The Battle for Rhode Island supremacy continues for the Providence Friars. The question is, will Bryant prove to be a tougher challenge than URI in a couple of weeks? Like the Rams, the Bryant Bulldogs are 1-8 and have trouble preventing opponents from scoring. With a blowout victory over Brown already in the books, PC is looking to continue their home out of conference win streak while taking care of business in the Rhody series.
WHAT TO: KNOW
Game Time: 12:00PM EST
Opponent: Bryant University (1-8)
Location: The Dunk
Hit up the rest of the preview after the jump.
WHAT TO: LOOK FOR
Hey, Can I Borrow Your Blocker?: Bryant’s defense is the biggest reason their team struggles so much. Their adjusted defensive efficiency of 112.6 is ranked 340 out of 345 teams. The Bulldogs allow opponents to shoot great from three-point land, and slightly less great when shooting two’s. On top of that, they have trouble getting steals and blocks or any kinds of turnovers. Brice Kofane has more blocks (18) than their entire team (16).
Alex Francis to dominate possessions: The 6-6 sophomore forward has a crazy high 32.6% possession percentage (to put that into perspective, last year Marshon had a 29.6%). Only 11 players in the entire country right now have a higher rate. He is shooting a solid 53% from the field, but he also turns the ball over way too much (27.6% turnover percentage), thus limiting his efficiency.
Bryant focusing on the perimeter: Iowa State, Holy Cross, South Carolina, Brown – The Friars have already seen a lot of teams who like to take a high number of threes (with varying degrees of success), but Bryant will primarily live out there. They don’t don’t like to take it to the rim much, as evidenced by their #326 ranked free throw rate of 25.3%. In five of their nine contests, the Bulldogs have taken 25+ three pointers. Their 24 attempts per game is ranked #21 in the country, but they are in the middle of the pack of three-point FG% with a 34.3%. Bryant gets almost 40% of the their points by way of the trey, so the Friars will once again have to be sure hands are in faces.
Can Henton Do It Again?: LaDontae Henton has set career highs in points in each of the last five games. His point totals have gone like this: 16,17,18,19,21. Oh Buckets, now you are going by twos? Who’s got 23 next?
Bilal’s First Game Flashback: Bilal Dixon made his collegiate debut against Bryant on November 13th, 2009. In 21 minutes, Bilal had 16 points and 11 rebounds for a sweet double-double in his first game as a Friar. With 10 rebounds in the last game against Boston College, Dixon is starting to come around and do the things that made him successful two years ago.
WHAT TO: READ
Friars.com: Gamenotes [PDF]
Bryant has posted a 1-8 mark this season. The Bulldogs lone win was a 70-63 victory over UC Davis on November 12 in San Diego, Calif. Bryant is led by forward Alex Francis. He averaging 17.9 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game, good enough to lead the team in both categories.
BryantBulldogs.com: Ocean State Faceoff: Bryant at PC Saturday
There are several ties between Bryant University and Providence College, and its not just the area code. Eight current Bulldog coaches and 10 athletic department employees attended Providence College — including one coach from the basketball world — while one current Friar coach formerly served on the Bryant bench.
A 2002 PC graduate, current Friar Director of Basketball Operations Kevin Kurbec spent three seasons with the Bulldog men’s basketball program from 2008-11 before returning to Providence for the 2011-12 season. Kurbec spent 10 years with the Friars prior to arriving in Smithfield, including serving as the Director of Basketball Operations for head coach Tim Welsh from 2005-08. On the Bryant end, head women’s basketball coach Mary Burke, now in her 21st season at Bryant, was a standout on the court for the Friars women’s basketball team from 1984-88, where she accumulated 1,672 career points and graduated as the program’s fourth-leading points scorer and seventh-leading rebounder (740) of all time. She set a school record for points in a game with her 43-point outburst against Miami of Ohio and was inducted into the Providence College Hall of Fame in 2008.
After struggling through the growing pains of transforming a Division II power into an eventual Division I contender, head basketball coach Tim O’Shea is shepherding his team this year through one final go-round of “transition” play in the Northeast Conference, before becoming a full-fledged member in 2012-13. And once total membership is achieved, the hope is that the basketball team will be ready to compete for a championship – and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
“We just want to continue to make progress within the league,” O’Shea said, prior to the start of the season. “We want to hopefully set the stage to be considered as a contender at the top of the conference in Year Five [2012-13], our first year of eligibility.”
GoLocalProv: Bryant’s killer road schedule takes a South Bend
The Bulldogs traveled to South Bend, IN to face Notre Dame, and dropped an 84-59 decision to the Fighting Irish to fall to 1-5 on the season. Sophomore Alex Francis scored a team-high 22 points (his 4th 20-point game of the young season), and junior Frankie Dobbs added 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Notre Dame shot 50% from the floor in the first half, and equally sharp-shooting from three-point range never really let the Bulldogs into the contest.
CBS Sports: Northeast Conference preview
11. Bryant University
Entering the second year of their transition to Division I, the Bryant Bulldogs will play a full Northeast Conference schedule this season, however, they won’t be eligible for the conference tournament until completing NCAA reclassification in 2012-13.
The Bulldogs were 8-21 in their first year under the direction of Tim O’Shea. Against NEC competition, Bryant was a respectable 6-8, which bodes well for their first full conference slate.
“I think we’ll make a significant jump this year,” O’Shea said. “Recruiting really went better than I thought and I am pleased with the talent we were able to bring in this year. With a stronger freshman class and the returners back, we have a chance to surprise a few people.”
O’Shea will count on three seniors to lead the way.
Cecil Gresham was the Bulldogs’ leadings scorer last season at 13.4 ppg, knocking down 57 3-pointers. Nick Pontes gives the team a strong inside presence, while Chris Birrell runs the show from the point. Birrell dished out a team-best 3.5 assists per game a season ago.
Newcomers include three international recruits: Papa Lo (Theis, Senegal), Vlad Kondratyev (Nikolayev, Ukraine) and Clay McMath (Adelaide, Australia). The 6-foot-9 Lo, a transfer from Massachusetts, blocked 25 shots as a freshman for the Minutemen in 2007-08.
WHAT TO: WATCH
Central Connecticut State at Bryant – NEC-TV Highlights
CCSU spoils the Bulldogs home opener, toping Bryant 83-51.
Frankie Dobbs talks family, transferring and academic future.
Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tim O’Shea talks about the teams California road trip, Frankie Dobbs and Alex Francis being named to the all-tournament team and upcoming matchups against Dartmouth and Army.
WHERE TO: FOLLOW
Twitter.com: I will not be available for the game, but follow the #pcbb hashtag!
WHERE TO: WATCH
WHERE TO: LISTEN
WEEI 103.7 FM