Thursday, January 31, 2008


January 31, 2008

Providence College is next up to try and end Notre Dame's long-standing home win streak. The Irish have won 31 straight games overall at the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center and 12 in a row in Big East play. That streak is on the line tonight when the Irish welcome the Friars, who only have one true road win on the season. That one win was impressive as PC won at UConn earlier this month.

Here are the local media preview stories on the game:

Finding His Inner Ballhog (South Bend Tribune)
Brey, ND Fear Friars (South Bend Tribune)
In the Big East, Hosts Unfriendly
Game Preview: PC @ Notre Dame (Providence Journal)
Back Home, The Irish are Rarin' to Go (P-J)

With the Friars their success is usually determined by how their perimeter shooters connect from long range. Brian McKenzie, Jeff Xavier and Dwain Williams like to set-up shop beyond the three-point line and let them fly. Each is a very dangerous 3-pt marksman thay needs to be forced to put the ball on the floor before launching. Their threat of the 3-pt ball opens up lanes for Weyinmi Efejuku to attack the basket and Geoff McDermott to bang away at the forward position. Providence struggles greatly at the post position with Randall Hanke, Jonathan Kale and Ray Hall splitting the time in the post, but they struggle rebounding and, for th emost part, fail to take advantage of the opportunities to score with the strong perimeter shooters.

Notre Dame is led by the inside/out duo of Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney. The bullish sophomore forward Harangody should find lots of success against the soft middle of the Friars. Harangody is a master at establishing post position and he is much too physical for Hanke inside. Kale will battle back, but the array of post moves and strong hands possessed by Harangody will keep him scoring on anyone the Friars use. The lack of offense run through the post by PC also limits the potential for Harangody to pick up fouls.

On the outside McAlarney has been red-hot for the Irish. As he has been prodded to shoot more by coach Mike Brey, the junior guard has averaged over 18 PPG in six Big East contests including games of 32 against UConn and 30 at Villanova last Saturday. He is complimented in the backcourt by lightning quick point guard Tory Jackson whose skills allow McAlarney to concentrate on being the long range bomber that Mike Brey loves.

Rob Kurz is also the perfect compliment to Harangody inside as he can step away from the basket to shoot the ball. He handles and passes the ball extremely well for a power forward and does the little things that frees up Harangody to do what he does best. The wing position is being split by Ryan Ayers, a strong shooter, and Zach Hillesland, instant energy. Hillesland was inserted in the starting line-up last weekend in place of Ayers and have the Irish a jolt from the beginning.

Notre Dame is an 8-pt home favorite tonight. They will need to keep the Friar 3-pt shooters marked throughout the game and ride the inside/out combination of Harangody and McAlarney. The Notre Dame depth is definitely a question mark, but they have not been tested deep on their bench very often. The Irish home win streak should stay intact tonight...

NBE Blogger Prediction: Notre Dame 82 Providence 73


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Thursday, January 24, 2008


January 24, 2008

An intriguing Big East match-up takes place Thursday night as the Seton Hall Pirates travel to Providence to take on the Friars. The Pirates won back-to-back home games last week over South Florida and Louisville and put their modest two-game win streak on the line. The Friars have not played in over a week, but their last outing was an impressive road win at Connecticut, marking the third straight win for PC.

Here are some local media preview stories on tonight's match-up:

Bobbt Gonzalez' Gang is off to Seton Hall of a Start (Hoops Weiss NY Daily News)
Seton Hall @ PC (Providence Journal)
Seton Hall Looks To Improve Road record at PC (Providence Journal)
Friar News for Wednesday (ProJo Hoops Blog)
Seton Hall's Hazell Finding His Range (Herald News)

Bobby Gonzalez is definitely a very excitable person and he could hardly contain himself Saturday night as Seton Hall rallied from 14-pts down to beat Louisville, 92-82, behind the white-hot shooting of freshman Jeremy Hazell. Hazell keyed a 41-17 run to end the game with an astounding display of deep 3-pt shooting. For the game, the frosh hit 8 three's and finished with 29 points. He scores them in bunches. He was coming off a 22-pt performance in the win over South Florida earlier in the week.

