The Providence Friars will take on the crosstown rival Brown Bears on Saturday night at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. Brown beat the Friars by 10 last season in this very game so there is a little extra juice on the Friar side of the aisle with thoughts of avenging that early season loss. Brown is the opponent that Providence has played second-most in school history -- this is the 122nd meeting of the two teams -- behind only another in-state rival Rhode Island. Providence went 1-1 against the Ivy League last season and are 1-0 this season after defeating Harvard in the season opener on November 14th. Brown comes into this contest at 1-2 after road losses at St. Peter's and Niagara and a home win against Holy Cross. The Friars are 2-0 after narrowly defeating Illinois, 60-59, on November 18th as part of the inaugural Gavitt Tipoff Games.
1. Bentil vs. Kuakumensah
Ben Bentil saved Providence's bacon against Illinois, leading the Friars in points (18) and rebounds (12). Bentil was supposed to do battle with Illinois' big man Mike Thorne, Jr. but Thorne, Jr. was in foul trouble all night and was a veritable non-factor for the Illini. Cedric Kuakumensah is probably Brown's best player and the senior is closing in on Ivy League history. Kuakumensah needs just 9 more blocks to tie the Ivy League record of 252 career blocks. He is also a two-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year and enters Saturday's tilt with a streak of three straight double-doubles, including a 17 rebound effort in the season opener against St. Peter's. Bentil will have his hands full down low with the veteran Kuakumensah. This will be a matchup to watch all night.
2. Dunn Looking to Rebound
Kris Dunn isn't going to get 32 points every time out but his offensive output in game two against Illinois was almost the antithesis of what he accomplished against Harvard in game one. Dunn struggled to deal with Illinois' defensive strategy that frequently saw two or three Illini flashing to Dunn while the Friar guard was trying to initiate offense. Dunn also got into some foul trouble against Illinois that kept him out of rhythm. He was able to contribute on the defensive end, especially when Cooley went man-to-man for the final 6:06, but I'm sure Dunn, Cooley and everyone in Friartown is looking for Dunn to rebound against the Bears and have a better offensive night.
3. Bullock the X-Factor
Rodney Bullock is averaging 16.5 points/game and 6 rebounds/game through his first two career games in a Friar uniform. Bullock has been Providence's secondary scoring option in each of the first games -- 20 points behind Dunn's 32 against Harvard and 13 points behind Bentil's 18 against Illinois -- but this could be the game where he takes the lead. Brown runs a 3-guard offense with 6'6 Steven Spieth playing the 4 position. That means Bullock will have a height and athleticism advantage over Spieth should the Bears opt to play man-to-man. Bullock has also shown a knack for getting into seams and hitting elbow jumpers against a zone. Bullock is also extremely active on the offensive glass -- 8 of his 12 rebounds this season are offensive -- and I expect he will be all over missed Friar shots, especially against a smaller frontline than he and his teammates have faced so far this season.