With the better part of a week dedicated to well-documented off the court mayhem, it's time to shift focus to Seton Hall's road game at Providence tomorrow afternoon.
Now losers of six of their last eight games, Seton Hall (15-9, 5-7) has displayed some really good basketball on the court sandwiched in between some really bad play. Not the strongest road team, the Pirates have only notched two true road wins this season in games at Creighton and Marquette with the former requiring a bailout Sterling Gibbs three-pointer late in the game to acquire a 'W'.
Playing against Providence at the Dunk is another animal.
The Friars (17-8, 7-5) look NCAA tournament-bound (around a 5-seed) and will be playing in front of a near capacity crowd on Saturday afternoon in currently frigid Rhode Island. Ed Cooley's team have dropped three of their last four but have looked good doing so including a win at Georgetown and a close home defeat to Villanova on Wednesday night.
Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard spoke of positive reinforcement on Thursday's Big East media call and as a result probably showed his team film of their mid-game run against Georgetown as opposed to the early 20-point hole they found themselves in or their second half implosion.
"This is a young team that's really trying to deal with losing for the first time. We haven't handled dealing with losing overly well [...] This team never really had to deal with adversity [early in the season], and we're going through some adversity right now and I think we're all learning how to deal with it and what we need to do to get back to playing well. There was a stretch before the Georgetown game where we played really good and there was a stretch that we played really bad. We just have to stay away from the bad stretches, they've really hurt us."
One challenge will be replacing starting guard Jaren Sina, who was averaging 7 ppg, 2.5 rpg and 2.3 apg in 32 minutes of action per game before deciding to transfer on Wednesday morning. With Sina gone and Khadeen Carrington battling a bad ankle for the last three or four games, Willard might call on a pair of seniors who have played a combined eight minutes in the last five games to shoulder more of the load at the 'three'.
"I think Steph [Manga] and Haralds [Karlis] are going to have to get more time, to be honest with you," said Willard. "[We're] trying to match up with some size and everyone is going to have to step up a little bit and fill in those minutes because it is a big gap. We've had injuries and we stepped up and now we have to replace a lot of minutes, obviously a fine young man and a terrific player. But there are things that you've got to deal with and guys are going to have to step up and I have a lot of confidence that these guys will."
Providence has won four of the last five meetings after Seton Hall had taken five straight between 2010 and 2012.
A major key to Providence's success this season has been point guard Kris Dunn's ability to replace all-conference player Bryce Cotton from a year ago. Dunn (15.2 ppg, 7.5 apg, 6 rpg, 2.7 spg) is the definition of a floor general and is terrific at setting up his teammates, earning him the nation's best assist rate. But Dunn isn't just about finding teammates, he is able to get into the lane and score with efficiency and has a capable outside shot (20-57, 35%). Dunn also has the 11th-best steal percentage in the country and swipes the ball from opponents nearly three times per game. His all-around skill set has already resulted in one triple double, will earn him all-conference honors as a redshirt sophomore and perhaps Big East Player of the Year.
Overshadowed by the guy in front of him, freshman point guard Kyron Cartwright's (3.1 ppg, 2.8 apg) impact off the bench shouldn't be ignored. He isn't relied upon to score but has tallied adequate assists off the bench and has logged big minutes in the beginning of the season and over the last six games. Cartwright averaged 4.8 apg over the first six games of the season, racked up 10 against Stony Brook mid-December and has dished 4 and 5 dimes against St. John's and Xavier, respectively, over the last four games.
Not to be forgotten, leading scorer LaDontae Henton (20.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) is pretty good too. Henton is Providence's primary three-point threat (46-141, 32.6%) and is a big-time one-two punch when combined with Dunn. Henton has scored in double figures every game this season except two (Kentucky, Boston College) including the last 17 in a row. He has scored 20+ in his last two games and is quite capable of drawing fouls with his strong 6-foot-6 frame.
Seeing little time earlier this season, sophomore Junior Lomomba (1.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg) has emerged from obscurity and has started the last six games for Ed Cooley. Lomomba isn't a scoring threat but brings defense to the table and adds plenty of size as a 6-foot-5 guard, which explains Kevin Willard's plan of giving Karlis and Manga more time tomorrow. Lomomba is complemented by 6-foot-7 freshman Jalen Lindsey (4.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg) who has had an up and down year and also gives the Friars a bevy of length at the two and three spots.
Up front, freshman Ben Bentil (5.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg) has split time with versatile junior Tyler Harris (10.2 ppg, 4 rpg) at power forward after coming into his own as the season has progressed. Bentil is more of a conventional power forward while Harris possesses the ability to knock down threes at the same rate as Kris Dunn (20-57, 35%) and is more mobile.
At center, Ed Cooley again has a nice mix of young talent and veteran leadership. 7-footer Carson Desrosiers (7.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.8 bpg) replaces Kadeem Batts at center and is the only other player besides Dunn to start every game this season. Desrosiers swats nearly three shots per game and as a result has the 14th-best block rate in the nation, solidifying his role as an anchor in the paint. He's backed up by a like-for-like player in 7-foot-2 freshman Paschal Chukwu (2.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg).
As a team, Providence is well-balanced across the board although they don't rely on the three-ball that much at 305th in the country and 8th in the conference in percentage of points coming from beyond the arc. Based on their length from two-guard all the way to center, it should be no surprise that Cooley's team is 5th in the country in effective height and 6th in average height.
Three things to watch:
Body language. Specifically Isaiah Whitehead's and Sterling Gibbs'. Need I say more?
Replacing Jaren Sina. As alluded to above, Willard must fill 32 mpg in his backcourt and it sounds like Khadeen Carrington is not 100 percent. Expect heavy doses of Stephane Manga, Haralds Karlis and Desi Rodriguez.
A pre-game twist. Speaking solely from my gut, I wouldn't be surprised if something, for example a suspension, was handed down prior to tomorrow's game. After all, Willard suspended a handful of guys for things as simple as "bad attitude at practice" last season.
Last 10 meetings (6-4 SHU):
March 14, 2014, Providence 80, SETON HALL 74, New York, N.Y.
Feb. 28, 2014, Providence 74, SETON HALL 69, Newark, N.J.
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.
KenPom says: No. 46 Providence 73, No. 68 Seton Hall 67 (27%)
Projected Providence starters:
PG - Kris Dunn
G - Junior Lomomba
G/F - LaDontae Henton
PF - Ben Bentil
C - Carson Desrosiers
When: Saturday, 4pm
TV: YES Network/FSN
Radio: 570 AM
Opening line: Providence -7