Friar fans, it’s here at last. Providence College takes to the court late Friday evening in their first NCAA game against the Dayton Flyers.

While Providence is making its second NCAA trip in a row, Dayton returns a team that had an Elite 8 run last year and a one point win over Boise State in the play-in game on Wednesday. Here’s a look at how our Fearless Forecasters think this one will go:

Richard Coren
Let’s just start off by dispelling whatever myths exist about Dayton being a midmajor and so Providence should automatically win this game. Some facts and figures that are tough to deny: Dayton has won 10 of its last 13 games against Big East teams; over the past 8 years, Dayton is 26-10 against all teams in the so-called Power Five conferences; and the Flyers are 7-0 against ACC teams in their last seven matchups. So, Dayton may play in the A-10 but they are a quality program with no fear of facing a Big East foe. And they have significant NCAA tournament experience. That’s the plus side. On the negative side, a strong case can be made that PC is a bad matchup for Dayton. The Flyers lack height and depth, two areas where the Friars excel. What Providence also has going for it are the two best players on the floor – LaDontae Henton and Kris Dunn. Henton should be able to operate against Dayton and Dunn should give the Flyer’s guards fits. What worries me is foul trouble. Playing in Ohio against Dayton will not be easy and the Flyers are very good at getting to the free throw line. The reason that they do this well is that they like to spread teams out and drive the ball inside, where invariably they draw contact. Potentially, this could put players like Carson Desrosiers, Ben Bentil and Paschal Chukwu into foul trouble, which would neutralize PC’s height advantage and turn this into a jump shooting contest. If Providence can avoid foul trouble and get second chances on offense, the Friars should be able to rebound well and bother Dayton’s perimeter game just enough to grab a win, but it won’t be easy. I’m expecting a defensive-minded, grind it out, relatively low scoring game.
Prediction: Providence 65 Dayton 58

Steve Hartnett
Dayton is like a junk yard dog. They aren’t very big or pretty to watch, but they have some quickness, are hardnosed, resilient, and generally very a tough out. The Flyers are streaky shooters, but they use their harassing defense to force turnovers and get easy hoops in transition. They’ve been known to go through cold stretches at times on offense, but often light up the scoreboard in the 2nd half of games or when key baskets are needed down the stretch of tough games. Their coach, Archie Miller, is returning the Flyers to the round of 64 fresh off an Elite 8 run last year, and the game vs. Providence is in Columbus, Ohio where they’ll no doubt find a supportive audience. On paper, Dayton certainly has some things working in their favor including a tournament tested go to player in Jordan Sibert, favorable location, and a group of Flyer players who trust their coach and have already proven they can win games in this tournament.

Unfortunately for Dayton, Providence is a tough matchup. The Friars have a huge size advantage and enough front court depth to protect the rim against the Flyers. Providence also has some length on the perimeter of their zone, which late in the season has gelled enough to effectively limit the outside shooting of even an elite offense like Villanova’s. On offense, I also think Dayton is a team that Friar leading scorer LaDontae Henton should be able to get his shot off against. There is no magic formula to winning this game. It is a game that will be won by Providence with the requisite intensity and required focus on the court. If the Friars control the glass, (which they should), avoid silly fouls to key players (Dunn, Bentil, Henton), and limit their turnovers, Providence should score enough to advance to the Round of 32, particularly if Kris Dunn continues his MVP play from the Big East Tournament. However, after a full week since their last game, I don’t expect the Friars to shoot the lights out in this one. I also don’t expect all of Providence’s starters to completely avoid foul trouble. There will be some adversity in this game in front of a Flyer friendly crowd, so I expect the game be relatively close down the stretch, but I think the Friars will forge enough of a lead to outlast Dayton’s grit, and also avoid any buzzer beater scenario. Survive and advance.
Prediction: Providence 68 Dayton 61

While Dayton may be the de-facto home team wearing the road jersey for the second straight time this week I think Providence has proven that they can handle themselves on neutral and road courts. Ed Cooley will have his team prepared for Dayton and the Flyers even mirror some Big East teams -- though the Flyers aren't nearly as good as those Big East teams. Dayton is undersized and wants to score in transition and from beyond the arc. The Friars could probably use a fairly similar defensive gameplan to the one they just employed against St. John's in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals last Wednesday. I know Dayton supporters will far outnumber the Friar fans at Nationwide Arena but I think Providence wins this game without too much issue.
Prediction: Providence 68 Dayton 59

The aspect of this matchup from a team-wide level that interests me most is rebounding. Dayton doesn't even try for offensive rebounds, which means that Providence will need to do a good job of defending the first shot and not fouling. If the Friars are able to do that, the Flyers will struggle to score. That is easier said than done, since Dayton is terrific at 2-point shooting, 3-point shooting and getting to the foul line. My biggest area of concern is foul shots -- PC gives up plenty of them and Dayton can take advantage. At the other end of the floor, it's strength against strength. Dayton is terrific at clearing the defensive glass and Providence is great at grabbing its own misses. The Friars are not a good first-shot team, so they often rely on second-chance points and free throws to score. If Dayton can close off the offensive glass from Providence, that could be a problem. To me, the statistical nugget that seems to bode well for PC is that Dayton was 10th in the 14-team Atlantic 10 in 2-point field-goal defense and allowed the highest percentage of points on 2-pointers of any team in the A-10. Providence likes to work inside; Dayton seems to struggle stopping that. That's enough for me to like the Friars in this one.
Prediction: Providence 69 Dayton 61

Providence AT Dayton. Can ‘home court’ be a factor in the Friars – Flyers matchup? Time will tell. Providence matches up well against the A-10 natives, as Dayton’s tallest player is 6’6. Like Providence a year ago, Dayton has a short rotation led by Jordan Silbert. There is no doubt it my mind Kris Dunn will control the game from start to finish. Dunn will matchup with one time PC recruit Scoochi Smith, as eyes around the country will be locked in on Dunn’s first tournament game. Two imperative factors that will determine the outcome in this game are rebounding and foul trouble. I fully expect the Friars to come out with great energy and control both sides of the glass, with Ben Bentil having another great game. Getting the Flyers in foul trouble can cause problems, as their short rotation might not be able to hang with PC’s depth. I hope to see LaDontae Henton, the one time Dayton commit, bounce back from his tough outing last week. According to Vegas, Providence has the second lowest percentage to win in the round of 64, but who needs Vegas when I’m 100% confident the Friars will advance? LET’S DANCE!
Prediction: Providence 75 Dayton 67

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