Last we saw the Providence Friars, they were the victims of bad luck. On Friday night in Annapolis, they lost by three to Markis McDuffie and the Wichita State Shockers. This would typically be a pretty shameless loss. Wichita State has been one of the best programs in the nation for the last 5-6 years.
But it was how the Friars lost that makes it all the more frustrating. All you have to do is look at free throw percentage. They shot just 13-for-26 from the line, making only an even 50 percent of their free throws. If they make three more, the game is ‘tied.’ And if they make four or more, well, there’s a possibility that result is flipped.
All the more frustrating too is that they held a 10 point lead early on but let everything slip in the second half.
Nonetheless, life goes on. And the Friars are back in action on Tuesday night. Providence welcomes the nearby Holy Cross Crusaders to Friartown for a nonconference matchup at The Dunk.
Coming out of the Patriot League, Holy Cross is 1-1 on the season. After defeating the Sacred Heart Pioneers 93-81 in their opener, they fell 56-37 to the Michigan Wolverines. Talk about polar opposite performances. After shooting 11-for-25 from 3 and 35-for-63 from the field against Sacred Heart, the Crusaders shot just 16-for-52 — 16-FOR-52 — against Michigan at the Crisler Center. Granted, Michigan has an elite defense. But goodness, talk about a paradigm shift.
Holy Cross is mostly led by the likes of Austin Butler and Jacob Grandison. The pair of sophomores, Butler was a Patriot League All-Rookie Team selection a year ago, while Grandison played in every game and had 18 starts. The duo has already gotten out to a fast start this season as far as usage rate goes, but certainly there’s room for growth.
Grandison, in particular, has been a not-so-great shooter to start the season, having made just seven of his first 23 attempts from the field. Butler has fared better, making 11-for-26, but there is obviously room for improvement there, too.
Obviously, Providence is going to have to seek improvement at the line if they want to win. Their defense has looked a little bit shaky against Wichita State. They gave up 83 points and allowed the Shockers to shoot 54.5 percent from the 3-point line. Perimeter defense has been one of the specialties under Ed Cooley, so it’s possible that they’re just off to a slow start. But so far, Wichita and the Siena Saints have had no issue in pulling up from 3. That lack of fear might be telling, so we’ll see what goes down.
In addition, Providence is going to need more from their bench. Against the Shockers, they picked up just 14 bench points. Jimmy Nichols Jr. led the way, but he had only six points. The other eight points came from Nate Watson (2), Maliek White (3) and Kris Monroe (3).
Makai Ashton-Langford, Drew Edwards and Emmitt Holt were essentially non-factors. It is Holy Cross, a team ranked 206th on KenPom as of writing, so Providence should be able to handle their business. But it has to be a bit more of a collective effort from everybody.
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Watch Online: Fox Sports Go