ESPN this Saturday will tip off its 4K coverage of the 2021-22 college basketball season with the Tennessee-Kentucky game at 1 p.m. ET. The sports network is expected to provide a ‘4K Game of the Week’ on following weekends during the remainder of the regular season.

The Saturday contest, which will be played at the Rupp Arena in Lexington, will feature the 18th ranked Kentucky Wildcats (13-3) against the 22nd ranked Tennessee Volunteers (11-4). (The sports network will simulcast the game in HD on the main ESPN channel.)

Kentucky is led by 6’9″ junior forward Oscar  Tshiebwe who’s averaging 17 points and 15 rebounds a game while Tennessee is paced by its guard tandem, Santiago Vescovi who’s averaging 13.6 points a game and 3.6 assists, and Kennedy Chandler who’s averaging 13.4 points a game with 5.1 assists.

An ESPN spokeswoman tells the TV Answer Man that DIRECTV, Comcast, YouTube TV and Verizon FiOS will provide the game in 4K on special 4K channels. Unlike Fox, ESPN does not stream live 4K sporting events on its apps or web site. The only way to watch them is if your TV provider offers the 4K version on the provider’s 4K channel.

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For 4K videophiles, the ESPN broadcast means it will be available in ‘native 4K’ — the game will be produced and aired in 4K rather than ‘upconverted’ from HD to the format. In contrast, Fox’s live 4K sporting events are produced in 1080p and then upconverted to 4K.

The native 4K broadcast normally features a smoother and sharper resolution than one that is upconverted to 4K. However, ESPN’s 4K broadcasts do not include HDR (High Dynamic Range), which Fox does. HDR can significantly enhance the picture’s color.

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— Phillip Swann