Kentucky Wildcats vs. Providence Friars: Game Preview

Andy Lyons

Providence is a definite class upgrade for Kentucky over previous foes, and the Wildcats will be challenged in Brooklyn.

Kentucky's next opponent on the road to NCAA Tournament championship #9 is the Providence Friars in a game played in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. This game is a continuation of Kentucky's commitment to play games in the Barclays Center for the last couple of years. That commitment is a two-year rollover deal that could extend for quite some time, so get used to seeing a game in Barclays every year for the foreseeable future.

General

About Providence

  • Conference: Big East
  • Head Coach: Ed Cooley (since 2011)
  • NCAA Appearances: 15 ( most recent - 2004)
  • Founded: 1917
  • Enrollment: 3788
  • Last season's record: 19-15 (9-9)
  • Source: Basketball State

Season so far:

Providence has lost only one game so far, a close shave to the Maryland Terrapins. Significant wins include Vanderbilt (83) at a neutral site and Boston College (81) at home in overtime. So far, the Friars have mostly won the games they are supposed to win and lost the game they were supposed to lose.

History

Providence and Kentucky have met only once previously, in 1976 in the NIT in Madison Square Garden. Kentucky escaped that game by 1 point, 79-78, and went on to win the tournament over UNC-Charlotte.

Providence roster

NO NAME Status Yr Ht Wt Position Hometown/High School
10 Kadeem Batts S** SR 6-9 245 Forward Boston, Mass./John McEachern High School '09
11 Bryce Cotton S** SR 6-1 165 Guard Tucson, Ariz./Palo Verde High School '10
4 Josh Fortune S** SO 6-5 205 Guard Hampton, Va./Kecoughtan High School '12
23 LaDontae Henton S* JR 6-6 215 Forward Lansing, Mich./Eastern High School '11
25 Tyler Harris S SO 6-9 215 Forward Dix Hills, N.Y./St. Benedict's Prep '11
3 Kris Dunn MR* SO 6-3 197 Guard New London, Conn./New London High School '12
33 Carson Desrosiers MR JR 7-0 250 Forward Windham, N.H./Central Catholic '10
22 Ted Bancroft R* SR 6-6 215 Guard Marion, Mass./Bishop Stang High School '10
21 Lee Goldsbrough R* SR 6-9 230 Forward Newcastle, England/Loreto Sixth Form College '10
13 Brice Kofane R* JR 6-8 210 Forward Yaounde, Cameroon/The Miller School '10
32 Junior Lomomba R SO 6-5 195 Guard Montreal, Quebec/Madison Memorial '12
12 Casey Woodring R FR 6-2 180 Guard Darien, Conn./Cushing Academy '13
5 Rodney Bullock U FR 6-7 215 Forward Hampton, Va./Kecoughtan High School '13
1 Brandon Austin U FR 6-6 185 Guard Philadelphia, Pa./Imhotep Charter High School '13








Legend





S Starter





MR Major reserve





R Reserve





U Unavailable





* Returner





** Returning starter






Player notes

  • Senior point guard Bryce Cotton is the leading scorer and leading assist man (18.5 ppg/5.2 apg). He is a skilled, quick player and finishes very well at the rim. He isn't a great 3-point shooter, but he is a solid one over his career making around 36% or so.

  • Junior forward LaDontae Henton is the second-leading scorer and leading rebounder (13.6 ppg/8 rpg). He isn't a big player at 6'6"/215#, but he is strong and attacks the glass with a passion. He is also one of the best defenders in the Big East, and is very versatile. He is shooting the 3 very well this year at almost 40%.

  • Kaddem Bats is a senior power forward and 3rd leading scorer and second-leading rebounder (13.5 ppg/7.4 rpg). He is the best offensive rebounder on the team, and can make an open three.

  • Josh Fortune is the 2-guard and a good, but not great, 3-point shooter.

