How to watch Providence vs. South Dakota State in the NCAA Tournament
Day: Thursday, March 17
Time: 12:40 p.m. ET
Watch Online: March Madness Live
How to bet on Providence vs. South Dakota State
Spread: Providence -2 | South Dakota State +2
Moneyline: Providence -135 | South Dakota State +115
That’s the number that will be talked about most often ahead of Providence’s NCAA Tournament opener against the #13 South Dakota State Jackrabbits (30-4, 18-0). What is it? That’s the Jackrabbits’ three-point shooting percentage, a number good enough for first place in Division I.
It’s that number that’s led the Providence Friars (25-5, 14-3), the Regular Season Big East Champions, a four seed, to be favored by just 2 points entering Thursday afternoon. That’s the least a four seed has ever been favored in the first round.
The matchup is certainly a scary one for Ed Cooley. The Jackrabbits have not lost since December 15th, and they feature one of the highest-scoring offenses in college basketball. South Dakota State averages nearly 87 points per game behind Baylor Scheierman, the deep-shooting sensation, and Douglas Wilson, his inside-scoring partner.
Scheierman won Player of the Year in the Summit League this past seasons, and he has in-the-gym range. While the sophomore takes the most shots in this offense, it’s Wilson who leads his team in scoring. The forward is quick around the rim and comes down with more than his fair share of offensive rebounds. Wilson is also second in the nation in fouls drawn per 40 minutes according to KenPom.com.
The man that runs the show for the Jackrabbits is Head Coach Eric Henderson, a man with Big East connections. Henderson played under Creighton Head Coach Greg McDermott at Wayne State and spent time at Iowa State learning under McDermott as well. In three years under Henderson, the Jackrabbits have never finished below sixth nationally in effective field goal percentage.
It was Greg McDermott’s offense that tore the Friars apart to the tune of 85 points last Friday. Providence managed just 58 points in the semifinal. That’s not the kind of showing most teams want to have before entering college basketball’s biggest stage. It’s also the kind of game that hasn’t fazed Providence all season. Nothing has, really.
The loss to Creighton was the third blowout the Friars have faced this year. After both of the previous ones, against Virginia and at Marquette, they went and rallied off eight straight wins. They won’t need eight in a row after last Friday to be holding a trophy at the end of the season.
Of course, that has to start with a win on Thursday. For as dangerous as the Jackrabbits are on offense, they’re just as flawed on defense. South Dakota State features an undersized lineup that likes to rally to the ball. That should bode well for Nate Watson, Providence’s big man, who will have a massive height advantage on whoever is assigned to defend him. “It will take a team effort to protect the paint,” said Eric Henderson on Wednesday. South Dakota State likes to double the ball down low, which means Watson should have plenty of opportunities to find open shooters on the outside when he isn’t powering through defenders to get to the rim.
On defense, Ed Cooley will have to focus on defending the Jackrabbits from the inside out. While the flashing numbers suggest they like to shoot, this offense operates through the inside first. Henderson likes to get his players in isolation in the post, and his guards have the vision to drive and kick at a high level. Cooley will need his defenders to stay in front of ball-handlers and contest shots at a higher level than they did last time out for Providence to slow down South Dakota State’s offense.
Bouncing back has been something Providence has done well all year. The Friars have given up 80 points on four occasions before the game against Creighton. They’ve allowed 61.5 points per game in the subsequent games. The defense has been up and down, but it hasn’t stayed down for long. Ahead of a meeting against one of the highest-flying offenses in college basketball, the Friars cannot afford a letdown.
This is Ed Cooley’s sixth NCAA Tournament appearance since being hired as head coach at Providence. In the previous five appearances, the Friars have managed just one win; a 70-69 victory over USC in 2016.
Cooley said on Wednesday, “I don’t think there’s a person in America who has given us a a chance to win this game tomorrow.” The Friars have a chip on their shoulder. That’s where they’ve thrived all season.