A disheartening loss to DePaul at Allstate Arena on Tuesday all but eliminated Seton Hall's chance at receiving a top-6 seed in the Big East Tournament, which comes with a first round bye. With three league games remaining before the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden, Seton Hall would require a four or five-game win streak (or something similar), a feat they haven't been able to achieve all season, to be strongly considered for the 2014 NIT. The Pirates were already on the outside of the NIT bubble prior to their loss at DePaul.
Seton Hall (14-14, 5-10) hosts Providence (18-10, 8-7) tonight for the first game of their final home stand of the season. The Pirates grinded out an impressive 81-80 double overtime win at the Dunkin' Donuts Center on New Year's Eve without the services of Gene Teague (concussion), and Aaron Geramipoor (re-injured his ankle minutes into the game), while Patrik Auda wasn't quite 100-percent (foot). On top of injuries, Seton Hall had to battle through some atrocious officiating in the first meeting with Providence.
After a loss in the New Year's Eve matinee, Providence won 6 of their next 8 games, losing only at Villanova and at Marquette during a span which has set the Friars up nicely for post-season contention. Providence is currently sitting squarely on the bubble and has plenty to play for tonight at Prudential Center.
Providence skipper Ed Cooley has been rolling with an extremely short rotation all season. In fact, PC ranks last in the country in bench minutes (15%) and are a full 2.1 percentage points behind the next shortest rotation in the country (Louis Orr's Bowling Green, 17.1%). As a result of Cooley's frugal roster usage, star guard Bryce Cotton (21.5 ppg, 5.9 apg) has played a nation-most 96.3% of total possible minutes. Even more impressive for Cotton, who has averaged 25.7 ppg and 6.2 apg over his last four games, is his accumulation of more than three fouls in a single game just once this season (4, St. John's). Cotton is whistled for just 1.2 fouls per game, a rate that ranks 8th-best in the country. With NBA scouts watching Cotton two months ago, it was Sterling Gibbs who outplayed the senior for most of the game until Gibbs picked up two incorrect fouls in the second half, allowing Cotton to score a game-high 25 points, 23 of which came after halftime. For now, Cotton gets the definitive edge over Gibbs due to recent form, but this should be an interesting head-to-head matchup once again.
Shooting guard Josh Fortune (7.6 ppg, 2.1 apg), wing LaDontae Henton (13.2 ppg, 7 rpg, 1.4 spg), versatile forward Tyler Harris (12.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg), and power forward Kadeem Batts (12.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg) round out Providence's relied upon starting core. Fortune must be guarded around the arc tonight as the sophomore is 10-15 from deep over his last three games. Henton has also provided a Fuquan Edwin-esque outside threat from the wing over his last three games (6-13, 46%).
On the interior, Kadeem Batts and Tyler Harris are a potent duo that has propelled Providence to a league-best offensive rebounding percentage (35.7%). The two forwards have combined for 21 offensive rebounds over their last four games including 11 against Villanova last week. While Gene Teague wasn't able to clash heads with Batts in the last meeting, it will be interesting to see how well he and backup center Aaron Geramipoor can avoid fouling Batts. The Providence senior has attempted 30 free throws over his last three games. Providence's clear height advantage on the last day of 2013 helped the Friars on their way to a 29-23 defensive rebounding advantage, including 12-5 on the offensive glass.
Providence's short bench shrunk even further on Sunday when seven-foot sixth man Carson Desrosiers (3.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.6 bpg) was sidelined with a stomach bug for the Friar's matchup with Butler. In place of the prolific blocker (Desrosiers has the 10th best block percentage in country), the rarely seen Brice Kofane (1.2 ppg) logged 11 minutes and may see some time tonight if Desrosiers is not fully recovered.
Providence has lost three of their last four games against Seton Hall away from the Dunk but won the last meeting in Newark 67-55. Kevin Willard is 3-2 against Ed Cooley since his arrival at Providence.
UPDATE (5:30 PM):
Fuquan Edwin will not play tonight due to the sprained thumb that he suffered in the second half against DePaul.
Seton Hall's Fuquan Edwin is out for tonight's game vs. Providence due to a sprained thumb, he tells @CBSSports....— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 28, 2014
Last 10 meetings (SHU 7-3):
Dec. 31, 2013, SETON HALL 81, Providence 80 (2ot), Providence, R.I.
March 5, 2013, Providence, 76, Seton Hall 66, Providence, R.I.
Jan. 13, 2013, Providence 67, Seton Hall 55, Newark, N.J.
March 6, 2012, SETON HALL 79, Providence 47, New York, N.Y.
Jan. 7, 2012, SETON HALL 66, Providence 57, Providence, R.I.
Jan. 30, 2011, SETON HALL 81, Providence 71, Newark, N.J.
March 9, 2010, SETON HALL 109, Providence 106, New York, N.Y.
March 6, 2010, SETON HALL 92, Providence 80, Providence, R.I.
Jan. 22, 2009, Providence 98, SETON HALL 93 (ot), Newark, N.J.
Jan. 24, 2008, SETON HALL 88, Providence 75, Providence, R.I.
KenPom says: No. 81 Seton Hall - 69, No. 53 Providence - 68 (56%)
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: Friday, 7 pm ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: AM 970 (Vin Parise, Dave Popkin)