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Marquette Basketball Preview Primer: at Providence Friars

The Golden Eagles head to Rhode Island with an eye on getting a victory in a winnable game.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 11 Butler at Providence
Photo by Andrew Snook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Marquette Golden Eagles (10-4, 1-1) vs Providence Friars (10-5, 1-1)

Date: Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Time: 5:30pm Central
Location: Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Providence, Rhode Island

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Andrew Rowsey, 22.4 ppg
Rebounds: Sam Hauser, 5.4 rpg
Assists: Andrew Rowsey 4.1 apg

Providence Stats Leaders

Points: Rodney Bullock, 16.9 ppg
Rebounds: Rodney Bullock, 6.7 rpg
Assists: Kyron Cartwright, 6.3 apg

Providence Injury Note: Kyron Cartwright re-injured his ankle in the first half of Providence’s 83-64 loss to Creighton on Sunday. It’s reasonable to ask if Cartwright’s injury was the deciding factor in the game, as Creighton broke the game open with a 9-0 run that took more than five minutes across the middle of the first half. Past that, Cartwright played just seven minutes after halftime and finished with just two points, five assists, and one rebound in 22 minutes. Now, in fairness to Ed Cooley, he took Cartwright out of the game with the Friars down 14 with 13 minutes left and seemingly going nowhere fast with the hobbled Cartwright out there. It’s the right coaching move 100% of the time, but Providence also didn’t mount a comeback the rest of the way, which would have been reasonable to think that they could have done so. Cooley said after the game that the Friars are “two totally different teams” with and without Cartwright on the floor, and guard Drew Edwards said that PC plays “a lot through Kyron,” and “other guys have to step up.”

Current KenPom Rankings

Marquette: #52
Providence: #59
KenPom Projection: Providence has a 60% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 78-75.

Tempo Free Fun: The tipping point of the game is probably going to be whether or not Kyron Cartwright is able to play. The California native is one of the best passers in the country, ranking fourth in assist rate (44%) according to KenPom. He doesn’t foul, he shoots threes incredibly well (46%) although not that often (three per game), and is otherwise your standard issue Ed Cooley “boy isn’t he great” point guard.

If he can’t go, then the point guard duties are going to fall to freshman Makai Ashton-Langford, and that, kids, is what we like to call “a drop off.” Having a backup point guard who ranks in the top 250 in the country in assist rate (24%) is pretty damn good, and that will get you through an awful lot of things. However, when you’re going from “might be the best” to “hey, he’s pretty good, especially for a freshman" as your starter, you’re losing an awful lot of value.

Ashton-Langford might be the better defender of the two, although he is prone to fouls, and he also has the advantage of being four inches taller than Cartwright. In a way, Providence requiring Ashton-Langford to play might actually be an advantage against Marquette’s miniscule starting backcourt. The drawback, and thus good news for Marquette is that Ashton-Langford can’t shoot. He connects on only 47% of his free throws and only 12% (!) of his three-point attempts.

Marquette/Providence is an overall fascinating matchup, as it may be the one team in the Big East where the Golden Eagles will have the size advantage. Providence will rely heavily on big man Rodney Bullock, but he’s only 6’8" and 225 pounds. All three of Marquette’s primary options to defend Bullock - Matt Heldt, Theo John, and Harry Froling - will have a height and weight advantage on him. 6’10" freshman Nate Watson has started each of PC’s last five games alongside Bullock, but he has maxed out at 21 minutes in those contests. In fact, having Watson and Bullock out there together might be advantageous to Marquette, as it would allow the 6’8" Sam Hauser to defend the much more mobile Bullock (35% on 4+ three-point attempts per game) and allow Heldt/John/Froling to focus on the less rigorous assignment of Watson.

This may be an opportunity for the Marquette defense to shine. Providence’s offense doesn’t do anything particularly well, with Free Throw Rate turning up as their only one of the Four Factors that ranks in the top 100 in the country. On top of that, MU teams under Steve Wojciechowski seem to have a weird ability to short circuit the usually outstanding point guard play by an Ed Cooley team. Sure, through six games (four of Kris Dunn and two of Kyron Cartwright), the PC PG has scored at least 11 points every time, and grabbed at least five rebounds five times, and dished at least six assists every single time. They’re also averaging over four turnovers a game. That’s not a coincidence, and considering that Cartwright seems determined to post his worst Turnover Rate of his career and Ashton-Langford is almost as bad at losing the ball as Cartwright is, it’s something to keep an eye on for Wednesday night.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 8-2, with wins in five of the last six.

Providence Last 10 Games: 6-4, with the loss to Creighton stemming a two game win streak.

All Time Series: Marquette leads, 16-8.

Current Streak: With two wins last season, Providence has now won three of the last five meetings between the two teams.

Follow Along On Twitter

@MarquetteMBB - Official Marquette account
@PCFriarsMBB - Official Providence account
@AnonymousEagle - Hey! That's us!
@pcbb1917 - Everyone’s favorite Providence site
@becb_sbn - SB Nation's Big East site
@BenSteeleMJS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat reporter