Smile Politely

Illinois-Providence preview

Providence (1-0)
All-time: Providence 2-0 Illinois
Tip-off: 6 pm in Providence, RI
TV: Fox Sports 1

Going to Providence is about one thing for Illinois: stopping Kris Dunn. In their opener, Harvard hung around almost all game, and had a lead as late as 10 minutes into the game, but then Dunn took control. He dished out a couple of assists, picked up a steal, and scored a pair as Providence went on a 9-0 run to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. This spell was emblematic of how Dunn’s all-around game can make a big impact: even though he had a career-high 32 points, it was his help everywhere else that put the Friars in front. Dunn had a usage percentage (an indication of how efficient a player is given the amount of possessions he uses) of 28 in 2015; for reference, that’s the same rate as Kevin Durant for the Thunder so far this year. So, if Dunn is even somewhat neutralized, Illinois has a shot.

It will be interesting to see who Groce picks as his starting 5 this time around, as walk-on Alex Austin got the call against North Dakota State. Jalen Coleman-Lands made a huge difference with his quick hands and hot shooting against the Bison, so he could be in line for his first start as an Illini. But with the different defensive looks Providence gives, expect a lot of rotation among Groce’s 10 men.

The key could be big man Mike Thorne Jr., once again. Providence is undersized, so get big man Ben Bentil in trouble and Thorne could continue his stellar start to the season. Providence has some perimeter shooting threats, however, so Illinois will have to do better than it did in the first three halves of the season when opponents went 24-46 (52%) from behind the arc (South Dakota was held to 4-14 on threes in the second half Sunday).

Predicted lineups

Gut feeling

Providence doesn’t have much past Dunn, but Illinois doesn’t have much past Hill right now. And the gulf between Hill and Dunn is vast. My guy says Illinois comes home 1-2.

More Articles