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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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Men's Basketball

Tre Mitchell’s Stepfather Gives Injury Update, “Ridiculously Painful”

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Kentucky Wildcats forward Tre Mitchell injury is still "ridiculously painful"
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Tre Mitchell missed his third-straight game on Saturday, suffering a shoulder injury during the Ole Miss game, while also still trying to recover from a lingering back issue that kept him out two games prior.

His stepfather, Tony Bergeron, was on WPBK-FM on Friday, before Kentucky’s game against Alabama, where he gave an update on Mitchell. “I thought he came back a little too early (against Ole Miss), got hit, and sprained that shoulder like it was a football injury. The problem now is that it is ridiculously painful,” Bergeron said.

On a positive note, this may help Mitchell reach 100 percent. “He needs to just wait until his back is 100 percent,” Bergeron said. It’s clear that Mitchell hadn’t been himself while playing through the back pain, shooting just 35 percent (8-23) over the three games prior to his first DNP.

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With compounded injuries, it is best to just rest and recover fully until making a return. Kentucky will need Mitchell at his best for a post-season run.

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Men's Basketball

Kentucky vs. Mississippi State, Round 2: TV/Streaming Info, Keys to the Game, and Predictions

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After a dominant win over Alabama, the Kentucky Wildcats will take on Mississippi State on the road.
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

What a win on Saturday for the Kentucky Wildcats, who put up one of the best offensive performances in college basketball this season on Saturday in a 117-95 win over Alabama. Now they will go back on the road to take on a Mississippi State team in a quad-one opportunity.

With Kentucky coming out on top in the first matchup, back in January, Mississippi State will look to even the season series and defend their home court on Tuesday. The Bulldogs are playing some of their best basketball of the season, riding a five-game winning streak, including a twenty-point road victory over LSU, whom Kentucky just lost to.

Let’s look at the matchup.

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Interior Defense

Tolu Smith is arguably the best big man in the SEC. In the first matchup between these two teams, he certainly made his presence felt despite the loss, scoring a season-high 26 points on better than 70 percent shooting.

This time around will be a good test to see how an improved Kentucky defense handles a physical interior player. While improving and reportedly back at practice, Tre Mitchell is unlikely to play on Tuesday, so it will be up to the seven-footers.

Ugonna Onyenso is Kentucky’s most physical big, but Zvonimir Ivisic who just scored a season-high 18 points, gives Kentucky a higher offensive ceiling.

Rebounding Battle

Similar to the stereotypical SEC team, Mississippi State is a physical team that does well on the boards, ranking toward the top of the country in total rebounds, offensive rebounds, and rebound margin. In the first matchup, Kentucky outrebounded the Bulldogs 30-29, that effort will need to be there again Tuesday.

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Josh Hubbard

Mississippi State’s equivalent to Rob Dillingham is Josh Hubbard. The sub-six-foot electric guard is a similar microwave-type player who just won his fifth SEC Freshman of the Week honor this season after scoring 32 points against LSU.

Scoring just three points on 1-11 shooting against Kentucky back in January, Hubbard is motivated to have a better performance. The priority in defending Hubbard is chasing him off the three-point line or pushing him back as more than 64 percent of his shots have been taken from deep. Similar to what Kentucky did to Alabama, make him finish at the rim.

Opposing Players to Watch

F Tolu Smith 6-11, 245 lbs

  • 16.8 PPG (9th in SEC)
  • 8.1 RPG (3rd in SEC)
  • 59.7% FG (1st in SEC)

G Josh Hubbard 5-10, 185 lbs

  • 15.3 PPG (10th in SEC)
  • 76 3PM (1st in SEC)
  • 7.9 3PA per game

G Dashawn Davis 6-1, 190 lbs

  • 6.2 PPG
  • 3.0 APG (17th in SEC)

Kentucky Basketball vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • Time: 7 PM ET on February 27th
  • TV Channel: ESPN
  • Announcers: To be announced.
  • Location: Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Mississippi.
  • Online Stream: WatchESPN and ESPN app
  • Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
  • Replay: WatchESPN and the SEC Network (check local listings).
  • Rosters: UK | MISS ST
  • Stats to Know: UK | MISS ST
  • KenPom: UK | MISS ST
  • Team Sheets: UK | MISS ST
  • Odds: DraftKings has yet to release the odds for the game, but check back on Monday evening. Despite a convincing win over Alabama, the projections are not in Kentucky’s favor. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Cats just a 40.9% chance at victory, with Bart Torvik right in line at 41%. EvanMiya and KenPom give Kentucky a slightly higher chance at the win, at 46% and 45% respectively.
  • Predictions: The projections have the game coming down to the wire. Bart Torvik and KenPom have Mississippi State winning by two points, 80-78 and 79-77. Haslametrics and EvanMiya have the Cats winning by just one point, 77-76.

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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Recap and Takeaways From Kentucky’s Dominating Win Over Alabama

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The Kentucky Wildcats dominated Alabama in a 117-95 win.
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Rupp Arena was rocking on Saturday when Kentucky faced no. 13 Alabama, and the Wildcats matched that same energy in a fun one. The Cats absolutely demolished the Crimson Tide by a score of 117-95, one of the best offensive performances ever.

Justin Edwards had his breakout game, finishing with 28 points on a perfect 10-10 shooting, and 4-4 from deep. Antonio Reeves added 24 points, Zvonimir Ivisic had 18, and Rob Dillingham poured in 16 to lead Kentucky in scoring to go along with an impressive 63% from the field and 54% from three-point range.

Let’s take a look at how the domination happened.

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Justin Edwards Has His Breakout Game

Saturday’s game against Alabama will be known as the Justin Edwards Game. After having a rough season so far going through many mental battles, Edwards finally had his breakout game, and BBN and his teammates were so happy for him. Finishing with a career-high and team-high 28 points, he added 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.

Edwards went a perfect 10-10 from the field, and shot 4-4 from deep. That makes Edwards only one of three players in UK history with at least 10 field goal attempts with no miss.

Kentucky Shows Historic Offensive Performance

The offensive performance on Saturday was one for the ages. Kentucky’s 117 points were the most scored against an AP Top 25 opponent in UK history. Shooting 63% from the field, it was one of the more impressive performances, while also shooting 54% from three-point range.

Kentucky had 5 players in double figures. The assist-to-turnover ratio was top notch, with a 24:10 ratio. It was a performance that will be remembered for a long time

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Three-Point Defense Improves

Kentucky’s defense as a whole wasn’t the best, with allowing 95 points, but the Cats forced 16 turnovers and had 29 points off of them, while also having 7 blocks and 11 steals. The three-point defense was really impressive. Holding a team that attempts nearly 30 three-point attempts per game to just 17 attempts, it was certainly running Alabama off the three-point line. Alabama only made 6 threes on those 17 attempts, shooting 35%.

Making Alabama score in other ways besides three-pointers seemed to be an emphasis for Kentucky. They definitely succeeded at that on Saturday.

Kentucky had their best offensive performance of the season, and one that was against a top-15 opponent, and much needed in the final stretch of the season. Next, Kentucky will head to Mississippi State on Tuesday. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.

Check out the box score and highlight’s from Saturday’s win.

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Box Score

Highlights

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