The Providence Friars have made the NCAA tournament field once again this year. Providence rode the stellar play of Ben Bentil (21.2 points per game and 7.8 rebounds), and two-time Big East Player of the Year Kris Dunn (16 ppg, 6.4 apg, 5.6 rpg, 2.2 spg) to a 23-10 overall record and 10-8 record in the Big East.
Thanks to being the 4th team coming out the Big East, Providence received an at-large bid, meaning they did not have to win their conference tournament in order to make it to the Big Dance.
Providence was seeded as the No. 9 in the East Bracket, and match-up against Pac-12 team USC, who received the No. 8 seed.
The Trojans finished 9-9 in Pac-12 play and were 21-12 overall. Considering the strength of the Big East, I’m very surprised to see USC as a No. 8 seed compared to Providence’s No. 9 seed, after the Trojans finishing 6th in their conference.Regardless, USC will be a tough test for the Friars. The Trojans score at a blistering rate, averaging 80.8 points per game as a team, which is 20th in the country.
USC also rebound very well, at a rate of 39.8 per game. Providence tends to lose the rebounding battle in most games due to lack of height, USC could take advantage on the offensive glass.
The Trojans have incredible shooting range, Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart both shoot 42.5% from 3-point range, and USC as a whole are 38% from beyond the arc. Providence was the worst 3-point shooting team in the Big East and shot 32% from 3 on the year.
Jalen Lindsey’s emerging play should help the Friars in this regard. Lindsey recently broke out for a career-high 30 point performance against St. John’s, and has been consistently knocking down jumpers as of late.
The Trojans are lead by a very balanced attack, six players average double digits in points per game. Their depth reminds me a lot of Xavier, who’s balanced scoring successfully beat Providence twice this year.
While USC is balanced, they don’t have a bona fide star like Providence, and the Friars have two. Dunn will be a top-5 pick in this years draft and Bentil could be drafted this year if he elects to leave, although I haven’t heard any rumors of this.
Prediction: Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil are too much for the Trojans. Providence 82 USC 76.
The game will be played Thursday, March 17th at 9:50 PM EST and televised on TBS.