Where: Cintas Center – Cincinnati, OH
When: 7:00pm EST
- Providence and Xavier will meet for the 10th time ever on Wednesday. The Musketeers lead the all-time series, 6-3. Providence went 0-2 against Xavier last season.
- Providence is 88-229 in games against ranked opponents, including 71-206 when they are unranked. They are 1-1 this season against ranked teams with the loss coming against then 7th-ranked Virginia in the championship of the 2016 Emerald Coast Classic in Destin, FL and the win coming against then 21st ranked Rhode Island at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. That win against the Rams snapped a 6-game losing streak against ranked opponents that dated back to January 26, 2016 when Xavier beat Providence, 75-68, at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. That game was the first time in school history that both Providence and their opponent met at home while both being ranked in the Top 10. Providence was ranked 10th and Xavier 7th.
- Xavier is 10-2 this season. The Musketeers only losses in the non-conference came in their two true road games in back-to-back games at Baylor and at Colorado. Xavier was picked to finish 2nd in the preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll. The Musketeers are led by Chris Mack, who is in his 8th season at the helm of the Xavier program.Junior Trevon Bluiett leads the Musketeers in scoring at 19.0 points/game. Senior Rashid Gaston leads the team in rebounding, averaging 6.8 rebounds/game.
- Opening Line: Providence +10 at (17) Xavier 12/28/16
Both Providence and Xavier enter Big East play with 10 wins during the non-conference portion of the schedule. The Friars are coming off a lackluster performance at Boston College, while the Musketeers come off a 29-point beat down against Eastern Washington on December 20th. Providence was picked second from last in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll and Xavier was picked second. Providence, beginning a 5-day road trip with this game in Cincinnati, is the only team in the Big East to open the conference season with consecutive road games.
Xavier continues to be without veteran guard Myles Davis who has been suspended indefinitely since September 1st. Chris Mack confirmed during a media teleconference on Tuesday that Davis would not be back for this matchup against Providence. Davis’ 3-point shooting and help handling the ball have been two areas that Xavier has missed. The Musketeers are shooting just 33.5% from beyond the arc as a team, good for 224th nationally. Trevon Bluiett appears to be ready to finally break out as a star in the Big East. Bluiett has been a staple in the Xavier lineup since the day he arrived in Cincinnati, but he’s taken his production up a notch from a 12.9 points/game in his first two seasons to 18.9 points/game this season. Providence also has to contend with the always pesky J.P. Macura, especially when Chris Mack decides to employ the 1-3-1 zone that has given Providence fits the last few seasons. Look for that zone to be employed out of timeouts by Mack.
The probable starters according to the game notes are:
- Kyron Cartwright – #24 – Junior
- Isaiah Jackson – #44 – Sophomore
- Jalen Lindsey – #21 – Junior
- Rodney Bullock – #5 – Junior
- Emmitt Holt – #15 – Junior
- Edmond Sumner – #4 – Sophomore
- Malcolm Bernard – #11 – Graduate Student
- J.P. Macura – #55 – Junior
- Trevon Bluiett – #5 – Junior
- Rashid Gaston– #35 – Senior
The keys to victory for Providence are to protect against offensive rebounds and limit turnovers. Xavier grabs 34.9% of offensive rebounds available to them. That ranks 49th in the country. Their starting lineup isn’t overly big but they have big guards and some beef off the bench in Sean O’Mara, Tyrique Jones and Kaiser Gates. Providence cannot afford to get killed on the glass in this game. They also need to play with poise on the road and limit turnovers that give Xavier extra possessions and chances for easy baskets in transition. The Musketeers have the 45th-best Steal % in the nation at 10.9%.
The Friars haven’t proven they can win on the road yet this season and I’m not expecting them to buck that trend in this tough Big East opener against 17th-ranked Xavier at the Cintas Center.
Prediction: Providence 60 Xavier 72
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