Now that the Pirates have tasted some success at home on conference play, they will need to step it up on the road. The Pirates are 0-10 under Bobby Gonzalez in Big East road contests the last two seasons. Illustrating the highs and lows of playing on the road and at home, in the two previous road games prior to his 51-pt outburt last week, Hazell scored a total of TWO points against Marquette and Pittsburgh the week prior. Last season, SHU lost at Providence 91-68, only to turn around and beat them at home 10 days later.

Now that the Hall has 'shocked' Louisville in Newark, a win Gonzo termed `monumental for our program,' they need to refocus ont he task at hand. In order to move up in the conference, they have to find a way to steal some on the road. Gonzalez is definitely getting a little carried away, but you have to admire his passion. Afterall, Seton Hall was an NCAA Tournament team in 2006 and won on the road against teams such Pittsburgh and Syracuse, so beating an unranked Louisville team on your home court is more on the line of things teams have to do rather than monumental. However, on a personal aspect, the game was HUGE to Gonzo and his excitement is still evident.

To win at Providence the Pirates are going to have to defend the 3-pt shot. The Friars hit 14 of 24 from beyond the arc in their 77-65 win over Connecticut last Thursday, led by Dwain Williams' six of nine and Brian McKenzie hitting all four of his attempts. The sophomore duo have been picking up the slack for injured Sharaud Curry and combined for 43 points in the win. Another player that has been key for the Friars is Jeff Xavier, who played for coach Gonzalez at Manhattan but opted to transfer when Gonzo left for the Seton Hall job. Xavier is leading the team in scoring at nearly 13 a game and has hit 45 three's in 17 games this season.

Each team is pretty thin in the middle and can rotate three big men each in the post. Providence's trio includes Randall Hanke, Jonathan Kale and Ray Hall while the Pirates will counter with an improving group of John Garcia, Mike Davis and Augustine Okosun. One of the better match-ups to watch this season is at the forward spot where Brian Laing and Geoff McDermott will go head to head. McDermott is always among the league leaders in rebounding and assists and Laing is one of the best scorers in the conference.

Eugene Harvey, Jamar Nutter and Larry Davis are the main guards in the Pirate rotation and with Curry out of the line-up for the Friars, they will look to apply lots of pressure on the Friar guards, who lack a true point guard with expereince. They have managed well with Dwain Williams and Brian McKenzie, but the are more of combo guards filling in at the position. If Paul Gause was healthy for the Pirates I could really see them doing some damage with their press.

Providence likes to play a lot of zone defenses (coach Tim Welsh was once an assistant for Jim Boeheim) and if they are in a zone, they MUST key on Hazell. If he gets going, it could be a long night. Weyinmi Efejuku could be the player in charge of defending Hazell and that might be an interesting match-up as the two are familiar with one another from the parks of New York City. Efejuku is a strong and athletic wing that could be a physical defensive answer to Hazell's catch and shoot ability.

With road games on the horizon against Syracuse (Sunday) and Notre Dame (next Thursday), winning at home is vital for the Friars, who are 8.5-pt favorites. I see some areas where Seton Hall can definitely exploit against Providence, but the Pirates are just 1-4 on the road this season. The Big East has developed a pattern this season, win a big game at home, go on the road and be humbled. While I think this will be a pretty good game, it is one that Providence has to have and should have a mental edge going in.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Providence 81 Seton Hall 72


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Thursday, January 17, 2008


January 17, 2008

The Big East's version of the battle of New England pits two original conference members against one another at the Hatford Civic Center. Each team comes in with identical Big East records of 2-2 and the Huskies will look to end a series streak of the road team winning these match-ups.

