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Xavier @ Providence: Preview, matchups, and keys to the game

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Ken Pomeroy can't even predict a winner for this game. Here's a look at the information for what will be one of Xavier's hardest road games of the year.

Get ready for a lot of these dudes.
Get ready for a lot of these dudes.
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

After a week in which you weren't at your most convincing, it would be nice to have an easier fixture on the schedule to kind of get your feet back under you. Instead, Xavier has the exact opposite, taking a short turnaround to go on the road and face a top 10 in Providence, whose confidence I'm guessing couldn't be higher right now. Four teams are currently tied for second in the Big East, and they are each in action against one another tonight.

The reason Providence is presumably feeling so good is that they just grabbed a big road win against conference leader Villanova. Despite allowing Ryan Arcidiacono to tie it up with his last touch of regulation, the Friars stormed through the overtime period to take a six-point win. That came on the heels of a big win over Butler after surprise home losses against Marquette and Seton Hall had dropped Providence's conference record to just 3-2. Now they're right back in the thick of things; whoever wins tonight will move to just a game back of the idle leaders.

Team Fingerprint:

Providence is like a more extreme version of Seton Hall when it comes to offensive and defensive splits. Defensively, they are 15th in the nation. To beat them you basically have to throw the ball inside and get to work, because they stifle the three point line. They're committed to forcing bad shots outside the arc and they both steal and block at a rate roughly the same slightly above average rate as Xavier's most recent opponents. One place they can be had is on the offensive glass, where they allow opponent's to grab 29% of their misses. Where they really present an issue for Xavier is in their commitment to turning opponents over, which they do more than 21% of the time.

Offensively, this is Kris Dunn's show. Dunn's offensive efficiency is 106.6 (which is still good) only because he struggles at the line. He'll use over 30% of the Friars' possessions. Providence is dreadful from behind the arc. They shoot 31% from deep, good for 298th in the nation. They don't shoot the ball terribly well (49.8%) inside the arc either, and they make about 71% of their attempts from the line. The mediocre shooting is overcome in part by only turning the ball over on 16% of their possessions. The Friars grab about 33% of their misses. In short, they are roughly average on offense, great on defense.

Starters:

Starting matchups
Kris Dunn Point Guard Edmond Sumner
Junior Class Freshman
6'4", 220 Measurements 6'6", 183
17.0/6.2/7.1 Game Line 11.2/3.1/3.3
.466/.393/.674 Shooting Line .422/.381/.682
Perhaps you've heard of him? He leads the nation in assist rate and - along with Ben Bentil - is top 5 in the conference in usage. He's a nightmare of a defender on the ball and in the passing lanes, landing him 3rd in the Big East with a 4.2% steal%. He also happens to be his team's best defensive rebounder, and his past turnover problems have improved to a decent 20.9% TO%. Throw in there his 48.5% shooting from deep in Big East play, and it's fair to say that the hype is at least a bit warranted for Kris Dunn.
Kyron Cartwright Shooting Guard Myles Davis
Sophomore Class Junior
6'0", 185 Measurements 6'2", 188
5.1/1.6/3.3 Game Line 10.8/3.4/3.6
.415/.455/.591 Shooting Line .396/.392/.935
Cartwright only has four starts all year, but he started the wins over Butler and Nova last week, so I'm assuming he gets the nod here. He's a good but infrequent outside shooter but poor when he wanders inside the arc. He profiles like a good backup point, doing well on defense, distributing the ball, but suffering from a bit of a turnover problem. He has been more effective in conference than he was outside of it.
Junior Lomomba Small Forward Remy Abell
Junior Class Senior
6'5", 205 Measurements 6'4", 185
6.5/2.7/2.1 Game Line 7.8/1.5/2.3
.421/.346/.638 Shooting Line .450/.382/.744
Lomomba is a squad player filling in at the starting three. He's a decent shooter who rarely ventures beyond the arc, doesn't use too many possessions, and doesn't turn the ball over that much. He also doesn't get called for many fouls and doesn't rebound much. He really doesn't interact with the ball a whole lot out there, which leaves his statistical profile a little sparse.
Rodney Bullock Power Forward Trevon Bluiett
Sophomore Class Sophomore
6'8", 225 Measurements 6'6", 215
12.9/7.2/1.0 Game Line 15.3/6.7/2.1
.471/.313/.718 Shooting Line .413/.392/.806
For a man who shoots 70% at the rim, Bullock takes a confusing amount of threes. He's obviously at his best in the paint, but he boasts a serviceable mid-range game as well. Like Bentil, he's better on the offensive glass than the defensive. He's also the closest thing the Friars have to a rim protector, though he's not going to win any awards for it.
Ben Bentil Center Jalen Reynolds
Sophomore Class Junior
6'9", 235 Measurements 6'10", 238
19.8/8.2/1.0 Game Line 9.6/6.7/0.6
.473/.266/.816 Shooting Line .517/.500/.661
I didn't realize what an animal this kid is until I started digging into his numbers. He has a serviceable jumper, but he does his real damage at the rim, where he scores on 2/3rds of his attempts. He's a very good offensive rebounder but just average at the defensive end. Most impressively, he leads the Big East in minutes, averaging 37 per game in league play. That's an insane workload for a big man.

Reserves:

Jalen Lindsey, a 6'7" sophomore wing, is my pick for tonight's rando who goes nuts and drops 19 on Xavier. Sure, he's shooting .357/.247/.667 on the year and just 4-29 from deep in conference play, but he gets 25 minutes per game and is a shameless chucker (along with being a decent rebounder); he's just the kind of guy who gets right against a rotating zone or a packed-in man. Ryan Fazekas is a 6'8" freshman who will get some minutes. He doesn't rebound much but will get a couple of buckets if left alone. Drew Edwards is a reserve guard who deserves mention in passing, which is what that was. That's pretty much it for Providence though. The Friars more or less go seven deep, getting just 27.9% of their minutes off of the bench. That number lands them in the bottom 50 in the nation and shows just how heavily they rely on the starting five.

Three Keys:

- Protect the ball with aggression: Kris Dunn is going to harass whoever handles the ball for Xavier and the Friars as a whole will be jumping passing lanes. The Musketeers are showing improvement in ball control, but it is still very definitely a weakness for the team. It will be interesting to see if Xavier deploys more high screens to give Sumner some space to work with the ball. Dunn has fouled out twice in the last three games, so he can be had by a quick guard who likes to drive. Behind him, both Bentil and Bullock are also prone to falling prey to the whistle. Xavier's best option for limiting turnovers might be attacking rather than trying to be cautious.

- Get all three big men going: Providence avoids the rotation problem by simply having Ben Bentil never come out. Xavier can throw effective depth at him if both Jalen and Sean O'Mara come to play. Any time would be a great time for Jalen to start demonstrating why he was so highly thought of before the season. On the road against one of the breakout performers of the Big East seems like it would work. The Friars aren't great with post defense, so 15 minutes of Big Sean could also pay dividends.

- Get to the line: Of the four highest free throw rate games Providence has allowed, they've lost three of them. Xavier's loves to win games at the line. This one almost comes down to the whim of what will almost certainly be an atrocious officiating crew. Even Xavier's bigs are converting well right now. If Providence starts hacking shooters, the Musketeers are in business.