#1 Kansas vs. #16 Penn
3/15. 2:00 PM EDT, TBS
Penn Quakers: 24-8, 12-2 in Ivy League
Player to Watch: AJ Brodeur
Brodeur, a 6’8” forward, averages 13 points and 7 rebounds for Penn. He’s their best all around player. He also managed to put up 15 and 7 against Villanova, proving that he can score and rebound against the best competition. (This was also a 28 point loss for the Quakers, but this game is conveniently ignored in all the upset hype). Brouder will have to hold his own against the big guys of the Jayhawks, and he’ll certainly need more help.
X-Factor: 3 point defense
Everyone’s heard about Penn’s ability to guard the 3 point ball, where they rank 2nd in the country. This will be key against a Kansas team that ranks 13th in the nation in shooting from behind the arc. 4 of their starters are consistent shooters, with Devonte Graham, Malik Newman, and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk shooting above 40 percent. If Penn wants any chance to shock the world, they’ll need to keep these guys from getting hot.
Kansas Jayhawks: 27-7, 13-5 in Big 12
Player to Watch: Devonte Graham
Graham can do it all for the Jayhawks, averaging 17.3 points, 7.5 assists, and 3.9 rebounds. It’s no wonder he’s a finalist for the Wooden Award. He’s also coming in hot off a Big 12 title run where he averaged 14.3 points and 10 assists. Simply put, there’s nobody on this Penn roster that can handle Graham. I expect Bill Self to involve him early and often in pick and roll situations, which Penn doesn’t have an answer for.
X-Factor: Home-Court Advantage
The game will be played in Wichita, Kansas, which is only 2 and a half hours down the road from Kansas University. And let’s be honest, in a town like Lawrence, basketball is pretty much the only thing Kansas students have. I expect Jayhawk Nation to be out in full force, giving their guys a significant advantage throughout the region’s games.
Key Stat: Penn’s Elo Ranking
According to 538’s Elo rankings, which is calculates “who a team’s beaten and by how much,” Penn is the best 16 seed of all time. Whereas the typical D-I team is given a score of around 1500, Penn’s been given a score of 1700. They’re the first 16 seed ever to break the 1700 wall.
Matchup to watch: Penn’s 3 point defense against Kansas’s 3 point shooting
We talked about this a bit before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Penn’s perimeter defense has been highly touted, but they’ve played weak competition. Kansas is 13th in the nation in 3 point shooting. They’ll need to keep the Jayhawks off the arc.
Prediction: Kansas Jayhawks – 84, Penn Quakers – 63
There’s been a lot of hype around this Penn team and their chances of becoming the first 16 seed ever to win a game. And obviously it’d be awesome to see the Quakers pull this one off. But I’m not putting any stock into the hype, especially since Penn’s lauded defense occurred in the Ivy League. At the end of the day, Graham and the Jayhawks will be too dominant for the Quakers to handle.
By Kevin Herbst: first-time writer, long-time shot blocker.