#24 Marquette Golden Eagles (9-3, 1-0 Big East) at Providence Friars (9-3, 1-0 Big East)
Date: Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Amica Mutual Pavilion, Providence, Rhode Island
Marquette Stats Leaders
Points: Kam Jones, 15.8 ppg
Rebounds: Oso Ighodaro, 6.8 rpg
Assists: Tyler Kolek, 7.8 apg
Providence Stats Leaders
Points: Bryce Hopkins, 15.7 ppg
Rebounds: Bryce Hopkins, 8.6 rpg
Assists: Jared Bynum, 4.9 apg
Game Projection: Marquette has a 55% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 76-75.
This Season So Far: In non-conference play, Providence had four total games that were not buy games. In addition to their yearly rivalry game with Rhode Island, which came on the road this season, they played TCU on the road in the Big East/Big 12 Battle and picked up games against Miami and Saint Louis in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off up at Mohegan Sun Casino.
They beat Rhode Island fairly easily, using a 17-2 run going into halftime to pull away from the Rams. That’s good, even with URI at 4-7 on the year right now. They lost the other three games. A 12-1 run by the Hurricanes turned the tables in that one, and then in the consolation game against the Billikens, PC gave up a 13-1 run midway through the second half to let SLU back in and eventually an and-1 layup by Yuri Collins with less than 30 seconds left tipped the thing away from the Friars. On the trip to see the Horned Frogs, Providence was held without a field goal for nearly six minutes to start the second half and that left them down 17. They never recovered from that, losing by 13.
Every other non-conference game that Providence has played this season has come against a team that is currently at #200 or lower in KenPom. The team that is exactly at #200 is Rider, and Providence caught a tremendous break in that season opening victory. Rider had a chance to win it at the horn with literally any shot in the world flipping PC’s 66-65 lead... but the Rider player with the ball tripped and fell and time ran out.
Average margin of victory in those seven buy games? 22.1, and yes, that includes that one point win over Rider.
They opened up Big East play on Saturday, visiting Seton Hall and picking up a 71-67 victory. Providence used runs of 13-2 and 11-1 in the second half to power them to the W, but the game was still very much in doubt down the stretch. That second run left them with a seven point lead with three minutes to play, but SHU immediately went on a 6-0 run that left PC up just one with 16 seconds to go and needing to hit free throws and hoping that the Pirates missed the three they needed to tie with scant moments left.
Tempo Free Fun: Here’s the point of all of that Season Til Now stuff. Saturday’s Big East opener against Seton Hall was the first time this season that Providence was truly tested and still came out with a win. I don’t even mean that as a criticism of Providence. That’s how they chose to schedule their season, and based on the amount of turnover that they had from last year’s Big East regular season championship* team, I don’t blame head coach Ed Cooley for going in that direction. He needed games on the board to figure out how to glue his roster together into something that resembles a coherent team on the floor, and so that’s what he did.
The question in front of us now is whether or not Cooley was successful in doing that at this point of the season. Going into The Rock on Saturday and coming out with a win against a Seton Hall team that 1) had a whole bunch of roster turnover as well and 2) changed their head coach in the offseason can be seen as a pretty solid accomplishment by Providence. It’s not really altering the trajectory of their season, but 1-0 in the Big East is 1-0 in the Big East.
The big thing to know about this Providence team is that it is shaping up to be Ed Cooley’s best offensive rebounding team. They’re currently ranked #6 in the country in that department per KenPom.com, and in his time at PC, the Friars have never ranked better than 25th..... and that was way back in 2013. They’re hauling in just over 38% of their misses right now, although Seton Hall, a noted bad defensive rebounding team, held PC to just 29% on Saturday. That offensive rebounding rate combines with 54.3% shooting on two-point attempts to push Providence to KenPom’s #40 offense at this point of the season.
