Providence (9-8, 1-4) looks to rebound from a loss to Georgetown when they host Villanova (11-6, 2-2) Saturday afternoon at the Dunk (4pm, Cox/MSG). Here’s what to watch for:
1. Upping the Percentages: Heading into Saturday’s game against Villanova the Friars will be hoping for better shooting performances from both LaDontae Henton and Vincent Council. Henton has shot below 30% in Big East play and has yet to find the stroke he rediscovered in late-December at Brown, while Council has struggled some to find the mark in his returning, shooting just over 30%. Having both of these players approach a 50% field goal percentage will go a long way torwards alleviating some of PC’s offensive problems.
2. Getting More out of Their Minutes: The Friars need contributions from everyone in their seven man rotation. Josh Fortune and Sidiki Johnson need to be on the floor more than the limited minutes that they were during the Georgetown game in order to take some pressure off of the other players and also to give the starters more than just a couple of minutes rest. Three first half fouls took Fortune out of the game, limiting him to six minutes, while Johnson played just seven on Wednesday night.
3. “No Threes and Tough Twos”: PC needs to get back to their defensive philosophy of not allowing easy three point shots. Their defense in general was not very good against Georgetown (the Hoyas shot 53% on the night and 41% from three) and needs to be tightened up. It will be interesting to see if Ed Cooley comes out in man to man or zone versus Villanova. The Wildcats leading three point shooters are are Ryan Arcidiacono (37 3s, 31%,), Darrun Hillard (18 3s, 30%), and James Bell (28 3s, 38%). None of these three players can “go off” from the three point line on Saturday.
4. Batts Staying on the Floor: This is a major key to every game this year. With the Friars’ lack of talented depth in the front court, Kadeem Batts needs to play at least 30 minutes in every game in order for PC to be successful. In addition, it is key for him to be on the floor at the end of the game as he is a good free throw shooter for a big man. Johnson and Brice Kofane cannot be on the floor at the end of games to their porous free throw shooting, so it is key that Batts is not in foul trouble at that point. On defense, the first couple of charge/block calls that Batts is involved in need to go in his favor.
Providence will need him against a good frontcourt tandem of JayVaughn Pinkston and Mouphtaou Yarou. Yarou has had two monster double doubles in Big East play, while Pinkston torched PC for 28 at Nova a year ago.
5. Dunn’s Continued Improvement: Dunn has made some positive strides in the past couple of games and the Friars need that to continue. It would also be nice if Cooley could find a way to rest both Cotton and Council for 7-8 minutes each during the game, so Dunn can play meaningful minutes in the backcourt instead of being forced to play most of his minutes at the small forward position.
6. Get off to a Good Start: This may be obvious, but it would be very nice for a struggling group to get off to an early lead instead of trying to play catch-up vs. Villanova. It will give the players a confidence boost and also get the crowd involved in the game early.
7. Don’t Run Out of Gas: Villanova has nine players averaging at least 14 minutes a game and only one (the freshman Arcidiacono) who is averaging over 30 minutes a game. By contrast, PC has four players averaging over 30 minutes a game and two (Bryce Cotton and LaDontae Henton) averaging over 36. If Villanova is legitimately going to go with a nine man rotation it is important the Friars still have some gas in the tank at the end of the game.
8. No Personal Best: PC has shown a tendency of leeting one of the opposing players have their “career day” against the Friars. PC has to make sure no one on Villanova breaks out with their career best day against the Friars, which Pinkston did last year.
Email Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org