How Providence, Kentucky match up

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Love those big names? Love the blueblood teams and programs you see on TV every season? Need an upset to come through in your own bracketology?

You might have the chance for all of the above as 6-seed Kentucky matches up with 11-seed Providence at the East Regional in Greensboro, NC Friday night.

Breaking it down, here’s the key comparison between the two going in:

Kentucky (21-11, 12-6 SEC)

The Wildcats certainly will feature the bruising play in the paint of last season’s national player of the year, Oscar Tshiebwe. A national leader in scoring with double figures in points and rebounds every time he hits the floor, he didn’t quite reach last year’s lofty status this year.

But he’s still an All-American player, and the 6-foot-9 center is a challenge for every team that plays these Cats. Physically, Providence has a guy in their own 6-foot-8 block of granite in the middle, Ed Croswell, that certainly appears as if he can limit Tshiebwe’s physical style. The big question is, however, how the officials will see the inevitable pushing and shoving between the two. Croswell won’t give up ground. Can Kentucky’s shooters rescue their big guy and hit a few shots to take off the pressure?

Providence (21-11, 13-7 Big East)

Conversely, the Friars have not been on their mark over the past five games, going just 1-4 heading into the tournament and allowing more than 10 three-point field goals made each game. Can the perimeter defense force the Wildcats into tougher twos than usual? And can they rebound with a team that has been among the national leaders on the offensive glass?

Most of this year, they’ve been bruisers themselves…among the Big East leaders in rebounding and on the offensive glass.

But now? This may be where the difference in this first-round game lies. Which team can be more like itself…and keep the other from doing what they do best?

Don’t underestimate emotion in this one either. Bryce Hopkins, the former Kentucky Wildcat now starring for the Friars, will need to keep his emotions in check. Can Kentucky do likewise against a former teammate who is still a friend?

Tip is at 7:10 p.m. ET Friday night, televised on CBS.

Featured Image Photo Credit: John Rooke