What can we expect to see from the Providence Friars this year that we did not see last year?
The biggest difference is the absence of Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil, both of whom left for the NBA. The Friars, to their credit, handled the loss better than most teams though. Point guard Kyron Cartwright is almost like a poor man's version of Dunn. His 6.7 assists per game was fourth in the nation this year. In a way, the departure of Dunn and Bentil made Providence more balanced. They don't have a guy scoring 20 a night in Bentil, but they have four guys (Rodney Bullock, who hit the game-winner against USC last year, Emmitt Holt, Cartwright, and Jalen Lindsey) all scoring 10+ per game.
Providence also shot the three much better than the past two seasons. After averaging 31.7% from long range the past two seasons, the Friars checked in at 36.8% this season, good enough for 88th in the nation.
Is there one player that absolutely has to have a great game in order for the Friars to win or is it more of a rotation of guys that step up?
It's definitely more of a rotation. Bullock could very well go out and score 20+, something he did ten times this season, but it's not like last year where if Dunn and Bentil weren't connecting, the Friars were screwed. If Bullock is struggling, it's more likely than not that a guy like Holt or Cartwright can step up and do some scoring.
What are some of the things that give you confidence in the Friars chances?
I think these teams are very well matched, but one thing I'm seeing on KenPom is USC is below-average at defending the three. As I mentioned, Providence has been very solid from beyond the arc this year, so if those shots start falling, it could be a long night for the Trojans.
What are some of the things that worry you about the Friars?
USC's size. Bennie Boatwright and Chimeze Metu will be the two tallest players on the court whenever they're out there. I think USC has the advantage with bigs while Providence has the advantage with guards, so it really should be a good, even-matched game.
What is your prediction for Wednesday night? Can Providence make it two in a row?
I think the Friars win a close one. Not to be cliche, but on February 11, Providence was 4-8 in Big East play and in need of a strong stretch to even be considered on the bubble. They proceeded to win their final six games to finish at 10-8, so they've essentially been playing these "must-win" type of games for a month. It's so tough to pick this game, though. It's essentially a coin flip, just like last year's rendition was.