The Friars and Rams will meet for the 86th time on Saturday. Over the course of their history, it’s been a lopsided rivalry tilted in favor of the Friars. Providence has won 60 of the previous 85 contests between the two Ocean State programs. This includes a run of seven victories in a row from 2010-2016.
That streak was snapped last season when the Rams defeated them 75-68 in Kingston. That was, however, the only loss Ed Cooley has taken in this rivalry of course, and only the sixth loss they’ve eaten since the turn of the 21st century.
Rhody comes into this game 3-2 on the season. They defeated the Brown Bears the last time we saw them on Wednesday night in Kingston. Their other two victories came against the Harvard Crimson and the Bryant Bulldogs. Their losses, meanwhile, came at the hands of the College of Charleston Cougars and the Stony Brook Seawolves. In their wins, they’ve averaged 81.33 points, and in their losses, they’ve averaged just 56.5 points. They hit their season high in their opener, winning 97-63 over Bryant.
The Rams profile so far as a team that is strong on defense, but they’re anything but that on offense. They sit in the cellar in 3PT FG% as the 352nd ranked team in the nation in the category (22.3%). They rank 210th in 2PT FG%, 230th in FT% and 323rd in eFG%. They’re simply not making shots from anywhere this season and that probably bodes well for Providence in this matchup. They don’t have an elite offense, per se, but they rank favorably in most categories while their opposition just doesn’t.
Rhode Island’s best shotmaker this season has been junior Christion Thompson. Thompson has his eFG% and TS% up in the low 50s and has shot 37 percent from 3-point land on his 27 attempts from deep. Of course, the problem is that Thompson doesn’t take many shots. He’s averaged just under eight field goals per game, which ranks fourth on the team. Others, like Fatts Russell, Cyril Langevine and Jeff Dowtin, all average around 11 or more FGs per game (Russell leads with 15.2 FGA/game).
Rhode Island’s strength is in their defense. They are the 2nd-best 3-point defending team in the country with a mark of only 21.3 percent omitted against them so far. Their eFG% allowed is just 45 percent and they’ve forced turnovers at a rate of 23.4 percent. They have gotten cut up inside though, having allowed a mark of 55.1 percent on 2-point tries.
Of course, it could be argued that URI’s competition might be why their 3-point FG% allowed is so low. The highest-ranked 3-point shooting team they faced was Harvard, and they currently sit 106th in the country. The others rank 211th, 232nd, 314th and 341st. Providence ranks 134th, so they are around that area too, but they certainly have a lot of skilled players who can make it happen on the perimeter. A.J. Reeves, for one, could have a big day. But to be fair, teams are shooting quite a bit of 3-pointers against them. So they’ve withstood the storm so far.
Providence has pieced together two victories in a row after their 66-47 loss to the Michigan Wolverines. The key to their successes has unsurprisingly been Alpha Diallo. Diallo has been the man for the Friars, scoring a combined 43 points in those victories over the Iona Gaels and Fairleigh Dickinson Knights. If the Friars are to beat the Rams, Diallo is gonna probably end up being the man again.
But who will step up around him? The last two games, it’s actually been Nate Watson and Isaiah Jackson. Watson and Jackson put up a combined 21 points off the bench in their win over FDU and a combined 26 in the victory over the Gaels. A.J. Reeves had 20 points against Iona, but had just seven in the victory over the Knights.
A win for Providence should probably be expected. Rhode Island’s offense is just far too stagnant for me to believe they’re going to pull something off against the Friars on the road. Providence may struggle a little bit with their defense but they should be able to overcome that and pull off yet another win against Rhody.
Prediction: Providence 70, Rhode Island 60
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 5 p.m. ET
Watch Online: Fox Sports Go