– Posted by Zurg –
Saturday, February 15, 2014
DePaul at Providence, 2:00pm EST, Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Providence, RI
DePaul (AP: NR, KenPom: 152, BPI: 142) makes the trip to Rhode Island to take on Ed Cooley’s Friars (AP: NR, KenPom: 58, BPI: 63). The Blue Demons have not won in 7 tries since January 14 (Home vs. St. John’s, 77-75). Providence is coming off a three-game losing streak and needs a win to put itself back on the right track for an NCAA Tournament bid. With a game against Villanova coming up on Tuesday, Providence cannot afford to overlook Oliver Purnell and DePaul.
DePaul now has the least efficient offense and defense in the Big East. On the offensive end, the Blue Demons have the 9th rated effective Field Goal % and the worst Turnover %, 2P%, FT%, Block %, and Steal %. On the defensive end, they have the worst effective Field Goal %, Free Throw Rate (free throws given up and made), 3P%, and 2P%. Clearly, there are plenty of matchups Providence can look to exploit.
Providence gets to the line and makes free throws at a higher rate than any other Big East team in conference play (best FT% at 76.0% as a team). Ed Cooley’s team also gets offensive rebounds at a higher percentage than the rest of the conference.
Bryce Cotton, however, will most likely end up DePaul’s biggest problem. Cotton plays the highest percentage of minutes in the country, while being highly efficient (118.6 Offensive Rating) on 27.4% of team possessions during his time on the floor. He also has the best Assist Rate and 12th best Turnover Rate in the conference. Including a 9-point performance in a loss at Xavier, Bryce Cotton is averaging 23.1 points and 6 assists per game in conference. He is deserving of First Team All-Big East recognition, and if not for Doug McDermott, he would be the likely Big East Player of the Year.
The last time Providence won an NCAA Tournament game was in 1997 when Pete Gillen and his Friars made a run to the Elite Eight before losing to eventual national champion Arizona. Austin Croshere (17.9 PPG) and Derrick Brown (17.4 PPG) were the leading scorers on that team.
Providence takes care of business and builds some momentum going into its game against Villanova on Tuesday.
Providence 79, DePaul 61
Xavier at Marquette, 4:00pm EST, BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
Xavier (AP: NR, KenPom: 35, BPI: 38) has bounced back from a three-game losing streak that dropped Chris Mack’s team to 5-4 in the conference. Winners of two straight, Xavier now travels to Marquette (AP: NR, KenPom: 49, BPI: 67) to further solidify its tournament résumé.
Marquette (14-10, 6-5), on the other hand, is on its first winning streak since December 14 and 17 when it beat IUPUI and Ball State. Having just beaten Butler and Seton Hall back-to-back, Marquette could really use a KenPom Top 50 win today versus Xavier to have a shot at an at-large spot in March.
In the country, Xavier’s offense ranks 36th, while Marquette’s defense ranks 26th. Every possession on this end of the floor will be important, but what may be more important is how effective Marquette’s offense can be. Rated 120th nationally and 8th in the Big East, Marquette’s offense has had its fair share of woes this season. However, the Musketeer’s defense ranks a mediocre 7th in the conference (despite being ranked 53rd nationally). This may be due to Xavier’s 157th ranked non-conference Strength of Schedule, meaning they show up stronger defensively in the nation because they played weaker offenses for a large portion of their early schedule.
So, for these reasons, I am interested to see how Xavier’s defense handles Marquette’s offense at the Bradley Center.
Marquette has not missed the NCAA Tournament since 2005. The only time Buzz Williams missed the NCAA Tournament as a coach, he was coaching in the Sun Belt at New Orleans in 2007.
Marquette needs a win to really get something going for its tournament résumé, and I think they get one at home versus Xavier.
Marquette 65, Xavier 64