Scouting No. 17 Providence at No. 21 Xavier - Wednesday (6:30 PM, CBSSN)
Andy Mac Williams,
Scouting Providence( 16-2, 6-1 BIG EAST, #17 AP) at Xavier( 14-4, 4-3 BE, #21 AP)-Wednesday(6:30 PM-TV CBSSN). KenPom picks XU 74-67. I'll take that right now. PC's off to best start ever in BIG EAST(1st place-6-1) ahead of 7-2 Villanova. VU hosts DePaul Tuesday. 16-2 is Friar's best start since 1977-78 before BIG EAST was born w/ Dave Gavitt coaching. Ed Cooley preaches toughness(current PC coach-just passed 300 career wins). Provi is hard to play against-stubborn-grinding-nasty. They'll gladly play half court hammer ball and win on the road ugly.
Look at their away wins already( 63-58 at Wisconsin and 57-53 at UConn). Both Badgers and Huskies are Top 25. PC played at their pace(slow) and pounded to victory. PC's only losses so far are to Virginia and at Marquette( 88-56 in Milwaukee) but Muskie fans know now how well MU is playing after Sunday's 75-64 loss up there.
PC crashes the offensive glass(so does XU). PC shoots a ton of FTs-4th NCAA. So does Xavier! PC is an "OLD" team w/ a bunch of 5 and 6 year guys. PC has the best low post guy in BIG EAST( 6-10, 260 SR Nate Watson)-14PPG-6 boards-very phyisical(like body blows). Get the rib pads and mouth guards ready.
La Salle transfer Ed Croswell is much more productive as a back-up in year 2 at PC(6PPg-4REBS) so bully ball is not all on #0. #5 can play!! Al Durham comes over from Indiana(Grad student-6th year) driver who draws fouls and gets buckets(13PPG-3REBS-3 assists). North Florida transfer Noah Horchler is having a strong 2nd year under Cooley(31 minutes-10PPG-8REBs-30 made "3s").
PC's weak spot is 3 point shooting especially w/ top sniper A.J. Reeves out since Jan 1st w/ a broken finger. Reeves could play at Xavier tomorrow??(11PPG-30 made "3s" before injury-15PPG last 4G before getting hurt). PC sports a tight 8 man rotation w/ Reeves available. 6-3 Soph Allyn Breed is starting at guard. St. Joe's transfer Jared Bynum is coming off the bench and playing well as a combo guard.
X can win this. It's a borderline NET Quad 1 win-would push XU to 5-3 BE(3-1 at Cintas). Muskies have to push the pace and get the score into uncomfortable range for PC(+ 70 points).
The ball has been sticking for XU offensive w/ overdribbling. More ball movement should free up 3 point shooters(Nate Johnson and Adam Kunkel). Maybe Travis Steele calls more set plays. That set play stuff works well out of time-outs and on out of bounds plays for Xavier. Why not more of that in half court offense??
But that's all window dressing unless XU at least breaks even w/ PC on the glass-in 50-50 balls and at FT line. This could well be a down and dirty BIG EAST slobber knocker, but it's advantage PC if the score winds up in the 50s.
X playing at home should be able to speed PC up and drive the score above 70 for the win. Tuesday in BIG EAST-DePaul at Villanova (7PM-FS1) and Georgetown at UConn( 8:30PM-CBSSN).
Wednesday in addition to PC at XU-Creighton at Butler(6:30PM-FS1) and Marquette at Seton Hall(8:30PM-FS1).