He’s Dunn it all
It’s fitting that Kris Dunn’s stat line on the game notes extends past the allotted space, spilling over to the area designated to specify his position. Averaging 16 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.5 steals, he’s a do-everything guy for No. 9 seed Providence.
Dunn, a McDonald’s All-American in high school, could’ve made the jump to the NBA after last year’s breakout season where he earned All-American Honorable Mention, Big East Player of the Year, Big East Defensive Player of the Year and the team’s Most Valuable Player Award. The 6-4, 220-lb guard averaged 15.6 points per game in his sophomore season and grabbed 90 steals.
He’s only continued his rise this season, averaging 16 points per game and Big East-leading 2.5 steals per game. He repeated as Big East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, joining Patrick Ewing as the only Big East player to earn both awards twice. And with those accomplishments, he’s landed on Wooden, Naismith and Oscar Robertson watch lists. As a big guard, he’ll present some match up problems for UNC’s smaller guards like 6-0 Joel Berry, 6-2 Paige and 6-1 Nate Britt.
The Friars (24-10) aren’t strangers to this kind of veteran leadership. The last time UNC played Providence in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, the star of the game was senior point guard Bryce Cotton, who nearly led his team to an upset of then-No. 6 seed UNC with 36 points.
Though Dunn is doing nearly everything for the Friars, he’s had quite a bit of support from sophomores Ben Bentil and Rodney Bullock.
Bentil, a 6-9 forward, leads the team with 21 points and 7.8 rebounds per game and erupted for 38 points against Butler in the Big East Quarterfinal a week and a half ago. He set the tournament field goal record with 16 buckets in that game.
Bentil is the tallest player on the team, and he’s also a reliable 3-point threat with a team-leading 49 triples this season.
Along with Dunn, Bentil also earned First Team Big East honors, and he was also named the conference’s Most Improved Player as he jumped from 6.4 points per game in his sophomore season to 21 this year.
Bullock averages 11.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Against USC, he had 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Behind the trio of Dunn, Bentil and Bullock, the Friars don’t have much depth. On the other side, the Tar Heels boast four players averaging in double figures and two more at nine points apiece. With so many offensive threats, UNC (29-6) averages nearly 10 points more per game than the Friars.
What month is it again?
Your bracket is busted. We know. Yesterday was the day of the mid-major and the unknowns. It was a great day, perhaps the best day of the tournament ever. Hyperbole? Maybe. But it’s clear that March never disappoints.
So with that in mind, we can tell you all of the stats and advanced analytics, but sometimes, crazy stuff happens. As of Saturday morning, UNC is favored by 10.5 points, but after Final Four favorite Michigan State lost to Middle Tennessee State yesterday, does that really matter in the NCAA Tournament?
UNC has a 32-1 record in NCAA Tournament games played in the state of North Carolina, so the Tar Heels are the easy favorites. But Providence is riding a wave of momentum after a buzzer-beating victory against USC late Thursday night to get its first NCAA Tournament win since 1997.
On the other side, UNC struggled through the first half of the FGCU game before pulling away in the second half. Will the business-like UNC team from the ACC Tournament show up at PNC tonight at 9:40 or will it be the flat team from the first half of the FGCU game?