Pennsylvania Quakers (24-8) at Kansas Jayhawks (27-7)
This week we will be focusing on first-round matchups in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Today we look at the matchup between the one seed Kansas Jayhawks and the sixteen seed Penn Quakers.
The Quakers enter the tournament hot, winners of twelve of their last fourteen games. The Jayhawks are similarly hot as they won eight out of their last nine games enroot to a one seed.
Kansas is -13.5-point favorites. The game total over-under is set at 146.4 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 11:00 AM PST from Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.
The Penn Quakers aren’t a great team this season. But they were not deserving of a sixteen seed. The Ivy always gets a little bit of respect, ever since Princeton put them on the map decades ago. The winner of the Ivy League typically lands somewhere between a 12-15 seed, almost never do they get seeded last like this Penn team did this year.
The Quakers ranked higher on kempom.com than North Carolina Central, Texas Southern, UMBC, Radford, Lipscomb, Cal-State Fullerton, Iona, and Wright State. There are several teams ranked higher than Penn that quite simply shouldn’t be. So, when we look at this matchup, it is much more like a one seed facing a thirteen or fourteen seed caliber team than a typical sixteen seed.
Penn excels at defending on the perimeter. That is the one thing that they do at an elite level. They finished second in the nation in defensive three-point percentage this season and very rarely give up wide open shots from beyond the arc.
The Kansas Jayhawks are a top ten team in three-point percentage this year, and whoever wins that matchup of strength on strength is likely to have their way in this game.
There were lots of doubters of Kansas this year. This would be the season that after thirteen straight years the Jayhawks would fail to win the Big 12 regular season title. I can admit that I was one of those doubters.
The Big 12 was loaded this year, and I saw West Virginia, or Oklahoma, or even Texas Tech ending this long historic run for the Jayhawks. I was wrong. After a season with some ups and downs, the Jayhawks won their fourteenth consecutive Big 12 regular season title, an all-time record in major college hoops.
Then came the Big 12 tournament. Kansas was without one of its best players in big man Udoka Azubuike. How could the Jayhawks replace the center’s rebounding and rim protection?
Many picked Kansas to lose in the Big 12 tournament. Yet once again they proved the naysayers wrong and went on to win the Big 12 tournament, locking up a number one seed in the NCAA tournament along the way. Even with all of the haters picking them to lose at every turn, this team has persevered and won games.
Look, a sixteen seed has never beaten a one seed in the NCAA tournament. The talent gap between these teams is just too high ever to expect an upset. But someday, it will happen. Will that day come this year? Very doubtful. But if a one seed is ever going to lose to a sixteen, it is going to be a matchup like this one between Kansas and Penn.
You have a Penn team that is grossly under-ranked. They should easily be a fourteen seed, if not better. And they are matching up with a Kansas team that is missing a very key piece in their best big man.
You also have a situation where Kansas’ strength, their ability to score from outside, could be mitigated by Penn’s strength, shutting teams down from three.
This line opened up at Kansas -14-points and has actually moved towards Penn as people are smelling a competitive game. That is very rare in the NCAA tournament.
Most top seeds are going to garner a huge portion of the action, and you are almost always going to see the line move towards the favorites. Most of the action that is going to come in on this game is going to come in today and early Thursday, so it wouldn’t at all shock me to see this number swing back towards Kansas as the masses make their bets.
But I am going to stick with the sharps on this one and back the Penn Quakers. Will the Jayhawks be on upset alert? Probably not. When we see a big upset in the NCAA tournament, it is usually when a good offensive team gets hot from deep and shoots themselves into the win.
Penn won’t be able to do that against Kansas. The Quakers are limited on the offensive side of the ball, they pride themselves on defense.
All that being said, I do think this number is a bit too high. Kansas will win, and it will likely be fairly easy, but I like Penn enough to snatch up the 13.5-points and hope for a somewhat competitive game. All they need to do to cover this spread is stay somewhat competitive and not get blown out, and that is what I expect to happen.
Give me the Penn Quakers +13.5 points in this one!