Which Kentucky will we get on Friday? Will it be the team that won several key games down the stretch, or will it be the one that lost to an undermanned Vanderbilt twice? Providence is hoping it’s the latter. The Friars are looking to pull an upset, as Kentucky is a 4-point favorite. The over/under is 144.5 points.
Let’s make predictions for Friday’s Round of 64 game and break down while Kentucky is in a good position to advance comfortably.
Providence vs. Kentucky Prediction
I’m not sure Kentucky is the world-beater many think this team is, but there’s a good chance their talent just outweighs Providence’s.
The Wildcats have the size to match the Friars’ frontcourt, and Tshiebwe should be able to take away Providence’s rebounding advantage. Antonio Reeves’ emergence as a high-level scorer is also a good sign for Kentucky while Cason Wallace tries to get healthy.
Providence has some capable shooters, but if Kentucky takes care of Bryce Hopkins and Ed Croswell defensively in the frontcourt, this should be a comfortable win for the Wildcats.
Providence vs. Kentucky Prediction: Kentucky -4.5
Providence vs. Kentucky Odds
Kentucky enters as a 4-point favorite over Providence, sitting -175 on the moneyline. The over/under is 144.5 points.
This line has shifted a bit in the direction of Kentucky since it opened, but I wonder what it would look like if these two seasons had ended differently. Providence went out with an impressive comeback effort against UConn, while the Wildcats went down quietly against Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament. If not for that game, this line may be even larger.
Providence vs. Kentucky Key Matchups
Here are some key matchups that could decide Providence vs. Kentucky.
The battle on the boards is going to be the matchup to watch in this game. Kentucky was once the top rebounding team in the nation.
While the Wildcats have slipped to 16th nationally, they still average 39 per game and have one of the nation’s elite rebounders in Oscar Tshiebwe. Kentucky averages a nine-rebound advantage on opponents.
For Providence, the story is similar. The Friars average 38.3 rebounds per game and have an average advantage of 6.4 rebounds in a game. Former Kentucky forward Bryce Hopkins plus Ed Croswell are the centerpieces of this team and will be near the basket frequently.
Whichever team can win the rebounding battle will be taking a major asset away from the other team. Tshiebwe should be in position to win the battle, which is a reason for my Kentucky vs. Providence prediction, but he’s notably underwhelmed in some key moments this season.
Cason Wallace vs. Injury Woes
Kentucky was missing guard Cason Wallace at the end of the regular season due to ankle issues, but he returned for the Wildcats’ SEC Tournament loss to Vanderbilt. Wallace played 37 minutes, but he often looked hobbled and just didn’t play like the player he is when he’s at full strength. His effectiveness is going to be key in this game and any game Kentucky plays for the rest of this tournament.
With Wallace ineffective, even big performances by Tshiebwe, Jacob Toppin, and Antonio Reeves weren’t enough to get past the Commodores. There just weren’t enough scoring options outside of that trio. Kentucky needs Wallace as both a scorer and a distributor.
The loss meant he’s had close to a week off, so there’s a good chance Wallace will be healthier than he was last time out, but at this point the injury looks like something he’ll have to play through rather than something he can get over.