Although the teams’ records may indicate that this will be an easy win for Syracuse, do not let that fool you: the Friars are currently playing as well and anyone in the Big East.
Providence has won four games in a row and have defeated two ranked teams during that span.
Their most recent win over then No. 21 Notre Dame was the Friars’ most impressive performance of the season.
Syracuse has been the class of the Big East through most of the season and they have used their suffocating zone defense to keep opponents at bay.
The two ways to exploit the Orange’s 2-3 defense is by hot shooting or speeding up the pace of the game and taking advantages of some easy baskets in transition.
The Friars are capable of doing both of those things.
In their win over Notre Dame, Providence forced the Irish into 11 turnovers and was able to turn those turnovers into fast break points.
Coach Ed Cooley has assembled a very athletic and exciting team, so when they get on a roll, they are difficult to stop. If the Friars can turn this game into an up-tempo contest, an upset is well within reach.
The Friars especially need contributions from Kadeem Batts and Bryce Cotton. Batts is a tremendous presence on the block and, when isolated, can be a strong offensive force.
Cotton complements Batts’ inside game with a strong perimeter game. He hit three of six three-pointers against the Irish and if he can get the hot hand against Syracuse, the Friars will hang with the Orange for 40 minutes.
During their current winning streak, the Friars’ defense has also played well. They have only given up more than 54 points once, and held Villanova, Notre Dame and South Florida under 40 percent shooting from the field.
The biggest challenge for Providence will be how they handle the difficult atmosphere at the Carrier Dome. The Orange annually have one of the best home court advantages in college basketball and this year is no different—Syracuse has yet to lose a game at home.
The most critical part of this game will be the first eight minutes. If Providence can weather the early storm and hang with Syracuse, they will be a force to be reckoned with and primed for another upset.