The irregularities of a season impacted by COVID-19 will be on full display when Providence takes on Butler on Saturday afternoon at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The game will be Providence’s sixth of the season, and the second game in two days. But for Butler, this is the season opener after their previously scheduled Friday night match-up with Seton Hall was called off.
The Bulldogs were picked eighth in the conference’s preseason poll, a year after going 19-11 overall and 11-7 in BIG EAST play.
Head coach Kurt Godlevske summed up the challenges facing most in the college basketball world this year.
“This season is unique in that we have no scrimmages, no exhibition games and a limited non-conference schedule. We have to get our players comfortable in our system and ready to play. Obviously, it's hard to match game intensity, but we are doing our best in an effort to be ready,” Godlevske said.
Butler returns two starters from last season, guards Genesis Parker and Oumou Toure. Both averaged nine points per game. Toure was active on the glass, pulling down 8 rebounds per game.
Godlevske is high on a new addition to the team, Clemson transfer Jaia Alexander. The redshirt senior couldn’t play last year because of injury and sat out 2018-2019 because of transfer rules. But Godlevske is still expecting an immediate impact from Alexander.
“Jaia can do things on the court that no one else has been able to do during my tenure here,” Godlevske said. “She will certainly draw attention from every defense that we face, but that is ok with us because she makes everyone around her better.”
While Butler will have to worry about rust, Providence will be playing on tired legs. On Friday afternoon, they kicked off their BIG EAST season in Milwaukee in an 89-40 loss to Marquette.
The Friars weren’t competitive after a nightmare of a second-quarter saw them give up a 19-0 run on their way to being outscored 24-3 in the quarter.
Mary Baskerville, the Friars top offensive threat, never got into a rhythm, attempting just six shots and scoring two points. The Friars shot 24% overall and were 4-24 on three-pointers. Aside from the shooting woes, Providence struggled to possess the ball, turning it over 20 times. Kyra Spiwak led the Friars with 10 points. Against Butler, expect a concerted effort to get Baskerville involved early and an emphasis on containing the Bulter backcourt.