Who: Boston College (3-2) vs. Providence Friars (4-1)
Where: Dunkin Donuts Center -- Providence, RI
When: 7:00pm EST on COX Cable (RI) or 850AM-WEEI
Last We Saw Them...
The Eagles were down in the US Virgin Islands wrapping up a disappointing appearance in the Paradise Jam. The defensive shortcomings of the team were exposed against some elevated competition, most notably against Northern Iowa. BC allowed the Panthers to shoot an astonishing 65% from the field, while also allowing Kwadzo Ahelegbe to pour in 32 points on 14-17 shooting. The loss gave BC a 1-2 record in the tournament and a 3-2 record overall as they returned back to the northeast. Also of note was that Rakim Sanders, fresh off a 2-game suspension for a violation of team rules was injured while going for a rebound in the first 3 minutes of the tournament opener against St. Joseph's.
Providence meanwhile is off to a solid start this season albeit against much lesser competition. They've jumped out to a 4-1 record including a win Tuesday against the Catamounts of Vermont. Junior swingman Marshon Brooks was the high man for the Friars as he poured in 24 points on just 8-10 shooting and had 5 steals. He was helped out by forward Jamine Patterson who chipped in with 20. No other Friar reached double figures except Kyle Wright who came off the bench to score 13 points including 3-4 from deep. Providence forced 23 Catamount turnovers in the game leading to a slew of fast break points to break the game open early and help them to a 106-64 win. The Friars as a team made 15-27 from beyond the arc.
Know Thy Enemy...
Marshon Brooks has been the man for the Friars thus far, pouring in almost 20 points per game, while shooting a scorching 49% from the 3 point line. He's also been the playmaker for the team as he is averaging better than 3 assists per game (second on the team behind Vincent Council). In the model of past Keno Davis coached teams though, the Friars are very undersized (just 1 player bigger than 6'5" in the lineup) and have been forced to try to rebound as a team. The 6'8" Jamine Peterson has done his best to keep the rebounding in order, as he's averaged a team high 10.4 a game and leads a group of 7 players averaging more than 3 per game. Bilal Dixon is 2nd on the team with 7 per game and also is the team leader in blocked shots (2 a game).
Offensively, Providence does shoot the deep ball very well and creates match-up problems because of their ball handling ability at all positions. They are heavily reliant on the 3 pointer and struggle in games in which they don't shoot it well. In the Friars lone loss this season in Tuscaloosa against the Crimson Tide of Alabama, they were out rebounded 42-40 and made just 5 of 21 from deep.
What to Watch For...
I've been harping on this all season, but it's even more important in this game than at any other point this season. It will be critical to close out on the perimeter and try to limit penetration. If they allow open shots and dribble drives the way they did against Northern Iowa, they will get eaten alive against a strong Providence squad. BC has struggled all season with containing players off the bounce, dynamic guards with good handle in particular. It will be on Biko Paris and Reggie Jackson to prevent the drive and kick, which is so much a part of a Keno Davis led attack.
To this point, the most exotic defense the Eagles have faced was the occasional 1-2-2 zone that St. Francis (NY) threw at them for about 3 minutes just to give them another look. In this game though, they'll face a totally different animal in the Keno Davis 3-2 match-up zone. BC is not stocked with 3 point shooters, and as a result, can not simply bomb away and hope to win. They must show good patience and make the perimeter players move by reversing the ball. The best area to attack this particular zone is by isolating and overloading 1 corner or the other and then reversing the ball. If BC doesn't play with patience they will struggle to score in this game, turn the ball over, and be run right out of the building.
BC has been surprisingly effective on the glass to this point in the season and will need to continue that in this game in order to give themselves a chance. They can not give second opportunities to a good 3 point shooting team and expect to find a way to get a badly needed win. The Friars are an undersized team and if BC makes a commitment to rebounding they should have good success. In addition, they also need to take advantage of that size on the offensive end of the floor. They need to consistently challenge the Friars at the rim with dribble penetration as well as get some semblance of a post game out of Josh Southern and Joe Trapani. If they are able to score inside, they can slow down the pace of the game and force Providence into a half court game.
How It's Gonna Go Down...
This is a key game for Boston College because of the way things went down in the Caribbean. They were carved to pieces by St. Joseph's and Northern Iowa, lost Rakim Sanders to an ankle injury, and have generally struggled to contain even the most mediocre of opponents. If the Eagles have any interest in making a post season tournament this season, now would be the time to commit defensively before the season gets away from them. This is the beginning of a key 3 game stretch that could really set the tone for the rest of the year. I think this is the ultimate nightmare match-up for BC because of the nature of the Providence offense. The Friars thrive on taking opposing teams off the dribble and driving to the rim or kicking out to open 3 point shooters. I think BC puts up a much better effort in this game and will keep it interesting, but 1 too many times the Eagles will lose focus defensively and the Friars sink the Eagles with late 3's. A tiger doesn't change its stripes, and a basketball team can't change its mind-set in just a few days.
The Line: BC +3
The Call: Providence 77 BC 70