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March 25, 2013

Game Day: NIT at Providence

Over the course of a 30-plus game season, a college basketball team will get a glimpse at a host of different styles. Good coaching staffs find a way to prep their team to face the manic intensity of a Mount St. Mary's-style pressure defense on one night, a free-flowing LIU-Brooklyn offense the next, and the slower paces of a dominant inside team later in the week.

Andy Toole's task in the aftermath of Robert Morris' win over Kentucky has been to prepare the Colonials for all of the above.

Game 35: Providence
WHEN: March 25, 7:00p.m.
WHERE: Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island
TV/RADIO: ESPN News/ESPN3.com, WPIT 730 AM/WPITAM.com (RMU Radio)
YAHOO! SPORTS RPI RANKINGS: Providence 87, Robert Morris 118
KENPOM RANKINGS: Providence 66, Robert Morris 133
PROJECTED PROVIDENCE STARTERS: F Kadeem Batts (6'9, 245, Jr.), F LaDontae Henton (6'6, 215, So.), G Kris Dunn (6'3, 180, Fr.), G Vincent Council (6'2, 180, Sr.), G Bryce Cotton (6'1, 165, Jr.)
PROJECTED ROBERT MORRIS STARTERS: C Mike McFadden (6'8, 220, Jr.), F Russell Johnson (6'6, 180, RSr.), F Lucky Jones (6'6, 205, So.), G Coron Williams 6'2, 170, RJr.), G Anthony Myers-Pate (5'11, 170, Jr.)

Providence is a bit of a chameleon, a Big East team capable of grinding it out with physical defensive play on the perimeter and a large presence inside in Kadeem Batts, and an ACC-team willing to get out and run behind the steady backcourt duo of Vincent Council and Bryce Cotton.

"It's going to be a situation where if they feel they have an opportunity to break, they're going to take off and they're not going to stop until we get back in transition defense," Toole said. "If they need to slow it down and execute offense, they can do that as well."

Cotton is one of the Big East's leading scorer, capable of popping off multiple 3-pointers in a row and going for 30 points. Council is the engine, the owner of over 700 career assists, but a threat in his own right. Nothing is out of question for Providence.

"They do a nice job of balancing their post touches with their perimeter play," Toole said. "They challenge you physically, they're into the ball aggressively, so it'll be a pretty good game."

Providence is in the top third of the country in both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency, but their hallmark is their offensive rebounding. Providence leads the Big East in the category, and ranks 25th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage.

"And they're not a very big team, so that shows you how aggressive they are and that they're determined in getting to the glass," Toole said.

The problem is when Providence isn't clicking, they go cold. The Friars shoot just 31 percent from beyond the arc and 45 percent on their two-point shots. Robert Morris, by comparison, is middle of the pack at 46.2 percent on two-pointers and a blistering 38 percent from 3-point range.

As good as Batts can be, it still all starts on the perimeter for Providence. That will be the focus for the Colonials. How RMU handles Cotton and Council, both in their ability to set up the Friars' offense and to get out in transition, will go a long way to determine the outcome of the game.

"They're great in transition. They have guards that can fly out of the gym," Coron Williams said. "Because Kentucky was down low more, that kind of favored us in a way. This is a great match-up for our guards to see how good we are. I think everybody's up for the challenge."

ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at achiappazzi@yahoo.com.

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