When the USC Trojans take the court on Wednesday night to seek redemption against a Providence team that beat them at the buzzer in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year, both teams will be seeded the same. Both teams were stuck into the First Four round where they must battle it out to enter the regular field of 64 bracket as the No. 11 seed in the East region.
The winner of Wednesday night's matchup (approximate starting time of 6:10 p.m. PDT) faces off against a sixth-seeded SMU team that the Trojans beat earlier in the year. But to get to that game in Tulsa, Okla. the Trojans and Friars must win in Dayton, Ohio.
The Trojans (24-9) struggled down the stretch, losing five of their last eight games while Providence (20-12) finished strong winning six straight Big East games before losing in the first round of the conference tournament. The Friars also bring in a perfect 2-0 all-time record against USC, winning in Jan. 1972 as well as last year's buzzer beater.
Providence lost a pair of talented players to the NBA Draft last year with point guard Kris Dunn being selected No. 5 overall and sophomore forward Ben Bentil going in the second round at No. 51. Like USC's Julian Jacobs and Nikola Jovanovic, Bentil may have been best served returning to school for another year. He was waived by the Celtics, played with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in the D-League before being signed to a 10-day contract by the Dallas Mavericks.
Rather than having one or two stars step in to replace the loss of Dunn and Bentil, the Friars have relied on a group effort from its four most experienced players, who all are averaging double figures. This year's Providence team features four juniors starting and all four have taken strides this season. Compton, Calif. native Kyron Cartwright took over the point guard duties and has nearly doubled his scoring from 5.9 to 11.4 points while leading the Big East with 6.7 assists per game. Jalen Lindsey has dramatically improved his three-point shooting from 26.9 percent to over 46 percent. Indiana transfer Emmitt Holt has scored 12.4 points to go with 5.2 rebounds while Rodney Bullock has taken over the primary scorer role down low. Averaging three more shot attempts per game, Bullock has bumped his scoring up to 15.7 points per game.
The Friars play a slower tempo game and struggle to rebound the ball, ranking No. 283 out of 347 teams with 33.5 rebounds per game. They don't rank inside the top 50 nationally in any major statistical category.
Top 25: 1-4
Vs. 100+: 12-3
Last 10 games: 7-3
Best wins: vs Butler 15, at Creighton 26, vs Rhode Island 31, vs Xavier 37, vs Seton Hall 44, vs Vermont 46
Worst losses: at DePaul 236, at Boston College 219, vs St. Johns 140
How They Got Here
The Providence College Friars earned an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament on the strength of a 23-12 record, including a 10-8 mark in Big East play. The Friars make their fourth straight tournament appearance after opening the season 10-2, then losing nine of 13 before closing out the regular season with six straight wins. They lost to Creighton in their opener in the Big East tournament. Providence finished the season with an RPI of 56 and is now playing to be the No. 11 seed in the East Regional.
Coach: Ed Cooley, 123-79 (sixth season)
Players (10 mpg or more):
Rodney Bullock (JR, 6-8, 225 F) – 15.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.2 spg, .435/.309/.745 (32.8 mpg)
Emmitt Holt (JR, 6-7, 230 F) – 12.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.0 apg, .513/.350/.678 (27.3 mpg)
Kyron Cartwright (JR, 5-11, 185 G) – 11.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 6.7 apg, 1.1 spg .417/.380/.717 (33.2 mpg)
Jalen Lindsey (JR, 6-7, 220 G) – 10.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg. 0.6 apg, .457/.461/.750 (31.9 mpg)
Isaiah Jackson (SO, 6-6, 225 G) – 5.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.2 apg, .492/.413/.745 (16.8 mpg)
Alpha Diallo (FR, 6-7 205 G) – 5.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, .410/.222/.738 (24.9 mpg)
Kalif Young (FR, 6-9 250 F) – 3.3 ppg. 3.3 rpg, 0.4 apg, .518/.000/.370 (19.4 mpg)
Ryan Fazekas (SO, 6-8 215 G) – 3.1 ppg. 1.1 rpg, 0.3 apg, .392/.379/.667 (19.4 mpg)
Maliek White (FR, 6-2 180 F) – 2.6 ppg. 1.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, .386/.324/.545 (11.5 mpg)
Team averages (national rank from sports-reference.com):
.447 FG (157), .491 2-PT. FG (208), .368 3-PT. FG (91), .691 FT (216), 1074 REB (259), 70.3 ppg (248)
.441 FG (194), .500 2-PT. FG (225), .327 3-PT. FG (64), .673 FT (35), 1106 REB (134), 66.6 ppg (50)
Offensive Statistical Comparison
|Avg Score Margin||+5.5||+3.6|
|Effective FG %||51.9%||51.3%|
|Off Rebound %||29.3%||25.1%|
Defensive Statistical Comparison
|Opp Effective FG %||49.7%||49.7%|
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