Don’t let the final score fool you. This game was over from the opening minutes, and the final 3-4 minutes concealed just how much of a thorough beat down this game was. Providence was the better team from the onset, using their superiority in athleticism to get out in the open and run, run, run.
This team found their footing from deep early , and you began to see the vision of what Kim English wants this team to be. When Providence is filling it up from deep like they did last night, while acting like a boa constrictor on the defensive end (like they have all year), you begin to ponder if this team not being a nationally ranked preseason team and Top 5 squad in the Big East is an egregious oversight by the national media.
I’ve pushed my chips to the center of the table and said all preseason this team has the chance to be a second weekend squad at worst. That’s quite honestly my floor for them. At the risk of sounding foolish, how many teams nationwide can claim they return a First Team All Conference Player, another All Conference honoree, and a mid-major transfer that was two time first team selection in his respective conference?
I’ve scratched my head at how this bullish stance of mine is an apparent outlier amongst those who follow college basketball. This season is still young, and Providence has a few warts (hello, turnovers and free throw shooting), but the team defense coupled with a trio of Hopkins, Carter, and Oduro makes this squad very dangerous. Layer on the sophomore leap of Jayden Pierre and the addition of uber-talented freshman Garwey Dual, and you start to talk about this team in a different tone than what Friar fans are used to.
Before their trip to the Bahamas, we opine on a few other tangible items related to the beat down of the Badgers.
Hello, Josh Oduro – Should we be surprised by the game he had last night? If you followed Oduro at George Mason, you shouldn’t be. Oduro has the old man YMCA game. He may not be a physical specimen, but he rebounds extremely well, is an elite passer out of the post, communicates clearly, and has a soft touch around the rim. He seals his defender with the savvy of a collegiate vet who knows his skill set. Oduro was 100% from the field, and the reason his stats don’t pop more off the page is because the refs sidelined him with two early fouls that were not at all fouls.
Nate Watson and Ed Croswell were bodybuilders disguised as centers. They were bruisers, beat you up, and overpowered you physically. It was AWESOME. Oduro, however, is going to lull every opponent to sleep while he waltzes his way to 14 and 6 every game. We will see how he fares against the giants of the Big East, but we may not be giving enough credit to Mr. Oduro. He may give those bigs just as much trouble as they give him. He’s a great veteran presence to this “young” Providence squad.
Jayden Pierre Exploding Onto the Scene – Al McGuire once said, “The best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores”. Pierre has made the sophomore leap, and PC is reaping the benefits. Pierre has scored 29 points in the last two games and is more of an offensive weapon than I ever expected. He was a perfect 3/3 from deep. There was a stretch in the first half where he was very clearly the best player for both teams on the court, showing complete command of the offense and being a pesky defender. While Friartown is noticeably enthralled with the potential of Dual, it is nice to have Pierre at the helm. PC is in a great position at lead guard, which is quite a contrast from last year.
Stifling Defense – Wisconsin scored 105 points in their first game and 70 points against a Top 10 team in Tennessee. It was expected to see Wisconsin score in the 70-80 range given what they’ve shown this year. Providence had other ideas. PC eliminated any chance of a comeback by holding Wisconsin to 21 points in the first half. Wisconsin finished 34% from the floor and 25% from deep.
The on-ball defense from Pierre, Floyd Jr., Carter, Dual, and Gaines is incredible to watch. Absent the last few minutes, every single offensive possession for the Badgers seemed to be a struggle.
Providence is Top 25 nationally in field goal defense at 33.3%. I think the Friar fans can hang their hat on consistently good defense for the majority of their season.
What’s Next: Providence travels to the Bahamas for the Baha Mar Classic. They play Friday against Kansas State and either Georgia or Miami Sunday. This is another chance to bolster the resume for March. The throttling of Wisconsin will resonate come tourney time.