Previewing the Providence Friars: Please Don’t Make This Interesting


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All of a sudden this has become a must-win game. With the loss to Marquette on Saturday, the Bearcats are now 7 – 5 in the Big East with just six-to-play. UC can’t afford to drop a Presbyterian-sized egg tomorrow night against a Friars team that has just two Big East wins on the season. But don’t let the record fool you, the only games that are stranger than Cincinnati-Providence are Cincinnati-St. John’s. The last three match-ups resulted in a Friar win, a frighteningly close UC win, and a Cincinnati victory in which the Bearcats blew a 17-point lead to allow Providence to send the game to overtime. So even though they are dead last in the conference, don’t sleep on the Friars.

Key Numbers

The Friars are young. Very young. As in 11 freshman and sophomores, young. Cincinnati will clearly have the experience advantage tomorrow night and a rocking 5/3rd arena will only make the young Providence squad all the more rattled. It’s important for UC to jump out to a lead early and never take the pedal off the metal. They certainly can’t let the Friars get into a rhythm early. Statistically, Providence is the best team in the Big East from beyond the arc with a 36.5% shooting percentage. Two Friars shoot better than 38% from three point land. But overall they don’t have many weapons on offense as only four Friars garner more than 21 minutes of floor-time per game and 83% of their scoring (58.4 ppg) are shared between those same players (Cotton, Henton, Council, Coleman). It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that if Cincinnati shuts down even 1 or 2 of these players, Providence will have trouble scoring points.

Players to Watch

– Cashmere Wright: The Bearcats have had a turnover problem recently. While there are a lot of guys that need to be held accountable, Cash is player that runs this offense and making sure the ball gets to where it needs to go in transition is his responsibility. Also, Wright needs to regain control of this team. He’s slipped a bit since Yancy Gates has returned from suspension and Cash needs to make sure each and every player out there knows that the offense runs through him.

– Bilal Dixon (#42) vs. Yancy Gates: The Friars’ leading blocker (1.4 per game) is also one of the biggest players on the team. Typically Yancy Gates will have a size advantage over the player he is guarding underneath the basket, and he his numbers have benefited from that in recent games, but not tomorrow night. Dixon matches up well with Gates from a size standpoint but Yancy, if motivated, has a lot of moves in his arsenal to score on him in the paint. It will be an interesting battle to watch.

– LeDontae Henton (#23): He is Providence’s leading rebounder and second leading 3-point shooter. Henton essentially plays like Jae Crowder of Marquette and Moe Harkless of St. John’s. The Bearcats have seen enough of those to players to know that they will need to pull out all the stops to contain Henton. He’ll be a matchup problem for UC much like Crowder/Harkless was. The Bearcats will have to shut him down with double teams and crashing him early if he tries to drive the lane.

Final Thoughts and Prediction

Despite all that you just read, Providence is still a 2 – 11 Big East team. This should be a walk in the park for a Cincinnati team that is both playing at home and desperate for a win. But the past few times the Bearcats and Friars have hooked up have wound up being some of the strangest games the two have played. Despite the history, there is too much on the line for Cincinnati to lay an egg tomorrow. They win this one. I hope:

Cincinnati: 78

Providence: 65