Friar Basketball

Hall, Friars Both Desperate Heading into Wednesday

Rhoden Seton Hall Athletics

When Providence and Seton Hall take to the court on Wednesday night (7pm, Fox Sports 1) there should be a feeling of desperation in the air. 

Both clubs are desperate for a victory and are neck-and-neck in the Big East standings. The Pirates head to Providence with a 9-8 overall record (6-5 in the Big East). They have lost four of their last five games, a stretch that includes their current three game losing streak. Don’t be fooled however, this is a competitive Seton Hall group.

Their current three game losing streak includes a pair of losses to Villanova (including a two point loss in Philly) and a heartbreaker to Creighton in which the Pirates let a 16 point second half lead slip away. 

If Providence fans feel snakebitten this season, Seton Hall supporters know their pain. Kevin Willard’s club lost in the aforementioned games against Villanova and Creighton, fell by a point at Louisville, and of course, saw AJ Reeves bury a last second 3-pointer in overtime in a loss to PC in December. They are 0-4 in games decided by five points or less this season.

While the Friars (9-8, 5-6) have a similar record as Seton Hall, they are lagging far behind in both the NET rankings and by Ken Pomeroy. Here’s the tale of the tape:

Seton Hall:

Kenpom ranking: 46

Net ranking: 57

Kenpom offensive efficiency: 113.9 (20th in the country)

Kenpom defensive efficiency: 97.9 (100th in the country)


Kenpom ranking: 64

Net ranking: 73

Kenpom offensive efficiency: 110.5 (50th in the country)

Kenpom defensive efficiency: 97.1 (90th in the country)

Providence really needs this one. The Friars are 2-5 over their last seven games, and most recently blew a 15 point lead to Big East bottom feeder Georgetown on Saturday. This is the first of three straight home games for Ed Cooley’s bunch.

Cooley has been frustrated by his team’s lack of grit, calling them “soft” for the third time in three weeks after Saturday’s loss at Georgetown.

Providence will have to be physical and disciplined to sweep Seton Hall. The Pirates live at the free throw line, and convert while they are there. No team in the Big East gets to the free throw line more often than the Hall, and they shoot it at the second best clip in the league.

Willard leans heavily on his veterans. That starts with Sandro Mamukelashvili, a matchup nightmare at forward who is averaging over 17 points and seven boards a game. Mamu is flanked by Jared Rhoden (15.4 ppg) and Myles Cale (12.1 ppg). All three are shooting over 46% from the field this year.

The Pirates are getting terrific scoring from their pick and roll ball handlers, where they rank in the 88th percentile in the country. They are also very good in spot up shooting situations and in the catch and shoot — ranking in the 79th percentile in the country in both categories.

Perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the game will come in the middle as Nate Watson battles 7’2 Ike Obiagu. Obiagu is ranked 3rd in the country in blocked shot percentage (13.8% — 4th in the country). Watson went for 23 points and 11 rebounds against the Hall in December. Both Watson and David Duke (18 points, 10 rebounds) went for double doubles in the win, while Mamukelashvili shot just 6-17 from the field.  Providence got a big lift in Jersey from point guard Jared Bynum, who finished with nine points, eight assists, and zero turnovers. Bynum has missed PC’s lsat six games. 

Cooley and Willard have battled to an even draw dating back to their days at Fairfield and Iona. They are 13-13 against each other all time, and 10-10 in Big East matchups. The Hall have won seven of the last 11 against the Friars, however.

If Providence is to win this one they will have to rediscover what Cooley has built his program on — defense and toughness. Both teams should play with all-out desperation on Wednesday night, and it will be interesting to see how Cooley’s group responds to his challenge.

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