#4 Providence Friars 66 (26-5)
#13 South Dakota State Jackrabbits 57 (30-5)
Now that my hangover has finally subsided, I think I can put together some thoughts on the first round win for the Providence Friars over South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits of South Dakota State came into the game riding a 21 game winning streak and an undefeated conference record in the Summit League. As I had mentioned prior to the game, according to just about everyone outside of Friartown, this game was the easiest upset pick of the 1st round. It made it that much sweeter than on a day full of upsets, including #15 seed St. Peter’s (who the Friars beat by 14 this year, ahem) over Kentucky.
Providence was able to build a 14-point game but continuing their season long trend of never beating teams by too much, they made it a game down the stretch before pulling out their 26th win of the season. This was the Friars’ first NCAA Tournament win since they beat USC in 2016. Prior to that, you’d have to go all the way back to 1997. That was also the last time they advanced past the round of 32 before making all the way to the Elite Eight, losing to Arizona in Overtime.
- As I had predicted, the Jackrabbits had not seen a defense like the Friars all season, let alone since conference play. Providence was able to hold SDSU to just 57 points, the first time they have scored under 60 points in the last 43 games. SDSU came into the game averaging the second most points in the country at 86.7 points per game, so the Friars were able to hold them to 30 (!) points below their season average.
- A lot was made about the proficient shooting of SDSU coming into the game, especially from three, where they were making a 45%, good for 1st in the country. They shot 7/23 (30.4%) from three and only 38.6% from the floor overall. That’s the difference between the Big East and the Summit League right there.
- SDSU’s best player and leading scorer, Baylor Scheierman, had not shot below 40% from three in the past 9 games before facing PC in the first round. His overall stat line of 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists looks good but he also had 2 TOs, shooting just 7/17 from the field.
- Al Durham had a heck of an overall game, finishing with 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. Durham started things off for the Friars with a made three on the first offensive possession. I love to see Durham connecting from distance but also wish he hadn’t hit the first one a little, just because he shot 4 more threes after that, missing all 4. I don’t want him to get three-happy because he is much more effective driving to the bucket and creating.
- I don’t know how this shot went in but it was so damn pretty.
- There were contributions up and down the lineup, as per usual, from Providence. The Friars had 7 players score 5+ points in the game.
- Noah Horchler was ‘That Dude.’
- Horchler tied Durham for the team-lead for points with 13 and grabbed 9 rebounds with 2 steals and a block.
- Ed Croswell was a FORCE off the bench, snagging 9 rebounds in just 15 minutes and coming up with a career-high 4 steals. His hands were on the ball wherever he was on the floor. To put that in perspective, Croswell had 15 steals total in the first 30 games of the season.
- The Jackrabbits implemented the Xavier defense gameplan of shading to Nate Watson and sending a hard double whenever he got the ball anywhere even close to the post. Like Big Nate always says, you can take him away, but this team is full of hitters who will step up against that defense.
- It took Jared Bynum what felt like forever to get into the game as there was no stoppage in play for the first 9-or so minutes of the game. That’s what happens when the refs call a single foul against SDSU in the first half. 30 minutes into the game, Noah Horchler was tied with the entire SDSU team with 3 fouls a piece.
- A.J. Reeves had a couple of early threes (2/2) to push the lead for the Friars in the first half but was pretty quiet for the rest of the game. I think he might be saving it for round 2.
- Justin Minaya did all the typical Justin Minaya things, scoring 9 points in the process. His corner threes were there during the game but kept rimming out. I think that will regress to the mean for round 2 as well.
- Alyn Breed had some really good minutes in relief, scoring 5 points with 2 rebounds, an assist, and a steal.
- Ed Cooley is really the best, isn’t he? I just love that guy.
- Yum, Yum, Yum…
- We’re on to Richmond.