I was as surprised as you were when Penn’s name flashed on the screen on Selection Sunday as a 16 seed. The Quakers are 24-8 with one sub-200 KenPom loss and three wins inside the top 150. They’re one of the better defensive teams in the country as well, holding opponents to under 30 percent shooting from three with an effective field goal percentage of 46.9.
Penn got a raw deal having to go up against the Kansas Jayhawks, but it is what it is. The Quakers can, maybe, hang with the Big 12 champs for a half and keep things interesting, but they’re not going to win. From personnel, to stats, to resume, the two teams are just on different levels.
But, if you’re a Kansas fan, perhaps you’d like to know a little more about your first-round opponent. We’re here to help.
How they got here
Penn went 12-2 in the Ivy League, tying Harvard for the regular season championship. Harvard owned the tie-breaker, giving the Crimson the No. 1 seed in the four-team conference tournament. Not that it mattered. The tournament was held on Penn’s home court, The Palestra, and the two met for a thrilling championship game the morning of Selection Sunday.
Though Harvard raced out to an early double-digit lead, the Quakers used a 22-0 run spanning the end of the first and beginning of the second halves to go ahead. Harvard kept fighting back, but lost Seth Towns with an apparent knee injury with under eight minutes to go. Penn escaped, 68-65.
Who they got, here
Penn is a balanced squad that can be effective on both ends of the court when it is clicking. Wing Ryan Bentley is their leading scorer at 14.5 points per game and a 39 percent clip from three.
AJ Brodeur was Penn’s Ivy League first-team selection and averages about 13-and-7 per game. Perhaps his finest performance of the season came in the Ivy League semifinals against Yale, when he poured on 25 points on 10-13 shooting to go with 10 rebounds.
Darnell Foreman, Max Rothchild, and Antonio Woods round out the starting five and all average at least 7.6 points per game. Then there’s Caleb Wood, a sharpshooter off the bench who is as reliable at they come with that ball. A 38 percent three-point shooter, he also led the Ivy League in turnover rate and two-point field goal percentage. I had a chance to see him in person when Penn played Brown earlier this year, and he is as clutch as they come.
When they got here
Yesterday, it appears.
What they have to do:
Penn made it clear during media availability that it intends to run Kansas off the three-point line and force the Jayhawks to beat them inside. The Quakers are smart and athletic, and they have the personnel to be competitive if they don’t let Svi Mykhailiuk or Devonte Graham get going from three. Then they have to rebound. Penn was excellent this year in keeping opponents off the offensive boards and if it can force Kansas to take bad shots and limit the Jayhawks to one opportunity, it would help.
Bill Self says that he expects Udoka Azubuike to play and, obviously, that would present a problem for a Penn team that does not regularly use anyone taller than 6’8. So...let’s say the best-case scenario is that Azubuike can’t go and Penn’s vaunted defense gives the Jayhawks’ backcourt fits. It’s possible. In that case, maybe the Quakers stay close and are still in it in the second half. Eventually, though, talent wins, and the Jayhawks will ultimately pull away.
Prediction: Kansas 78, Penn 61 in a game that is closer than the final score indicates.