Providence at Xavier, 6:30pm ET
The college hoops season motors on into February with a big hump day slate. We turn our eyes to an exciting Big East matchup between two of the best teams in the league. Providence and Xavier have exceeded expectations all season and this one should be a dandy.
The biggest story coming into tonight is the injury to Xavier star big man Zach Freemantle. Luckily for the Musketeers, they should be able to weather the storm a good bit with their depth. Jerome Hunter is a valiant replacement to step into the starting 5. Evan Miya’s lineup data points to the second best lineup used by Xavier being one with Hunter in and Freemantle out. Their offense is not is efficient but the defense is certainly better which is important tonight matchup wise. The Providence offense is certainly clicking, ranking 22nd in the nation, but the Xavier defense should be able to stop what Providence does best. They will have a tough time scoring in transition or around the rim with Xavier ranking top 50 in each. Where Providence does have the upper hand is on the offensive boards but according to Haslemetrics, both teams are nearly identical in field goal attempts on trips upcourt. So how many extra opportunities will Providence really get? That remains to be seen but maybe a few more with no Freemantle around.
On the offensive side of the ball for the Musketeers, they will be slightly effected by the loss of Freemantle but in a one game sample size, things should run as normal. A more mobile and athletic Jerome Hunter should bolster what is already one of the best transition offenses in the nation, ranking 69th. Providence allows plenty of transition opportunities and ranks 189th in defending there. The Xavier offense should also thrive in getting some quality post up opportunities for Nunge against an undersized Providence defense down low, who rank 205th there.
This is a great opportunity to take a Xavier team who will not be as good long term without Freemantle but can be just as good if not better in one game situations.
I like taking a Xavier club who is getting a short number at home -3.5 despite not having one of their best players.
This is an article written by Pat Taylor
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