Providence has gotten balanced scoring from its revamped lineup, but it hasn't paid off yet in the form of any conference victories.
Like Villanova, Providence plays three and sometimes four guards at a time, but hasn't been able to follow the Wildcats' formula to victory in the league. Sniper Donnie McGrath (Sr., 6-4, 190 lbs.) is the acknowledged leader of the Friars, who are rebuilding after the departure of stalwart Ryan Gomes. McGrath averages 14.6 points per game, but has taken 57 more threes, and 40 more shots overall, than anyone else on the team.
Sharaud Curry (Fr., 5-10, 165 lbs.) is directing the offense, which allows McGrath to get more shots away. However, Curry is more efficient, scoring 11.4 points per outing while shooting a much higher percentage from the field. Fellow newcomer Weyinmi Efejuku (Fr., 6-5, 205 lbs.) can provide matchup problems for smaller guards, and has added 27 steals to his 9.4 points per game average this year.
On the front line, Geoff McDermott (Fr., 6-7, 230 lbs.) is listed as a swingman, but he primarily plays inside the arc, having attempted only 14 three-pointers this year. He leads the team with 8.3 rebounds per game, but hits only 45.7% of his shots – something of a low number for an inside player. Still, his double-double average of 10.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game is nothing to sneeze at. Randall Hanke (So., 6-11, 230 lbs.) teams with McDermott, and acquits himself quite well with a team best 14.9 points per game, to go along with 5.4 boards per contest.
Providence's problem is its bench play, where Herbert Hill and Charles Burch are the lone offensive threats. Hill, who backs up Hanke at center, records 6.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while seeing just 16 minutes of action, while Burch (So., 6-6, 220 lbs.) adds 4.9 points from a forward spot. Both players have starting experience this year, and could be on the floor at the opening tip if Providence changes its lineup from its most recent contests.
Providence is having no trouble scoring this year, as it is second in the league in field goal percentage while averaging 78.6 points per game. The problem is on defense, where they yield an average of 76 points per game overall, and 78.7 in the conference.
|Tue Jan 17|
WVU 12-3, 4-0
PC 7-7, 0-3
WVU - 60
PC - 75
While PC might not have the talent to match up with high-athletic teams such as UConn, Louisville or Pitt, it could give the Mountaineers some trouble. The Friars have enough of an inside game to give West Virginia problems defensively on the interior (Hanke is shooting a torrid 70.9% from the field), and every Mountaineer fan knows the kind of scoring binges that McGrath (236 career three-pointers) can produce. That sort of inside-out combination is the kind of attack that can stretch WVU's 1-3-1 defense to its limits.
While PC is a bland 7-7 on the year, it has been competitive with just about every team on its schedule. Only Notre Dame has defeated the Friars by more than ten points, and PC has played Florida, Memphis and Louisville tough before falling.
Look for WVU to emphasize patience in this contest. With so many young opponents on the floor for PC, West Virginia figures to run the Beilein offense to its limits as it attempts to frustrate the callow Friar defenders.
West Virginia earned a three-game sweep over Providence last year, despite the presence of Gomes. The two regular season wins were by the total of just six points, but the Mountaineers completed the triad in style with a 23-point blowout in the Big East Tournament.
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What stat does WVU lead the nation in? Three-pointers? Assists? Fewest turnovers? All good guesses, as the Mountaineers are in the top five nationally in all those categories. However, the column in which WVU tops the NCAA list is fewest fouls. The Mountaineers have committed just 185 fouls in 15 games this season.
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Providence is the smallest school competing in one of the "Big Six" conferences. PC's enrollment is just 3,770. Wake Forest, at 3,857, is the only other school with an enrollment under 6,200.
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On Jan. 5, 1999, Providence defeated West Virginia 90-87 with the help of a ridiculous 59 free throw attempts.
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Those still hung up on WVU's rebounding should note this stat. In WVU's 12 wins this year, it averaged 7.8 offensive boards. In its three losses, it grabbed 11.0. Of course, in the losses, there may have been a few more chances for rebounds, as West Virginia's shooting was not as good in those games. Still, the gap of more than three per contest shows that the Mountaineers don't have to dominate the glass to win.