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Big East Tournament Preview: #4 Providence Friars

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Providence

-Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports

#1 Villanova Wildcats (28-4) vs. #4 Providence Friars (23-9)
When: Friday, March 11, 2016, at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Madison Square Garden, N.Y.
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Results of Previous Meetings:
Providence won 82-76 in overtime at the Wells Fargo Center on January 26
Villanova won 72-60 at Providence on February 6
How The Friars Got Here: Beat Butler 74-60 in the Quarterfinal Round
Key Players for Providence: #3 Kris Dunn (6-4, 220) Jr., G; #0 Ben Bentil (6-9, 235) So., F; #5 Rodney Bullock (6-8, 225) So., F

Scouting Report: At this point in the season, it’s no secret that the Friars have a loaded one-two punch in Big East Player of the Year Kris Dunn and fellow All-Big East First Teamer Ben Bentil. The Dunn-Bentil tandem is the best in all of the Big East and certainly has to be up amongst the top in the country. During the regular season, Bentil averaged a conference-high 21.2 points per game. The 6-foot-9 forward tripled his scoring production this year in his first season as a full-time starter. He can score from anywhere on the floor and has a good shooting stroke from long range for a big man. His 38 points in the quarterfinals win over Butler tied a school record for most points in a Big East Tournament game. He is also a solid rebounder, averaging a team-high 7.8 boards per game. As for Dunn, he does everything for the Friars. The future NBA Draft Lottery Pick averaged 16.3 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game, and 6.4 assists per game. He is an athletic specimen on the basketball court, who boasts a great first step to burst towards the basket. Dunn is an okay three-point shooter, not the best, but is a lot better as a slasher-type guard. He had one of his more efficient games of the season in the win over Butler, going 6-of-8 on the floor en route to a 15 point performance. On the defensive end of the court, his length helps him wreak havoc in passing lanes. He leads the Big East with his 2.7 steals per game. These two carry the team but in some of the Friars’ losses, they can have big time games but not have enough to push them over the edge to victory.

They will need some help from the rest of the team, despite the fact much of what Providence runs is revolved around Dunn and Bentil. The Friars don’t really run a deep rotation. Helping Bentil inside is sophomore Rodney Bullock. He can quietly chip in double digit scoring performances. He is another solid rebounder inside. Then there’s Jalen Lindsey and Junior Lomomba, a pair of guards that can be inconsistent at times. Lindsey and Lomomba can quickly switch between hot and cold. Lindsey takes approximately two-thirds of his shot attempts from long range, but he doesn’t have much success doing so. He shot only 27.8% from beyond the arc this season. As for Lomomba, he takes most of his shots inside, occasionally draining the open three. Also keep an eye out for the Friars’ main weapon off the bench, Kyron Cartwright. Cartwright is primarily a slasher-type guard. On the defensive end of the court, he is a solid perimeter defender.

As a team, Providence plays defense pretty well. The Friars boast the best three-point defense in the conference, holding opponents to just 31.3% from long range. They also give up an average of 69.8 points per game. However, they aren’t as polished on offense. Sure Dunn and Bentil are both phenomenal players but even their numbers can’t help cover up a conference-worst 31.5 shooting percentage from long range and a next-to-last overall shooting percentage of 41.7%.

Outlook: In these postseason tournaments, it’s not necessarily about who was the best during the regular season but rather who is peaking at the right time. Providence has now won its fourth straight game, dating back to the end of the regular season. While Villanova was able to win on the road in the two teams’ last meeting behind the heroics of Darryl Reynolds stepping in for Daniel Ochefu, Bentil was not in his best shape. Despite having an ankle injury, Bentil was still able to score a team-high 20 points in the loss. Not only was he not fully healthy, but he also wasn’t coming off of a 38 point performance.

The Wildcats cannot afford another slow start like they had on Thursday against Georgetown. Reynolds will need to step up once again, this time going against a fully healthy Bentil. The Friars will look to run the ‘Cats off of the three-point line and they will have to go inside for their points. If you’re Villanova, you should probably allow Dunn and Bentil to get theirs but allow no one else to have a solid game. The Wildcats should try to establish the interior game early. As for the Friars, they should use their defense to set the pace and feed off the energy from their stars.

In another match up and rematch of last year’s Big East Tournament semifinal game against the Friars, the Wildcats should hit the ground running. A slow start will be costly and may result in Villanova going home before the championship game. Dunn and Bentil are the real deal, will the ‘Cats be able to find strength in numbers?

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About The Author

Eugene Rapay '16 created "The Bench Mob" in November 2013. He joined the Villanova Times in 2012 as a writer. A Westchester, NY native, who will bring top quality coverage of all things Villanova sports.

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