No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies (20-11, 9-9) vs. No. 10 Providence Friars (21-13, 10-8)
WHEN: 12:15 p.m. EST
WHERE: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC
TV: CBS (Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, Tracy Wolfson)
ALL-TIME: This is the first time the two programs will meet.
LINE: A&M -2 (after opening at -4.5)
Providence is coming off a strong run in the Big East Tournament, which ended in an overtime loss to Villanova in the conference Championship. That was the third straight OT game for the Friars, as they were coming off victories against Creighton and Xavier. This stretch solidified Providence’s fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Texas A&M began their season 11-1 before struggling in SEC play, ultimately finishing at 9-9 in the conference. The Aggies then fell to Alabama on a buzzer-beater in the SEC Tournament.
A&M is led by their frontcourt duo of Tyler Davis and Robert Williams, as the two 6’10 big men dominate around the rim and control the offensive glass. The Aggies differ from Providence in that they don’t rely on guard play and perimeter production.
So what’s this mean for Friday’s matchup?
For Providence to come away with the win, they’ll need to find a way to manage the boards, despite A&M’s size advantage. That seems pretty obvious when playing a team led by two 6’10 players, but for Ed Cooley, he can approach this in a few ways. We may see a lot of Nate Watson and Kalif Young if PC wants to try and battle underneath. However, I’d suspect that Cooley will opt to run with his small lineup for a lot of this one, with Rodney Bullock playing the 5. This group tends to produce more for the Friars on the offensive end. If Providence can operate efficiently with this smaller lineup, they’ll cause plenty of issues for the Aggies.
Another key for the Friars is the shooting of Jalen Lindsey. He was Providence’s leading three point shooter all season, and he’s been cold as of late. They could certainly use a lift from the senior on Friday.
For Texas A&M, it’s pretty straightforward. The Aggies have to try and control the tempo and dominate inside. They’ll need contributions from guards like TJ Starks and Admon Gilder if they want to maintain Kyron Cartwright.
If Providence can knock down some outside shots, while getting quality minutes from their bench, the Friars will put themselves in a good spot to face UNC in Charlotte on Sunday.