#9 Villanova Wildcats (22-3) vs. Providence Friars (17-9)
When: Tuesday, February 18, 7 p.m.
Where: Dunkin Donuts Center, Providence, RI
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Result of Previous Meeting: Villanova won 91-61 at home on January 5
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: Providence has lost four of their last six games. They broke a three game losing streak when they beat DePaul at home on February 15th. Six different players were in the double digits for scoring, and Bryce Cotton led the way with 22. Cotton is one of the Big East’s elite scorers. So far the Providence star is averaging 21.2 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, and 5.8 assists per game. He is Providence’s facilitator and gets the team going. He is a quick, athletic guard who loves to drive his way to the basket. He is a slasher, but he has shown that he can sometimes take and make the three. Opposing teams don’t want to put him on the line often because he is skilled at converting free throws. Cotton is shooting 84.1% from the line this season. He is also a solid defender around the perimeter, but is better known for his offensive production. Cotton puts up impressive numbers but Providence is not a one man show, they have a number of solid players. Three other players are averaging over 10 points a game. Big men LaDontae Henton and Kadeem Batts are scoring and rebounding threats. Henton has 13.4 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game. Batts has similar numbers, 12.2 points per game and 7.7 rebounds. Both are very good inside on both sides of the court. Tyler Harris continues to be one of their key contributors in his first year at Providence. The redshirt sophomore can do a little bit of everything, and sometimes play in the guard position. He is solid on both offense and defense. Keep an eye out for Carson Desrosiers, at 7 feet and 250 pounds he isn’t exactly hard to miss. Desrosiers provides size and strength off the bench. He is a great defender and is one of the best block artists in the conference. He has 2.6 blocks per game so far this season. As a team, they are pretty good from the free throw line (78.8%). They prefer to drive and take the ball inside, but don’t completely sleep on them at the perimeter where they shoot 33.5% from long range.
Outlook: Simply put, what happened earlier this season is irrelevant. The Friars are a completely new team when they play at the Dunkin Donuts Center. They have a reputation for playing very tough at home. Their only losses at home so far were at the hands of Seton Hall in a really close game that went to double overtime and then a loss to the streaking St. John’s Red Storm. Vllanova is 12-17 all time against Providence at the Dunkin Donuts Center. There’s just something about it that just gives teams problems. Creighton and Georgetown were beaten in convincing fashion earlier this season. The Wildcats need to keep Cotton in check. He is their heart and soul and is one of the best Big East talents. JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu need to establish their presence inside offensively and defensively. Force the Friars to have to shoot their way through the game if they want to win, make them uncomfortable. Pinkston and Ochefu outscored the Friars’ big men last time, and the Wildcats tied the Friars when it came to rebounding. Villanova’s three point shooting was also superb in the first meeting, going 14 for 26. This will be a gut check game. After losing to Creighton, how will they respond? Their toughness and attitude will be tested as they go to the Dunkin Donuts Center. It will most likely be a wild fan atmosphere, there is a chance for Providence to defeat a top 10 team and one of the best teams in the conference. I predict a bit of a closer game this time around but the Wildcats really beat them up the first time around. Providence just plays better at home, the Wildcats will have to kick their game up a notch.