Providence started the season as one of the refreshing surprises in the sport. Few could really know how good the Friars would be, even if they had an ultra talent in Kris Dunn. But Ed Cooley’s group got to 14-1 behind uptempo play, top-tier defense and Dunn’s do-it-all abilities.
Things have altered in a hurry, though. The 12th-ranked Friars eeked out a two-point win on the road against Creighton earlier this week, but that victory’s been sandwiched by home losses to teams projected into the bottom half of the Big East. First, a loss to Marquette last weekend and on Saturday, an 81-72 outcome to Seton Hall, which is now 13-4 and deserving of a closer look.
Pirates sophomore Khadeen Carrington put up a career-high 22 points, and SHU got its first win on the road against a ranked team since 2011. In total, the Pirates have eight wins against ranked teams since Kevin Willard became coach in 2010. It’s impressive, all told, though Seton Hall has had issues closing.
Providence has to be panicking just a bit. These are concerning losses, and we could be seeing a regression to the mean. At least Ben Bentil is still producing. One of the leading candidates for most improved player in the country led the Friars with 21 points on 4-of-15 shooting. Dunn put in 16 but when he fouled out with three minutes remaining, Providence was essentially done.
The Big East is looking like a top-three league in this season and SHU helps prove that. Now Providence is going to be up against it and need to at least split its next four games to remain on pace for a single-digit seed. Those games: vs. Butler on Tuesday; at Villanova on Jan. 23; vs. Xavier on Jan. 26; and at Georgetown on Jan. 30.