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Xavier v. Providence: Preview, matchups, keys to the game

NCAA Basketball: Providence at Georgetown
“AM I A GOOD COACH?”
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

This is a big one. Xavier enters this game having lost two in a row and having looked wretched in both of them. Providence has won two of three but needed overtime to beat both DePaul and (shudder) Butler to sandwich wins around a loss to Villanova. Providence has a glittering record but is not a very good team per the metrics. Xavier is a good team per the metrics but doesn’t have the record to back it up.

If the Musketeers win this one, and don’t then do the unmentionable, their ticket to the tournament is punched. Providence will be eyeing a high seed and a return to form. You come to the Big East for games like this.

Team fingerprint:

On defense is where the Friars can be had. They don’t defend the arc terribly well and have struggled recently to defend as well inside the arc. They also don’t cause turnovers at all. Against a Xavier team that doesn’t turn the ball over it would stand to reason that the Musketeers will be able to get shots. The Friars won’t block many of those shots, either.

Right now Providence has the fourth most efficient offense in the conference. They shoot the three fairly well, but don’t do anything else at a shockingly high rate. The Friars will get to the line better than any other team in the Big East, but their conversion rate there of 74% isn’t even in the top half. In short, Providence is solid but unspectacular.

Players

Starters

Jared Bynum Point Guard Paul Scruggs
Junior Class Senior
5'10", 180 Measurements 6'5", 198
12.2/2.6/4.2 Game line 12/4.5/4.2
44.8/45.2/73.2 Shooting line 42.7/32.9/69
Bynum has come off the bench most of the season, but started last game and responded with 18/2/5. He currently leads the Big East in 3p% and is second in assist rate, so if you are looking for a point guard who can knock down shots and set up his teammates (and who isn't?), he's your guy.
A.J. Reeves Shooting Guard Dwon Odom
Senior Class Sophomore
6'6", 205 Measurements 6'2", 181
9.3/2.8/1.9 Game line 6/1.9/2.1
35.7/33.6/82.4 Shooting line 59.4/33.3/80.5
Reeves is a familiar face for Xavier and is still much the same player he has been in his 4 years at PC. He relies on three point shooting to provide value on offense, although he is just 3-15 since returning from pinky injury. On defense, he rates as one of Providence's two best perimeter defenders, although Justin Minaya is usually tasked with the toughest assignment.
Justin Minaya Small Forward Colby Jones
Senior Class Sophomore
6'7", 210 Measurements 6'6", 207
6.3/5.7/1.4 Game line 10.2/7.5/2.8
41.9/33.8/55.6 Shooting line 46/28/72.3
Minaya is the player who Providence will task with guarding the opposition's best perimeter threat. He blocks shots at a good rate for someone his size and has found his three point stroke in conference play in order to provide some value on offense. One of his closest statistical comps is 2017 Malcolm Bernard, and he fits the same kind of role Mal did as being someone who is not option A (or B or even C) on offense, but makes the glue guy plays that help the team.
Noah Horchler Power Forward Zach Freemantle
Senior Class Junior
6'8", 220 Measurements 6'9" 220
10/8.5/1.8 Game line 9.8/5.4/1.4
46/41.7/72.7 Shooting line 44.1/14.7/69.2
Horchler has rounded out his game this season after being pretty much exclusively a spot up shooter last year. He is still shooting the three remarkably well, but he also is second in the conference in defensive rebounding and is a pretty decent shot blocker as well.
Nate Watson Center Jack Nunge
Senior Class Junior
6'10", 260 Measurements 7'0" 245
14.2/5.6/0.5 Game line 13.4/7.2/0.8
56.4/0/60.4 Shooting line 53.2/35.2/75
Last time these teams met, Watson had his worst game of the season but he is coming off 22 points in the win over Butler. He is exteremely effective at the rim and Xavier will need to do well to hold him in check again.

Reserves

The big question for Providence is the status of Al Durham, who missed the trip to Butler with a lower body injury. When healthy, Durham is the Friars’ second leading scorer and is capable of creating his own shot when things break down. Ed Crosswell is a big who is more than willing to mix it up in the post. He blocks shots and rebounds like a man possessed. Unfortunately, he also fouls like a man possessed. Alyn Breed has started sporadically, but seems to have taken a bit of a step back from his freshman campaign and has seen his playing time dwindle as a result.

Three questions:

- Where is the old Zach Freemantle? Can you imagine the freshman year Big Frosty being so cowed by an opposing big man that he took on the role of (bad) spot up shooter? That’s what has happened to the preseason all Big East player. Freemantle looks like a shell of his old self most games. If Xavier is going to win against the packed in defenses that they are going to see the rest of the way, Zach needs to grow a pair some intestinal fortitude.

- Is is time to start Adam Kunkel? Xavier doesn’t have a take charge player. The only guy who exudes that kind of energy is BJK. When he’s on, like against UConn, he can be close to unstoppable. Xavier has consistently stumbled out of the blocks on offense and waited for someone, anyone, to get going. Put the guy who is a live wire in from the off.

- Who steps up? Someone has to. Paul Scruggs should be the guy, but he waits for the game to come to him. Jack Nunge can be the guy, but he is in danger of being run to death. Colby Jones is scared of his jumper, Zach Freemantle should be scared of his. Someone has to take this game by the throat early and get after it. Someone, please, be a leader and take charge.

Three keys:

- Offensive rebound: Providence isn’t a bad rebounding team, but they aren’t a great one either. Xavier needs some sort of boost on the offensive end. Some second chance points would be great. The teams were dead even no matter how you slice it in the rebounding battle last time they met.

- Make six threes: When Xavier makes six three pointers they are 11-3. Obviously this won’t work if they need 40 to get there, but even going a stridently mediocre 6-18 would open up the paint and let the Musketeers big men have a little bit of room to work.

- DON’T START SLOW: If Xavier trails by double digits in the first half, this one is over. Please, for the love of everything holy, don’t get buried early.