After picking up a win in their last meeting back on January 23, the Providence Friars will aim to sweep the Xavier Musketeers for the first time since the Big East reformatting in the 2013-14 season. The Friars and Musketeers will meet up in Friartown at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon for a matchup pitting two of the Big East’s more disappointing teams this season.
If the Big East Tournament began today, Providence and Xavier would be playing on Wednesday night. They, along with the Creighton Bluejays, are 4-8 in league play and have accrued a combined 24 losses so far on the season. Xavier has the not-so-honorable distinction of being the conference’s only sub-.500 team overall with a record of 12-13. Providence, at least, can say they’re 14-11.
Providence’s defense has stood out this season. They’re second in the conference in AdjDE, with a mark of 96.3. The Marquette Golden Eagles lead the conference in that department (95.9, 39th) so they’re in some good company. They’ll be asked with corralling a Xavier offense that ranks in the Top 75 in AdjOE (73rd to be precise) with a mark of 109.2. The main target should be Naji Marshall, as Marshall is their most major contributor. He leads the team in Min%, %Poss and %Shots. His efficiency is down from last season but the 6-foot-7, 222-pound sophomore wing still has shown an adept ability to make things happen. Alpha Diallo and Isaiah Jackson will likely key in on him throughout the afternoon.
Xavier’s tandem of guards have been flourishing at times this season, especially sophomore Paul Scruggs, who is the team’s best 3-point shooter. Scruggs is shooting 43.2 percent from beyond the arc this season and has shot 39.6 percent against Big East opponents. He’s gone 12-for-27 against Tier A opponents, per KenPom, so he’s doing well even against the best of the best. Makai Ashton-Langford, David Duke, Maliek White and Drew Edwards will be doing the most to keep them in check, as should A.J. Reeves.
The thing with Providence is that they need to find a way to get their offense going. It seems at times that in their worst performances of the season, they’ve just gone ice cold and can’t make buckets for minutes at a time. They scored only 67 points against the Villanova Wildcats this past Wednesday. They put up just 10 points in the first 10 minutes and 12 in the final 10.
Compare that to the 32 that ‘Nova put up in that frame and you have yourself a recipe for disaster. The Musketeer defense is not among the best in the country at all, so there are few excuses for Providence not to take advantage of this situation. Especially considering they’ll be playing at home. The Friars will need to dig deep and cut their shooting and scoring woes out if they want to pick up what would be a very important victory for them as they aim to climb out of the hole they’ve dug themselves into.
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: FOX (Check local listings)
Watch Online: Fox Sports Go (Where available)