Tonight, the Providence Friars welcome the #3 ranked Wildcats from Villanova to The Dunk. Ed Cooley needs a big win from the Friars to secure another at large bid, and it very well could happen.
Villanova was recently upset by St. Johns, and Providence did beat them two years ago when they were #4 in the country. Heading into last Saturday’s game at The Dunk vs. DePaul, the Friars had seven games left in Big East regular season action, where all they needed was to go 3-4 to all but secure their fifth straight trip to The Big Dance. Well, Saturday came, and all did not go according to plan for Providence. The 16-9 Friars have six games left on the schedule. Here are 10 keys to help them lock up another trip to the NCAA Tournament this March.
- Kyron, be the leader– This is Kyron Cartwright’s team, and the team only runs at full throttle when he is setting the tone early and leading. If he wants to follow in the footsteps of Bryce Cotton and Kris Dunn, he has to step up down the stretch. All major possessions need to start and finish with the ball in his hands.
2. Alpha be an “Alpha dog” – Alpha Diallo has started to really assert himself in his sophomore campaign during Big East conference play. Heading into the DePaul game, he had been averaging 17 and 8.6 over the last five games. He needs to continue this type of play to not only be considered a top player in the Big East, but also to help this team reel off some victories.
3. Rodney, be assertive – Rodney Bullock has been known to fade away in games, but he is still a senior leader with experience this young team needs. He has all but disappeared in the last two games, averaging five points and .5 rebounds, well below his season averages. It is time for him to step up at home and get the crowd going. I would also not be surprised if we saw him as the stretch five in key possessions down the road.
4. Bigs, use your fouls – I have not seen the stat, but Providence probably leads the Big East in allowing “and one” fouls. The Friars needs to use their fouls and make their opponents earn the points at the line. Their offense does not go through Kalif Young or Nate Watson, and anything they give the Friars offensively is a bonus. Cooley needs to teach these guys that they get five fouls per game, and to use them wisely. Make the opponents earn the points at the foul line!
5. Jalen, just shoot! – “Shooters shoot” is a great quote, and Jalen Lindsey needs to live by it. He is shooting 46% percent from deep and needs to just let it fly. He has Ed Cooley’s confidence; he just needs to have more of it on his own.
6. Bench production – Isaiah Jackson has worked his way into the sixth man role this team really needed and his production over the last three games has led to 13.6/6.3 splits. He will get his minutes, but it’s the rest of the bench that Cooley needs to solidify. Maliek White is finally back from a knee injury, and has the speed to get to the basket. But he can also can hit outside shots too. Drew Edwards is still coming back from a knee injury that had him miss last season. You can see him trying to shed the rust, but it is still evident. Makai Ashton-Langford had a fun ride to start, but he clearly is not ready for the big stage just yet. He could not hit River Ave. if he was standing on the sidewalk.
7. Switch up Defenses – We have seen when Providence needs to get some stops and go on some runs, Ed will come out of the time outs with the team in a ¾ court press to slow up faster teams. The Friars will probably use some of that tonight vs. Villanova to halt the speed of player of the year candidate Jalen Brunson, and Big East sixth man of the year candidate Donte DiVencenzo brining the ball up. The match-up zone has been great too. The Friars have to make these other coaches and point guards think out there and can’t make it easy for them on offense.
8. Use timeouts accordingly – This team cannot blow time outs or leave them unused. Down the stretch it is imperative for Kyron to be on the floor, so in these cases, Cooley needs to use his timeouts to get him a breather. There are also television timeouts that he needs to be smarter about planning around too.
9. Make free throws – Providence is second to last in the Big East in free-throw percentage at 70%. The Friars have had a hard time closing out games because they can’t hit their free throws (see Marquette at The Dunk). When you get to the line, take your time, breath, and rest. This team is not going anywhere if they can’t make the easy ones and teams will have no problem fouling them and sending them to the line late in close games.
10. Trust Ed – Ed Cooley has built this program to where Friar Alums and fanatics have always wanted it to be. We need to continue to trust him that he knows what is best for this team and how to get the most out of the players.