Providence head coach Ed Cooley signals to his players against Providence at the end of the second half during an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/John Peterson)
- The Providence Friars (9-10, 5-8 Big East) host the UConn Huskies (8-4, 5-4 Big East) Wednesday, Feb. 10
- Both teams are coming off losses, with the Friars mired in a three-game skid
- Read below for odds, analysis, and our best bet for this matchup
The Providence Friars (9-10, 5-8 Big East), losers of three straight and only two victories in the new calendar year, host the UConn Huskies (8-4, 5-4 Big East) Wednesday, Feb. 10 in Rhode Island. Tip is set for 4pm ET at Alumni Hall.
Providence entered the 2020-21 campaign with fairly lofty expectations. Picked to finish third in the league behind Villanova and Creighton in the preseason poll, the Friars had reason to be confident coming off a 19-12 season and the return of David Duke. But Ed Cooley’s club has disappointed. Meantime, the Huskies were projected to finish fourth in the Big East — and they’re currently sitting in fifth.
Now, Providence looks to salvage a three-game homestand as slight underdogs against UConn.
UConn vs Providence Odds
|UConn||-1.5 (-110)||N/A||Ov 133 (-110)|
|Providence||+1.5 (-110)||N/A||Un 133 (-110)|
Odds taken Feb. 9
Bouknight and Boards
The Huskies have been without the services of leading scorer James Bouknight the last six games. The sophomore guard is recovering from elbow surgery. UConn has gone 3-3 in his absence. Junior guards Tyrese Martin and RJ Cole have tried to fill the scoring gap, putting up 11.7 and 11.0 points per game this season.
Sophomore guard Jalen Gaffney had a breakout game in an 80-73 defeat to Seton Hall Saturday. Gaffney scored a career-high 20 points and brought Dan Hurley’s team to within four points late in regulation. But, it wasn’t meant to be — and UConn lost on its homecourt to the Pirates for the first time since 1997.
The Huskies are one of the better rebounding teams in the country, featuring a fifth-best offensive rebounding percentage. UConn ranks second in their return to the Big East in rebound margin (+2.7) and offensive rebounding (12.1).
This is a squad that also gets after it defensively. Hurley’s guys lead the conference in scoring defense, holding opponents to 64.8 points per game. The Huskies are also second in steals (7.3) and blocks (4.4). The Friars will need to be extra efficient if they expect to snap their current skid.
Providence was St. John’s latest victim as the Red Storm are enjoying a resurgence. The Friars climbed to within five early in the second half. But the Johnnies responded with a 20-3 run to eventually win 92-81.
Leading the way for Cooley’s team is arguably the most formidable tandem in the conference in Watson and Duke. Watson is averaging 17.9 points per game, while Duke is going for 17.5 points a night. The senior center was especially impressive Saturday against St. John’s, going for a career-high 30 points in defeat.
While UConn excels in rebounding, Providence has handled the rock well this season. The Friars have a non-steal turnover of only 7.6% — good for 14th in the nation. Ball security will be key for a team looking to beat its New England rival for first time since 2012.
Providence has been reeling in 2021, sporting a 2-7 mark in January and February so far. Cooley defended the state of his program following the 11-point loss to St. John’s.
“Here’s where we are as a program. The program is great. The program is in good shape. We’re having a rough year. We can’t dwell on it… the kids are frustrated,” Ed Cooley after his third straight loss. @ABC6 #GoFriars #PCBB pic.twitter.com/msKo9BrZQf
— Ian Steele (@IanSteeleABC6) February 6, 2021
This is a desperate team featuring two really good players. UConn should be on alert.
Wednesday’s game marks the first meeting between the old conference rivals in nearly eight years, when UConn defeated the Friars, 63-59, in Storrs back on March 9, 2013. That contest marked UConn’s final regular season BIG EAST game before leaving for the American Athletic Conference.
hey old friend pic.twitter.com/oFOSYODusg
— PC Men’s Basketball (@PCFriarsmbb) February 8, 2021
Historically-speaking, the Huskies have dominated this rivalry, holding a 44-28 mark all-time against PC. The inequity isn’t as bad for games played in Rhode Island, where the Friars have posted a 14-17 mark all-time against the Huskies in Providence.
Another factor to keep an eye is the coaching matchup: Cooley has posted a 5-1 mark all-time in head-to-head matchups against Hurley-coached teams.
So, how will Wednesday’s tilt shake out? While I love their rebounding acumen, the Huskies still miss Bouknight. Meantime, the Friars return home to face an old rival with a pair of elite players — one of which is coming off a career-high in production. All these factors have me leaning the Friars’ way.
The pick: Providence +1.5 (-110)
Blair Johnson is a veteran journalist and seasoned sports content creator. He has been writing and producing content as long as he can remember, with such familiar names as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo. Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.