For a team facing the championship-level expectations that Kentucky basketball routinely does, the most dangerous games aren’t always against the most impressive opponents. Sometimes, a meeting with a less recognizable foe becomes an even bigger challenge if the favored Wildcats get caught looking ahead to the next game.
One potentially dangerous matchup arrives for Kentucky on Sunday, when they take on the Providence Friars at the Barclays Center. The Big East also-rans don’t have the cachet of No. 18 Baylor—whom UK is set to face five days later at Cowboys Stadium—but Bryce Cotton and company are talented enough to trip up the ‘Cats if overconfidence sets in.
Read on for more on the threat posed by Providence, along with four more teams that might turn out to have landed on the Wildcats’ schedule at just the wrong moment.
The only true road game Kentucky will play outside of the SEC is a visit to Chapel Hill to take on No. 16 North Carolina. Four days earlier, though, they’ll have to get by one of the nation’s toughest mid-majors.
Boise State enters Week 4 boasting the No. 1 scoring offense in all of college basketball.
Anthony Drmic and company aren’t quite as good as their current 103 points per game, but they have more than enough scorers to win a shootout with Kentucky if the ‘Cats go cold from the outside.
Sometimes, the worst moment to face a potential spoiler is right after a big win. That’s likely the scenario the Wildcats will face when they travel to Oxford just three days after battling rival Florida at Rupp Arena.
These Rebels are a cut below last year’s surprise SEC tournament champs, but Marshall Henderson can still win games by himself when he gets hot from long range.
The turnover-prone ‘Cats will also need to watch out for Martavious Newby, who’s been racking up steals at a rate of 2.0 per game in just 17.3 minutes of action.
On December 6, Kentucky faces its first ranked opponent since the loss to Michigan State.
The Wildcats would do well not to think about their high-profile duel with No. 18 Baylor for a while, though, because five days before that, they’ll have to go up against a scary offensive backcourt.
Providence’s duo of scorer Bryce Cotton and playmaker Kris Dunn is living up to the expectations that spiked prior to Dunn’s injury-shortened freshman year.
The Friars also feature a veteran power forward, junior LaDontae Henton, who won't be overawed by Julius Randle after two productive seasons against Big East competition.
Alabama, with four returning starters from the No. 17 scoring defense in the country last year, is plenty dangerous in its own right.
The Tide will be an even tougher foe to handle during the run-up to the regular-season finale in Gainesville, a game that could easily have an SEC crown and a No. 1 seed at stake.
This year’s edition of the Alabama D features a new wrinkle: ball-hawking sophomore Retin Obasohan and his 2.8 steals per game. Paired with Trevor Releford’s scoring punch, that defense poses a very real threat to the streak-shooting Wildcats.
Under any other circumstances, it would be hard to imagine Kentucky looking past a Belmont team that already upset North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
The Bruins game, however, comes immediately prior to the biggest matchup of UK’s regular season: the annual showdown with defending national champion Louisville.
In that context, Belmont may get another chance to sneak up on a high-profile foe, especially if J.J. Mann (18.7 points per game) gets hot from the outside as he did against the Tar Heels.
It doesn’t hurt that Mann is one of three senior starters for the battle-tested Bruins, who won’t be rattled by the Rupp Arena atmosphere.