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Pre-Duel Pleasantries: Providence

Talking to the other side to get you ready

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Xavier is taking on a challenging foe tonight with a home game against #20 Providence. To get you ready for the game, we sat down and talked with the one and only Mike Hopkins who runs pcbb1917 on twitter (follow him HERE) and the website He had a lot of thoughts on the Friars season and on their mascot, so let's see what he has to say.

1.) Ben Bentil is having a monster season. Big East player of the year?

Ben Bentil is having a monster year and he is a lead pipe lock for the Big East's Most Improved Player of the Year Award. That's as far as I'm willing to go in mid-February. Kris Dunn is still the league's Player of the Year for me. Bentil is certainly critical to Providence's success, but Dunn is the straw that stirs the Friars' drink and he also gets a bump because of the preseason hype. People forget that Dunn impacts the game in more ways than just on the offensive end. He's a suffocating on-ball defender -- just ask D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera -- and he's a ball-hawking safety off-ball where he gets into passing lanes with his 6'9 wingspan to create steals and easy transition offense.

2.) Walk me through what went well in the first half of your game against Georgetown, and what did not go well in the second half.

It was really a pretty simple recipe for success for Providence in that first half against Georgetown last Saturday: take care of the basketball, rebound the basketball, score the basketball. Providence only turned the ball over on 5.4% of their first half possessions, they held a 2 rebound advantage through 20 minutes and they shot 51.6% from the field, including 5/10 from beyond the arc. Another big factor is that Georgetown's offense didn't play well. The Hoyas turned the ball over at a clip of 21.6% and they shot 32.1% from the field, including 3/12 from beyond the arc. They had a paltry .784 points per possession in the first half against Providence's 1.324 points per possession. Those numbers almost flipped from the first half to the second half. The Hoyas turned the ball over on 3.1% of their second half possessions, while Providence coughed it up on a whopping 29.0% of their possessions that half. When Providence wasn't turning the ball over, they were missing shots. The Friars shot 31.3% from the field in the second half, including 1/6 from 3-point range. Providence's second half points per possession number was just .839. Those are the details. The simple answer is Providence played more freely and got contributions from more than just Dunn and Bentil in the first half. In the second half, they didn't get those same contributions. Dunn and Bentil scored 21 of Providence's 26 second half points. That's 80% of Providence's scoring. In the first half, they combined for just 30% of Providence's points. 3.) I've seen everything from a 6 to an 8 seed for Providence in the projections. Where do you see the Friars landing in the tournament?

3.) I think a 7 seed is probably the most likely for this team, barring an extremely strong finish over their last 5 league games and the Big East Tournament. The first ball to drop on that strong finish would be a road win against Xavier. I'm expecting the Friars to finish these last 5 games 3-2 and then win at least 1 game in the Big East Tournament. 23 wins and an RPI likely around 40 should put the Friars strongly in the field. As long as they don't end up playing Dayton in Columbus again, I think Providence fans will be happy wherever the Friars land among the field of 68

4.) Your mascot is completely terrifying. Do people like it? Do you want a new mascot?

It's become one of those things that's so bad it's good. Friar fans mostly love it and they have grown to love how everyone else hates on it. A new Friar mascot head appeared at Providence's home Big East opener on January 2nd and people were losing it. Both mascot heads were creepy and weird, but Friar fans feel like the one they've had is their creepy and weird mascot head. There has recently been some noise by some students that Providence should bring back the Dalmation -- Friar Boy -- as an unofficial mascot to have at games. There hasn't been much traction on that. The creepy Friar mascot appears to be here for the long haul.

5.) Score prediction?

5.) Xavier 77 Providence 69