Time and Date: Wednesday, March 12 @ 7:00 p.m. ET
Location: Madison Square Garden
Records: Butler (16-15) | Providence (17-14)
Rankings: Butler (#63 NET) | Providence (#75 NET)
TV Channel: FS1
Watch Online: FOX Sports GO
February 26 at Butler
Providence appeared to be the stronger team for most of the game, but Kamar Baldwin single-handedly kept Butler in it with 27 points. The Bulldogs were able to force overtime, but back-to-back threes by Isaiah Jackson propelled Providence to the win.
March 9 at Providence
Providence jumped out of the gate and pummeled Butler for the first 20 minutes, jumping out to a 48-27 halftime lead. Butler battled in the second half, actually shooting 53% in the final stanza, but the Friars prevailed, 83-70.
The long-awaited BIG EAST tournament kicks off Wednesday at Madison Square Garden with a match-up of the 8-seed Providence Friars and the 9-seed Butler Bulldogs. The two teams compete for the honor of playing a well-rested Villanova the following day. This will be the first time the two have met in the conference tournament since 2016.
On the surface, this draw seems to favor Providence. Upon deeper investigation, this is still the case. Let’s examine the facts:
- Providence won both match-ups against Butler this year, including an absolute dismantling to end the regular season.
- Providence won the last BIG EAST tournament meeting between the two teams.
- The match-up is tough for Butler, with the Bulldogs generally unable to hang with the athleticism, strength, and aggression of the Friars.
- Butler has been atrocious away from home, with a record of 4-11 in road and neutral site games. The Bulldogs last road win was over a month ago. Providence is 6-8 away from home.
- Butler has struggled in the BIG EAST tournament since joining the league. It was actually just last year that the Bulldogs recorder their first tournament win, beating Seton Hall. The previous four years, they were eliminated in their first game.
- Providence has been quite successful in the BIG EAST tournament. In the first year of the new BIG EAST, the Friars won the conference title. Since then, they have usually won a game before running into Villanova. Providence has only lost its first tournament game once, in 2017,
All that being said, crazy things can happen in college basketball in the postseason. Certainly, stranger things have happened than a 9-seed upsetting an 8-seed in a conference tournament. Butler’s struggles stand out this season because there were higher expectations for the experienced Bulldogs, while Providence’s down year was somewhat predictable. Nevertheless, the Friars were also poor this season, especially in conference play.
Match-ups seem to be paramount for Providence. While the Friars only won six conference games this season, they beat St. John’s and Butler twice each—two teams that are weak inside. If the Friars can pound the paint and dominate the glass again Wednesday, the outcome should be no different than the two previous games against Butler.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Butler: Threes A’Plenty
A Butler team that is short on slashers and post scorers has relied heavily on three-pointers this season—in two losses against Providence, the Dawgs shot just 6-24 and 7-22 from behind the arc. Providence is long, athletic, and plays tough defense, but Butler should still be able to put up better shooting numbers. It’s unlikely that the Dawgs will be able to get much going in the paint, so they will have to bank on some sharpshooting from Jorgensen, McDermott, and Tucker.
Providence: Run it Back
Providence has a proven winning formula against Butler. In fact, this formula has proved to be successful twice in the last two weeks. The Friars have a clear advantage when it comes to rebounding, interior defense, and post scoring. Providence should pound the paint, giving a lot of touches to Nate Watson and crashing the offensive boards aggressively. Defensively, the Friars can cheat out towards the three-point line and rely on Watson to combat Butler’s already below-average interior scoring.