Game Preview: DePaul at Providence

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Friars are pushing for an at-large bid in the Dance, while the Blue Demons could be pushing their coach out of town.

(10-15, 2-10)

Saturday, February 15th | 2 p.m. Eastern
Dunkin Donuts Center, Providence, RI
TV: FOX Sports Net
Radio: WSCR 670 AM (DePaul), WEEI 103.7 FM (Providence)

Providence
(16-9, 6-6)

Brandon Young (15 PPG) Leading Scorer Bryce Cotton (21.2 PPG)
71.0 Scoring Offense 71.5
74.9 Scoring Defense 67.9
-3.9 Scoring Margin +3.6
.426 Field Goal % .413
.341 3pt Field Goal % .333

Three straight losses for Providence has really put a damper on hopes for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. With six games left, including two against Villanova and Creighton, the Friars can rebound with a Saturday matinee contest against DePaul.

Last Time Out

Providence squeaked past the Blue Demons two weeks ago with a 77-72 win at Allstate Arena. Guard Bryce Cotton dominated with a 28-point performance, while LaDontae Henton scored 19 and Tyler Harris added 18. DePaul freshman R.J. Curington scored a career-high 22 in the loss. This was Providence's last victory, as they lost their last three games to St. John's, Xavier and Georgetown. DePaul is no stranger to the Dunkin Donuts Center though, winning 83-73 in Providence last year.

DePaul Regroups

Mired in a six-game losing streak, DePaul has crashed back down to Earth after its first conference winning streak in years. Since then, the Blue Demons suspended its star player, Cleveland Melvin, only watched him leave the program just games later, and have lost by double-digits in five of those six losses. The only close L was a five-point defeat at home to this same Providence team.

DePaul's other senior, guard Brandon Young, is now the number one guy in that offense with the loss of Melvin. Young seemed to be the only Blue Demon on the court Wednesday, scoring 27 in a blowout home loss to Villanova. But if DePaul wants to beat Providence on the road - which is a possibility - they need strong games from the rest of their starters. Tommy Hamilton will have to combat Kadeem Batts, the Friars third-leading scorer (12.1 PPG). If he and Sandi Marcius can gain the upper hand in the low post, DePaul will have a shot.

Win-and-In

For Providence, it's simple - win and we're in. Any more than nine losses will hurt the Friars chances at an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, so the easiest answer will be to win out. They don't have many quality wins on their schedule, aside from a double-digit upset of Creighton at home last month. Another W over Creighton, or a win against Villanova, who could be a top-5 team going into their Tuesday matchup, would help boost the Friars into the Big Dance.

A loss at home to DePaul could seal their fate. The Blue Demons are, once again, at the bottom of the barrel in the BIG East, and after losing six straight, there is no way Providence can afford to suffer a defeat at home today. The Friars shoot even worse than DePaul, but they were able to take advantage of their defensive woes in their last meeting. Bryce Cotton and LaDontae Henton will need to have huge games against a less-experienced DePaul team. If that happens, everything else should fall into place for New Englanders.

Prediction

DePaul has a shot today. This same team, minus Melvin and guards Billy Garrett Jr. and Charles McKinney, took Providence to the limit two weeks ago at home. It will be incredibly different when they enter Rhode Island, but if Young can stay consistent and get some help from his supporting cast, I wouldn't be shocked if DePaul pulls off the upset.

But Providence has a huge chip on their shoulders coming into this game. They know that a home loss to (probably) the worst team in the BIG East will more than likely kill their chances at an at-large tournament bid. Bryce Cotton, averaging 21 points a game, understands he has one more shot at the Big Dance and he can't allow that to slip away. A home meeting with DePaul should be just what Providence needs to get back on their game and end their three-game slide.

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