SCOUTING PROVIDENCE!! FRIARS ARE A HANDFUL!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Brad Redford has been ripping me at every turn for my strong positive opinion of Providence College. I picked them TOP 2 or 3 in the BIG EAST before the start of the season. Their overall record at the moment is 11-6, 1-4 in the BIG EAST-tied for 9th with Creighton. Not sterling, but PC Coach Ed Cooley usually crafts strong finishes for his Friars(5 straight NCAA bids-5 straight 20 plus win seasons). Cooley has assembled a ton of talent- a lot concentrated in the Freshman and Sophomore classes. PC lost three impact Seniors including long time starting PG Kyron Cartwright and 1500 point scorer Rodney Bullock. Senior BIG Emmitt Holt has barely played after missing last season entirely with an abdominal problem. Star Frosh guard A J Reeves started the season on fire(14PPG through the first 9 games-winning 3 BE Frosh of the Week honors). Reeves has missed 8 games with a foot injury, but might play vs Xavier Wednesday at Cintas(6:30 Tip-FS1).
Cooley is an optimist. Last season X spanked PC convincingly 84-74 February 28th at Cintas. Cooley wanted Xavier again at the BIG EAST Tourney in NYC. He got his wish in the semi-finals and the Muskies were rolling-up 17 points in the second half. Cooley used every trick and tactic and tool in his tool box. PC was stubborn and resilient. They beat XU in OT. Then lost to Villanova in the Final also in OT. Cooley plays a lot of guys(10-11 if Reeves returns to the floor).
His young team is getting better and more consistent. Effort is never an issue with PC. They play physically-attack the rim and the glass-and are just a tough out. Witness their last two games! Last Tuesday at the Dunk Provi drubbed Seton Hall 72-63 forcing 22 Pirate turnovers and holding SHU star Myles Powell to 12 points on 4-15 shooting. Sunday PC led streaking Marquette 33-25 at the half on "D Wade" Day in Milwaukee crushing MU on the glass. Marquette rallied to win 79-68 with the Friars struggling from three and the FT line, but MU had to work very hard for the win.
Check out the road record(2-2) with wins at Boston College and Texas and losses at Georgetown 96-90 in a wild double OT game when GU tied it twice at the end of regulation and at the buzzer in OT#1 on long lucky three pointers and at Marquette where the Golden Eagles are 13-0. Flip in the fact Providence is semi-desperate at 1-4 and #83 in the NCAA NET and they're 0-5 in five BIG EAST trips to Cintas-stir briskly and you have a tough winning assignment for Xavier.
It all starts with 6-7 all court Junior Alpha Diallo(17PPG-9REBS-3.4 assists-2 steals-37 minutes/game). Alpha scores from all over-defends-crashes the offensive glass. First Team All BIG EAST and NBA bound if he hones a better outside shot. 6-10 Soph Nate Watson is starting over Junior Kalif Young in the post. Watson muscled up at Marquette(21 points-12 rebounds). Getting Watson the ball down low almost always nets a bucket and/or FTs. Tyrique and Zack definitely have a BIG BODY to bang against. PC can play small ball, but they are better with Watson or Young as a legit back to the basket option.
6-3 Junior Maliek White has been starting at PG with 5 star Frosh 6-5 David Duke at the 2. Reeves will play 2 guard if he's deemed healthy. Soph Makai Ashton Langford has won a lot of minutes recently. He is a high energy PG who draws charges and plays with excellent energy. Cooley goes BIG on the wing with 6-6 Isiah Jackson a Senior and George Mason transfer. 6-4 Junior Drew Edwards is a strong defender and Cooley trusts him in tight situations.
Two more Frosh are in the rotation. Bouncy dynamic 6-8 Jimmy Nichols is starting recently. 6-8 Kris Monroe can make threes. Cooley is still toying with line-ups and combinations. Lack of experience bites PC sometimes, but the talent is extreme and they play hard under Cooley who just lets them play and accepts inexperienced mistakes.
PC runs a lot of the flex offense which starts low and plays to their strong inside game and offensive rebounding prowess. The first shot just initiates the offense. The young guards have size and may be over eager, but they are very talented and learning on the job.
Diallo is handling being option #1. Watson is a load inside. Nichols can be scary explosive. The Friars are not run and gun. They operate best by controlling tempo-running offensive sets and pounding the glass. Three point shooting and FT production has been spotty so far. PC is very aggressive on defense. They will press and can play zone if XU beats them consistently off the dribble.
Cooley is a trip on the sidelines with his flashy checked suits and nose bleeds and ripped trousers. Jeff Battle is Cooley's experienced top assistant. J B coached under Skip Prosser at Xavier then followed Skip to Wake Forest and stayed at Wake under Dino Gaudio.
X is 11-8, 3-3 BIG EAST-tied for 3rd with Butler in a long jam behind top dogs Villanova(5-0) now #18 in AP Top 25 and Marquette(5-1) now #12 in AP. Xavier needs to defend the home court this week against PC and then Marquette Saturday afternoon. More bench help would be cool against deep Provi. Ryan Welage, Elias Harden and Keonte Kennedy must play some productive minutes-not just be place holders.
The BIG line-up with Tyrique and Zach Hankins on the floor together should play well vs PC as it did against Georgetown. XU's BIG guards against PC's BIG guards should be an interesting match-up. If Xavier follows their winning formula ala Georgetown and Butler(low turnovers-winning the rebound and FT stats-playing inside-out) the Muskies should win this.