On Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament, No. 11 Providence will face No. 6 Kentucky in Greensboro, N.C. Although the Wildcats are eight-time national champions, Providence is hoping to use sophomore forward Bryce Hopkins, who transferred from Kentucky, to their advantage. Hopkins was primarily a bench player for the Wildcats as a freshman, averaging just over two points per game, but since transferring to Providence, he’s averaged 16.1 points per game in 32 starts and has earned unanimous First Team All-Big East honors.

Despite the Friars’ offensive efficiency, they struggle with overall team defense and three-point shooting, with only 31% of their attempts being 3-point shots (among the bottom 50 in the country). On the other hand, Kentucky is hoping their offensive versatility, offensive rebounding, interior scoring, and 3-point shooting will pay off against the Friars.

The Friars have an 0-3 record all-time against the Wildcats, and some of Kentucky’s key players include Antonio Reeves, Jacob Toppin, Cason Wallace, Sahvir Wheeler, and Oscar Tshiebwe. Reeves is Kentucky’s best shooter, both from deep and on runners and floaters, while Wallace is considered one of the best defenders in the country and needs to be stable at the point. The Wildcats’ big man Oscar Tshiebwe leads the nation in rebounding with 13.1 per game.

Providence can win by taking advantage of Kentucky’s average ball-screen defense and inconsistencies.

Tipoff is at 7:10 p.m. on Friday on WPRI 12.

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