Game Notes & Preview: Providence (13-7, 3-4) at (1) Villanova (18-1, 6-1) 1/21/17

Where: Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia, PA

When: 12:00pm EST

How: FOX (Tim Brando & Jim Jackson with Shannon Spake)/Fox Sports GO (Where Available)/WEEI 103.7 FM and Friars.com (John Rooke and Joe Hassett)/FriarTV

Game Notes

  • Providence and Villanova will meet for the 98th time ever on Saturday. The Wildcats lead the all-time series, 59-38. Providence is 13-30 all-time against Villanova in Philadelphia. The Friars split their two games during the regular season against the Wildcats with each team winning on the road. Villanova went on to defeat Providence in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament last March. The Wildcats received a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and went on to defeat North Carolina, the team Providence lost to in the Round of 32, for the national championship.
  • Providence is 1-5 this season on the road against an 11-1 record at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. The Friars are also 1-1 on neutral courts. Providence’s lone road win occurred in their last game on Monday against Georgetown at the Verizon Center.
  • Providence is 2-12 all-time against teams ranked #1 in the AP poll. In all but 2 of those games Providence was unranked. 7 of those 14 games has come against a Big East team. The Friars 2 wins are against Michigan on December 29, 1976 and February 24, 2009 against Pittsburgh. The win over Michigan was at home in the finals of the inaugural InBank Holiday Classic. The win over Pittsburgh was also on Providence’s home floor. Providence’s average margin of defeat in their 12 losses to #1 ranked teams is 18.25 points.
  • Villanova is 18-1 this season. The Wildcats’s only loss was at Butler on January 4th. Their last game was on Monday against Seton Hall at the Pavilion and they defeated the Pirates, 76-46. Villanova was picked to finish 1st in the preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll. The Wildcats are led by Jay Wright, who is in his 16th season at the helm of the Villanova program. Senior Josh Hart leads the Wildcats in scoring at 18.8 points/game, which ranks him first in the Big East. Hart also leads the team in rebounding,  averaging 6.5 rebounds/game, which ranks him 6th in the Big East.
  • Opening Line: Providence +17 at (1) Villanova 1/21/17

Game Preview

Providence heads down to Philadelphia on a modest 2-game winning streak, including their first road win on the season Monday night against Georgetown. The Friars will be looking for their first ever road win against a team ranked #1 in the nation. Providence’s 3-4 Big East record has them sitting 3-games back of the 6-1 Villanova Wildcats and in the middle of a logjam of 4 teams with 3 league wins (Xavier 3-3, Marquette 3-3, Providence 3-4, St. John’s 3-4).

Villanova is riding a 4-game winning streak heading into this game and they are 1-0 this season when playing at the Wells Fargo Center. That win came against Marquette on January 7th. The Friars did upset a 4th-ranked Villanova team last January at the Wells Fargo Center after that game was postponed by a day because of a blizzard. With a current high of 54 forecast for Saturday in Philadelphia this game appears to be on schedule. The Wildcats certainly hope everything goes as planned with Vegas’ opening line declaring Villanova a 17-point favorite.

The probable starters according to the game notes are:

Providence
Villanova

The keys to victory for Providence are to play pressure defense, score in transition and get Rodney Bullock scoring early. Look for Ed Cooley to mix and match zone and man-to-man defenses against the Wildcats to keep them off-balance and not allow them to get into a rythym. If the Wildcats are making outside shots there’s virtually no chance for the Friars so Providence needs to play pressure defense to force Villanova into contested two’s.

Providence is a much better team, not to mention more fun to watch, when they are playing transition offense. Villanova’s defense has been very good this season and Providence’s offense has shown the ability to bog down and go through droughts in the halfcourt. When the Friars get out and run they can be electric. It would also help if some of their shooters wake up and go on a barrage.

Bullock needs to start his scoring from the inside out with Villanova vulnerable to post scoring. If Bullock can get the ball in positions to score inside 10 feet early in this game his confidence will grow and that would allow his long distance shooting to come naturally, rather than taking 25-foot heat checks.

Prediction: Providence 58 Villanova 71

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