The Providence Friars are off to their best start through 11 games since the Rick Barnes-led Friars started 11-0 in the 1988-89 season. That team started the season 13-0 and went on to finish 18-11 after losing to Virginia as a 12 seed in the 1989 NCAA Tournament. Being ranked 14th in the AP Poll out this week marks the highest a Providence team has been ranked since the 2003-04 Friars were ranked 12th in the March 2, 2004 AP poll. The Rider Broncs own a 1-2 record against Providence all-time with their lone win coming the first time the teams squared off on February 15, 1945 at the Boston Garden. Providence is 99-25 against teams from the MAAC conference, the conference of Ed Cooley's former employer Fairfield.
How to watch, listen
Time: 8:00 p.m. EST
TV: FSN || Will Flemming & Vin Parise
Odds: Providence opened as a 14.5 point favorite over Rider, via OddsShark.
Providence is 6-4 ATS this season and Rider is 1-7 ATS.
O/U: The over/under opened at 133.
1. The Return of Dunn: Providence was in survival mode for the second half of their game against Boston College on December 9th and the entire game against Bryant last time out on December 12th. The main reason? Kris Dunn didn't play those 3 halves of basketball due to an illness. Being down an All-American point guard isn't something Ed Cooley wants to have happen but the Friars managed to keep their heads above water with a combination of young players stepping up like Drew Edwards and experienced players like Ben Bentil calming the waters. Dunn returns against Rider despite being held out of Thursday's practice.
2. Exam Break Rust: Providence and Rider both played their last games 7 days ago, with the week off from competition due to the final exam break. Both teams may come out a little sloppy in this one and that could lead to Rider staying in the game longer than Providence would want. If Providence comes out firing early and jumps out to a big lead, I think they run away with those one. If they let Rider hang around then there could be some trouble.
3. Freshmen Minutes: The freshmen for Providence have had fairly limited minutes through the first 11 games besides Ryan Fazekas. Drew Edwards had a breakout game against Bryant last Saturday and Quadree Smith started that game due to Bentil's gimpy ankle. Ricky Council has seen the least amount of floor time of the freshmen. If Providence can step on Rider's throat in this game, it would give Cooley an opportunity -- possibly the last one for awhile with Big East play rapidly approaching -- to get his young players some elongated minutes and added experience.