#11 Villanova Wildcats (12-1) vs. Providence Friars (10-4)
When: Sunday, January 5, 7 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Providence’s Previous Season Record: 19-15, Lost to Baylor in quarterfinals of NIT
Key Players for Providence: #23 LaDontae Henton (6-6, 215) Jr., F; #11 Bryce Cotton (6-1, 165) Sr., G; #10 Kadeem Batts (6-9, 245) Sr., F/C
Scouting Report: Senior guard Bryce Cotton has picked up from where he left off from last season, as one of the Big East’s elite scorers. The Providence star is averaging 19.9 points per game, along with 3.1 rebounds per game and 5.6 assists per game. He is one of their primary go-to guys on offense, and he has been hot as of late. He is riding a four game streak in which he has scored at least 20 points in a game. Cotton is a quick athletic guard, who uses his abilities to drive his way to the basket. He is primarily a slasher, but that does not mean defenses should sleep on him when he’s on the perimeter. He would prefer to drive inside, but if the opportunity presents itself, he will take the three. He has shown it before as he was the one who silenced the Pavilion with his last-second three to give them the win against the Wildcats last season. Cotton is also someone teams do not want to put on the free throw line often, he is exceptional from the line where he has converted 90.5% of his attempts. The Friars aren’t a one trick pony, they have a number of solid players and contributors. Besides Cotton, there are others who can be dangerous when they start heating up on the floor. LaDontae Henton and Kadeem Batts have posted very similar numbers this season, approximately 12 points per game and 7 boards per game. Henton is coming off of a 12 point, 7 rebound performance against Seton Hall. Batts had a quieter game, only having six points. However, he’s not someone to just simply ignore as he has scored in the double digits in about half of the Friars’ games this season. Also keep an eye out for Tyler Harris and Carson Desrosiers. Harris has come up big in his first season for the Friars after sitting out last year after transferring from N.C. State. The redshirt sophomore is the second highest scorer for Providence (14.4 points per game). Desrosiers is a big guy. At 7 feet, 250 pounds, he provides size and strength off the bench. He is a good defender in the paint and is one of the best blockers in the Big East, with 2.6 per game. As a team, the Friars are great when it comes to shooting free throws. Their starting lineup averages 82.6% from the line. They aren’t the greatest when it comes to shooting the three (32.7%), but they aren’t completely dead from the perimeter.
Outlook: The Friars are hungry for a win, they’re going to the Pavilion with back to back losses on their mind. First they lost a close one to #23 Massachusetts in overtime, then they lost an even closer one to Seton Hall in double overtime. They gave Villanova a hard time, winning both meetings last season, but it is a new season. Both squads seem much better than last season, and it should be a good one. For Providence it starts and ends with Cotton, if the Wildcats can shut him down, I don’t think the Friars will play to their maximum capability when they see their top guy contained. He’s the guy that gets it going, he kept them alive against UMass and was the top scorer in the game against Seton Hall. James Bell will look to get back on the right track, he had an off night against Butler. The senior had seven points but grabbed eight rebounds against the Bulldogs, after coming off of a big game against Syracuse. The Wildcats cannot allow the Friars to hang around, last year they proved to be dangerous when they fought their way back into the game against Villanova. In order to do this, Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston need to continue their good play inside against the Friars. They were great at controlling the paint against Butler when they were on the floor, forcing the Bulldogs to have to shoot their way into keeping up with the Wildcats. There will be a lot of action coming their way, whether it be in the post or by driving inside. If Villanova can keep the paint on lockdown and force Providence to go outside where they aren’t as competent, it will provide a big boost to the Wildcats.