The Providence Friars will make a trip out to the Lone Star State on Friday night. The Friars, 9-3 on the year, look to get to 10 wins before Big East play begins. To do so however, they will have to take down the Texas Longhorns in their home down.
The Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas will play host to this matchup between Big East and Big 12 teams. The Longhorns, 7-3 on the year, will be looking to protect their house as they welcome the visiting Friars to the capital city. The two programs have met five times before in their history, the last time coming on January 5, 2004.
Texas leads the all-time series 3-2, having scored two consecutive victories over the Friars in that 2004 matchup and one on January 7, 2002. Providence last won back on New Year’s Eve 1996, a 74-66 win over the then-18th ranked Longhorns, who were led by the great Reggie Freeman at the time. Providence was spurred by Austin Croshere, Ruben Garces, Jamel Thomas and the legendary God Shammgod, of course. Texas had clipped them the year prior, and Providence won back in December 1976.
It should be noted that Providence is looking for their first ever win in Austin, having failed in their last two tries.
Texas has gotten to seven wins by beating some quality teams along the way. They racked up wins against North Carolina and Purdue, who both fall in KenPom’s Top 20. UNC, of course, is the #5 team on KenPom as of right now, and that stands as their best win of the year. They also defeated the 55th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks in their second game of the season. Other W’s include Grand Canyon, The Citadel, ULM and Eastern Illinois.
Their losses, meanwhile, have come against quality opponents. They suffered a loss to the Michigan State Spartans back on November 23, the 8th-ranked team in the nation on KenPom. They fell a week later to the Radford Highlanders and then also lost to the VCU Rams five days later. Both of those losses were at home, so Providence ought not to be intimidated too much by going to Frank Erwin, as they’ve shown that they can be beaten inside their home dwelling. That being said, the losses were by a combined four points, so it’s not as if they had the doors blown off of them.
UT’s offense hasn’t been particularly great this season. They stand 180th out of the 353 teams in D1 in PPG (74.8). Only three times have they eclipsed the 90-point threshold, having done so against The Citadel, UNC and Grand Canyon. They have, however, been very good defensively which probably shouldn’t surprise you considering who their coach is. Shaka Smart’s defenses have steadily improved each year he’s been at Texas in most categories and that seems to be the case again thus far this year.
Preseason All-Big 12 Honorable Mention Kerwin Roach II has played up to par so far. Heleads the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game, which seats him tied for 10th in the Big 12 with Kansas State Wildcats guard Barry Brown Jr. The Longhorns have three other players in double figures this season, in fellow senior Dylan Osetkowski (10.5 PPG), sophomore Matt Coleman (10.2 PPG) and freshman Jaxson Hayes (10.2 PPG).
Jericho Sims, who, like Roach, was named a Big 12 HM in the preseason, has put up 7.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, which is sixth-best on the team. Elijah Mitrou-Long, a junior guard from Alberta, has 7.5 points per game (and yes, if that name sounds familiar, he’s related to Naz Mitrou-Long, formerly of the Iowa State Cyclones).
Digging deeper into the numbers will show you that Sims has been nothing if not efficient. While he hasn’t taken a lot of shot attempts this season, his eFG% and TS% both showcase a player who has been very solid this season. It probably doesn’t help that he hasn’t taken a 3-pointer all season long and that’s why he doesn’t have the minimum attempts. But, nonetheless, he’s taken his shots and has gotten the job done.
Additionally, Sims, and especially Hayes, have been great shot-blockers. Hayes has the 12th-best Block% in the nation at 13.7 percent, while Sims has a mark of 4.3. Texas’ interior defense has been very good all year and that could pose a problem for a Providence team that has been weak inside this season.
PC has the 243rd-ranked 2PT FG% in the nation and they aren’t really taking a lot of 3-pointers, even if it’s been their most effective measure of scoring. This will likely swing the game on either end, so it will be the focal point to watch on Friday night.
With A.J. Reeves out, Providence has to be heavily reliant on Alpha Diallo. Diallo has proven he can handle that workload, posting the team’s highest Minutes%, Possession%, Shots% and Usage Rate. Basically, Alpha is... well, an alpha. His numbers across the board are solid and he’s been Providence’s go-to guy. Don’t expect that to change on Friday night.
He’ll be looking for contributors elsewhere, and you should probably keep your eye on Nate Watson. While Watson scored three points in the win over the Albany Great Danes, he was putting up double figure outputs in the previous six games and eight of Providence’s 11 outings this season. Watson is averaging practically 11 and 6 this season while averaging about 22 minutes per game, so he’s been very productive. Isaiah Jackson has been great off the bench too, at practically 10 and 5 per night. He’s due for a bounce back after just four points against Albany, coming off a 16-point outing against Central Connecticut.
This will prove to be a very intriguing game. Providence is not the favorite in this one. The Friars are projected to lose by eight on KenPom, have a 24 percent WP% and are 8.5/9.5-point dogs in Vegas. The Friars are an even 6-6 ATS this season while Texas is 4-6, so it’s a wonder what could happen in that department. As for who wins? The loss of Reeves will make it tough against an experienced Texas team that will likely frustrate them on the defensive side of the ball. Providence will have to overcome their weaknesses inside against their stout interior defense if they want to win.
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT
Watch Online: WatchESPN