TV Schedule: Wednesday, Feb. 17, 7:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
Arena: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
After being one of the most exciting teams to begin the 2015-16 college basketball season, the Providence Friars have taken a clear step back, losing four of their last six games since upsetting the Villanova Wildcats on the road. This losing streak has put them five games behind first in the Big East, and with just five games left, they would need Villanova to lose out and several other teams to drop games in order to tie for the Big East regular season title.
Since that is definitely not going to happen, Providence needs to start winning again in order to earn a better seed in the 2016 NCAA tournament. Next up for the Friars is a road trip to Cincinnati, Ohio, to face off with the No. 8 Xavier Musketeers, who have lost just one game in their last seven.
Xavier re-entered the top 10 by defeating the Butler Bulldogs on the road after losing to the Creighton Bluejays. One of the more solid all-around teams in the nation, Xavier is a legitimate Final Four threat but just has to get over the in-conference hump that is Villanova. With five games remaining including a home matchup with the Wildcats, winning out might be necessary for the Musketeers to win the conference.
Likewise, I doubt Providence upsets Xavier at home in this one. The Friars are a good team that could get hot in March, but they are slumping right now. Xavier wins comfortably at home, closing the gap on Villanova.
Prediction: Xavier 77, Providence 68