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Kentucky vs Providence NCAA Tournament Edition: TV/Streaming Info and Keys to the Game

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© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

After a home loss to South Carolina in January, the Kentucky Wildcats had played themselves out of the NCAA Tournament field and had yet to win a marque game. Yet, this team showed a resilience that many did not believe they had and won some impressive games down the stretch, finishing with six quad-one victories.

Now just over two months from that South Carolina loss, the Wildcats are entering the NCAA Tournament as a six-seed, with a fairly good draw to make a run. However, their opening-round game comes against the Providence Friars, who have a familiar face on their roster, former Wildcat Bryce Hopkins.

Already entering the NCAA Tournament under immense pressure to win an NCAA Tournament game, John Calipari now has the added pressure of not losing to a former player. With that said, both teams have an identical 21-11 record and have shown inconsistencies through the regular season.

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On paper, Kentucky has the talent advantage, but as John Calipari said after last weekend’s loss to Vanderbilt, “We’ve shown who we are. We can beat anybody. But I hate to tell you, we can get beat by anybody.”

Now let’s take a closer look at Kentucky’s opening-round matchup.

Bryce Hopkins

Let’s start with the biggest storyline of the game, Bryce Hopkins. Averaging just 2.1 PPG and 1.4 RPG at Kentucky a season ago, the former Wildcat is nearly averaging a double-double for Providence this season with 16.1 PPG and 8.5 RPG, earning All-BIG EAST First Team honors.

While Hopkins regrets going to Kentucky, per an interview with Brian Hamilton of The Athletic, his time wasn’t all bad. In his sole season in Lexington, he formed lasting relationships with eight of the Wildcats’ current players, including Jacob Toppin.

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Ironically, Toppin was the first to congratulate Hopkins during a breakout game against LSU (13 points, 4 rebounds) last season, but will be matched up against his former teammate on Friday.

Fortunately, the matchup seems to favor Toppin who is arguably Kentucky’s best defender and should be able to bother Hopkins with his length and lateral quickness, but must force him out of the paint and cut him off on drives. On the offensive side of the ball, Toppin needs to score in double digits against Hopkins, who has been an inefficient defender for much of the season.

Based on comments from both sides, they are looking forward to the challenge.

“God works in mysterious ways,” Hopkins said of facing Kentucky. “Just can’t wait to prepare for them and play them.” For Toppin? “J.T.-Bryce matchup? TOUGH!… I like it. I like it.”

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Win the Rebounding Battle

On paper, Providence is a good rebounding team, ranking top 100 in most metrics. However, they have been outrebounded five times this season, losing all five games by an average of 14.4 points.

One reason for this is because Providence plays an undersized lineup, which has been exploited at times this season. If the Friars stick with the same starting five, the Wildcats will have a size advantage at every position, as was the case in their game against Auburn.

Given the size advantage, Kentucky must display their dominance on the boards. This is especially important on the offensive side of the ball in terms of second-chance opportunities and transition opportunities. Yet, it can also help a struggling defense, limiting the opponent to just one possession.

With that said, winning the rebound battle does not guarantee a victory. In fact, Vanderbilt beat Kentucky twice in two weeks despite being outrebounded by 15 or more in both matchups. Yet, it provides a huge advantage if

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Convert in Transition

Defensively, Providence does not want to play in transition as their defense is vastly better when set. Fortunately, Kentucky likes to push the ball in transition when possible and is efficient when doing so.

As Georgia’s Mike White said earlier this season,  “Oscar (Tshiebwe)’s one of the best rim-running bigs that again we’ve evaluated and scouted against in a long time… But they’ve also got wings that they can pitch ahead to that are skilled and can make plays in space.”

While the Wildcats don’t generate many turnovers, they rebound the ball very well, which allows them to push the ball ahead of the defense. One player the could help tremendously in this area is Chris Livingston, who crashes the boards harder than any wing in the country, and has the athleticism to excel in the open floor.

Another wrinkle that could be added is the availability of Sahvir Wheeler, who Calipari has said has been practicing. If he is available, he can use his downhill speed to generate some offense for the Wildcats, even in short spurts.

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Stay out of Foul Trouble

In the KenPom offensive efficiency rankings, Providence is ranked 16th – just two spots behind Kentucky – proving they have a good offense and can score the ball. They do so by using their bigs to stretch the floor and getting offense within 15 feet.

Through much of the season, Kentucky has often failed to stop good offenses, especially those that play a similar ‘spread’ style to Providence. Case in point, Vanderbilt. Yet, what hurt Kentucky most in that matchup was foul trouble.

