Busting Brackets

Providence vs Xavier: 2020-21 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 01: Nate Watson #0 of the Providence Friars celebrates with teammates after scoring a basket in the first half of the game against the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse on February 1, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Providence defeated Butler 65-61. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 01: Nate Watson #0 of the Providence Friars celebrates with teammates after scoring a basket in the first half of the game against the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse on February 1, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Providence defeated Butler 65-61. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

College basketball fans will be greeted on Sunday with an early Big East Conference matchup with Providence and Xavier.

TV Schedule: Sunday, January 10th, 11 am ET, FOX

Arena: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, OH

Grab your brunch or breakfast and get ready for a Big East Conference showdown on Sunday morning between the Providence Friars (7-4, 3-2 Big East) versus the Xavier Musketeers (9-2, 2-2 Big East).

This will be the 19th meeting between the Friars and Musketeers, with Xavier leading the all-time series 10-8. Providence is 1-8 all-time at Xavier, with the lone road win in a 64-62 victory in 2019.

Last season, the two programs split the season series going 1-1, with both teams winning at home and picking up victories by six points. In 2020, Xavier won 64-58, while Providence won the last matchup 80-74.

Coming off a hard-fought two-point loss (67-65) last Saturday against Creighton, the Friars will enter Sunday’s matchup on a full week of rest. Trailing by 12 points with less than five minutes remaining, Providence battled back and was able to comeback tying the game 65-65 with seven seconds remaining on a Noah Horchler (4.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg) layup.

Unfortunately for Providence, that lead was short-lived, as the Blue Jays scored the game-winning basket by Christian Bishop, as he cut into the lane after receiving the pass from Marcus Zegarowski and threw down the jam.

The Musketeers had trouble during their last game on Wednesday night, missing all 12 of their shots from the perimeter. Nevertheless, Xavier was able to pull out the victory, 69-61 over St. John’s. Senior forward, Jason Carter (7.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg), grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds and scored 11 points. Freshman guard, Colby Jones (5.8 ppg), scored a career-high 16 points in his fourth career start.

Heading into Sunday’s matchup, the main key for Providence will be whether they can stop Xavier’s perimeter attack. The Musketeers top four scorers, sophomore forward, Zach Freemantle (15.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg), senior point guard, Paul Scruggs (14.4 ppg, 6.5 apg), senior guard, Nate Johnson (11.1 ppg), and sophomore guard, KyKy Tandy (8.6 ppg), are all shooting better than 37 percent from three-point range.

Last Saturday, Providence had trouble defending Marcus Zegarowski of Creighton, allowing him to knock down six three-point shots. The Friars also had trouble stopping Romeo Weems of DePaul two weeks ago, as he was able to make five three-point shots against the Friars.

This sparks trouble for Providence knowing that this Xavier team made 19 three-point shots in a 22-point blowout victory over Oklahoma one month ago.

During their last game, Providence struggled to generate offense against Creighton. Besides junior guard, David Duke (19.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.3 apg), the Friars haven’t been able find a consistent knockdown shooter in the lineup. If Providence comes out with the win on Sunday, it will most likely be in large part due to Duke.

Currently, Duke leads the conference averaging 37.1 minutes per game. The Friars have a record of 2-4 this season when Duke makes less than 40 percent of his shots. He will need to get open and create space to be a consistent scoring factor to take over Sunday’s game for Providence.

Along with Duke scoring in double figures in all 11 games, senior center, Nate Watson (18.5 ppg, 7 rpg) has proved that he is one of the most improved players this season in college basketball.

Similar to Duke, Watson has also scored in double figures in all 11 of his games, making the Friars a dangerous duo with Duke and Watson. Watson is due for a big game after scoring a conference season-low of 13 points against Creighton and being held to just 4-for-11 from the floor.

The Friars have the edge on the interior, as Xavier has struggled to defend their opponents inside, allowing conference opponents to make 50.9 percent of their two-point shots. The Musketeers allowed opposing frontcourt players, Brady Manek of Oklahoma to score 17 points and Dawson Garcia of Marquette to score 20 points.

This matchup could be a close one and that’s where Providence will look to unleash the clutch late shot-making ability of junior guard, A.J. Reeves (9 ppg). Reeves is averaging 14.6 points per game during the last three games and has stepped up as Friars’ third scoring option.

On two separate occasions, Reeves has been able to save Providence’s season early in conference play. He made the game-winning three-point shot from the corner for the win in overtime against Seton Hall. Reeves also made the game-tying three-point shot against DePaul to send the game into overtime with the Friars eventually winning in double overtime.

After shooting 0-for-12 from three-point range on Wednesday, Xavier is looking to bounce back by making their shots from the perimeter. The Musketeers started out the season strong as a perimeter shooting team, making 13 three-point shots against Oakland and Marquette and 19 threes against Oklahoma.

However, throughout the majority of conference play, Xavier has struggled to make their outside shots, shooting a conference low 28.3 percent from three during Big East play.

If Xavier can erupt from the perimeter and sink their outside shots, then the Musketeers have the opportunity to run away with this matchup due to Providence’s struggles with making their jumpers this season.

On Wednesday, Xavier’s leading scorer, Zach Freemantle, missed all six of his shot attempts from the floor against St. John’s. If the Musketeers want a chance to win against Providence, Freemantle has to be a factor offensively and will need to make his shots.

Freemantle got out to a great start to the season where he averaged 18.7 points per game during his first seven games of non-conference play. However, when Big East play started, Freemantle has cooled off lately, shooting just 13-for-39 (33.3 percent) from the floor during his last four games, while averaging 10.3 points per game.

After an 8-0 start to the season, Xavier is looking to begin their next winning streak when their first streak was snapped against Creighton on December 23rd.

For Providence, the new year is the time when head coach Ed Cooley is able to turn around his team after getting out to a slower start than expected this season. The Friars have the opportunity to take advantage of their week of rest by planning all week for their road matchup.

Since the start of conference play, Big East basketball has been must-watch TV on Sunday’s this season with multiple close games that have come down to the last possession to determine the final outcome.

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With just over two months remaining before Selection Sunday, the stakes are high for both teams towards getting a victory to build their at-large resume come March. This matchup will come down to which team is more desperate in the end.

Prediction: Providence 65, Xavier 62