Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
The Teams: Providence Friars (6-0) vs Maryland Terrapins (3-2)
The Time: 10 PM Eastern
The Location: University of the Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands
The Coaches: Ed Cooley (34-32, third season) vs Mark Turgeon
Where to Watch: CBS Sports Network, Youtube (if you’re outside the US)
The Buildup: It’s the championship game, folks. This next one’s for all the marbles. Maryland advances to the Paradise Jam championship game after dispatching University of Northern Iowa handily 80-66. Evan Smotrycz scored a career high 20 points (nine of which came on consecutive three point shots in the second half — you do the math) and the Terps had four of five starters score more than 15 points in the victory. Maryland may have had another slow first half, but they picked it up yet again with 47 points in the second to pull away from a UNI team that just wouldn’t go away.
The Friars dispatched La Salle in the semi-final game Sunday night with a 71-63 win that saw La Salle come within one 59-58 with about three minutes to go. The Friars got a career high 22 points out of Tyler Harris, and Kadeem Batts added in 18 points, ten of which were scored on a 10-0 run in the first half that gave the Friars the lead for good.
The Terps needed that win against a challenging opponent, because they’re going to be facing a Providence team that will provide them ample challenge. Basically, because they’re the exact same team. They average 76 points a game, Maryland averages 75. Maryland shoots 44% from the floor, they shoot 43%. They both turn it over 13 times a game, and they both average about 42 rebounds per game. Maryland is a better shooting team from deep, but the Friars are better at completing three point plays (aka shooting free throws). It’s a close matchup, period. Maryland may have beaten Marist 68-43, but the Friars trounced them 93-48.
This Friars team has tournament aspirations that don’t mesh well with Maryland’s own desire to reach the promised land, so expect a solid matchup. Things won’t be easy going for Maryland at all in the championship game, but did anyone expect them to be?
Who to look out for…
1.) Tyler Harris
Tyler Harris is going to be a problem. The sophomore forward is long, athletic, and understands the game of basketball very well. He wasn’t expected to start, but was thrust into those duties when Brandon Austin (the presumed starter) was suspended to start the season and has yet to play for them.
Harris, an NC State transfer, is very versatile, and can knock down three pointers as well as get to the rim and draw fouls. The Layman vs Harris matchup is going to be a very exciting one, although I fully expect Turgeon to throw a lot of people at him given how well he played Sunday night. Don’t discredit his defensive presence, either. Harris did a great job of strapping up La Salle and having a hand on a lot of balls despite only finishing with one block and one steal.
2.) Kris Dunn
Dunn, a 6’3 sophomore guard, may come off the bench, but he’s the orchestrator of the Friars offense. Dunn may not be the starting point guard, per se, but he definitely has the ball in his hands the most, and distributes it incredibly well. On the year, he averages six assists per game, and dished out that same number against La Salle, finding open shooters everywhere on the floor. When he’s playing on the court, Bryce Cotton can play off the ball, and the Friars look like a tournament team.
When Dunn is able to find the senior Cotton open for three pointers, assuming they actually go down, this team is a very tough out. They’ve got excellent big men who can score at a high clip, and finding those guys requires a solid outside presence. That’s where Dunn’s stellar court vision comes in.
The Terps can flay the Friars if they….
1.) Get Carson Desrosiers into foul trouble
I should have probably focused in on Wake Forest transfer Desrosiers as a player to watch because of the very tangible impact he has on the defensive end, so I will now. Desrosiers, who was a former AAU teammate with Evan Smotrycz on Mass Rivals all those years ago, is for the Friars what Alex Len was for the Terps last year. That is to say, he protects the rim incredibly well and swats away shots at an alarmingly high rate (averaging three a game this season). Desrosiers paint presence cannot be understated for Providence, as teams are just not scoring much in the paint with him on the floor, and he’s always on the floor.
So how do you win? You get him off the floor. Get Desrosiers into foul trouble and test the Friars depth (they really only play six or seven guys). Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell have to be aggressive right off the bat, but just as importantly Maryland’s guards need to beat their defenders to force Desrosiers to go over and help. The more times they attack him, the higher chance they have of getting him to foul. Do that, and Maryland may have a much easier time dispatching Providence.
2.) Force them to shoot, don’t put them on the line
Providence is nowhere near the talented shooting team that Northern Iowa was, and Maryland needs to take advantage of that fact. Bryce Cotton really likes to take three pointers, but he’s so bad at them that he’s a detriment to the team (he hits only24% of them on the year). When you take away the paint from Cotton and force him to rely on that shaky shot, Maryland can pummel this team.
But Cotton is good for a reason, and that’s because the senior guard gets to the line all the time, and almost never misses from there. On the season, he’s shooting a Steve Nash-like 90% from there (their team shoots around the same percentage, actually). That really goes for the rest of their team as well. They love to draw contact at every opportunity, and they convert almost all those into points at the foul line. Logic says that if you keep them off the charity stripe, you’re going to have a good time.
3.) Do not giveth, but taketh the rock
The Friars one glaring weakness is that they’re sloppy with the ball. They turn it over as much as Maryland turned it over last year (almost 14 times a game), and it’s hard to continue to win games that way. It’s as simple as pressuring their guards heavily, and forcing their big men to do a little too much.
In particular, Maryland shone hone in on Tyler Harris. Harris tries to do too much on the court at times, and he gives up the ball a whole lot. That’s going to go on Layman, who may be the only guy Maryland can play on him given his size. Layman needs to get under him and stay in his face all game, regardless of the expenditure of energy.
The Terps should also continue that eight turnover performance, obviously. You can’t take shots unless you have the ball, and giving it away and exorbitant amount of times is a great way to lose games and not get your shooters back to their statistical averages by taking more shots. Maryland got off a whole lot of them against Northern Iowa, and they should want to get off that many against Providence as well. They have way too many scoring options, and the only way to get everyone their touches and run teams off the floor is with, you guessed it, more possessions.
I think Maryland has too much depth for this Providence team. It may be a rare game where they don’t win the rebounding battle, but they come out on top because they force Providence to go to the bench early by playing aggressively. Maryland wins this one by three, 69-66.