After the committee admittedly moved Providence down a line to assure “proper bracketing” the Friars find themselves with the 10 seed in the west headed for a potentially unfavorable match-up with Texas A&M. For their trouble, the Friars would have the opportunity to face the second seeded North Carolina inside their home state as part of the Charlotte pod on Sunday should they win on Friday.
The match-up against Texas A&M might very well come down to the Friars’ perimeter vs. the Aggies’ interior. Billy Kennedy’s squad is loaded up front with the likes of Tyler Davis, D.J. Hogg, and Robert Williams. They pound the ball inside offensively, follow their own misses on the offensive glass, and play a little bit of a throwback inside-out style through Davis on the block.
Defensively, Kennedy’s club has been especially impressive this year as they rank in the top 20 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, block percentage, and two-point field goal percentage defense. In layman’s terms, that means they utilize their size and length to defend the paint and block shots especially well while still getting out to contest the three-point line.
Conversely, A&M’s achilles heel is on the perimeter. Admon Gilder is a serious threat but there’s otherwise very limited depth following a February injury to Duane Wilson that left freshman T.J. Starks to play major minutes despite his inefficiencies (39% FG, 32% 3pt, & 2.4 turnovers vs. 2.0 assists/game).
Providence is essentially A&M’s polar opposite, at least from a line-up perspective. They are most vulnerable on the interior, where no big man is averaging more than 6 points or 4 rebounds per game and Emmitt Holt was expected to hold down the starting job at the beginning of the year. Where they are deepest is in the middle of the line-up with interchangeable parts like Rodney Bullock, Alpha Diallo, and Jalen Lindsey. However, they are at their best when Kyron Cartwright is at the top of his game in the backcourt.
With all of that being said, and assuming they’ll have to concede some things inside, what are they keys for Providence on Friday?
1. Cartwright must be at his best
The Friars have often gone as their point guard has gone this season and that’s likely to be especially true on Friday. Cartwright needs to attack Starks early and often, and on both ends of the floor, while being as efficient as possible. The Friars’ bigs have a tall task to play Davis, Hogg, and Williams close, and they’ll need to have the best guard on the floor to make up for whatever they lack up front.
2. Get some run-outs
Providence will have to work for every bucket they get in the half-court and so it is imperative that they find some easy points. Texas A&M averages over 19 turnovers per game, so they’ll give it away, and the Friars need to try to pressure them into a few live ball turnovers per half that could lead to transition opportunities.
3. Win the whistle
The other way Providence can get some easy points is at the free-throw line. They’re typically pretty good at getting to the stripe, while Texas A&M often isn’t, but does normally does a better job of defending without fouling. Getting one or more of A&M’s bigs in foul trouble would also be a great equalizer. Providence, and Cartwright in particular, needs to put the Aggie bigs in as many ball-screens as possible and attack their outside hip looking for contact. While A&M will likely try to exploit their forwards’ mismatches on the block, Providence should look to do the same on the perimeter and drive any and all members of that trio as often as possible, albeit without turning it over or settling for bad shots.
4. Rebound out of the zone
Defensively, when Providence goes zone they’re more likely to pack it in, defend the paint by committee, and challenge A&M to make contested shots (they shoot under 33% from three as a team). Where it gets complicated is whether or not they’ll be able to rebound out of the zone given A&M’s size and prowess on the offensive glass. If they can, and they’re able to be effective with the zone for significant stretches, it will be a good.
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