Preview: Providence

West Virginia needs to snap a two-game skid as it heads to Providence for a 7 p.m. tip tonight.

SCOUTING THE FRIARS

Providence is led by a trio of players who average more than 14 points per game. Senior point guard Sharaud Curry (5-10, 170 lbs.) has morphed from a distribution-based, pass-first player into a major scoring threat for the Friars. The Gainesville, Ga. native has literally matured his game through his entire Big East career. He averages 15.5 points and, though his shooting numbers are average, he still retains his innate ability to pass and find open teammates, and his defensive and scoring skills are solid. He possesses above average quickness and his floor leadership is exceptional. For a team that has underachieved during his career, Curry is a bright spot. Forward Jermaine Petersen (6-6, 230 lbs.) is the team leader in points at almost 19 per game paired with just shy of 10 rebounds. The nearly double-double performance should have the sophomore on some Big East honor rolls, but the Friars – despite their location in the league's headquarter city – often don't get the individual recognition warranted. Petersen is making 45 percent from the field but, like many power players, struggles from the line at about 57 percent. He has an incredible 106 offensive rebounds, and he handles effectively in and around the rim. His height isn't great, but he can impose himself physically and shows some ability to score from more than 12 feet away. This is a body for head coach Keno Davis, one that can bang inside and offer some rebounding and defensive intensity. The last part of the leading trio is guard Marshon Brooks (6-5, 190 lbs.). Though lacking some musculature and usually unable to put solid pressure on the rim on drives, Brooks averages 14 points and four rebounds. He has great length, but his 190 pounds leave him lacking when trying to match stronger players. The junior shoots 47 percent and has taken 100 threes, making 36 percent. Brooks is a swingman of sorts, and he can score from all over. But he lacks the game of Da'Sean Butler and isn't as adept at "being clever," as WVU head coach Bob Huggins calls it, in the lane and creating his own shot. He is a so0lid player having a breakout season, but he needs to add to his game to be a major threat.

The other two starters, Brian McKenzie (6-4, 205 lbs.) and Bilal Dixon (6-8, 228 lbs.), are a senior-freshman combo. McKenzie averages six points and four rebounds and is shooting decently. His numbers are likely discouraging for a senior who was contributing at about the same level when he arrived in Providence from Brooklyn four years ago. McKenzie has flashed promise, but his numbers and influence on the team have not changed much. He had a bad shooting season last year, has never been a good free throw shooter and seems to have leveled off. He is a decent player on a decent team playing at an elite level in the best conference in college basketball. That often leaves him with quite average performances. Dixon, like McKenzie a couple years ago, has a significant upside. The newcomer out of Jersey City was coached by Bob Hurley on the prep level, and his game is surprisingly solid. He averages 8.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in 25 minutes per game while shooting almost 53 percent. He is passing on some good looks at times, but has taken 169 shots and his offensive rebounding ability is very good. He can score on putbacks, but struggles from the line and won't step beyond the arc for a look often (one time this season). His 52 blocks lead the team, and he can change and misdirect shots close to the basket. His height and physical play won't be anything that West Virginia can't match and has not seen, though.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Wed. Feb. 17
7 p.m. EST

Dunkin' Donuts Center
Records
WVU 19-5, 8-4
Prov. 12-13, 4-9
Series
WVU 14-11
TV
Big East Network
Sirius Channel: 153
RPI
WVU – 5
Prov. – 103

The issue for Davis is his complete lack of a big man. The starting lineup has no player taller than 6-8, and none of the significant reserves top 6-6. Forward/guard Kyle Wright (6-6, 215 lbs.) plays 10 minutes per game and averages three points and two rebounds. He isn't shooting well, he doesn't get to the line enough, and, frankly, his game just lacks the development needed. He is a first-year player as a junior for Providence after transferring, and with some rebounding ability can provide decent minutes. The other two backups are freshman guards. Vincent Council (6-2, 180 lbs.) and Duke Mondy (6-3, 196 lbs.) play 26 and 14 minutes, respectively. Council is the sixth man, and he hits 40 percent from the field. He is a distributor first, though, and has made just five of 27 three-pointers in conference games. He has almost a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio and can get into the lane and find teammates. This is a quality backup, and a player who has the ability to be very good in coming years. Mondy is more of an outside threat, though he has made less than 30 percent from three. More of a shooting guard-styled player, the Michigan native averages four points and two rebounds and can be very effective with some more weight. Davis' main problems are youth and lack of size. He didn't recruit much in his first class this past offseason, and though there are not 6-10 exceptional players easily found, one would think a few 6-8 players might have been in the ordering. Davis likes his guard combos, though, and he could be trying to emulate Villanova and Jay Wright. Sans that talent, Providence will continue to struggle.

OUTLOOK

West Virginia has better size, athleticism, skill, talent, shooting ability, etc. There isn't much able to be done within the game of basketball that Providence does better than WVU. The Friars lack of size will hurt them against the Mountaineers' length, and their inability to find an effective outside shooter combined with the shortness might prove too much. This will be another game where a foe wants to play up tempo and mainly in transition against West Virginia's slower, more methodic half court game. The Mountaineers must win the rebounding game, and should be able to at least create a stalemate with PC in free throw shooting. This is a road game, and thus there is an increased level of difficulty. But the Dunkin Dnuts center is about the easiest facility in which to play in the Big East, and Providence hasn't effectively defended the home floor for several years. WVU has owned the series in recent memory, and that should continue. Look for the length, shooting ability, rebounding and physicality to overwhelm the Friars. Toss in the bench talent, experience and numbers for both teams, and this is as easy as it gets the rest of the season for the Mountaineers. The streak needs to be snapped in this one, but there are no easy games in the league.

INJURY REPORT

WVU: None.

Prov: G Luke Burchett (Knee), Out.

FAST BREAKS

WVU has now been ranked in the top 10 for 14 weeks under Bob Huggins. That is the second-most weeks ranked in the top 10 under any coach in school history. Fred Schaus had the Mountaineers ranked in the top 10 for 41 weeks from 1954-60. The team is wearing an "FS" patch on the jersey to honor Schaus, who passed away recently.

* * *

West Virginia has won 10 away games, the second-most of any Big East team (Villanova). Despite consecutive losses, the Mountaineers remain in the top 10 in both major polls at No. 8 and are ranked in the top 5 in every major RPI poll.

* * *

Da'Sean Butler ranks third in school history in scoring with 1,867 points. He now trails only Jerry West (2,309) and Hot Rod Hundley (2,180). Butler needs three more double-figure scoring games to reach 100 for his career. He already has more than any other player in school history.

* * *

Providence has lost five straight games. It is 8-6 at home this season. WVU has won five in a row in the series and nine of 10. Huggins is 4-0 versus Providence. PC head coach Keno Davis is 0-1 against West Virginia.

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