Last time the Pirates hit the road in conference play, it wasn't a nice thing to see, as they got stomped by Syracuse. This time around on Saturday, the opponent isn't quite as lauded (or as talented), but under new head coach Ed Cooley, the Friars are on the upswing and playing hard.
Here's what you need to know about Providence:
2012-13 record: 11-5 (0-3 Big East)
All-time series record: 43-45
Last meeting: 1/30/11 (81-71 SHU W)
Before we talk about the Friars, we have to mention Ed Cooley. The Providence native son spent 9 years as an assistant under Al Skinner on the Boston College bench, where he learned that defensive-minded style of basketball that he is characterized as emulating. He was able to implement it as the head coach at Fairfield, and he has brought it back home with him to Providence.
The Friars of the past played almost no defense under Keno Davis (a nice guy, really, who was in the wrong situation). This offseason, at Big East Media Day, Cooley came out and said that if his players "don't play defense, they won't play for me." And he was right. Bilal Dixon, one of those not-so-good defenders who started the last two seasons under Davis has been relegated to the bench. Cooley shook up his starting lineups early in the season to get his players to realize what they were going to have to do to get minutes. Above all, the Friars now give effort on both ends of the court, especially on defense, where they are not averse to either man or zone.
Offensively, the Friars run their plays through Vincent Council at the point. Council is at his best in the open floor, where he can use his speed and court vision to make plays. He still turns the ball over too much (almost 4 TO per game), but he's upped his assists to 6.5 per game (2nd in the conference behind Jordan Theodore) and he's scoring over 16 PTS. Most of what Providence does uses Council as the focal point. They attacked the Syracuse zone mainly in the high post, and mainly with forward Kadeem Batts shooting accurate mid-range jumpers, so that is an area for Seton Hall to keep an eye on.
Council's getting help, too. 4 players, led by Council, are scoring over 13 PTS this season- Gerard Coleman (a long scorer who's also at his best in transition), Bryce Cotton (a very good shooter who is PC's only real threat from beyond the arc), and LaDontae Henton (who has impressed with his nose for the ball so far this season). Batts is no slouch in the post either, providing some length down low to round out the starting unit.
The issue with Providence is two-fold: one, they have no scholarship seniors, with Council and Dixon the only juniors to lead a VERY young team, and two, they aren't deep in terms of offense. Cooley has Brice Kofane and Dixon to come off the bench for shot-blocking and size down low, respectively, but in the backcourt, it's Cotton, Council and Coleman and not much else. No one coming off the bench has more than 2.8 PTS in their ledger, so with Providence, there are no secret weapons off the bench to turn to.
As I mentioned above, the Friars don't shoot the three very much (last in the conference with 181 attempts and second to last with 60 makes entering play on Wednesday) and have also had their opponents chuck it more than any other Big East team (335 attempts against, also entering play on Wednesday). They look to try and get easy points in transition, and to hold teams in a low-scoring game where they have a chance to pick them off. They do get to the line very often (3rd in the conference behind only Marquette and St. John's) but are 13th in the conference in FT%. If Seton Hall scores 70-80 points in this game, it will be difficult for the Friars to keep up with that.
Seton Hall will win if:
- They match the Friars' intensity and avoid the "let-down" game. Providence is winless so far in Big East play, getting smacked on the road by St. John's and putting up great fights against Georgetown on the road and against Syracuse on Wednesday. After this game, they have Louisville, Syracuse and Marquette on their schedule. They will therefore almost assuredly come out of the gates with energy in front of their home crowd. Seton Hall needs to match their level of energy. If they do that, and continue to defend, they will avoid the so-called "let down" game following the big upset against UConn
- They force Vincent Council into turnovers. Council has a propensity for turning the ball over too much as the Friars' primary (and in some cases, only) ball-handler. Seton Hall has a propensity for forcing turnovers via the steal, led by Fuquan Edwin, the nation's leader in that category. For the Friars to play well, Council needs to be either good or great. If he doesn't have a great game, or turns the ball over, PC will have a VERY tough time on offense against the Pirates' switching, matchup zone.
Providence could win if:
- They slow it down. Providence wants to keep this game in the 60s if it can. This will be tough for them to do against the Hall, but if they do end up keeping the game low on the scoreboard, they have a shot at home.
- They speed it up. Huh? Yes, the Friars want to slow it down, but they also want to get easy buckets if possible. You could really combine these two keys into one: "Controlling the Tempo." But I think I'll make it two. It is still sort of the holiday season.
The bottom line is that Seton Hall should not take Providence for granted, especially with what should be a nice home crowd. With such a tough schedule upcoming for Ed Cooley's club, they have to look at this game as their best opportunity for a W. Seton Hall begs to differ, but the Pirates need to do a good job of playing their game regardless to ensure that Providence remains winless in conference play.