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Roundup of NCAA Tournament picks for Kentucky

Providence upsetting Kentucky is a trendy pick, but Jay Bilas is among several analysts who have the Wildcats making it to the second weekend of the Big Dance.

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Selection Sunday has come and gone. Now, everyone is focused on filling out their brackets for who will cut down the nets in Houston.

With the NCAA Tournament field now set, media members are now making their picks, and the Kentucky Wildcats are a trendy pick to get upset. However, some expert pickers do have the Cats making it to the second weekend of the Big Dance.

At ESPN, Jay Bilas is picking Kentucky to beat Providence but adds it wouldn’t be much of an upset to see the Friars win thanks to the Wildcats’ up-and-down play all season.

Bilas then picks Kentucky to upset Kansas State in the Round of 32, noting how it would be a familiar matchup since Keyontae Johnson faced Kentucky several times while at Florida.

Then in the Sweet 16, Bilas picked Marquette to take down Kentucky.

“Marquette has better guards, and the best point guard. Kentucky is better on the glass. But, Marquette wins because of turnovers. Marquette doesn’t turn it over, and forces you to turn it over. Only a drubbing on the backboards can keep Marquette from the Elite Eight. Winner: Marquette.”

Bilas goes on to pick the Duke Blue Devils to win the East Region before falling in the Final Four to the Arizona Wildcats.

Elsewhere at ESPN, John Gasaway and Matt Eisenberg put out their 10 most likely first-round upsets and once again the Friars over the Wildcats is one of the picks with their model giving the upset a 40% chance of happening.

Here’s an excerpt of their analysis.

“Perhaps the formula for Providence is to follow the Peacocks. Last year, they ranked among the teams to shoot the fewest amount of 3-pointers per game, but Kentucky couldn’t stop them (9-for-17 from 3). Providence doesn’t shoot as many 3-point shots either, but in averaging 78.1 points per game, the Wildcats will need to keep up with the Friars. Keep in mind that the Friars shoot 38% from deep in their 21 wins, which would rank 21st nationally. However, they shoot 30.4% from beyond the arc in their 11 losses, a figure that would rank 340th.”

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ESPN’s Jeff Borzello predicts a 75-69 win for Kentucky over Providence, a 68-66 win over Kansas State, then a 72-64 loss in the Sweet 16 to Marquette.

Seth Davis of The Athletic picked Providence to upset Kentucky in what’s been dubbed the “Bryce Hopkins Game.”

The Athletic also formed a group of Furman math professors to create a statistical model to predict upsets. Providence beating Kentucky is the 10th-most likely first-round upset at 21.3%.

USA Today’s Paul Myerberg is also joining the first-round upset crowd picking the Friars on Friday night.

Andy Katz believes the Cats will get past Providence, but he has them dropping the second-round game against Kansas State.

Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde also predicts a second-round exit for the Cats losing their matchup against Kansas State.

Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News agrees with Borzello that the Cats will make it to the second weekend, but he also predicts a Sweet 16 loss to Marquette.

ESPN BPI is giving Kentucky a 62.7% chance of beating Providence.

TeamRankings (via ESPN) is projecting a 74-70 victory for Big Blue Nation.

KenPom, who has Kentucky ranked 28th overall, projects a 75-73 win over Providence, ranked 44th overall.

Bart Torvik, ranking the Wildcats 27th, picks them to 75-72 over the Friars, ranked 59th.

Roger Sherman of The Ringer didn’t do individual game predictions but did pick Marquette to win the East Region.

In summary, none of these pickers have Kentucky making it to the Elite Eight. Safe to say this is a year Kentucky is being slept on, perhaps more than any in the John Calipari era, though it is warranted given just how much they’ve struggled at times throughout the season thus far.

One thing that is certain is this Kentucky team is talented enough to beat anyone in the country, but as we have seen, they can also lose to anyone in the country. This March Madness is truly wide open.

So, how far do you see Kentucky going? Let us know in the comments section!