Hello Xavier Nation! Your Musketeers are about to take on the Providence Friars in a crucial Big East matchup! Unfortunately for us, this game is away from home and it is at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. Luckily for you, we got the chance to sit down with Mike Hopkins from Providence College Basketball and ask him the hard hitting questions. Let's see what he had to say.
1.) Right now Joe Lunardi has y'all as a six seed in the tournament. Do you think this is where the Friars will be, or will they rise or fall?
It's really hard to put my finger on this year's Providence team because they have showed signs of being really good and then have lost at home by 10+ to both Brown and St. John's. I do think they will make the NCAA Tournament as of right now but I wouldn't be surprised with any seed from 5-11. I think it's more likely they are somewhere in the middle at about an 8 seed with an RPI in the 30's.
2.) We all know about how talented Kris Dunn and LaDontae Henton are, but what other players should we expect to see make a difference on Thursday?
He has been a bit of an enigma at times but Tyler Harris is the next most likely guy to score points besides Dunn and Henton. Harris just had his best game of the season against Creighton since being moved into the 6th man role a few games prior to conference play beginning. Cooley envisions Harris as scoring punch off the bench and the last game out he did just that with 13 points on 3/6 shooting from beyond the arc. A player that should make a difference on the defensive end should be Carson Desrosiers. The 7-foot senior will try to slow down Matt Stainbrook and is currently 2nd in the Big East in blocks per game at 3.05. Desrosiers had 6 blocks against Creighton and hasn't had a game with less than 2 blocks since his only 0 block game of the year on November 23rd.
3.) Bryce Cotton just put up 40 points the other day in the D-League. Do you think he will make it into the NBA and how do you think his career will be?
I have a hard time seeing how Bryce Cotton hasn't gotten a call-up yet to the NBA this season. He has been torching the D-league consistently all season and there are some bad NBA teams that lack point guards and scoring. Rumors are that Cotton could be close to a call-up after his performance in the D-league Showcase in Santa Cruz that included that 40 point scoring game. I do think Cotton will eventually get a shot and after watching him evolve during his time at Providence I learned to never bet against him despite his small size for an NBA guard.
4.) Let's go back to last March when Providence won the Big East tournament and made the big dance. How exciting was that time for the Friar Faithful?
March 2014 was kind of surreal. The run that team went on was special. I remember having a feeling that nothing could stop Bryce Cotton and he could always carry the team or bring the team back from a deficit or do whatever was necessary in that moment. For me personally it was special to see the evolution of the program as a whole from my college days with Tim Welsh and Keno Davis at the helm to now with Providence's own Ed Cooley taking the Providence program back to national relevance.
The night that Providence beat Creighton to win their 2nd ever Big East Tournament Championship was amazing. After the game was over there was a line of fans spilling out of Madison Square Garden to head to a nearby bar that was designated as a pre and post game meet up locale and inside that bar were hugs and cheers and chants and just total euphoria. You had players from the 70's and 80's and 90's all there celebrating with fans and alumni of the school and it was truly special. The North Carolina game in the NCAA Tournament is still a sore subject for fans and especially the Providence coaching staff. They believe the Friars should have won that game. That alone speaks to how far this Providence program has come under Ed Cooley's leadership these nearly 4 years.
5.) The Big East this year has seen an awful lot of home wins. How much of a home court advantage does the Dunkin' Donuts Center give Providence?
The Dunk is a great home court advantage for Providence when the fans show up because the place can get very loud. For a game like this at 7pm on a Thursday I would expect a near sellout. The students have been back from the winter break for more than a week at this point so I think the place will be rocking. In both home losses the crowd hasn't been a big factor with both Brown and St. John's scoring early and often to keep the fans sitting on their hands so Xavier can negate the home court advantage by making shots early and not letting the Friars get out in transition for easy dunks and layups.
6.) Let's say that I was going to the game. Where would you recommend I eat and drink before and after the game?
The most popular pregame locations in close proximity to the Dunkin' Donuts Center seem to be Murphy's and Trinity Brewhouse. Both places are on Fountain Street a few hundred feet away from each other and, more importantly, less than a 2 minute walk to the Dunk. Murphy's is standard fare and has many name brand beers while Trinity also has a fairly typical bar menu but they serve their own beers. If you are looking for a more formal dinner that isn't at a bar I'd recommend taking a ride up to Federal Hill which is only a few minutes from the Dunk and offers some fantastic Italian food at places like Siena, Camille's or Al Forno among many others.
7.) Prediction of how this game will go?
Both teams will get a little extra practice time leading up to this game with Saturday being the last time each team played a game. I have a feeling that both teams will shoot the ball well for some reason in this one. I also think the Friars will be able to bottle up Stainbrook using a trio of Desrosiers and fresmen Paschal Chukwu and Ben Bentil. The x-factor for Xavier will likely be Trevon Bluiett who could present a matchup problem should Ed Cooley opt for man to man defense. I think Providence continues to play well and with confidence coming home from a comfortable win in Omaha over the weekend. I do think the final score will be close but I like the Friars at home.