So is there a basketball game tomorrow?
You bet. And with the big URI/PC showdown coming up, we decided to get a little more info on the Friars. So we reached out to Shane McCarthy of FanSided’s own Play For the Garden to answer a few questions for us. Here’s what he had to say.
Rhody Rampage: Providence is certainly exceeding the expectations of most as they started out 6-0. Their only losses have come to a tough Maryland team and the very talented Kentucky Wildcats. How would you evaluate their play so far?
Play For the Garden: Ever since Ed Cooley arrived and took over the head coaching duties three years ago, expectations at Providence have been on the rise. He’s a great recruiter, but he’s an even better coach. So to evaluate their play thus far, I’d say that they are meeting those expectations. I don’t think anyone predicted they would beat Kentucky on a neutral floor, but it was still encouraging to see them play the Wildcats tough, and not appear timid. And their loss to Maryland in the Paradise Jam championship was disappointing, but it was their third game in four days and Kris Dunn was clearly playing banged up. Beyond those two reasonable losses, they’ve taken care of business with nice wins against Boston College in overtime at home to open the season and against Vanderbilt on a neutral floor.
RR: Cotton, Henton, Batts, Fortune… the Friars have some firepower. Who do you think posts the biggest threat to the Rams?
PFTG: Usually the answer to this question is going to be Cotton, the reigning Big East scoring champion who is averaging 19.0 points per game this season. But when scouting the Rams through nine games, you see they are solid at defending the 3-point line (yielding just 29.5 percent conversion rate to opponents for 55th best in the country), but way below average at defending everything inside the arc (yielding 54.5 percent conversion rate on 2-pointers for 304th in the country). So with that said, I believe Kadeem Batts poses the biggest threat to Rhode Island on Thursday night. The 6-foot-9 Batts is talented in the paint with a variety skilled moves around the basket, but he can also step out and knock down the 17 footer. After Doug McDermott, Batts may be the most versatile big man in the Big East.
RR: Kris Dunn is still having shoulder issues, and he likely won’t be playing tomorrow night at the Ryan Center. How big of a loss is this for PC?
PFTG: Playing without Dunn is a significant loss. He’s averaging just 3.8 points in four games played, but he has the potential to be one of the better point guards in the country. He’s definitely a match-up problem given his size, speed and handles, but more importantly, it means that Cotton doesn’t have to run the point for the Friars. Cotton is a much better player and more effective for his team when he’s able to play off the ball and get into space. When he’s needed to play the point, he can try to do a bit too much sometimes, either by forcing shots or just being erratic with the ball. He’s at his best when he’s able to run circles around the defense and spot up for open looks.
RR: In your opinion, what is the biggest weakness for the Friars? How can Rhody exploit it?
PFTG: The Friars aren’t a great shooting team, as their effective field goal percentage of 44.7 percent ranks them 301st in the country, but more importantly it’s what I said immediately above – their point guard play. Their offense isn’t as free flowing and dangerous with Dunn out. Cotton is a scorer, and being slapped with the ball handling duties limits his potential. Instead of creating off the ball, which he is best at, he has to first think about being the creator with the ball in his hand. If the Rams can pressure him and give him problems, they can potentially shut down the Friar offense.
RR: Finally, give us your prediction for tomorrow night.
PFTG: Providence has won the last three meetings with Rhode Island, but this is their first true road game of the season, while the Rams have yet to lose at home. Without Dunn, PC isn’t quite as explosive. And when it comes to rivalry games, it’s best to throw records and stats out the window. Nevertheless, I’ve liked the fight that the Friars have shown in the young season, battling back in the second half of multiple games so far, and I say they edge out a close victory over the Rams on the Thursday night.
Thanks to Shane for his time! You can check Play For the Garden on Twitter for more insight leading up to tomorrow’s contest. Be sure to follow them during the game for analysis from the other side.