As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 22-11 (11-7 Big East)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 110.7 (38th)/95.5 (48th)
Seed: East No. 6
Impact player: Kris Dunn, redshirt sophomore, guard. 15.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 104.4 offensive rating
Case for: In Dunn and swingman LaDontae Henton, the Friars have a pair of All-Big East first-teamers that can give them a chance in nearly any game. Dunn is a versatile 6’3” stat-sheet stuffer who assists 50.5% of field goals while on the floor (best in the nation), registers a steal on 5.0% of defensive possessions (fourth) and whose defensive rebounding rate (16.4%) is tops among Providence players. The 6’ 6” Henton led the Big East in scoring at 19.7 points per game while also averaging 6.4 rebounds and is at his best in transition or when he is able to post up smaller defenders.
The pair is complemented by a capable and deep set of bigs, including 6’9” Tyler Harris, a double-digit scorer off the bench, and two strong offensive rebounders in freshmen Ben Bentil and Paschal Chukwu. Seven-footer Carson Desrosiers is an elite shot blocker, swatting 11.6% of opponents’ two-point attempts (17th nationally). It was around this time last year that the Friars suddenly jelled, pulling off a surprise Big East tourney title and nearly knocking off No. 6 seed North Carolina in their first NCAA tournament game. Perhaps Ed Cooley’s squad can do it again.
Case against: March can be a month ruled by the three, and beyond the arc is not really Providence’s territory: It takes just 28.4% of its field goals from there and makes just 31.0%, which ranks 305th in the country. If Henton isn’t hot, the three just isn’t really in the Friars’ arsenal, which can make it hard to play catch-up or simply keep pace if the other team is connecting from deep. They don’t defend the deep ball particularly well either—Ed Cooley has called this his worst three-point-defending team, though he had worse such squads at Fairfield—and have given up 10 or more five times this season.
While well above average on both ends of the floor, Providence isn’t spectacular either way, and aside from very good size does not have a defining attribute that will overwhelm teams. This is also a team that finished the regular season 5-5 and had the rest of its season peppered with discouraging losses, including a 10-point home defeat against Brown (which finished 4-10 in the Ivy League) and road losses to Boston College and Marquette. Combined with how many freshmen and sophomores the Friars rely on, that can make them hard to trust.
SI prediction: Beat Dayton in the Round of 64, lose to Oklahoma in Round of 32