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The #11 Providence Friars (21-11) will take on the #6 Kentucky Wildcats (21-11) in this NCAA Tournament East Region first-round matchup. These two will meet in Greensboro, NC on Friday at 7:10 EST on CBS in one of the most anticipated March Madness first-round matchups.
If you are looking for help picking this game, fear not! Below is a breakdown of both teams, our prediction, best bet recommendation, and details on how to watch.
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The Friars are coming off one of their best seasons in recent memory, finishing fifth in the Big East despite losing four of their last five games. In their defense, the losses included two against UConn and one to Xavier. Providence also has a lot of quality wins on its resume, including against Marquette, UConn, and Creighton.
Providence has had a solid schedule to prepare them for this meeting with Kentucky. They played in a challenging Big East conference and faced Miami and TCU to begin their season. While they lost those two non-conference games, it gave them even more experience against the country’s top teams.
Their success has come from the play of their offense, which ranks among the top five in the Big East in most major categories. The offense did falter late, as they have averaged about seven points less over their last four games.
The Friars have struggled a bit on defense, which has been on full display lately. They are allowing 80.8 points over their last five games, a troubling trend considering they played two of the conference’s worst-scoring teams during that stretch. They must fix that as they prepare to meet Kentucky on Friday night.
4th in the Big East in scoring (78.1 PPG)
5th in field goal percentage (45.9%)
5th in three-point percentage (35.1%)
4th in free throw percentage (74.5%)
3rd in rebounding (38.3 RPG)
6th in assists (14.7 APG)
4th in turnovers (11.8 TO/G)
7th in the Big East in opponent scoring (71.3 PPG)
6th in opponent field goal percentage (44.3%)
5th in opponent three-point percentage (33.9%)
4th in steals (6.9 SPG)
3rd in blocks (4.6 BPG)
Bryce Hopkins: 16.1 PPG / 8.5 RPG / 48.7 FG%
Ed Croswell: 13.2 PPG / 7.6 RPG / 1.1 SPG / 60.5 FG%
Devin Carter: 13.1 PPG / 4.9 RPG / 1.8 SPG
The Wildcats finished the season third in a competitive SEC but were unceremoniously bounced from the first round of the conference tournament by Vanderbilt. The Wildcats had the 22nd most challenging schedule in the country, with the SEC being deep and a non-conference schedule that included six tournament teams (Gonzaga, Michigan State, UCLA, Missouri, and Kansas).
That schedule will benefit Kentucky as they enter March Madness, but they went 2-4 against ranked opponents. Both wins came over Tennessee, and Three of the four losses were by more than 10 points.
Kentucky’s offense has been solid all season and is a big reason they finished third in the SEC. They are top three in the conference in scoring, shooting percentages, assists, and rebounds. Those are impressive numbers in a conference that sent seven teams to the NCAA tournament.
The defensive play of Kentucky hasn’t been great, but they have improved of late by allowing an average of 65.8 points over their final five games of the regular season. They struggle to defend shots, which has cost them against some of the SEC’s top offenses.
3rd in the SEC in scoring (74.1 PPG)
3rd in field goal percentage (45.9%)
2nd in three-point percentage (35.4%)
9th in free throw percentage (70.3%)
2nd in rebounds (39.0 RPG)
3rd in assists (15.3 APG)
4th in turnovers (11.7 TO/G)
6th in opponent scoring (68.0 PPG)
8th in opponent field goal percentage (42.9%)
10th in three-point percentage (33.1%)
10th in steals (6.5 SPG)
6th in blocks (3.8 BPG)
Oscar Tshiebwe: 16.5 PPG / 13.1 RPG / 1.6 SPG / 1.0 BPG / 56.3 FG%
Antonio Reeves: 14.4 PPG / 40.7 3PT%
Jacob Toppin: 12.5 PPG / 6.9 RPG / 47.2 FG%
Expect fireworks on Friday night when these two teams meet in the NCAA Tournament first round. Both offenses have plenty of talent, and their defense should allow them room to work.
Kentucky is 15-17 versus the spread and has covered five of their last seven games. They have gone over the total 20 times, including in three of their previous five games.
Providence is 18-14 against the spread but has failed to cover four of their last five games. They’ve gone over the total 17 times and have done so in seven of their last ten games.
We like Kentucky to win in a close game on CBS on Friday night. Providence has more impressive wins on their resume, but we like the Wildcats' experience. While the Friars stars are young, the Wildcat's top three scorers are seniors. Four years of experience playing at the top level of college basketball will be invaluable and will lead them to victory over a younger Providence team.
We are avoiding the spread here because we think this will be close. Instead, we’re taking the over (145.5 at DraftKings Sportsbook) in what should be a shootout in the South Region on Friday.
Location: Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC
Game Time & Date: Mar 17, 2023, at 7:10 PM EST
TV Network: CBS
Streaming: NCAA March Madness Live
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