Previewing Providence: Friars' length a tough matchup for Teague-less Seton Hall

Senior guard Bryce Cotton (19.5 ppg, 5.6 apg) runs the show for Providence. - Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

2013-14 Providence Friars (10-3; KenPom: 67; RPI: 74)

2012-13 Providence (19-15, 9-9; NIT Quarterfinalists, 10th in Big East; KenPom: 68; RPI: 86)

Picked sixth in the preseason Big East Coaches' Poll, Providence has had to overcome the loss of three key players (two before the season) en route to a formidable 10-3 start to head coach Ed Cooley's third season in charge. On November 6th, top-150 rated freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock were suspended indefinitely prior to the season and were then suspended for the remainder of the season on December 23rd. The Friars will also be without injury-plagued guard Kris Dunn, who had surgery on his shoulder this month and will miss the rest of the season.

In Dunn's absence, Providence is just as thin at guard as Seton Hall is, if not thinner. 6-foot-1 senor guard Bryce Cotton (19.5 ppg, 5.6 apg, 15th in %Min played) will play every minute possible at lead guard with 6-foot-5 sophomore Josh Fortune (28.4 mpg, 6.6 ppg) chipping in beside him -- no other Friar under 6-foot-6 sees significant minutes. 16 of Fortune's 29 made field goals have come from beyond the arc this season. Fortune has scored 10 points in three of his last six games

Predictably, Providence is not a dangerous team from outside the arc, with only 24.3% of their total points (221st) coming from 3-pointers while shooting 32.9% (76/231) collectively (201st). Their two guards, Cotton (27/81, 33%) and Fortune (16/51, 31%), attempt most of their 3s, but forwards Tyler Harris (12/38, 32%) and LaDontae Henton (14/35, 40%) also need to be guarded along the perimeter.

Providence's weakness in backcourt depth is made up for in their frontcourt length. 6-foot-9 senior Kadeem Batts (12.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg) anchors the Friars in the paint. Hes joined by NC State transfer and former Seton Hall recruiting target Tyler Harris (13.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and 7-foot Wake Forest transfer Carson Desrosiers (4.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.8 bpg). Despite playing 19 mpg off the bench, Desrosiers has a block in every game this season and has recorded at least five blocks in three games so far. While standing at 6-foot-9, Tyler Harris is less of a post power forward and more of an agile forward that can step out and hurt an opponent from deep.

After factoring in 6-foot-6 junior wing LaDontae Henton (12.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.8 spg), who does a little of everything for the Friars, Providence is the 10th tallest team based on average height and ranks 8th in effective height (height of power forwards and centers). Superior length has yielded a team that is top-50 in adjusted defensive efficiency (50th), 37th in offensive rebounding percentage, and surprisingly 2nd (81.3%) in free throw shooting.

Overall, Ed Cooley rolls out a 6-man rotation (no one else averages more than 7 mpg) with Kris Dunn sidelined for the season. Like Seton Hall, Providence can't afford foul trouble to Josh Fortune, or more importantly, Bryce Cotton. To Cotton's credit, he ranks 7th in fouls called per 40 minutes with just 1. Bryce Cotton has only fouled 12 times this season (3 in last 6 games) despite playing the 15th highest percentage of possible minutes played (92.5%) in the country. In English: He plays a ton of minutes, but rarely fouls. Cotton will go toe-to-toe with Seton Hall lead guard Sterling Gibbs, who draws the 3rd most fouls per 40 minutes.

Any foul trouble against Providence will be crucial for Seton Hall, although the fouls drawn will have to stem from Sterling Gibbs instead of Gene Teague. The Seton Hall center suffered a scary concussion in the second half against Lafayette on Friday night and should be out against Providence. His absence leaves Seton Hall thin at center with Aaron Geramipoor a week away after reinjuring his sprained right ankle and power forward Patrik Auda still easing back into the lineup after returning from a foot injury. Auda played twelve minutes against Lafayette after seeing six in his return against Eastern Washington.

Seton Hall will likely play zone to avoid foul trouble to their remaining bigs and should look to push the tempo against a slow (291st in tempo) Providence team. Fuquan Edwin's length in either man defense or a zone has been terrifying (14 steals last two games, 1st in steal %), Sterling Gibbs is near unstoppable in transition, and even Stephane Manga and Jaren Sina have looked impressive on the break.

Seton Hall has been at its very worst this season when Gene Teague has been sidelined by foul trouble or a stomach virus (FDU), let alone a full game. Something that we have yet to see from a Teague-less Pirate team will need to click in order to see success against Providence.

...

After starting the season 6-0, including wins over Boston College, Vanderbilt, and La Salle, Providence has lost 3 of their last 7 in the form of losses away from home to Maryland, Kentucky, and UMass. Four of the Friar's wins have been within 4 points, including an overtime win against Boston College in their season-opener. Two of Providence's losses have also been within 4 points, including an overtime loss to UMass on Saturday night.

Providence beat Seton Hall twice last season (67-55, 76-66) thanks to Bryce Cotton leading all scorers with 23 points the first time around and Kadeem Batts putting on a show (27 pts, 12 rebs) in the rematch.

KenPom says: No. 67 Providence - 70, No. 121 Seton Hall - 63 (21%)
Projected Providence starters:

6-1 Sr., G - Bryce Cotton

6-5 So., G - Josh Fortune

6-6 Jr., F - LaDontae Henton

6-9 So., F - Tyler Harris

6-9 Sr., F - Kadeem Batts

When: New Year's Eve, 2:30 p.m.

TV: FOX Sports 1

Radio: AM 970

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