Villanova will make the return trip to “The Dunk” Wednesday night to take on the Providence Friars. Ed Cooley’s squad faced off against the ‘Cats just a few weeks ago at the Wells Fargo Center and Villanova came away with a 89-69 win.
Since then, the Friars have been streaky, to say the least. They followed up the loss to Villanova with a loss at Seton Hall, before winning in a tough environment at Marquette. They needed a late rally to take down Georgetown at home, and just this past Saturday they were thoroughly outplayed at home by a below-average DePaul squad.
Here are three things to watch for:
Following the loss to DePaul, Providence now sits at 16-9 on the season, and 7-5 in Big East play. By most accounts, that currently puts them just on the right side of the bubble. Most projections have them in the 9-10 seed range. A big reason for those projections are home victories against three of the top teams in the Big East: Providence defeated Xavier, Butler, and Creighton at “The Dunk”.
However, the Friars have a tough end to the season and Wednesday is one of there last opportunities for a big home win. A loss to Villanova in and of itself won’t hurt a team’s tournament chances, but Providence could realistically drop three more following there game against the Wildcats. A win would boost Providence’s resume, and give them some wiggle room heading into the home stretch of their schedule.
Three Point Shooting
While much has been made of Villanova’s success from beyond the arc, the same cannot be said for Providence. The Wildcats are hitting 40.8% of their three’s, good for 14th in the country. The Friars are shooting a much more pedestrian 35% from deep, which puts them 169th in the country. In addition, only 31.9% of their shot attempts come from behind the arc, which is 302nd in the country.
Senior Jalen Lindsey is far and away the Friars best (and highest volume) shooter. He is 61-133 (45.9%) from deep this season. The only other Friar above 40% is senior Kyron Cartwright, who is 26-64 (40.6%). For that reason, the health of Lindsey is of the up-most importance for Providence. Lindsey suffered a head injury against Georgetown, and sat out the DePaul game. As a team, Providence shot 2-19 (10.5%) from deep against the Blue Demons. If Lindsey is out against Villanova, it will be tough to defeat the ‘Cats without shooting well from deep.
Slow It Down
While the Wildcats are not playing nearly as slow as they did last season, they are still in the middle of the road when it comes to tempo. The ‘Cats are averaging 68.5 possessions a game, putting them at 170th in the country. Providence is in the same ballpark, averaging 67.9 possessions, 209th in the country.
The first game between the Cats and Friars was right near those averages, they totaled 66 possessions. A similar tempo might not be the worst thing in the world for Villanova, who will be without the services of Phil Booth, and likely will be without Eric Paschall.