The weather outside is genuinely frightful for Xavier’s second road trip of the Big East season. Rhode Island has somewhere around 15 inches of snow and highs will peak short of 10 degrees on Saturday. In the face of that unpleasantness, the Musketeers face a Providence team that was picked to finish fourth in the Big East by the coaches at the start of the year. Things haven’t gone well for the Friars, though, and they stand 1-2 in conference and eighth if you go by KenPom ranking, where they’ve plunged from 24th all the way down to 63rd.
Last time out the Friars blew a six point lead with a minute to play and surrendered 52(!) to Markus Howard. Some of the Friars struggles are down to the loss of Maliek White, who will be a game time decision, to injury, and Rodney Bullock to sickness but Ed Cooley’s charges simply aren’t playing as well as projected right now.
On offense, the Friars lean on Rodney Bullock heavily. He’ll take over a quarter of the shots when he is on the floor. Providence has the 58th most efficient offense in the nation largely on the back of their 38% shooting from behind the arc. Despite shooting so well from deep, and shooting a very mediocre 51% from inside, only 32% of the Friars attempts come from behind the arc. PC is really close to horrendous (67%) from the line, not great at caring for the ball, and about national average on the offensive glass. They do excel at getting to the line.
On defense, Providence just isn’t very good. They’re sixth in the conference in defensive efficiency since Big East play started, seventh overall. The Friars are good at limiting the damage behind the arc, but they get torched inside with some regularity, allowing teams to shoot 51.5%. To go along with that, they send their opponents to the line on 32% of field goal attempts, 138th in the nation. Given Xavier’s predilection for getting to the line, that number bears watching. The Friars will block their fair share of shots, and they force turnovers at a decent 20% rate.
|Kyron Cartwright||Point Guard||Quentin Goodin|
|5'11", 185||Measurements||6'4", 190|
|Cartwright's just a little fella, but he's having a heck of a season. He can be a little loose with the ball, but he's seventh in the nation with a 41.6% assist rate. He's got nasty mid-range game, shooting over 50% on two-point jumpers, as well as solid range beyond the arc. Despite his size, he's a good perimeter defender.|
|Jalen Lindsey||Shooting Guard||J.P. Macura|
|6'7", 227||Measurements||6'5", 203|
|If Kaiser Gates couldn't rebound, he'd be Jalen Lindsey. Lindsey shoots more than 80% of his shots from beyond the arc and is deadly in catch and shoot situations. Befitting his size, he's a good shot blocker and versatile defender. You know, like Kaiser.|
|Alpha Diallo||Small Forward||Trevon Bluiett|
|6'7", 211||Measurements||6'6", 202|
|Diallo is an aggressive rebounder on both ends of the floor. He's tough to handle around the rim, and better than serviceable in the mid-range, but he's not a threat to step out and J on you from deep. He can be prone to foul trouble.|
|Rodney Bullock||Power Forward||Kaiser Gates|
|6'8", 225||Measurements||6'8", 228|
|Bullock isn't hugely efficien (ORtg of 104.6 on the year), but he's the one Providence will be feeding on the offensive end. He sat out last game with the flu, so there's a chance none of what you're about to read matters. If he does play, he's a volume scorer who is a beast in the paint and pretty good with his jumper. He blocks a decent amount of shots, but he's just a meh rebounder by rate.|
|Nate Watson||Center||Tyrique Jones|
|6'10", 260||Measurements||6'9", 237|
|He's no Ron Rollerson, but this dude's getting the most out of his meal plan. He's not afraid to step out and shoot jumpers, but he does his best work on the block. He can be prone to foul trouble and is alarmingly soft on the defensive glass.|
If Rodney Bullock can’t start, Isaiah Jackson likely will. He’s a 6’6” junior forward who is a threat to step out and shoot it and rebounds well. He has a game line of 6.3/2.9/1.1 on the year and should see plenty of action Saturday.
Makai Ashton-Langford is the first line of guard play off the bench. He’s a freshman point who can distribute well but is a bit turnover prone. His shooting line is not something his mother mentions when bragging to her friends. Drew Edwards is a 6’4 sophomore who also can’t shoot who will also see some perimeter minutes off the bench.
Rounding out the squad is Kalif Young. He’s a husky 6’9” sophomore who will spell Watson in the paint. He’s an excellent rebounder and shot blocker, but he’s a step down from Watson offensively.
- How healthy is Providence? White hasn’t played since December 6th with a leg injury, Rodney Bullock missed the game against Marquette with sickness, and Kyron Cartwright is nursing a bad ankle. Ed Cooley loves to mercilessly ride his top producers until they shrivel up in March, but so far this season he’s only be able to lean on Jalen Lindsey as the rest of the team tries to piece its way in.
- Can Xavier make dominance at the line pay? The Musketeers should be able to get to the line relatively frequently. That would seem to be a good thing, but they only shot 65% from the stripe against Butler. If X can turn in their season average 79%, there should be plenty of free points available.
- Is Trevon Bluiett slumping? Tre has watched his offensive efficiency slide down to 121 as the season has gone on. That’s a very good number, but he hasn’t hit that since December 9th against Colorado. While his three point shooting is at 41% for the year, he’s only 5-19 (26.3%) in conference play. It’s too early to panic, but the shoulder tape and the poor - for Tre - numbers are cause for concern.
- Pound it inside: Providence has size and they block a decent amount of shots, but they surrender far more points (51%) of their points inside than those numbers would suggest. Tyrique, Kerem Kanter, and especially Sean O’Mara should find room to play in the paint.
- Make the Friars shoot outside: Providence is effective from deep, but they would much rather not shoot the ball from outside. 39% of their attempts and only 30% of their points coming from behind the arc. Xavier is going to pack it in and dare the Friars to Arizona State them out of the zone or the packline. Sticking with that will make Ed Cooley adjust his strategy mid-game.
- Stay switched on: The Musketeers played a full game against Marquette their last road game, but they’ve developed a rather ugly habit of playing about 30 minutes of most contests recently. Even in the win over Butler, they rather obviously ran backwards through the gears as the game reached its denouement. Doing that on the road just invites trouble.