SU’s loss to Providence last January remains as one of the most frustrating losses in Big East memory. The ‘Cuse hung 94 on the Friars that night at the Dunk and still lost, bringing back memories of high-scoring shortcomings to UMass and Rhode Island from 2007. 35 points from Jonny Flynn and 27 from Eric Devendorf, all for naught, thanks to double-figure scoring efforts from 7 Providence players.
The bright side is that five of those seven players have moved on from Providence, and this year’s team is presently locked up with Rutgers in a fervent battle for 15th place in the Big East. Not quite what second year head coach Keno Davis was expecting from a team ranking 6th in the nation in points per game and 11th in rebounds.
After a lengthy break following an especially taxing game against the Hoyas, the Orange is now staring down one of the most winnable games the conference has to offer. The Friars have lost six in a row* and eight of nine, including four straight home losses. Their lone victory of note is a convincing 81-66 win over UConn, who is barely a tournament team, according to most experts.
*To be a little objective, that losing streak was against a hellacious schedule: at Cincinnati, at Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown, at Villanova, West Virginia. When Cincinnati is the worst loss out of six straight, you know you got a bad break from the schedule breakers.
For Providence, Jamine Peterson, Sharaud Curry (one of those classic “he’s STILL playing?” types) and Marshon Brooks pack a punch, but things start to level off once Davis has to go to his deep-but-not-particularly-impressive bench. Peterson and Vincent Council are a couple solid pieces to start building around, but Davis is still finding his way and adjusting to the fact that the Big East is nothing like the Missouri Valley Conference.
I’m hoping to see more stellar and consistent play from Wes Johnson as he puts his aches and pains behind him, and will be interested in seeing how the zone manages against a fast-paced offense that shuffles its deck at every opportunity to keep the defense on its toes. I would feel very at ease to see SU put it together and show that they aren’t looking past the Friars to their giant matchup against Villanova Saturday night
If the ‘Cuse had a two-day turnaround after the Georgetown game, there might be slight cause for concern (Yes, I do think the game took that much out of the team, which was very visible in the closing minutes), but SU should have this one in hand for its 11th straight win away from the Dome.