Penn vs Kansas Preview and Prediction
Penn vs Kansas Preview
Just hours after Penn men’s basketball’s 68-65 victory over Harvard in the Ivy League Championship game to secure its first March Madness bid since 2007, the NCAA Tournament selection committee announced that the Quakers will be taking on Kansas in the Round of 64.
Penn (24-8), which received a 16-seed in the Midwest Region, will travel to Wichita, Kansas to take on the No. 1 Jayhawks (27-7) on Thursday at 2:00 PM Eastern Time.
This was not the draw Penn was hoping to receive. I viewed the Quakers as a 14, or 15-seed but the committee did not agree. No 16-seed has ever beaten a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
While Penn may have wanted a better position on the bracket, senior guard and captain Darnell Foreman doesn’t feel that the Ivy League or Penn has been slighted by the selection committee.
“You’re in the tournament,” Foreman said. “Once you’re in there, you make your own judgement. Just like how teams and people counted us out in the regular season and in non-conference, we were never worrying about that. We were only focused on us and focused on how we can get better.”
In addition to battling a powerhouse program, the location of Thursday’s game is not favorable for the Quakers. Going to Wichita will be about a two-hour ride for Kansas and its fans, while Penn will have to travel as far as it has all season. The only trip similar in length was the three-game Gulf Coast Showcase in November, in which the team played near Fort Myers, Fla.
Penn coach Steve Donahue is embracing this unique challenge of playing Kansas close to its backyard.
“It’s kind of cool, honestly, for the kids to get on a plane and charter out,” Donahue said. “Wichita is a huge basketball city, and they’ll treat you like kings, and the excitement level is kind of neat. I’m sure our guys will be really enamored with all of the surroundings.”
Kansas on the other hand is in familiar territory. The Jayhawks were picked as a No.1 seed for the eighth time in the last 12 years and have made 29 consecutive Tournament appearances.
The Jayhawks finished the 2017-18 regular season with a 27-7 record against the nation’s second-toughest schedule, which included six victories against ranked opponents. In conference tournament action, Kansas defeated Oklahoma State and Kansas State to advance to the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship finals against West Virginia. The Jayhawks claimed their third win over the Mountaineers this season and their 11th Big 12 postseason tournament title. Against the No.1 RPI conference and the nation’s second-toughest strength of schedule, Kansas won the Big 12 Conference regular-season race by two games.
Led by the Big 12 Coach of the Year, Kansas head coach Bill Self guided his Jayhawks through a non-conference schedule that included Kentucky, Texas A&M, Arizona State and Syracuse, all tournament teams. Big 12 Player of the Year and Sporting News First Team All-American, Devonte’ Graham is the only player in NCAA Division I averaging 17.0 points, 7.0 assists, 1.7 steals and fewer than 3.0 turnovers per game. As a team, KU averages 78.5 points per game and outscores opponents by a +10.6 margin.
Even better news for the Jayhawks–they are expecting sophomore big man Udoka Azubuike to return to the lineup. Azubuike missed the Big 12 conference tournament due to an injured ligament in his knee.
“His recovery he’s made so far has been even more than what doctors and trainers had thought it would be,” Self said. “We’re very, very optimistic we’ll have him this weekend. Whether we have him for Thursday — 48 hours can make a big difference. But we’re hopeful he can play Thursday and if we are fortunate enough to advance, we’re even more optimistic he can play Saturday.”
LINE: -14 Kansas
I thought Penn could do what Harvard did a few seasons ago, and that is win at least one Tournament game. But with their seed, and their draw, it is unlikely the Quakers will make it past the first round.
The line currently at 14 points, is intriguing to me if you are going to bet Penn. I do not think they will win outright, but I expect it to be a single-digit ball game throughout.
Kansas 82 Penn 73