If Marquette wants to disrupt Providence going for second chances on the offensive end, that starts with blocking out Ed Croswell. The 6’8”, 240 pound fifth year player from Philly has jumped right into Nate Watson’s starting spot in the lineup and is a walking bottle of Windex on the offensive end. Croswell currently ranks #4 in the country in offensive rebounding rate with nearly 20% of his team’s misses while he’s on the floor landing in his hands. It’s not like he’s feasting off his own shooting either, as PC’s big man shoots 63% from the field without a three-point attempt in sight, and according to Hoop Math, he’s at 68% at the rim. Obviously Croswell isn’t doing this all on his own. Kentucky transfer Bryce Hopkins ranks #447 in the country at OR rate, and back up big man/La Salle transfer Clifton Moore is at #433. They’re coming from lots of directions, and Marquette, noted middle of the pack defensive rebounding team, is going to have to take every single defensive possession seriously when that shot goes in the air.
If you’re a long time reader of the site, then you know I have a particular fascination with Providence’s fortunes relative to Ed Cooley’s point guard. His best teams have had a notable point guard, and the way the Friars usually go is that notable point guard is one of the best assists men, at least by way of assist rate, in the country. Last year, that guy was Jared Bynum, who was #42 in the country in assist rate per KenPom.com even though he came off the bench more than he started. So far this season, Bynum hasn’t quite hit that same level, although #130 in the country and assisting on 28% of your team’s buckets while you’re on the floor is nothing to sneeze at. It’s just a little bit down from last year’s 32% even while he’s gone from 4.0 per game to 4.9. Part of the reason for the dip can be attributed to the presence of Bryce Hopkins in the lineup. The former top 40 prospect is doing a little bit of everything for Providence. In addition to the 6’7”, 200 pounder leading the team in scoring and rebounding, Hopkins is also adding 2.7 assists per game to the team as well as a little bit under a steal per game. Those 2.7 helpers per game have him at 15.4% in assist rate, and that’s taking an edge off of what Bynum is doing since both men average over 28 minutes per game. It probably makes Providence a more dangerous offense as a whole, so that’s a net positive even though it leans a little bit away from what PC normally looks like under Cooley’s direction.
With all of that in mind, this game may be dictated by Marquette’s ability to generate and make open shots, particularly behind the arc. MU currently ranks #71 in terms of what percentage of their shots go up from behind the three-point line, and more importantly to the point here, they get an assist on nearly 62% of their baskets. That’s 18th best in the country per KenPom.com. All of this fits together with Providence’s entire deal in a couple of ways. First, PC is looking to take both of those things away. They’re #50 in stopping you from taking threes and #53 in preventing assists. Now, this isn’t necessarily a problem, as the Marquette offense is largely designed as a modern 21st century offense: Get shots either at the rim or behind the arc. If Providence is willing to sell out to prevent the three from going up in the first place, that may lead to a lot of driving space for Marquette’s guards and wings.
If Marquette can get clean looks from beyond the arc and make them with frequency, that has a chance to put Providence into a lot of trouble. While they shoot a mostly acceptable 33.0% from beyond the arc as a team, the Friars know they’re not a great three-point shooting team. Hopkins is the only player with more than 15 attempts that’s clearly a plus-shooter, connecting on nearly 39% of his tries. If Marquette is splashing threes, Providence is going to be reluctant to get into a shooting contest with them. PC has one of the 50 lowest attempt rates in the country, so merely generating long range attempts is not something that they like to do. If the Golden Eagles put together a 9-0 run off a kill because David Joplin, Kam Jones, and Tyler Kolek all drain a three on the other end after the stop, that’s going to start making things extremely uncomfortable for Providence because they just don’t seem to have the ability or the wherewithal to play catch up.
Marquette Last 10 Games: 7-3, with wins in their last three games and six of the last seven.
Providence Last 10 Games: 7-3, with wins in their last four games and six of the last seven.
All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 21-13
Current Streak: Providence won the meeting in Rhode Island last year to give them the edge, but the two teams have split the last four meetings right down the middle, and the last eight as well.