  • Providence is an outstanding free-throw shooting team, which makes them very efficient when they get to the line. Unfortunately, they don't get there all that often at 42% FTA per FGA. Kentucky, by comparison, gets there on nearly 67% of its field goal attempts.

Injuries

Providence has two players, Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock, both freshmen, who are suspended indefinitely for academic reasons.

Jon Hood is questionable to play against Providence. He suffered a head injury in practice on November 23rd and has missed the last two games.

Likely matchups

Starters

  • Bryce Cotton vs. Andrew Harrison: Cotton is smaller than Harrison, but also quicker and quite athletic. He is a 4-year player at Providence and has all the toughness and experience you need to be successful. While Harrison is taller and very skilled, he has not been able to deal with smaller, quicker point guards so far. He's going to have to prove he can. This will be a tough place to do it.

    Advantage: Providence

  • Josh Fortune vs. Aaron Harrison: Fortune is a solid player, but he is less skilled and not that much more experienced than Aaron is. But unlike many 2-guards facing Aaron this season, he is a similar size and has an experience advantage. Still, Aaron is more athletic and I think gets the best of this matchup.

    Advantage: Kentucky

  • Ladontae Henton vs. James Young: This is a nice matchup of similar sized players, both skilled and long, and both from the state of Michigan. Young has a greater overall talent level, but Henton is experienced and backs down from nobody defensively.

    Advantage: Draw

  • Kadeem Batts vs. Julius Randle: Batts is a good matchup for Randle with his combination of size and experience. Randle is an amazing beast inside, and he's going to get the edge, but it isn't a big one.

    Advantage: Kentucky

  • Tyler Harris vs. Willie Cauley-Stein: Harris is a sophomore who does the little things around the basket, gets the garbage rebounds and puts them in, and has a habit of getting to the line where he shoots 94%. With all that said, he is no match for WCS in either athleticism or basketball skill other than shooting free throws.

    Advantage: Kentucky

Bench

Providence has only two major reserves, and really goes only seven deep. Kris Dunn is a talented sophomore point guard who is the second-leading assist man, and Carson Desroisiers, a Wake Forest transfer, is a junior forward/center (7'0"/250#) who rebounds the ball well, but more importantly, protects the rim as the 19th best shot-blocker in America.

But Kentucky has talent to burn on the bench with Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, Dakarki Johnson and Dominque Hawkins, all of whom have seen significant action and made significant contributions. Johnson, in particular, is a very difficult matchup for the Friars because of his size and deft touch.

Advantage: Kentucky

Game analysis

This is a game Kentucky should win, but because it is a way from home it is a definite challenge. Providence is one of the better defensive teams in America, — better than Kentucky, in fact. Although they are somewhat offensively challenged, they can score and are a very dangerous team on a given night because of their shooting and their ability to make free throws. Kentucky is going to have to guard the 3-point line closely against Providence, because they can make them.

Another thing that makes Providence dangerous is their excellent offensive rebounding. It isn't as good as Kentucky, who leads the nation in OR%, but it is very good and is certainly good enough to challenge the Wildcats. Providence is the 3rd best free-throw shooting team in the country, and if they can force Kentucky into a lot of fouls, this will be a very close, tightly contested game.

Providence represents a major step up in class for Kentucky from recent foes, and some of those lower-quality foes have given Kentucky really good games (Cleveland St, for one). This is by no means an easy victory for Kentucky at this point, and their greater experience gives Providence enough of an edge to make them a major threat to upset the Wildcats away from home.

Kentucky does have the advantage of greater quality depth, and if fouls become a problem for Providence, they could wind up in serious trouble. Providence is only seven deep, and if UK puts them in deep foul trouble, their talent and experience drops off rapidly. Kentucky is likely to win a war of attrition.

With that said, Providence is well-coached, tough-minded, and will come to this game with every intention of getting the upset, and make no mistake, they are fully capable of pulling it off. Kentucky will need to be focused and disciplined, and if they don't show some improvement from recent games, this could be a very tough one.

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