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#6 Marquette Men’s Basketball Big East Preview Primer: at RV Providence Friars

The Golden Eagles hit the road to start league play against a Friars team that’s earning precisely one 21st place vote in the AP poll.

COLLEGE HOCKEY: OCT 20 Denver at Providence
Who thought it was a good idea to give Friar Dom razor blades on his feet?
Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

#6 Marquette Golden Eagles (9-2, 0-0 Big East) at RV Providence Friars (9-2, 0-0 Big East)

Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Time: 7:30pm Central
Location: Amica Mutual Pavilion, Providence, Rhode Island

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Kam Jones, 15.6 ppg
Rebounds: Oso Ighodaro, 6.2 rpg
Assists: Tyler Kolek, 5.9 apg

Providence Stats Leaders

Points: Bryce Hopkins, 17.2 ppg
Rebounds: Bryce Hopkins, 8.3 rpg
Assists: Devin Carter, 3.0 apg Rankings

Marquette: #6
Providence: #52
Game Projection: Marquette has a 66% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 75-70.

This Season So Far: Providence has mostly been stacking up buy game wins. Those account for five of their wins, and their local rivalry games against Rhode Island and Brown were both lopsided wins as well. The crown jewel of their season so far is a 72-59 home win over Wisconsin in the Gavitt Tipoff Games, which appears to have woken the Badgers out of a slumber since they’re 7-1 since then. Providence went to the Baha Mar Hoops event in the Bahamas for Feast Week, where they went to overtime with Kansas State in the semifinals before losing, then beat Georgia by seven in the consolation game. Their Big East/Big 12 Battle game was a visit to Oklahoma, and yeah, they lost by 21 in a game that would have been looked at as a cointoss before the season started. However, Oklahoma is still undefeated, even now two games after beating the Friars and have gone shooting from unranked in the preseason into the top 10 right now. It’s not fun to lose by 21, but Oklahoma’s a pretty dang good ballclub right now.

Tempo Free Fun: The biggest thing to know about this game is that this isn’t going to be like a Marquette/Providence game from the past decade or so. That’s because Ed Cooley is on the Georgetown sidelines now, and former George Mason head coach Kim English is in charge in Friartown. With that in mind, both coaching staffs are starting from scratch in terms of generating a game plan. Marquette has a little bit of an advantage, as Providence’s rotation features five guys that were on the roster a year ago.

So far through 11 games, there are a few notable differences between how an Ed Cooley Providence team plays and how a Kim English Providence team plays. The big one in my eyes is turnovers, as the Friars are currently giving it away on over 20% of their possessions this season. Cooley’s worst team in that regard was 19.3% in 2019-20, and they were top 100 in the country at keeping track of the ball over each of the past three seasons. That’s not the case now, and PC’s backcourt of Jayden Pierre and Devin Carter are particularly vulnerable. They both have turnover rates north of 22% individually, and Pierre’s is alllllllll the way up at 31%. Making them cough it up is no guarantee of victory, as they’ve managed to win four times this season with a turnover rate above 23% as a team, including an absolutely bonkers 27% in their shelling of Wisconsin. Still, that’s a flaw that fits into a strength for Marquette, or at the very least, feeds into how the Golden Eagles want to conduct business with their deflections.

The Friars are also suddenly not a good offensive rebounding team. Last year, PC hauled in nearly 35% of their misses, and that ranked them in the top 20 nationally. This year? Just 28.5%, and that’s a sub-200 ranking. They still have good offensive rebounders, individually speaking, including Bryce Hopkins, who tortured Marquette with eight of his 23 rebounds coming on the offensive end in PC’s 103-98 win at The AMP last season. Josh Oduro, a 6’9” big man who followed English from George Mason to Providence, is pretty good on the glass on both ends as well, and so is Rafael Castro, who actually has a better offensive rebounding rate than Hopkins, although he’s playing limited minutes off the bench this year. I suspect the sudden decline is more about English choosing to get back on defense instead of chasing extra chances, and with Providence ranking #17 in the country at two-point shooting percentage and #51 in effective field goal percentage, that’s not the worst tactical decision.

If that is what’s happening, then it’s definitely paying off, as Providence ranks #21 in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric. That’s not a huge change from the Cooley days, but it is better than the Friars have been for the past few years. PC is particularly good at denying two things that Marquette wants to do: Shoot threes and hit the open man for a shot. They’re #23 in the country in terms of how often opponents shoot a long range shot and #8 in stopping teams from getting an assist on their buckets. Both of those things are big changes from the Cooley era, so we’ll have to wait and see how how Marquette adjusts to the defensive scheme that the Friars throw up.

Speaking of waiting and seeing, Devin Carter missed Providence’s last game against Sacred Heart, as did Corey Floyd. Carter had started every game of the season up to that point, while Floyd had played at least 17 minutes while coming off the bench in all but one contest. English said after the game that holding Carter out was precautionary and he could have played if they really needed him to, while Floyd had x-rays after an injury earlier in the week that came up negative. Providence played essentially with just six guys in that Sacred Heart game, with three more players — including Castro — combining for just 11 minutes of action. That game was close deep into the second half — 53-51 Friars with under 10 to play — so we could probably expect the same kind of rotation from English if he doesn’t have Carter or Floyd available on Tuesday.

Marquette Last 10 Games: 8-2, with wins in each of the last three games and four of the last five.

Providence Last 10 Games: 8-2, with wins in their last two games and six of the last seven.

All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 22-14

Current Streak: Marquette won the most recent meeting, 83-75, in Milwaukee last season. However, the two teams have split the last 10 meetings straight down the middle including season splits in each of the past three seasons.