Big East games. I’m a bit skeptical of their hot start due to the lack of size of the Seton Hall and Marquette frontcourt. I am eager to see how the Providence frontcourt fares against a formidable big man in NC State transfer Manny Bates. Bates is all of 6’11 and 230+. Bates in his two match-ups against Kalkbrenner and Sanogo averaged 11 points and 3 boards. How will he fare against an undersized Ed Croswell, who is giving up about 3-4 inches? This match-up may ultimately decide the outcome of the game. Bates must be looking forward to this match-up after matching up against those two big men. If PC can somehow get Bates in foul trouble, they have the potential to run away with this one.
- Providence’s frontcourt, part 2 – This may be the game where we see the value of bringing in transfer Clifton Moore. To date, Moore has feasted on mid-major opponents, but has been largely ineffective against higher caliber foes. Against the undersized and athletic big men of Seton Hall and Marquette, Moore didn’t have a fit on the court and would have been exposed. In this game, however, we may see size against size with Moore getting extended minutes. I think Cooley will turn to Moore quickly if Bates has his way with Croswell (which I’m not expecting, but is still a possibility).
- Providence’s frontcourt, part 3 – Am I a broken record in stating that Hopkins has a chance to shine in this one? While Lukosius is a versatile weapon offensively (insert clichés about European players), Bryce Hopkins should be able to use his physicality and strength to bully Lukosius. If Hopkins can get Simas in the post, it will likely cause Lukosius to get into foul trouble early. It may also tire him out when he gets back on offense. Hopkins needs to take advantage of his match-up because I fear the Croswell – Bates pairing will be a physical stand-off.
- PC must play sound defense and not foul – Butler has a host of scorers on the perimeter, but they largely create their opportunities all on their own. Lukosius leads the team in assists at 3.5 assists/game, which isn’t all that impressive. Harris and Taylor are tremendous scorers and shot-makers, but Providence can suck the life out of them by playing sound halfcourt defense. Make Butler make tough shots, don’t foul, and accept that the Bulldogs backcourt may make some contested shots. If PC stays engaged on the defensive end, I don’t foresee a strong offensive showing from Butler.
- The Backcourt Needs to Shine – PC’s frontcourt has won the first two Big East games. It is time for Bynum, Locke, Breed, and Carter to put this game on their shoulders. I anticipate the frontcourt to have some trouble in this one, and it is imperative that the quartet above gets the better of the Butler backcourt. They need to take quality shots, not force anything, and play strong two-way ball (see point #4 above). Most important, they need to take care of the ball. The atmosphere will be a tough one on the road, and Providence cannot afford to be careless with the ball.
BOC: My eyes may be deceiving me, but I just see this Providence team as a better team than Butler. Providence has star power in Bryce Hopkins and a decided advantage in scoring and rebounding. I try not to look at past games for the opposition as a means to effect the outcome of this one. As Bill Parcells famously said, “You are what your record says you are”.
I have Providence winning a tight one 78-75. My only hesitation with this prediction is Manny Bates going off against an undersized frontcourt, and the concerns we’ve had about our frontcourt standing up to the rigors of the Big East finally come to fruition. Until that happens, I’ll take my chances with a Cooley led squad on the road.
Crier: The Friars should feel really good about how they are playing heading into this 2-game road trip. Looking at the game on paper I think Providence is the better team and should get the W. Providence should have the edge in depth, especially in the frontcourt. If Manny Bates gets into foul trouble Butler has no one else that can match with the likes of Croswell, Hopkins, Moore, and Castro up front. I just think Butler is going to be a desperate team, and they have plenty of core players that remember getting swept by PC in three tight contests. Typically in college hoops the team that plays with more desperation walks away with the win. I got Butler in a tight one 75-73.