Hello Xavier nation! It is Saturday and it is time for another trip to the Cintas Center. Your Musketeers are taking on the Friars of Providence. We know that you remember Bryce Cotton from last year, but we need to learn more about this year's Providence squad. Lucky for you, we sat down with Mike Hopkins of Providence College Basketball and asked him the hard hitting questions. Here we go.
1.) Providence has looked strong in conference play, with a 7-3 record and an impressive season sweep of Georgetown. How key was the bench in that game with Kris Dunn's back problems?
Ironically it was less the bench and more some of the other starters who really stepped up. Ben Bentil had his best collegiate game with 16 points and 11 rebounds for his first ever double-double. Junior Lomomba made two key baskets in a row around the 8 minute mark of the 2nd half and then assisted the next Providence score by Bentil. Lomomba's efforts largely go unnoticed by the box score though. 5th year senior Carson Desrosiers scored 6 straight points to give Providence a lead at the under 4 media timeout and he and Bentil put the game on ice at the free throw line by going 4/4 in the final 32 seconds to provide the final margin of victory. Kyron Cartwright came in for Dunn off the bench and played a very steady game but it was really some of the other starters that stepped up which has to be encouraging for Ed Cooley because it has been a struggle to find people to score besides Kris Dunn and LaDontae Henton.
2.) Speaking of Dunn, is his back an issue, or a non-issue for Saturday?
His back will be something to monitor but I tend to think he will be ok forSaturday. I didn't really notice a drop-off in his play on Wednesday and the training staff had a couple days since that game to continue treatment. You do always have to worry about how a back will respond to a flight as the team flew out to Cincinnati Friday morning but I'm not overly concerned. Henton's hip and his inconsistent shooting is probably a larger concern at this point for Friar fans.
3.) Bryce Cotton was named to the D-League All-Star team. Why is this guy not in the NBA yet?!?
I don't get it. He put up huge numbers during the D-League showcase and has been killing it all year. There seem to be so many NBA teams that could use scoring off their bench and yet Cotton remains without a call-up. The real reason he isn't in the NBA is probably his size and difficulty guarding NBA point guards but I truly believe he has value as a 2nd unit point guard who can score off the bench.
4.) Because Providence is so close to Foxboro I have to ask. How excited were you about the Pats winning the Super Bowl?
I was extremely deflated. While I attended Providence College I'm from NY and am a NY Jets fan. I didn't used to hate New England sports nearly as much as I do now after spending 4 years among the New England sports fans.
5.) Looking at your schedule, the second half of conference play with Nova twice and Seton Hall looks like a tough test. How do you think the Friars will do?
The current 4 game stretch they are in the midst of was identified by everyone before the season even began as the toughest portion of the entire schedule. I predicted 1-3 on this stretch but also said I wouldn't be surprised if they went 0-4. They got win 1 against Georgetown so to me beating Xavier at Cintas and Villanova at home is all gravy. With 8 games remaining, including Saturday's tilt with Xavier I think the Friars will finish 4-4 which would put them in a solid position at 11-7 and 21-10 heading into the Big East Tournament in mid-March.
6.) For a Catholic school in the Big East, I feel like "Friars" is quite possibly the best team nick name. Who do you think has the second best name?
Before I give you my second best name let me take some shots at some of the less than best ones in the Big East. St. John's Red Storm. Come on. A storm that is colored red? And what is that bird-like mascot and how does that fit with a red storm? Georgetown Hoyas. A Hoya isn't a thing. Apparently some nerdy Latin and Greek studying student started a "Hoya Saxa" chant which apparently translates to "What Rocks!" which doesn't even make sense. I do like their actual bulldog mascot but the name is bizarre.
After a thoughtful analysis of the other 9 teams and their nicknames I'm going to go with Marquette's Golden Eagles nickname because America.
7.) Prediction on how this game will go?
I think Xavier comes ready to play after Wednesday's home loss to Creighton and the semi-challenge from Myles Davis in his post-game remarks. I'll say Musketeers by 3, 69-66.