Date: Monday, November 15
Time: 9:00 p.m.
Stream: FOX Sports Go
Line: Wisconsin -6.5
Although the Providence Friars (2-0) enter Monday night’s contest against the Wisconsin Badgers (2-0) unbeaten, it was not smooth sailing for much of the first week of the season. In the opener, Providence led Fairfield for all of the second half, but was unable to pull away. The mediocre second frame led to a seven-point margin of victory, less than half of the 15 point victory projected by Vegas. Through the first half of their next game against Sacred Heart, the Friars seemed to be following the same script. Then the switch flipped.
Providence outscored the Pioneers 49-28 in the second half, including a 17-2 run with less than ten minutes to play to put the game away. Four different Friars scored in double-figures, including sophomore Alyn Breed who led the team with 15 points off the bench. Nate Watson was his usual self, scoring 14 points and pulling down 10 rebounds for his sixth career double-double.
Ed Cooley’s team scored 92 points in the victory. They’ll face a Wisconsin defense that just suffocated the Green Bay offense to the tune of 34 points. Under Greg Gard, Wisconsin has boasted a top-20 defense by Kenpom’s efficiency measures in each of the last three seasons. Through two games this year, the unit is ranked eighth in the nation.
Contrary to the Friars that boast one of the oldest lineups in college basketball, the Badgers do it with youth. Three of the team’s starters are underclassmen. Jonathan Davis and Steven Crowl, the team’s leading scorers, are both sophomores. Davis didn’t make his first start until this season. Chucky Hepburn is the first true freshman to start for Wisconsin in two decades. Despite that, Wisconsin has dominated their first two games, albeit against low-level opponents.
Providence is looking to open the season 3-0 for the first time since 2015-16. That’s the last year the Friars won in the Gavitt Tipoff, defeating Illinois at home. Since then, they’re 0-5 against the Big Ten, including games against Michigan and Indiana on neutral floors outside of the Gavitt Games. This will be a big test for Ed Cooley’s team. The experience of his lineup should help the team navigate their first true road environment since February 2020, but the youth and energy of these Badgers may be too much for a Providence team still seeking an identity.