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NCAA tournament team previews: Providence Friars

Bryce Cotton, ProvidenceBryce Cotton points the way for the Big East tournament champion Friars. (Steven Ryan/Icon SMI)

As part of its preview of the 2014 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. For more teams, click here.

Record: 23-11, 10-8 in the Big East

RPI/SOS: 40/50

Adjusted offense / Adjusted defense: 113.6 (28th) / 101.1 (96th)

Seed: No. 11 in East

Impact player: Bryce Cotton, senior guard, 21.4 points, 5.8 assists, 3.4 rebounds per game, 36.8 percent three-point shooting.

The Case For:

The good feelings are endless for the Friars right now, as is the workload for a six-man rotation that somehow plowed to a Big East tournament title. Even though the long-range shooting is not particularly accurate nor prolific -- Providence has an effective field goal percentage of 48.1, 248th-best in the country -- the Friars can get it done on offense, ranking No. 22 in efficiency. They have four players averaging double-figures, so they can spread the wealth, and they have two sturdy rebounders in LaDontae Henton (7.8 boards per game) and Kadeem Batts (7.6) to hold down the paint.

This, however, is Bryce Cotton's team. His minutes per game actually have dipped to 39.9 (he was averaging more than 40 per night toward the end of the regular season), but his production hasn't. He is basically indefatigable, and he embraced a pressure-packed Big East tournament title game by dropping in 23 points and adding five rebounds to help beat Creighton. Also, the Friars were the nation's second-best free throw shooting team at 78.1 percent, which will be a big advantage in close games.

The Case Against:

Fatigue shouldn’t be a problem for the Friars. Not only did they just win three games in three days with their NCAA fate at stake, but the day off between games should they advance will provide sufficient rest. The biggest concern is foul trouble, because surviving with a limited bench during the regular season is entirely different than in the NCAA tournament.

The Friars really don't turn teams over (5.6 steals per game, 236th best in the country) and their defense is barely top 100 in efficiency. It's not the natural formula for extended success in the brackets. They haven't been a terrific shooting team all season, but even so they barely squeaked into the tournament, meaning there's not much margin to get worse and have a realistic chance to advance. Cotton shot 1-for-10 against St. John’s in the first game of the Big East tournament and the Friars endured that, but they likely won't want to roll the dice like that again.

SI prediction: Lose to North Carolina in second round

View complete bracket predictions from SI.com's panel of experts
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