NCAA Basketball

College Basketball Preview: Louisville vs. Providence

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(19)Louisville Cardinals @ Providence
Dunkin’ Donuts Center – Providence, RI
Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011
Time: 5:00 pm EST
TV: ESPNU Beth Mowins, play-by-play; Mike Kelley, analyst.
Radio: WHAS (840 AM) Paul Rogers, play-by-play; Doug Ormay, analyst. (also SIRIUS ch. 127, XM 203)
Series History: UofL leads 10-4 (5-0 at Louisville, 4-2 at Providence, 1-2 neutral)
Officials: Tim Higgins, Earl Walton, Jeff Anderson

The Friars of Providence are off to a blistering 0-6 start in BIG EAST play. They lead the conference in points per game allowed and welcoming in the conference’s leading scorers – the Louisville Cardinals at 81.1ppg – on Saturday doesn’t appear to bode well towards them making any progress upwards. In contrast to St. John’s ten seniors, the Friars sport ELEVEN FRESHMAN! Two of them start alongside two sophomores and a lone senior that sees significant playing time.

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Lack of experience aside, Providence is basically a shallower, less talented version of the Cardinals. They are good on the perimeter and weak inside, thus they are not a good rebounding team. Sophomore forward Bilal Dixon leads the Friars in rebounding with 7.8 boards per game, but in BIG EAST play Dixon is averaging a measly 4.7 rebounds through the first six conference games. Louisville is 12-0 when out-rebounding its opponent, 3-3 when being out-rebounded.

Marshon Brooks is the man Rick Pitino should have his defense focused around stopping. Averaging 24.2 points a game in BIG EAST play, Brooks has finished with more than 20 points in every BIG EAST game but one, and has had 27 or more in four of the six contests. He is fifth nationally and second in the league in scoring, behind only UConn’s Kemba Walker. Of course, Pitino could elect to let Brooks get his and focus on stopping the other Friars (we all saw what happened when Louisville tried to contain Terrence Jones and allowed Josh Harrellson to go off and cause people to think he might actually be a decent basketball player).

Brooks leads the team in scoring, putting in 23.4 points a game this season, and aside from Marshon Providence doesn’t really have another go-to-guy. I despise these stats, but I’ll pass this nugget along: Marshon Brooks is the only player in the country averaging at least 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

Brooklyn, New York sophomore guard Vincent Council is their next scoring threat, pouring in 14.3 points a contest – but shooting just 36.2 percent from the field and a paltry 28.9 percent from downtown. Council leads the team and BIG EAST conference in assists, dishing out 6.5 dimes a game, also good enough for eighth in the nation. Council’s backcourt mate, freshman Gerard Coleman is the only other Friar in double digits, averaging 10.3 points per contest.

Head coach Keno Davis has had a full week to prepare for the return of the prodigal son to Providence. Pitino is unbeaten in his previous six meetings against his former squad. The Friars last played on Sunday at South Florida and will be hungry for their first BIG EAST win no doubt. That hunger could contribute furthermore to their on-court issues of rushing the offense and taking too many chances on defense, thus turning the ball over and giving up easy shots for their opponents. Davis had better hope he has instilled some patience and discipline into his team over these past six days or else this one could be over by the first TV timeout.

Yet again in the Cardinals decimation of the Red Storm on Wednesday night, Louisville allowed its opponent to MAKE more free throws than they even attempted. Now so far, it is a formula that hasn’t really hurt them as a team, but I have to think getting outscored at the free throw line by 10-15 points a game is not a good thing. I would like to see Siva and even Knowles take the ball to the lane hard and get some easy “free” throws. Show some aggressiveness and not just bank on the fact you are going to shoot the lights out every game. The Cardinals have drained 99 threes over the past nine games while connecting on 45.8 percent from the three-point line over that stretch (99-of-142).

It won’t matter against a not-so-good Providence team. Providence has dropped nine strait to Louisville, with the last victory over the Cardinals being a 57-51 win on November 30, 1977 in Providence. Things will stay that way as Louisville inches closer to their ninth strait 20-win season with a blowout in Rhode Island.

Louisville 90, Providence 69