As of today, the Providence Friars look to be as close to a lock as a team of their record and resume can be for the NCAA Tournament. Their Thursday counterpart Seton Hall, however, likely has a much murkier standing in the eyes of the Selection Committee. Despite this, both teams will enter Thursday night at the Prudential Center in desperation mode: the Friars need a win to drag themselves out of a near six-week slump, and the Pirates, with a win, would gain a crucial win to bolster their resume.
The Pirates took down the Friars in Providence back in mid-January, commanding the game from the opening tip en route to an 81-72 victory. Khadeen Carrington led the Pirates off the bench with 22 points, while Ben Bentil's 21 was good for Providence's team high.
As Round Two creeps closer, here's how and what to watch for on Thursday Night:
How To Watch
Time: 7 p.m. ET
TV: FOX Sports 1 (Tim Brando and Jim Spanarkel have the call)
Stream: FOX Sports Go
Radio: WEEI 103.7 FM in Providence, WNYM 970 AM in Newark
Seton Hall currently sits as a four point favorite. The Over/Under is at 143.
3 Things To Watch
1. Did the Week Off Do the Friars Any Good?
For every team, fatigue is inevitable at some point during the college basketball season. Over the last few weeks, Providence has looked tired, banged up, and in need of rest. Fortunately for them, they have not played since a loss last Wednesday at Xavier; they hope that this rest has done wonders for a team that's been hurting mentally and physically.
Ideally for Ed Cooley, the rest will help Kris Dunn's explosiveness, Ben Bentil's ankle, and his auxiliary players' confidence and shooting strokes. A week off doesn't guarantee and improved performance, but Cooley and the Friars are hoping that this one does.
2. Dunn vs. Whitehead, Part 2
Neither one of the two talented guards stole the show during their last matchup, but Dunn and Whitehead are both appointment television when they are at their best. Whitehead is a much more polished scorer, but Dunn's defensive prowess, along with his court vision and ability to finish in traffic, give him the slight advantage on paper. Dunn's hot-and-cold play over the Big East schedule, makes it extremely hard to figure out who will win the matchup between these two. Whoever wins the head-to-head tilt between these two will likely give their team the upper hand; both must be effective on both sides of the ball.
3. Battle for Third Place
Should Seton Hall win, they would open up a two game lead on Creighton for third place in the Big East, and would ensure that the Friars cannot jump them at any point in the regular season. A loss would make things even hairier for the Pirates, as they have to host red-hot Xavier on Sunday afternoon, then travel to Butler next week. Back-to-back losses would spell doom for a team hoping to improve their conference record and standing.
Providence can't take third place back from the Pirates even with a win on Thursday night. They can, however, gain a game on both Seton Hall and Creighton. The Friars likely want to avoid playing Xavier, Villanova, or Seton Hall in their first Big East Tournament game, and a win would all but ensure that they do not have to. Should they lose on Thursday, the Friars would fall even with Marquette, Georgetown, and Butler for fifth in the conference with games against Creighton, DePaul, and St. John's still on the schedule.