The Friars play host to one the Big East leading Marquette Golden Eagles early Saturday morning. Providence has struggled on the line and in the win column lately losing 5 of their last 8 in both categories. They are fresh off a trouncing of St. John’s at home to complete the season sweep of Chris Mullin’s Red Storm. Their troubles may continue today when they get the hottest and potentially strongest team in the conference. The Golden Eagles were 1-point away from winning their last 12 games, after suffering a nail-biter to St. John’s. Marquette has also covered the number in 9 of the 12 outings.
Friars Relying on Grit
Providence has not been put forth a consistent product on either side of the ball this season. They’ve fallen into deep holes during conference play and don’t have the shooting efficiency or defensive prowess to dig themselves out. The Friars can create foul trouble for their opponents however, which has the chance to change the outcomes of games and who is on the court. Ranking in the top 50 in makes and free throw attempts, Providence hits teams with aggression at the rim and a relentless approach to the offensive glass (32nd nationally). They’re lack of conversions (69.2% – 211th) at the charity stripe can be overcome by the sheer volume the Friars are granted.
Unfortunately for the Friars, they have not eclipsed the 45% shooting mark in any of their last 14 games. The last time they accomplished that was in an impressive road win at Texas. The saving grace in many of these games were active hands in passing lanes and good pressure on ball handlers. Providence tallied 9+ steals in all but 5 of those games giving extra offensive chances to their squad.
Too Hot to Handle?
Markus Howard has led Marquette to an incredible season and the 10th-best team in the nation. Howard is averaging a career-high 25.7 PPG and has topped the 30-point mark 8 times on the year. Any team the Golden Eagles face must game plan fervently to get the ball out of his hands. However, Marquette’s depth has increased so much that several dynamic weapons are on the court at all times.
Outscoring their opponents by an average of 10 PPG, the Golden Eagles have repeatedly gotten the job done at both ends of the floor. They do a great job of stretching the floor with Sam and Joey Hauser and producing the 8th-best 3-point shooting team in the nation. It plays well into the hands of giving Markus Howard extra touches and opening lanes to create his own shot or find open perimeter players. Aggression has served this team well as they are a 77% at the free throw line and make opponents pay at the end of games. Marquette uses their athleticism to build momentum throughout the game by maintaining solid internal defense and on-ball pressure to create difficult shots. Their bigs fight hard on the glass and do a good job of preventing second-chance opportunities for opponents.
Providence’s length may create some issues for Marquette here, in terms of forcing turnovers. However, the Golden Eagles are the much more athletic and quicker team than the Friars. The Hauser brothers are going to create some problems on the defensive side for Providence, as their speed and shooting abilities will force the defense to over rotate and create open looks for players like Markus Howard on the perimeter. As a result, Marquette could be spending a lot of the day at the free throw line and creep away early. I think the Golden Eagles defense could continue the streak of Providence’s poor shooting performances and take themselves right out of this game.
4* Marquette -3