Here are the local media previews found on the internet this morning:

UConn Eager to Put Providence Loss in Past (Connecticut Post)
Friars Another Measuring Stick for UConn Men (Waterbury Rep-Am)
Friars, Huskies Expect Usual Barn-Burner (Providence Journal)
Game Preview: PC @ UConn (Providence Journal)
Calhoun Back With Huskies (Hartford Courant)

We are just 22% into the Big East schedule, but this is a very important game for both teams. The Providence Friars always bring one of their better efforts to the table when they play Connecticut, and this trip to hartford should be no different. The Friars are 2-0 at home in conference play (beating RU, USF) and 0-2 on the road (losing to Marquette, DePaul). The Friars hit a rough patch with Sharaud Curry and Dwain Williams out, their lone point guards, and started conference play 0-2. Williams is back and gives the offense some more direction and allows a talented perimeter group including Weyinmi Efejuku, Brian McKenzie and Jeff Xavier freedom to produce points.

Where Providence can struggle is along the front line. Randall Hanke is effecient on offense when he gets the ball in position to score, but he can struggle mightily with bigger, stronger player. That is exactly what he will see tonight when matched up against Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien in the post. Geoff McDermott will battle from tip to horn, but the lack of confidence the Friars have in their post play will likely push them to play smaller and press. Unfortunately, UConn loves to see the tempo revved up and this could play into their hands as well.

The Huskies are 2-2 in Big East play. They have played three of their four games in conference play on the road, winning at Seton Hall and dropping tough games at Notre Dame, where a huge second half rally was thwarted by the Irish, and Georgetown, where Roy Hibbert hit a game-winning three-pointer in the waning seconds. Their lone home contest in league play resulted in an easy win over St. John's.

The Huskies are led offensively by the much improved AJ Price and the strong two-guard Jerome Dyson. Inside, Jeff Adrien can still bull his way to a double-double nearly every night, but improvements on offense by Hasheem Thabeet has complimented his game. They are still waiting for Stanley Robinson to use his tremendous talents to become a consistent threat offensively. Like most Husky squads under Jim Calhoun, this rendition is athletic, tall and loves to push the tempo. They can still hit some rough patches, but this year, led by Price, they do not have droughts for as long of periods of time on offense as the execution has improves. Defensively, the effort is improving each time out and the team keeps improving.

Connecticut still lacks a 'big win' on the season, and a home game against Providence would hardly qualify as such at season's end, but the Huskies need to win all of their games like this. The Friars are in need of a big win and road wins in general for them to make an argument for inclusion in the Field of 65 this March.

This seems like a game that Connecticut will try to make a statement in. After the sting of a disappointing loss at Georgetown and with the return from illness of Jim Calhoun, look for the Huskies, as 9-pt favorites, to put things together tonight and flex some muscles.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Connecticut 82 Providence 69


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Saturday, January 12, 2008


January 12, 2008

Providence College will welcome the South Florida Bulls to the Dunkin' Donuts Center for a Big East match-up. Both the Bulls and Friars have identical 1-2 conference records. After losing two on the road, the Friars returned home to wax Rutgers. South Florida's lone conference victory was also a blowout against the Scarlet Knights.

Here is the Providence Journal Preview on the game:

Friars Wont Take Bulls Lightly (Providence Journal)

This is a game the Friars must have. it is tough to call such an early conference match-up a 'must-win', but Providence game into the season with high hopes and losing at home to USF would really make a successful conference season much more difficult.

One thing going in PC's favor is they should have Dwain Williams back in the line-up. With Sharaud Curry missing virtually the entire season to date, Williams has been thrust into the point guard role for the Friars. Although not a true point guard, Williams has been solid, but an ankle injury has kept him out of all Big East action and the Friar offense has struggled.

With Williams limited and Curry out, a guard-heavy attack has been hit pretty hard. Brian McKenzie, Jeff Xavier and Weyinmi Efejuku have continued to be productive, but their inexperience as playmakers and floor generals have made it tough on the offense as a whole to get going.

Rugged and versatile forward Geoff McDermott will be a very tough match-up for the Bulls. Pitt's Sam Young had his way with the USF forwards on Wednesday night, scoring 22 points, and McDermott should be able to get his share of points and rebounds.

In the middle, Randal Hanke will have his hands full with the bullish Kentrell Gransberry. The 6'8, 270 lb USF center is averaging a double-double and will look to lean on the much slighter Hanke. The Bulls must get the ball inside to Gransberry on nearly every posession and then work their way outside with Dominique Jones, one of the top freshman scorers in the country.

