PLENTY OF STORYLINES IN THIS ROUND ONE MATCHUP
In what will be a loaded Saturday round two slate, the game of the day should in all likelihood be Providence versus Kentucky. Bryce Hopkins will be taking on his former team in primetime as Kentucky looks to avoid their second straight first round exit in the big dance. Kentucky, after what was an awful start to their college basketball season, was able to get hot down the stretch and into the NCAA tournament, and will hope to ride that momentum into the late rounds.
CATS HAVE GONE QUIET
The Wildcats won four straight to end the month of February and five of seven to end the year. That stretch included wins over Tennessee, Auburn and Arkansas, all of which have found their way into the round of 32. Kentucky’s major advantage comes from their size as they have just one starter below 6’5. Senior forward Oscar Tshiebwe leads the Wildcats averaging a dominant 16.5 ppg and 13.1 rpg.
FRIARS FLAWED OF LATE
Providence will be stumbling into the NCAA tournament having lost three straight games to end the year, two of which came out home where they were undefeated this year prior to the cold finish. The friars were just 6-9 away from the Pavilion this year. Despite the Friars poor play away from home this year they do have a strong matchup tomorrow against Kentucky. Bryce Hopkins and Ed Crosswell are NBA level bodies. They will not be worn down in size as they average 29 points and 16 rebounds between the two of them.
When looking into this game both pace and scoring should come at a premium. Providence ranks 195th in Kenpom’s tempo (66.9) and Kentucky comes in 257th (66.0). I do not see Kenucky ever pulling away from Providence. Kentucky lacks the ability to really shoot teams out of games. Kentucky is not always a very good scoring team especially against defenses that grade out well analytically. Kentucky is not a very good shooting team and their inability to get out in transition will create opportunities for Providence. 11 seeds have been very profitable over the past few years in the NCAA tournament.
Over the last ten tournaments the 11 seeds hold a 15-13 record against number 6 seeds. The Friars are also 18-7 over their last 25 games as an underdog. None of the teams in the SEC are overwhelmingly strong on offense. I think Providence’s balance combined with their shotmaking ability makes them a very live dog in what should be a close contest throughout. Providence is also getting just 43% of the bets on the moneyline and 30% on the spread at Fanduel. Fade the public and back the Friars catching +4.5 against Calipari’s Cats.