Scouting Xavier at No. 11 Providence
Andy Mac Williams,
Muskies enter final two weeks of regular season at 17-9 overall, 7-8 BIG EAST-tied for 6th w/ Seton Hall and St Johns. XU holds at #25 in NCAA NET(The all important number re NCAA at large bid selection and seeding). NET resume' is strong(5-7 Quad 1 w/ Marquette home game win close to being re-added plus Quad 1 games yet to be played) at Providence Wednesday( 7PM-CBSSN)-possibly Saturday at Cintas vs Seton Hall(3:30 PM-BIG FOX) and at St Johns( Wed. March 2nd-6:30 PM FS1). X also is 4-4 on the road w/ significant wins at Oklahoma State, Butler, DePaul and Creighton). Bad losses are minimal(12-4 Quad 2-4 games w/ "Ls" to DePaul and St Johns at Cintas). 4 games are left until BET at MSG (at PC, home Seton Hall, at St Johns, home Georgetown).
I'll stick w/ my previous stance (two more wins upping the total to 19-headed into NYC and Xavier is in the NCAA field of 68. Bracketmatrix surveys 113 of the best bracketologists( I guess they're pros??) and right now X appears in all 113 brackets w/ and average seed of 6.90. Muskies are "in" safely barring a full blown collapse (i.e. 0-4 to finish regular season plus a 1st Round BET loss on March 9th in NYC).
Some gloomy Gusses are pointing to last season and the 1-4 finish including that nasty BET OT 70-69 loss to Butler. Xavier sat around 58 NET w/ one NET Quad 1 win(home-Creighton). TEAM 100s situation is far from dire. Certainly, wins are needed, wanted, suggested, preferred, but the odds are still in Muskies' favor for BIG DANCE inclusion.
THE BIG EAST picture is not so promising. Places 9-11 seem locked in(Butler 6-11, DePaul 3-13 and G-town 0-15). X is locked into 6th at 7-8 w/ ST Johns and Seton Hall. Muskies could climb into Top 5 and earn a 1st Round BET Bye by going 4-0. The computer odds are about 3% of that happening according to TEAM Rankings.
Looks like a Wednesday BET game and a chance for 6th because XU plays both SHU and St Johns down the stretch. Good idea for XU to go 2-2 or 3-1 here to make that March 9 game at MSG way less stressful.
SCOUTING Xavier at Providence (22-3, 12-2 BE-1st Place) Wed (7 PM-CBSSN). Friars are 11th AP Top 25. #28 NET. PC is 14-1 at home(Dunkin' Doughnuts Center). Lone home loss last Tuesday 89-84 to Villanova. It took a clutch career high 33 point performance from VU guard Collin Gillespie.
PC is tough in close games(10-1 in games decided by 5 points or less-that Villanova defeat). They've been dogging bullets all year and surviving(OT wins over DePaul at PC and at Butler in last 10 days.
Xavier-PC Game #1 Jan 26th at Cintas-Muskies stormed back from 14 point hole at take a 62-60 lead w/ under a minute to play. PC tied it at 62 all. Paul Scruggs had a lay-up rim out w/ 9 seconds left. PC rebounded. Jared Bynum pulled up and buried a "3" close to the buzzer and PC won 65-62. Friar BIG Nate Watson fought foul trouble all night( 0 points-2 rebounds). Best 3 point shooter A. J. Reeves DNP(injured finger). Al Durham killed Xavier( 22 points-4 assists). Bynum and Ed Croswell saved PC w/ 26 bench points. XU got nothing from Nate Johnson and Adam Kunkel(0-8 from "3").
Nate is a game time decision(sore knee-out two games). PC's Durham(Indiana transfer) DNP Sunday at Butler(injury). Only Ed Cooley knows his status. PC is favored at the Dunk. Cooley bases his style on toughness.
Providence needs a win to keep ahead of Villanova for BIG EAST Title(PC 12-2 w/ 3 to play-next Tues at Nova)(VU 14-3-playing at UConn Tuesday 2-22). Both VU and PC are in the running for a TOP 4 NCAA Seed. So don't expect any slack from Friars.
Pressure and Nerves maybe?? But PC has 5 Super Seniors and they all seem bought in. Watson is the Horse inside(usually a double-double guy, but he does foul a lot). Croswell is a key BIG back-up(LaSalle transfer-tiger on the glass-gives Coach Cooley the rope to rest and protect Nate Watson).
North Florida transfer Noah Horchler has been GREAT (8+rebounds-excellent spot-up "3" sniper-all court hustler. Bynum has won two BE Player of he Week Awards in Feb. Shooting 50% from "3"-22PPG last 5. A.J. Reeves is back and struggling(7-27 from "3" in last 6 games). but he is so streaky. Leave him alone at the arc and he just goes off.
If Durham cannot play, it forces Cooley to start Bynum and cuts his rotation. PC can always decide to grind you w/ their tight slow flex offense and w/ XU's recent drought from 3 point range, expect some zone defense.
X needs a HUGE consistent effort. This would be a confidence booster shot road win and a GIANT positive check mark on the NCAA NET score card.