This promises to be a pretty good game. USF has a very solid set of athletes on the perimeter and they will be tested against PC. Gransberry is a definite match-up issue for the Friars, who tend to play small line-ups often. I think the wildcard is Geoff McDermott and USF has no answer at the forward position for him.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Providence 77 South Florida 73


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Wednesday, January 09, 2008


January 9, 2008

The Big East's version of a cure for your ails is Rutgers and their visit to the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence could not come at a better time for the Friars. After dropping their first two conference match-ups on the road, the offensively challenged Scarlet Knights are a welcome site for PC. Rutgers is also 0-2 in the conference, failing to hit the 50-pt mark in either game.

Here are the local media previes on the game:

PC/RU Preview (Providence Journal)
Rutgers N'Diaye a Formidable Defender (Asbury Park Press)
Providence 'QB' Familiar to Knights (Star-Ledger)
Williams Probable as Friars Chase First League Win (Providence Journal)
Rutgers/PC Scouting Report (Courier News)

The Scarlet Knights sit at the bottom of the Big East in virtually every offensive stat, including points (63.3 per game), field-goal shooting (.396), assists (8.6) and 3-point shooting (.274). Those numbers are actually worse in Big East play as RU is averaging 45.5 PPG, shooting 35% from the floor, 21% from 3-pt range and 29% from the FOUL LINE in two games, losses to Georgetown and at South Florida.

There also has been other factors making things more difficult for Fred Hill's club. First, freshman Corey Chandler has missed several games, and has been limited in Big East play, due to a foot injury. Chandler might be RU's best pure scorer. Also, junior JR Inman, a versatile offensive threat, has been coming off the bench for RU. Reasons for his demotion from the starting line-up have been a bit murky, but there seems to be a little bit of a tug of war going on with the staff and players.

Rutgers still will compete and they will work hard on the defensive end. They hope to keep the game as a low scoring affair and 'ugly' it up by pressuring shots and collecting their share of rebounds.

Scoring is not usually the problem for the Friars, but stopping their opponent has been a missing ingredient for PC the last several years and despite an added concentration to defensive effort this year, it continues. However, the injury bug that has spread through a lot of the conference has also hit PC hard, taking their top two point guards out of the line-up as Sharaud Curry and Dwain Williams have been out of the line-up. Curry is still not even ready to practice, but the news on Williams is better and he is likely to play tonight.

With Williams an adequate point guard, players like Brian McKenzie, Jeff Xavier and Weyinmi Efejuku can concentrate on scoring points, not also playing the role of distributor. The Friars also boast hard-nosed and versatile Geoff McDermott and a true point guard will look to take advantage of his talents and also involve Randall Hanke more in the offense, putting him in position to score.

Inconsistent guard play also leads to defensive breakdowns as the opponent is finding more break and transition opportunities. Defensively and in the post is always going to be an uphill battle for PC, but the defensive effrt is something that most likely will improve as the team gets closer to full strength and cohesive.

The Friars come into the game tonight as a 14-pt favorite and they should take advanatage of the opportunity Rutgers provides to get well.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Providence 75 Rutgers 58


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Friday, January 04, 2008


January 5, 2008

Both teams coming off very different results will have to put Thursday night's games behind them and re-focus for a Saturday evening tilt that could play a big role in the outcome of their seasons.

Providence wraps up a quick two-game Midwestern road trip with a drive from Milwaukee to Chicago to face the Blue Demons of DePaul. Coming off a complete drubbing at the hands of Marquette, the short-handed Friars will look to rebound against DePaul. After this game, PC has three of their next four at home. The three home games at the Dunkin Donuts Center are very winnable.

DePaul gets to start off conference play with a pair of home games. Entering their conference opener the Blue Demons were on their first two-game winning streak of the season, but were still just a disappointing 4-7 on the year. Facing a ranked opponent at home for the second time this season, DePaul once again saw a double digit late second half lead shrink, but this time, DePaul was able to put away Villanova and earn the win, unlike a previous attempt against Vanderbilt.

