Ah, it’s already that time of the year. Presents have been opened, it’s not quite New Year’s, and conference play is just about to commence. Xavier opens Big East play this year against a Providence team sans-Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil, so they won’t exactly be the same test they were last season.
Losing Dunn and Bentil to the NBA Draft was a striking, but expected, blow to this Friars team. They haven’t actually been quite as bad as some predicted coming into the year. Providence currently stands at 10-3, but eight of those wins have been against teams outside the top 100. Their best win was a three point victory over Rhode Island (ring a bell? Old A-10 foe…) on December 3rd.
Providence is coming off a loss to the abysmal Boston College Eagles, and Head Coach Ed Cooley was not pleased with his team’s performance, “We were pathetic today. That was probably the worst loss since I’ve been at Providence College.” Tell us how you really feel, Ed. Their other two losses are against Virginia, who is well, really good, and Ohio State, who’s not so good but not a horrible loss.
The Friars are a much better team on defense than on offense, ranking in the upper half of Division I in every major defensive category. They force a LOT of turnovers, and are pretty stout on defense beyond the arc. One notable statistic is that they will let you run down the shot clock, ranking 318th in average defensive possession length. Xavier is dangerous in transition with the likes of Edmond Sumner and Trevon Bluiett, so that will be one thing to keep an eye on.
Players to Know
Rodney Bullock is a workhorse, playing nearly 85% of the team’s available minutes while taking about 30% of the team’s shots. He’s a good shooter that will drive the lane and get to the line.
You may remember Kyron Cartwright and Jalen Lindsey as well. Those two, along with Emmit Holt and Isaiah Jackson, comprise a large chunk of Providence’s rotation.
For what it’s worth, KenPom has Xavier as the 10 point favorites. The Cintas Center is sold out, save for some standing room tickets. I’ll be there, and I hope you will be too.