Game Notes & Preview: Providence (15-11, 5-8) vs Xavier (18-7, 8-4) 2/15/17

Where: Dunkin’ Donuts Center – Providence, RI

When: 6:30pm EST

How: FS1 (Tim Brando & Bill Raftery)/Fox Sports GO (Where Available)/WEEI 103.7 FM and Friars.com (John Rooke and Joe Hassett)/FriarTV

Game Notes

  • Providence and Xavier will meet for the 11th time ever on Wednesday. The Musketeers lead the all-time series, 7-3. Providence is 3-1 all-time at home against Xavier. The Musketeers have beaten Providence four straight times. The last time Providence beat Xavier was January 22, 2015 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, 69-66, in overtime. Xavier beat Providence, 82-56, earlier this season at the Cintas Center.
  • Providence is 2-7 this season on the road against a 12-3 record at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Providence is 3-3 at home in Big East play. The Friars are also 1-1 on neutral courts.
  • There are some interesting coaching connections in this game. Chris Mack was a graduate assistant and Director of Basketball Operations alongside  Providence assistant Jeff Battle on Skip Prosser’s coaching staff at Xavier. Mack followed Prosser to Wake Forest where he was an assistant coach alongside Battle who was the associate head coach on that staff. Mack’s coach at Xavier when he played for the Musketeers was Pete Gillen who is Xavier’s all-time winningest coach. Gillen also took Providence to two NIT’s and an Elite Eight in four seasons with the Friars.
  • Xavier is 18-7 this season, including an 8-4 Big East record. The Musketeers went 1-1 last week with a win against DePaul and the loss to Villanova. Both games were at home and the Villanova loss snapped a 4-game winning streak. This game against Providence starts a 3-game road trip for the Musketeers. The Musketeers were ranked 24th in last week’s AP Poll but fell out of the Top 25 this week, landing 27th. 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 17.9 points/game, which ranks him third in the Big East. Senior RaShid Gaston leads the team in  rebounding,  averaging 6.4 rebounds/game, which ranks him fifth in the Big East.
  • Opening Line: Providence -3 vs Xavier 2/15/17

Game Preview

Providence is coming off their best win of the season over then 22nd-ranked Butler on Saturday. That game was played in front of a sold out Dunkin’ Donuts Center crowd on Alumni & Family Weekend. The Friars are still holding out hope for a fourth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. If they are to have any real chance come Selection Sunday this is a must win game.

Xavier got bad news when starting point guard Edmond Sumner tore his ACL on January 29th in a game against St. John’s. Then Trevon Bluiett, their leading scorer who has been carrying the team on his back, was forced out of their last game against Villanova when he re-aggravated an ankle injury. His status for this game is unknown as of this publishing. This game begins a 3-game road trip for Xavier. Four of their six remaining Big East game will be played on the road.

The probable starters according to the game notes are:

Providence
Xavier

The keys to victory for Providence are keep Xavier away from offensive rebounds and the free throw line while hitting some 3-pointers. These keys to victory are essentially playing to Providence’s strength on offense while trying to limit Xavier’s best attributes. The Musketeers are tops in Big East play at grabbing offensive rebounds. They do it at a 35.8% clip in league play and 35.4% for the full season. Their total year offensive rebound rate is 25th nationally. They also get to the free throw line at a high clip, though they aren’t the best at converting. Xavier’s FTA/FGA is 48.0 in league play and 42.9 for the full season. Their number is the best in the Big East and 22nd in the country. They are only converting at a 69% rate on the season but they score 22.4% of their points at the charity stripe.

Providence is shooting 37.2% from beyond the arc in Big East play, which is second-best and they get 30% of the points from downtown. The Friars have been hurt by Xavier’s vaunted 1-3-1 zone defense that Chris Mack has deployed effectively against the Friars, especially when J.P. Macura is using his wingspan at the top. If Providence can shoot well from beyond the arc it will force Mack to retreat from this bothersome zone defense and help Providence execute in the halfcourt, something they did well down the stretch of their win over Butler on Saturday.

Prediction: Providence 68 Xavier 67

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