Pregame Shootaround: Providence at Georgetown

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Your Georgetown Hoyas will be looking to add on to a current 3-game winning streak when they take on the Providence Friars this Monday at the Verizon Center (7 pm EST). This will be the second meeting between the teams this season. Providence won the first matchup 70-52 on January 8th.

Get to Know Providence.

The Big Picture.

After starting conference play with a very promising 5-2 record, the Friars have hit a bit of a rough patch of late and will head into tomorrow's game against Georgetown having dropped 3 of their last 4 games. Providence currently sits in 4th place in the conference with a 6-5 record.

What I learned from Wikipedia.

Men's basketball took center stage on the Providence campus in the 1980's as coach Rick Pitino and assistant Billy Donovan took the Friars to their second Final Four appearance in the 1987 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament.

A 2007 survey published by The Princeton Review rated Providence College as having the most homogeneous student population in the country, as well as ranking the college eighth nationally in the survey's "little race/class interaction" category. In 2011, Providence College was ranked first in the country by The Princeton Review in the "Lots of Hard Liquor" category.

Notable basketball alumni (players): Lenny Wilkins (‘60), John Thompson Jr. (‘64), Billy Donovan (‘87).

Roster rundown. Providence has used the same five starters- Bryce Cotton, Josh Fortune, LaDontae Henton, Tyler Harris, Kadeem Batts- in every game this season. These five players have accounted for over 90 percent of Providence's scoring on the year.

Back court.

The backcourt is led by 6'1, 165-pound star Bryce Cotton (20.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.9 apg, 1.1 spg). Cotton has performed at a consistently elite level for the Friars all season and is rightfully considered amongst the best players in the nation. His starting backcourt mate, 6'5, 205-pound Josh Fortune (7.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.2 apg), has been playing well over the Friars' past two games (both losses) with 14.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg and 3.5 apg on 54.1 percent shooting from the field. Ted Bancroft (0.5 ppg, 0.8 rpg) is the only other guard on the roster who sees any sort of playing time.

Front court.

The Providence frontcourt is one of the more talented units in the Big East. It features two of the top five rebounders in the conference in 6'9, 245-pound Kadeem Batts (12.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.2 apg) and 6'6, 215-pound LaDontae Henton (13.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.6 spg). Both are multitalented and contribute in a variety of ways other than rebounding; Henton in particular presents one of the bigger matchup problems in the conference due to his size and versatility. 6'9, 215-pound Tyler Harris (12.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.1 spg) is the third starter in the Providence frontcourt. Harris has scored 3 points or less in Providence's three losses since January 30th, making it clear how important his production is to the success of the team. 7'0, 250-pound Carson Desrosiers (3.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.7 bpg) is the first man off the bench for the Friars and makes a living as a defensive force. Desrosiers has 7 blocks and 17 rebounds over Providence's past two games.

Providence on Twitter. It's always noteworthy when Bryce Cotton isn't the leading scorer.

What to watch when the Friars have the ball.

  • Friar: Bryce Cotton. If not for Doug McDermott, Bryce Cotton would surely be the frontrunner for Big East POY at this point in the season. The uber-talented senior is 2nd in the conference in scoring (20.8 ppg) and 1st in assists (5.9 apg). Cotton has played 370 consecutive minutes without rest as of Saturday; so expect to see a lot of him in tomorrow's game. Xavier was able to hold Cotton to a very uncharacteristic 9-point performance in Saturday's matchup, and the only other time he was held in single-digits this season he dropped a cool 28 the next night.
  • Hoya: Nate Lubick. Lubick is averaging 8.3 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.3 blocks over Georgetown's three game winning streak and it has been very refreshing to watch his efforts rub off on other Hoyas. That being said, Lubick's lack of athleticism was very apparent in Saturday's game against Butler. Freshman Andrew Chrabascz has his way with Lubick (and Hopkins) en route to a career high 24 points. Considering Lubick will be tasked with guarding either Harris or Batts, both highly capable offensive players, he is my guy to watch on defense, for better or worse.
  • Number. Free-throw percentage. Providence is currently the best free-throw shooting team in the country (78.6%), much to the chagrin of every Georgetown fan who has watched the Hoyas play this season. Georgetown has yet to get its fouling issues under control, and currently ranks as the 26th worst team in the country at limiting opponents' trips to the free-throw line, according to a pace-independent metric used by KenPom.com. The one upside here is that Providence is well below average at getting to the free-throw line as a team, but that won't matter much if Georgetown's big men play out of control defense.
  • Feeling delusional because... Georgetown has looked like a completely new team on defense since Jabril Trawick returned from injury. Trawick is an energizing presence on the court and his impact on the defensive end can't be understated. This, coupled with the sour taste Providence left Georgetown with after their unexpected 70-52 beatdown on the Hoyas earlier this season, should have our guys fired up and out to prove something.
  • Feeling cynical because... Cotton and Betts torched Georgetown earlier in this year, combining for 41 combined points on 11-20 shooting from the field and 17-21 on free throws. These two controlled the game well enough that an off game from the rest of their teammates had virtually no effect on Providence's ability to cruise past Georgetown to the tune of an 18-point victory.

What to watch when the Hoyas have the ball.

  • Hoya: Markel Starks. Who else would it even be at this point? Starks had just 8 points on 4-15 shooting in Georgetown's loss to Providence earlier in the season, which should serve to motivate him rather than undermine his confidence. Starks is finally thriving in his role as Georgetown's game manager and as its finisher, the latter of which being a big reason why the Hoyas have been able to close out the past three games with victories. He probably won't have a 20-point game, but look for him to slow the pace of the game, get to the line and generally do all the little things a team needs from its point guard.
  • Friar: Josh Fortune. He is the Friars best defender at the guard spot and the player Providence head coach Ed Cooley relies on to guard opponents' primary ball handler/playmaker. With this in mind, he will likely be tasked with slowing down Markel in tomorrow's matchup. Since Providence brings in virtually no subs at the guard position, Fortune may have trouble sustaining his energy on defense, and if he wears down late in the game Starks is a player that will make him pay.
  • Number. Free-throw Attempts. The statistic that jumps out when trying to deduce what the Hoyas have been doing differently over the past three games is free-throw attempts. During the 5-game losing streak that preceded this current winning streak, the Hoyas averaged 14.6 FTA per game. Over the past three games this number has spiked to 28.0 attempts per game. It has been the deciding factor that has allowed Georgetown to hold on to leads late in games and should continue to be a point of focus in tomorrow's matchup.
  • Feeling delusional because... Lubick is dishing out dimes from the post like he's Marc Gasol.
  • Feeling cynical because... I've heard way too much chatter along the lines of "Georgetown's next five games are very winnable, so assuming they win these ..." to the extent that I don't feel comfortable against anyone anymore. It's exactly the type of thinking that will have the Hoyas looking past opponents, even though they are in no position to do so, and dropping some easy games. Providence, by the way, is not easy. Hopefully we mount a lead early because despite our recent success it is still very hard to trust the Hoyas to win if they are playing from behind late in a game.

Conclusion. This one is tough. On the one hand I have been a big fan of certain things over the past three games: our defense, Lubick's confidence, picking up fouls and getting to the line, Starks emerging as our closer. However, when it comes down to it, we've only been slightly better than usual and in Providence's case, they have only been slightly worse than usual during their recent skid. I have this feeling I'm going to be disappointed by this game, either by an undeserving win or an outright loss.

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