Game Notes & Preview: Providence 11-4 (1-1) at Butler 11-4 (1-1) 1/6/15

Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse – Indianapolis, IN

When: 9:00 PM

How: CBS Sports Network (Carter Blackburn & Pete Gillen)/WEEI 103.7 FM and Friars.com (John Rooke and Joe Hassett)/FriarTV

Game Notes

  • This will mark the 3rd meeting all-time between Providence and Butler. The series is led by the Friars, 2-0, with both meetings taking place last season during Butler’s inaugural season in the Big East.
  • Buter welcomes Providence to historic Hinkle Fieldhouse following a two game road trip to open Big East play. The Bulldogs lost the opener during the New Year’s Eve marathon at Villanova but managed to grab a win against St. John’s in Queens before returning home to the friendly confines for this Big East home opener against the Friars. The Bulldogs are led in scoring by junior guard Kellen Dunham, who averages 16.9 points/game. Leading on the glass is senior forward Kameron Woods, who averages 8.9 rebounds/game.
  • Providence got off to a 1-1 start in conference play following a 12 point victory over Creighton on December 31st and then a 9 point loss at Marquette on January 3rd.
  • The line opened with Providence as a 7 point underdog. Movement has been down to as low as +5.5 but is back up to +6. The total is 128.5.

Kenpom InstaGamePrep™

Note: Stats include games through January 5th vs D-1 teams only

Kenpom.com
Kenpom.com
Kenpom.com
Kenpom.com

Game Preview

The road has been unkind to the Providence Friars this season. Ed Cooley’s group has played 3 true road games and those games account for 3 of their 4 losses on the season. As I discussed with Dirkus Callahan from ButlerHoops.com Providence was able to recover from those prior losses by simply playing better basketball. For some reason that brand of rhythmic offense and tough-rebounding defense has eluded Providence on the road.

Butler is not the team that Providence swept last season in the Bulldogs’ first season in the Big East. They are another year experienced, have less off-the-court issues especially now that Chris Holtmann has had the interim tag removed and is the permanent head coach and the Bulldogs got back Roosevelt Jones from injury. Jones makes such a difference for this Butler team. It’s obvious when you watch the games but the stats also tell the story. Junior leading scorer Kellen Dunham has had some pressure taken off by the return of Jones and also the improved play of Alex Barlow.

Dunham has improved his 3-point FG% from 35.5% a season ago to 48.1% which is tied for 2nd in the league behind Seton Hall’s Sterling Gibbs who is shooting an unreal 50% from beyond the arc. The simplest way to explain that improvement is that Dunham hasn’t had to create his own shots as often. This season Dunham has had 89.5% of his made 3-point shots assisted, per Hoop-Math.com. During the 2013-14 season when he had to handle the ball much more that number was just 60.3%. It stands to reason that a player shooting off a pass with feet set and possibly space to get the shot off will shoot a higher percentage than someone having to take the same shot off the dribble.

Providence will have to keep do their best to limit Dunham’s open looks while also limiting penetration. I expect Dunn and Lindsey to rotate on Dunham with Lindsey drawing the majority of that assignment. On the other side of the ball Butler is putting up some impressive statistics. The Bulldogs are 18th nationally in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, per Kenpom.com. They also force turnovers at a high rate (22.3%), defend the 3-point line very well (27.9%), clean the defensive glass well and get steals at a high rate (11.5%). Providence will need to limit their turnovers which has been a problem on the road so far this season. Kris Dunn has been the main culprit on that front.

The keys to the game for Providence are limit turnovers, clean the glass on both ends of the floor and have a secondary scorer step up behind LaDontae Henton who has carried the scoring load to the tune of 31.5 points/game in the Friars’ 2 league games this season. Failure to do these things will almost certainly result in another road loss for this team as they aren’t good enough to make mistakes like high turnover  numbers or have only 1 scorer in double figures and win against a good team on the road.

Prediction: Providence 58  Butler 63

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