The Kentucky Wildcats have once again returned to March Madness.
After a short stint in Nashville for the SEC Tournament, the Cats will now pack up and head to Greensboro (NC) as the 6-seed in the East Region.
Filled with some name-brand programs at the top half of the bracket including the Duke Blue Devils and Tennessee Volunteers, the storylines are already writing themselves as Kentucky will tip-off on Friday against Bryce Hopkins and the Providence Friars.
Add that in with the storylines already starting regarding UK’s first-round exit and last season, and it’s going to be a busy week for the readers in the BBN.
Now, let’s take a look at the Providence Friars.
Ed Cooley’s team finished the year at 21-11 (13-7) and fifth in the Big East. Losing to UCONN in their first game of the Big East Tournament, and coming in with a 7-8 record over their last 15 games. Needless to say, the Friars will be heading to Greensboro looking to right the ship.
Playing in one of the tougher conferences in the sport, Providence used a solid offense to help propel them throughout the regular season. Averaging just over 78 points per game, the Friars also have five players that average over 10 points per game entering the first-round matchup.
Led by Kentucky transfer Bryce Hopkins at 16.1-points per game, he is also joined by Ed Croswell (13.2 PPG), Devin Carter (13.1 PPG), Noah Locke (11.1 PPG), and Jared Bynum (10.0 PPG). Although they are impressive on offense, they do struggle on the defensive end of the court.
You’ll probably recognize Locke’s name. He faced Kentucky several times while at Florida from 2018-21. He transferred to Louisville for the 2021-22 season, then transferred to Providence this past offseason.
According to KenPom, Providence comes into the NCAA Tournament as the 44th-best team by their statistics. While they boast the 16th-best offense, they have the 108th defense according to the efficiency metrics.
Unfortunately, these are the teams that Kentucky has struggled with most this season. You don’t have look too far back to see just that, as Vanderbilt is considered the 22nd-best offense by KenPom, while also having the 166th-best defense.
As you can see, there are some strong similarities analytics-wise between the Commodores and Friars.
Can the Cats flip the script on this trend from this season? They will need to if they hope to avoid another Round-of-64 exit.
Let the Madness begin!
How to watch Kentucky vs. Providence in NCAA Tournament
Date & Time: 7:10 pm ET on Friday, March 17th, 2023
Location: Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC
TV: CBS will have TV coverage for this Round of 64 matchup.
Live Stream: NCAA March Madness Live
Listen: UK Sports Radio Network
Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook has Kentucky -3 as of Sunday evening.
Early Prediction: KenPom is going with a 75-73 victory, Kentucky!
NCAA TOURNAMENT TIP TIMES ARE IN— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) March 12, 2023
First Four and First Round. HERE. YOU. GO. pic.twitter.com/c1vDgcYvcf