Providence will be no different as their aggressive style of play looks to draw contact. On the season, the Friars shoot more than 22 free throws per game – a top-25 mark in the nation – which accounts for more than 20 percent of their scoring.

With that said, Kentucky must be disciplined and defend without fouling, especially given how fragile the lineups have shown to be.

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Kentucky Basketball (21-11) vs. Providence Friars (21-11)

Time/Date: 7:10 EST (estimated) on Friday, March 17th, 2023
Location: Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina
TV Channel: CBS
Online Stream: CBSSports.com (no link available at the moment)
Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio network call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
Replay: Check local listings.
Rosters: UK | PROV
Team SheetsUK | PROV
Stats To Know: UK | PROV

Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook currently has Kentucky favored by 4 points. The odds all look fairly consistent, with Bart Torvik giving Kentucky the slight advantage at 61%, and ESPN BPI is at 62.7%.

PredictionsBart Torvik is going with a 75-72 decision for Big Blue Nation.

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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BB Recruiting

Mark Pope Talks About His Recruiting Approach, “Those Who Belong at Kentucky Are the Very Best Players in All of College Basketball”

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The hiring of Mark Pope was met with mixed reactions from Kentucky fans, but he is well respected in the coaching community.
Clare Grant/Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

When Mark Pope was first hired at Kentucky, multiple coaches who have competed against Pope talked to Kentucky Insider about what to expect. By his peers, Mark Pope is seen as one of the best offensive minds in all of college basketball, but the question was, can he recruit?

In just over a month as Kentucky’s head coach, Pope has filled 11 of his 13 scholarship spots. Eight of those players have come via the transfer portal, which has become the quickest way to fill a roster with talent in such a short span. It also shows Pope’s understanding of the importance of the transfer portal.

That said, going forward it’s clear that Pope wants to maintain the Kentucky brand in recruiting and what it means to some of the best young talent in the country. This past weekend he and his staff were in Texas and Indianapolis watching more than a dozen five-star recruits from the 2025 and 2026 classes, including several top-five prospects. While doing so, he talked to Kyle Tucker of The Athletic about his recruiting approach.

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“We’re just out here recruiting the best players we can get, and the best players you can get at Kentucky are the best players,” Pope said. “I’m used to working with a relatively limited pool, and Kentucky has a relatively limited pool also. It’s just a little different kind of pool. The guys who belong at Kentucky are the very best players in all of college basketball, so those are the guys you’re chasing. And then from that group, we’re chasing guys that really fit us, the way we’re attacking the game and the way we’re playing.”

Of the players that Pope is pursuing and will pursue, they are tiered. “It’s a balance. We’re actually tiering kids,” he said. “The kids we think are one-and-done that we really want to try and grab; another tier of guys we think can come be in the rotation as freshmen; and then a tier of guys you say, ‘Man, I’m telling you, that kid is going to come add something to our program as a freshman, even if he’s not in the rotation, and then he’s going to win us the biggest games in college basketball as a junior or senior.’”

In summary, “We do our best to tier guys and then go hunting and be super deliberate about the guys in each of those pools that we recruit really hard.”

Pope has three assistants who will be helping him on the recruiting trail, two of which are seen as two of the best recruiters in all of college basketball, Alvin Brooks and Jason Hart.

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Brooks comes from Baylor, and his father was the Director of Basketball Operations at Kentucky under Billy Gillespie. Pope calls him: “One of the elite recruiters in all of college basketball, because he builds these super, super deep, meaningful relationships with guys.”

Brooks was responsible for recruiting the likes of Keyonte George, Ja’Kobe Walter, and VJ Edgecombe to Baylor, and is already eyeing two five-star Nike EYBL standouts from Texas to come to Kentucky, Hudson Greer and Shelton Anderson.

As for Hart, he is a former ten-year NBA veteran (player) who was most recently the head coach for the G League Ignite. Before that, he was the associate head coach at USC (2013-21) where he helped recruit some of the best talent in the country and put a half dozen players in the NBA.

“You’re not going to meet a better person in the world than Jason Hart,” Pope said. “He’s got an energy that’s contagious, and he’s really smart and he could spend all day every day in the gym because of how much he loves the game.”

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The third and last recruiting assistant is Cody Fueger, who has been with Pope at Utah Valley and BYU. He is someone that Pope trusts and has worked

“Cody has just been grinding, getting great talent to some of the hardest places in the world to recruit,” Pope said. “So now he’s coming at this from a much different angle: ‘This is easy compared to what I’ve been doing.’ Because it’s Kentucky. And we say that every day: It’s Kentucky.”

Kentucky Insider has talked to one of Pope’s teammates and a fellow coach, Scott Padgett, who is confident that Pope will prove himself as a capable recruiter given his positive attitude, charisma, and worth ethic.

