Previewing Providence

No. 6-seeded North Carolina opens its NCAA Tournament against No. 11-seed Providence, which won the Big East Tournament title behind its star guard Bryce Cotton. Tip-off in San Antonio is set for 7:20 p.m. ET and will be televised by TNT.

North Carolina (23-9) vs. Providence (23-11)
San Antonio, Texas -- AT&T Center
Friday, 7:20 p.m. ET
TNT (Marv Albert, Steve Kerr)

Quotables

"We're playing as well as we've played since we've been here at Providence. Hopefully we can continue." Third-year Providence head coach Ed Cooley

"I think they have the fastest big men we've played against since I've been a head coach. They rebound the ball great and are unbelievable in transition." – Cooley

"They cheated us a few times over there (in Chapel Hill). Hopefully that doesn't happen this time. I guess it's time to get them back." – Providence starter and former N.C. State forward Tyler Harris, as told to the Providence Journal

"I have a lot of respect for him. I was going through his game logs and I think he has three games where he played 50 minutes. He's averaging like 41 minutes in Big East play. I thought I was playing a lot, so I have tremendous respect for that. Hopefully we can get into their legs and run the ball better than we have been doing." – UNC guard Marcus Paige on Providence guard Bryce Cotton

PREGAME NOTES

Season to Date: Providence enters Friday's contest with a 23-11 (10-8 Big East) record. The Friars dropped four out of five games in February before closing strong by winning seven of their final games, including a 65-58 victory over No. 14 Creighton in the Big East Tournament championship game. Cooley's squad is 6-4 in games decided by four points or less, including a 3-3 record in overtime games.

Cotton Brand: Bryce Cotton earned All-Big East first-team honors following a senior campaign in which he averaged 21.4 points, 5.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-1, 165-pound guard has scored 20 points or more 24 times this year, including a season-high 32 points at St. John's on Feb. 4. He's been consistently productive despite leading the nation in minutes per game (39.9; 41.9 in BE play). The Tucson, Ariz. native has played every minute in 15 of Providence's last 18 games. If there's been one problem area for Cotton, it's his field goal percentage (41.3). He won Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors by averaging 17.7 points despite shooting just 33.3 percent (14-of-42) from the floor.

Manufacturing Efficiency: Providence ranks 30th nationally in adjusted efficiency (113.6), according to kenpom.com, yet ranks 237th in effective field goal percentage (48.1). While those numbers don't add up on the surface, a closer look reveals a three-pronged approach in delivering efficient results. The Friars rank 43rd in offensive rebounding percentage (35.5), 104th in turnover percentage (17.3) and second in free throw percentage (78.1).


Batts, Harris
Size Inside: With Cotton handling the perimeter responsibilities, LaDontae Henton and Kadeem Batts have been effective scoring and rebounding on the interior. Henton, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound forward that plays larger than his measurements, is averaging 13.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while Batts, a load inside at 6-foot-9, 245 pounds, is adding 12.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per outing. The duo combined for 5.6 offensive rebounds per game during the regular season. Henton was a force in last weekend's Big East Tournament, averaging 17.0 points and 12.7 rebounds over the three-game span.

Familiar Faces: There will be not one, but two former ACC foes in Providence uniforms on Friday night. Sophomore forward Tyler Harris (11.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg) averaged 1.8 points and 1.2 rebounds per game in 2011-12 at N.C. State while junior Carson Desrosiers (3.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg) averaged 4.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in two seasons at Wake Forest.

Minutes at a Premium: With the early-season injury to freshman guard Kris Dunn, Cooley has to had to rely on a six-man rotation for most of the season. Five players have started all 34 games and log at least 30 minutes per game each, led by Cotton and Henton (37.1). Desrosiers has averaged 19.6 minutes per game in 33 appearances off the bench. In conference play, that sextet is playing 94.7 percent of the team's minutes.

Record vs. NCAAT Teams: The Friars are 3-6 against five teams in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Providence topped Creighton in two of their three meetings, split a pair of games with Xavier and lost matchups with Kentucky (0-1), UMass (0-1) and Villanova (0-2).

Last Meeting: The Tar Heels defeated the Friars, 89-55, in Charlotte on Feb. 10, 1979.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series, 2-1.

Projected Starters:
11 Bryce Cotton (6-1, 165, Sr.) - 21.4 ppg, 5.8 apg
4 Josh Fortune (6-5, 205, So.) - 8.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg
23 LaDontae Henton (6-6, 215, Jr.) - 13.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg
25 Tyler Harris (6-9, 215, So.) - 11.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg
10 Kadeem Batts (6-9, 245, Sr.) - 12.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg

Top Reserves:
33 Carson Desrosiers (6-7, 230, Fr.) - 3.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg

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(Photos by USA Today Sports)

 

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