After falling to 15 seed St. Peter’s last tournament, the Kentucky Wildcats are back as a six seed, looking to avenge that loss today against the Providence Friars. We’ll preview the game before going over why I’ll be targeting the point total today due to some recent movement.
Entering the NCAA Tournament with a losing record over your last ten games is never ideal, and Providence is currently dealing with that situation. The Friars went 4-6 over their last ten games and were bounced from the Big East Tournament after just one game. Providence has a terrible mix of distractions and a lack of momentum coming into tonight.
On the season, the Friars rank 16th in offensive efficiency in KenPom, mainly due to Kentucky transfer Bryce Hopkins averaging 16.1 points per game. The Friars have five players averaging in double figures, but even with that, the offense went cold over the last two games. Before entering the tournament, the Friars, whose shooting percentage for the season was 45.9%, shot at 40% and 41% from the field in their last two games.
Providence relies on their strong offense to carry them normally since they rank 107th in defensive efficiency on KenPom, and opponents have an effective field goal percentage of 50% against them this season. That was likely a good site to see for Kentucky on Selection Sunday since they rank 14th in offensive efficiency on KenPom and have only scored below 71 points in three of their last ten games.
The Wildcats also got bounced in the first round of their conference tournament, as they fell to Vanderbilt 80-73. Kentucky has a significant disparity between their offensive and defensive efficiencies, as they rank 77th in defensive efficiency on KenPom, and 106th in average points allowed per game.
Arguably one of the biggest factors in this game will be rebounding, as both sides rank in the top 20 in offensive rebounding percentage. The Wildcats will hold the advantage when it comes to defensive rebounding, as they rank 57 spots ahead of the Friars in defensive rebounding percentage.
The point total for this game can currently be found at 143.5, and I’ll be taking the over for my play in this one. The over was profitable for both teams in the regular season, and over their past ten games combined, the over is 14-6. Kentucky also saw the over go 17-8 when listed as a favorite like they are today.
Both sides relied on their offense to win them games this season, and today should be no different. The Wildcats and Friars rank in the top 60 in field goal attempts per game, and they are tied for 44th in average field goals made per game. Kentucky has relied more on interior scoring this season, which they should be able to find success in today against a Providence team that is 159th in opponent two-point field goal percentage.
Kentucky is also entering today after allowing Vanderbilt to shoot 49% from the field and 40% from three, which allows the Friars a good opportunity to get back on track offensively. I’m assuming Bryce Hopkins is going to come out even more aggressive as well since he has a chance to eliminate his former team. This total opened at 145.5 in most places, and I think it has moved down to an ideal number to now jump on the over.