All three have been apparent to Kentucky fans early, and with a talented staff around him, Pope is going to purse the best of the best. As recruiting begins to ramp up with the 2025 class, we will see who that first player is.

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Men's Basketball

Last Season’s Players Say They Will Continue to Support Kentucky Following Calipari’s Departure, “I’ll Come Back, For Sure”

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Former Calipari era players say they will continue to support Kentucky following Calipari's departure.
Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Towards the end of his fifteen season tenure at Kentucky, many fans had mixed feelings about John Calipari. However, his players never wavered in voicing their appreciation and love for him as their coach, and still do.

“To me, he’s the best coach in the world,” Reed Sheppard said at the NBA Draft Combine last week. Sheppard, an in-state product and the son of two former UK stars, has his own pre-existing ties to Kentucky basketball. What about the other players, the ones who came to Lexington from across the country to play for Calipari?

Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader asked three players from last year’s roster, Rob Dilligham, Antonio Reeves, and Justin Edwards. It should come as no suprise that they would support Calipari as heads to Arkansas, but they affirm they will continue to support Kentucky. In the end, that is the university that they represented and the fanbase they were supported by.

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“I’ll go to the game where they play each other. That would be even, right?” Dillingham said with a laugh, when asked if he would attend any Kentucky or Arkansas games in the near future. “I love Coach Cal. I appreciate him for the opportunity. And you see him — he’s put so many players in the NBA. He’s done a great thing at Kentucky.”

As for where Dillingham will return, it will be Lexington not Fayetteville.

“I’ll come back, for sure, to Kentucky. Obviously, they protected me,” Dillingham said. “It wasn’t just (Calipari). It was the fans. It was the teachers. Everybody there. I love Mitch Barnhart, the Athletic Director. I love all of them. So I really liked the UK experience, because they helped me as a whole, and they treated me like family.”

Reeves, who will go down as John Calipari’s last All-American at Kentucky, makes the point that he played for Calipari and Kentucky, and will support both.

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“I’d say both. I played for him. So, of course, I’m gonna cheer for him at Arkansas. Why not?” Reeves said. “The fans at Kentucky — I definitely can’t leave them behind. So I definitely gotta go back and just show them love whenever I get a chance. And I came from Kentucky. So I can’t just leave that behind.”

Edwards is one of the few that has had the opportunity to talk to Coach Pope since he took over at Kentucky.

“I’ve talked to Mark Pope. He was here (Draft Combine) today,” Edwards said, “I dapped him up. He told me if I was ever in town and needed a gym that I was always welcome to use the Craft Center. And Coach Cal told us the same: any alum or players that he had (at Kentucky), if they want to come work out, they can always use the gym.”

“Those guys are two genuine guys. You can tell that they’re caring people.”

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Edwards’ quote summarizes it greatly. Both are good people and coaches that care about the program.

At the end of the day, Calipari did a lot of good for Kentucky Basketball and will be honored for it in the future. However it was time for a change, or as Calipari said in his departure video, “a new voice”. That new voice is Mark Pope, who is making an effort to bridge all the generations of Kentucky Basketball.

John Wall, arguably the face of the Calipari era, was seen meeting Pope for the the first time this past weekend at a Nike EYBL event in Indianapolis.

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Top Transfer Portal Prospect Chaz Lanier to Visit Kentucky on Monday

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One of the best scorers in the transfer portal, North Florida transfer Chaz Lanier will visit Kentucky.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Pope has filled 11 of 13 scholarship spots on his first Kentucky roster. With just two spots remaining, he is targeting two of the top scorers in the portal, Jaxson Robinson, who played for him last season at BYU, and North Florida transfer Chaz Lanier.

The latter will arrive in Lexington on Sunday night for a visit, first reported by 247Sports, and will visit through Monday. Lanier will be coming off a weekend visit to BYU and is expected to schedule a visit to his home state school of Tennessee soon.

Just a few weeks ago, Lanier, a Nashville native and former Mr. Tennessee basketball finalist, was believed to be a Tennessee lock. After multiple conversations with the Kentucky staff, they are believed to be the leader. This visit is a big opportunity to lock up that recruitment.

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Lanier is a 6-4 four-guard from North Florida University, averaged 19.7 points per game with 4.8 assists, shooting an efficient 51% field goal percentage and 44% from 3-point range last season. This play earned him first-team all-conference honors in the A-SUN.

This would be a massive addition for Mark Pope and Kentucky, as Linear was viewed as one of the best scorers and shooters in all of college basketball last season. According to 247Sports, Lanier is the 11th-ranked transfer in the portal, while ESPN has him 42nd.

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