What a week it was for the Providence Friars. After beating #18 Butler midweek, Providence walked into the Wells Fargo Center and stunned Villanova, another ranked team, 82-76. Despite Kris Dunn fouling out near the end of the game, Providence was able to close out 'Nova thanks to the play of Ben Bentil. Bentil, who had 10 of his 31 points in overtime, stepped up big for the Friars with some late baskets when Dunn fouled out. This was a huge win for Providence as they beat the top team in the BIG EAST and now the race for the top spot in the conference is getting a little tighter. The win helped improve Providence's record to 17-3 overall and 5-2 in BIG EAST play. Despite disappointing losses to Marquette and Seton Hall, the Friars are very much in the race for the BIG EAST crown.
With Providence sitting third in the BIG EAST standings, the only team standing in between them and 'Nova in the standings is their opponent in this game, the Xavier Musketeers. After being blown out by 'Nova in their first conference game, Xavier has bounced back and has won five of their last six games including beating Seton Hall 84-76 in their last game. Xavier will come into this game with a record of 17-2 and a 5-2 in conference play. Chris Mack's team still ranks in the Top 10 in the country and will look to keep it that way against Providence. They showed their dominance as they didn't lose any of their nonconference games but have struggled as of late.
This will be another mouth-watering clash in the BIG EAST as two of the top teams face off and it will be a thrilling matchup to watch.
How to watch, listen, or stream
Game time: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV: Fox Sports 1
Radio: WEEI 103.7 FM (Providence) || 700 WLW (Xavier)
Stream: Streaming is available via Fox Sports Go.
Odds: Xavier opened as two-point favorites, but that's fallen to one-point most places (via OddsShark).
Record ATS: Providence (12-7) || Xavier (12-7)
O/U: The O/U opened at 144.5
3 things to watch
1. Can Kris Dunn stay in the game?
In two of Providence's last three games, Kris Dunn has fouled out. In the two games he did, Providence has gone on to either barely hang on (against Villanova) or lose (to Seton Hall). While it is good that Dunn remains aggressive on defense, he must be smart. The last foul that Dunn picked up against 'Nova was not a smart decision, and he must make better choices when it comes to not picking up fouls. Providence needs their best player on the court. If he's not on the court in crunch time, it's not good.
2. Battle of the boards
Xavier is one of the best teams on the glass in the country as they average 41.6 rebounds per game, good for 16th in the country. Providence averages around 37.5 per game, so Ed Cooley's team will have to make an extra effort to box out and prevent second chance opportunities. The main man to watch on the glass will be James Farr as he leads Xavier with 9.1 rebounds per game.
3. Fatigue for Providence
This will be Providence's second game in three nights and playing in overtime Sunday won't help the energy levels of the Friars. Since their game against 'Nova was pushed back a day, Providence has to play two games in shorter time. Compare that to Xavier who have an extra day of rest which may prove valuable come crunch time.