With the Providence Friars facing off against Texas A&M Aggies in the first game for the Friday slate of 2018 NCAA Tournament games, James Gardner of Good Bull Hunting, SB Nation’s Texas A&M blog, was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Big East Coast Bias: How good has Robert Williams been this season? What are some of the things he does well which makes him so effective?
James Gardner: It’s fair to say that A&M wouldn’t be in the tournament without Robert Williams. He is big and incredibly athletic for his frame. He shows flashes that clearly show why he’s likely to be a lottery pick this summer. When he’s focused, he owns the paint and makes life hell for the opposing team’s big men on both ends of the court. His game is still pretty raw. He has outings where he appears to lack focus where he either gets into foul trouble or disappears for long stretches
BECB: Battle on the boards: How have both Williams and Tyler Davis been able to dominate the glass?
JG: They are both massive. They’re 6’10” with Williams weighing 245 and Davis tipping the scales at 266. There aren’t many front courts that can line up against that kind of meat. It goes further than that though. Davis and Williams both have great feet to go with that size. Like most big men, when they’re in control of their bodies and positioning, they gobble up rebounds and force teams to shoot from the perimeter
BECB: The defense ranks 12th highest in KenPom’s adjusted defense rankings. How have they stifled opponents like this?
JG: The aforementioned Davis and Williams are obviously huge factors, but I’ll throw a March buzzword at you – LENGTH. There isn’t a whole lot of room to operate against A&M’s D. They like to get opponents into the half court and clog everything up.
BECB: What’s the one you are worried about when it comes to this game against Providence?
JG: I’m worried the Providence that beat Villanova and Xavier (twice) is going to show up. There is no disputing that the Friars have grit and balls. If they can hit some outside shots while forcing A&M into self-destruction (shockingly easy to do) then they’ll advance.
BECB: Prediction and why?
JG: Both of these teams have the potential to either light it up or completely get drilled. The public is betting Providence hard and I tend to think they’re falling too hard for Cinderella. I’ll take A&M 66-62 to survive, advance, and most importantly – cover.