In Greensboro, North Carolina, the No. 11 Providence College Friars are gearing up to face off against the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This marks the first time the two teams will meet in the tournament, and the Friars are looking to use their advantage in sophomore forward Bryce Hopkins, who transferred from Kentucky. Here are the top 10 storylines of the matchup:
1. Bryce Hopkins – The former Kentucky Wildcat will make his NCAA Tournament debut against the program that felt he wasn’t good enough to play meaningful minutes a season ago. Now the unanimous Big East First Team selection has a chance to get the last laugh on national television.
2. Ed Cooley to Georgetown Rumors – Sunday night the head coach had a chance to put the rumors tying him to the opening at Georgetown to bed. However, he did not close the door on the Hoyas. Expect the noise to get louder until a decision on his end is made.
3. Primetime matchup – Friday night at 7 p.m. on CBS is quite a slot to play in. PC will have a huge audience and an opportunity to conquer a giant in the sport.
4. Oscar Tshiebwe – The 2022 National Player of the Year followed up a season where he averaged 17.4 points, 15.1 rebounds by pouring in 16.5 points and grabbing 13.1 rebounds per night.
5. Hitting the glass – Led by Tshiebwe, the Wildcats grab nearly 40% of their misses. That’s second in the country. If the Friars want to pull off the upset all five players on the floor will need to rebound. PC has lost four of five coming in and is -28 in those games.
6. Guard play – Kentucky’s guards have been inconsistent. They don’t shoot the deep ball that well. That being said they were still recruited to play for John Calipari. They can turn it up at any time. The Friars need to keep them at bay and frustrate them for 40 minutes.
7. SEC familiarity – Bryce Hopkins, Devin Carter and Noah Locke all understand what it takes against an SEC opponent. Hopkins started his career in Lexington. Carter came to Friartown from South Carolina and Locke spent his first three years with the Florida Gators.
8. Jacob Toppin – Tshiebwe and the Wildcat guards get all of the attention but the Friars can’t look past Jacob Toppin. He has come a long way since his rookie year at Rhode Island in 2019-20. He’s doubled his points and rebounds from a year ago. He bridges the gap.
9. Another crack at a blue blood – It’s consecutive games in the tournament PC goes up against Kansas and Kentucky. Tall task. But a chance to take down a blue blood doesn’t come around often. Have to take advantage of it.
10. Chance at history – Providence hasn’t won tournament games in back-to-back years since 1973 and 1974. That can change on Friday night. If it does, the Friars would be 40 minutes from returning to the Sweet 16.
The tip-off is set for 7:10 p.m. Coach Ed Cooley will cover the latest PC Friars headlines and more in PC Hoops.