How to watch Providence vs. Kansas in the NCAA Tournament
Day: Friday, March 25
Time: 7:29 p.m. ET
Watch Online: March Madness Live
How to bet on Providence vs. Kansas in the NCAA Tournament
Spread: Providence +7.5 | Kansas -7.5
Moneyline: Providence +260 | Kansas -335
“Our goal is to be back for practice on Monday.”
Providence Head Coach Ed Cooley, named a finalist for Naismith Coach of the Year earlier this week, said that was the team’s goal after Selection Sunday. It remains the same heading into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Go to the site, win two games, come back and get ready to do it again. That’s the message.
The path to the third and final weekend starts Friday night against the Kansas Jayhawks (30-6, 14-4), the 1 seed in the Midwest. The Jayhawks have already hoisted two trophies this season, thanks to winning the Big 12 in the regular season and conference tournament, and they have been a National Championship contender all season.
The Providence Friars (27-5, 14-3) are no stranger to trophies this year, having claimed the Big East regular-season crown back in February for the first time in program history.
Ochai Agbaji is the guy at Kansas. A fourth-year Jayhawk, Agbaji has been electric since the first day he stepped on the floor at Allen Fieldhouse. Few have been able to slow him down all season. Agbaji has more games over twenty points than under this year, including the time he dropped 37 on Texas Tech. He makes 53 percent of his twos and 40 percent of his threes. He can also rebound, pass, and notch steals at the other end. It’s no surprise he won Big 12 Player of the Year. He was named a Naismith Player of the Year finalist earlier this week.
There’s no stopping Ochai. You can, however, find ways to slow him down. That will be Justin Minaya’s task this Friday night.
Minaya is the cog that makes Providence’s defense run. Ed Cooley uses him against the opposing offense’s best option, attempting to take him away and make you win with your other guys. It’s a strategy that has been effective in the NCAA Tournament.
Behind Minaya, Providence’s defense has held both South Dakota State and Richmond to season-lows en route to the Sweet 16. The defense has also been up and down all season, allowing 85 points to Creighton in the Big East Tournament and 89 at home to Villanova. That Villanova offense ranks similarly to Kansas in terms of efficiency, and the Wildcats scored more than 1.2 points per possession in two games against the Friars this season. That includes a 33-point performance from Collin Gillespie, the Big East Player of the Year. Allowing a similar performance from Agbaji on Friday would almost certainly spell doom for the Friars.
Providence needs to make life difficult for the 6-5 guard. It also needs to slow him down, literally. The Jayhawks play with the pedal to the metal, averaging nearly 70 possessions per game. All six of their losses this season have come when they’ve been forced to play slower than that. The Friars have some experience slowing down teams this season, including their game against South Dakota State.
They were also able to grind down Marquette back in January, forcing the Golden Eagles into their halfcourt offense and making them uncomfortable. By breaking up the tempo, Providence kept them out of rhythm and made life difficult. Marquette shot just 5-19 from deep that day. That’s no coincidence. It’s what happens when you force a team to play outside of its comfort zone.
Against Creighton in the second round, Kansas scored 19 of its 79 points on the fast break. Those are the easy buckets Providence has to stop.
The best way to control the tempo is to control the ball. That means extending possessions and creating second and third chances by dominating on the offensive glass.
This approach is one Kansas has been vulnerable to this season. In five of their six losses, the Jayhawks allowed 11 or more offensive rebounds. Fortunately for Providence, Nate Watson, Justin Minaya, and Ed Croswell are all excellent at pulling down misses.
To keep pace with Kansas’ offense, the Friars can’t afford to miss often. But if they can regain possession after some of those misses and either get an easy putback or kick out to run the offense again, killing the clock in the process, that could go a long way towards an Elite Eight berth.
This will be a priority for Providence at the other end of the floor, too. The Jayhawks get plenty of second chances thanks to big man David McCormack, the player with the fourth-highest offensive rebounding percentage in the country according to KenPom.com.
Nate Watson will need to play stout defense around the rim while boxing McCormack out. This Kansas offense is talented enough to beat the Friars without extra opportunities. Providence cannot afford to give up extra opportunities for the Jayhawks to score.
Providence’s Jared Bynum won Sixth Man of the Year in the Big East and was named to the all-conference second team. He is, without a doubt, one of the best players off the bench in the country.
Unfortunately for Ed Cooley, the Jayhawks have someone that may be better.
Remy Martin is the first guy off the bench for Bill Self. Martin, a transfer from Arizona State, averaged more than 19 points in each of his last two seasons with the Sun Devils. The hype was real for Martin when he elected to take his extra year at Kansas, being named Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year.
Instead, Martin battled injuries and struggled to stay on the court this season, averaging a career-low 8.1 points per game. He seems to have turned the corner and become the player the Jayhawks expected as of late, though. Martin has scored in double figures in his last four games, and he’s been Kansas’s leading scorer in both NCAA Tournament games.
While Bynum might not have the accolades of Martin, he’s no slouch. The junior guard found his shot this season and lit up scoreboards, averaging over 20 points in February and scoring 32 points at Georgetown.
Both teams’ sixth men are tough, undersized guards with a penchant for knocking down tough shots. Either one could be the x-factor in a game many expect to come down to the wire.
- This is the first-ever meeting between Providence and Kansas.
- Both teams won their Big East-Big 12 Battle game this season. Providence defeated Texas Tech at home without Jared Bynum. Kansas beat St. John’s at the Barclays Center behind 31 points from Braun.
- Providence is one win shy of the program record of 28, set in the 1973-74 season.
- Kansas is 7-2 in games decided by 5 or fewer points or in overtime. Providence is 12-2 in games decided by 5 or fewer points or in overtime.
- With 2,353 all-time wins, a Kansas win against Providence would move KU ahead of Kentucky (2,353) for most all-time victories at 2,354.