Providence comes into this one at 7-4 on the year and 3-2 in the conference. Their non-conference losses were to Indiana and Alabama, both in KenPom top 25 right now. The two Big East losses were a close one to Creighton and a bad loss to Butler. The wins in conference are an OT win over Seton Hall, a 2OT win over DePaul and a home win over Butler. Given those results it’s fair to say that the Friars have been a little all over the place this year.
As far as their schedule is concerned, the Friars haven’t had any recent brushes with Covid and have been playing consistently since late December. Their loss to Creighton came on the 2nd so their schedule has reamained fairly consistent.
Providence is almost the exact opposite of what X saw against St. John’s earlier this week. The Friars play at slow, methodical pace with their average possession length being just under 18 seconds (D-I average is 17) and their Adj. Tempo is one of the slowest in the country. This slow pace does help them with ball security and their TOrate top 40. While they don’t turn the ball over, they also cannot shoot it. Providence shoots a decent 52.5% from 2 but an abysmal 28.6% from beyond the arc. What they do well is crash the offensive glass and pull back almost a third of their own misses.
On defense Providence doensn’t force a lot of turnovers and they don’t rebound particularly well but they do force tough shots. Teams shoot under 50% from 2 and 33.6% from 3 against the Friars.
David Duke is the heart and soul of everything that Providence does. He is the only guy who can shoot the 3, dishes the ball well and is the best defensive rebounder on the squad. Nate Watson is another familiar face to X fans. Watson hits the offensive boards hard and gets most of his offense at the rim. He also rarely turns the ball over and is shooting much better from the line this year. Jared Bynum runs the point for the Friars and excels at setting up his teammates. He shoots a disgusting 7% from 3 and just 42% from inside the arc. Greg Gannt plays as a role guy on offense and rarely hunts his shot. He boards decently well but turns the ball over a bit too much. AJ Reeves drifts between the 3 and 4 depending on who’s on the court, but he’ll chuck up 3s regardless of position. Reeves lead the Friars in 3pt attempts but is only shooting 28%. He also rebounds decently and doesn’t turn the ball over much.
Providence is not very deep and only has 3 main subs that they regularly utilize. Ed Croswell spells Watson at center and hits the offensive glass hard, shoots mostly at the rim and is a terrible 23% from the line on the year. Noah Horchler plays as a forward and pulls in defensive rebounds at a high rate. He rarely turns the ball over and shoots well from 3 on limited attempts but is only shooting 37% from 2. The last of the main subs is Alyn Breed who, in addition to having a weird “y” in his name, plays as guard to provide Duke some rest. Breed has shot decently but doesn’t get a lot of usage and also turns the ball over a lot.
-Can the offense get going again? Providence doesn’t force turnovers but they do force tough shots from everywhere. Xavier’s offense has looked lost in the last three games and a team that forces tough shots isn’t a great matchup. The positive side is that X will be able to get the offense running withou relentless pressure and Providence’s main bigs aren’t as mobile as Freemantle or Griffin. There will be opportunities but X will have to take them more than they have been recently.
-Can we force them into tough shots? The Friars know they can’t shoot threes so they lean heavily on 2 point buckets and stick backs off of rebounds. X will need to force the Friars away from the bucket and make them take more jumpers than they are comfortable with.
-Can we keep them off the glass? Providence gets offensive boards better than Seton Hall and the Pirates abused Xavier on the boards. Nate Watson may be 10-ply but he crashes the glass hard and generates a lot of second chances for the Friars. Watson, Horchler and Croswell all need to be checked if X is gonna limit the Friars to one shot.
-Rebound hard. This ties directly to the last question but it cannot be overstated. Xavier needs to seal off the glass on defense. Providence doesn’t rebound well defensively so the bigs should get some second chance points and generate more possessions.
-Make someone other than David Duke beat us. David Duke is easily the best Providence player. He leads them in usage, minutes, FT%, 3PT%, assist rate and defensive rebounding. Simply put, the guy is a handful. If X can force the ball away from Duke and make someone else take control then that will be a huge difference maker.
-Set the tone. In order to avoid another Seton Hall style debacle, X will need to set the tone of the game from the start. Run the offense and get open shots, play tough defense and crash the boards at both ends. These will all be huge keys to setting the tone and getting a win.