With Friars point guard Sharaud Curry still in a protective boot and limited to eight minutes of action all season, and his back-up, Dwain Williams, unlikely to play because of an ankle injury, the Friars were dismantled by Marquette. With shaky guard play and no inside game to speak of, it was a no-win situation for PC and it got real ugly. Now they have to find a way to right the ship in a hurry to avoid a 0-2 conference start.

DePaul also was short-handed in their win over Depaul as Majita Poscic and Jabari Currie did not play because of injury and Dar Tucker was limited to three minutes because of a sore ankle. In the process, Jerry Wainwright might have found a cure to their point guard woes as Cliff Clinkscales played one of th ebetter floor games of a DePaul PG in the last couple seasons, especially when they needed it down the stretch against a good gaurd group from Villanova. If Tucker is ready to go, the Blue Demons match up well with the Friars with their size inside, athletic ability on the wings and a scorer in Draelon Burns to rely on.

With Curry and Williams out, PC will have to rely on the inconsistent Weyinmi Efejuku, but their biggest issue will be trying to find some form of inside game to battle Mac Koshwal and Wesley Green. If they can't, it will be a long night again for PC.

NBE Blogger Prediction: DePaul 69 Providence 65


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Thursday, January 03, 2008


January 3, 2008

For the second year in a row, Marquette and Providence open up Big East play facing each other. Here are the local updates on the game found on the internet:

Friars Counting on Efejuku to Take it to the Limit (Providence Journal)
Marquette Game Preview (Post-Crescent)
Eagles Have Pieces to Fly High in Big East (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
PC at Marquette (Providence Journal)

And, for the second consecutive season, Providence enters the game without Sharaud Curry. Last season the Friars upset Marquette (who was without Jerel McNeal) as Curry sat out for disciplinary reasons, this year PC goes to Milwaukke to open the Big East and Curry remains out with a foot injury suffered in the preseason.

Providence has been using a guard-heavy line-up often in their out of conference schedule, but tonight those guards will be tested by one of the nation's best trio of guards and deepest guard groups. Juniors Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews are as good as any guard group and sophomores Maurice Acker and David Cubillan add quality depth behind the first wave.

The player who might be taking Marquette to another level is sophomore Lazar Hayward, a 6'6 forward, who is averaging 13 PPG and gives Tom Crean's club another offensive option who can score in a variety of ways to compliment the guards. They still do not have much of a post scoring threat, where Dwight Burke and Ousmane Barro are mainly used for defense and rebounding. Also coming back from injury and off the bench is Dan Fitzgerald, a 3-pt threat at the forward position.

Burke and Barro will be taking turns guarding Randall Hanke, the redshirt junior who has gone from hardly playing at all the first half of the OOC schedule to starting and playing well, offensively at least, in the last several games. Hanke is shooting 73% from the floor, but the Big East will call for more physical tests so we will see how Hanke fares right away. Jonathan Kale and Ray Hall also split time in the post, but neither have shown any consistency since the real games have begun, Kale was expected to take a big step forward this season, but it has not translated in game action.

The Friars rely on their guards, with Curry out, Dwain Williams has assumed the PG duties and he has been solid. He came to PC last year with the rep of a scorer, but he has improved his distribution skills. Three-point threats Brian McKenzie and Manhattan-transfer Jeff Xavier can really stroke the three-ball and will be watched closely by the Marquette guards. Weyinmi Efejuku has been giving the Friars a spark off the bench and they will need him to play a very good game on offense and defense against the Marquette guards. Geoff McDermott is a forward that is a tough match-up for anyone, but Marquette uses a similar line-up as the Friars and can negate some of his match-up problems he usually creates.

With a crowd of 18,000+, look for MU to be raring to go tonight. The on the ball pressure applied by James and McNeal and the athletic and strong play of Mathews and Hayward should cause the PC offense to struggle. Without Curry to handle the ball and break down the defense, it might be a long night for PC as 12-pt underdogs.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 85 Providence 70


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