The Kansas Jayhawks earned the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, but the selection committee did them absolutely no favors. Their first round matchup with the Quakers from the University of Pennsylvania won’t be as easy as it might seem.
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A No. 16 seed has never knocked off a No. 1 seed. But at some point, it will happen. And it could absolutely happen in Thursday’s opening round matchup.
Penn could possibly be the best No. 16 seed ever, and the Ivy League historically does not send a weak squad into the tournament. The conference, better known for producing presidents and titans of industry, has 43 all-time NCAA Tournament wins, which makes it the most successful outside of the six major and the very best of the mid-major leagues.
The smart guys have won three of their last five games in the opening round of March Madness and in 2010, Cornell made a run to the Sweet 16. In 1989, the last time an Ivy League team was seeded as low as 16th, Princeton nearly knocked off No. 1 seeded Georgetown, losing by only 1 point.
This Penn team is outstanding on D, owners of the second-best 3-point percentage defense in the country. If you don’t believe me, ask Kansas coach Bill Self.
“The biggest thing is they guard,” Self said on Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. “Look at their stats. They are only giving up 41 percent for the year – 29 from three – and they are a good rebounding team.”
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In case you are unaware, Kansas relies heavily on the deep ball. So do the math.
And the Quakers are no slouch on the offensive end as well, with 6-foot-5 sophomore Ryan Betley averaging 14.5 points per game, 6-foot-8 sophomore A.J. Brodeur chipping in with 13.1, and 6-foot-1 senior Darnell Foreman and 6-foot-4 senior Caleb Wood adding 10.7 and 10.1 points per game respectively.
“I know they have balance,” Self said. “They are really, really solid…They’ve got our attention.”
Don’t be surprised to see Penn give Kansas a run for their money. And if all the stars are aligned, we might witness something that’s never happened before.
The round of 32 will be no joke as well, with No. 8 seed Seton Hall, who should dispatch of North Carolina State in their opening round game, bringing a four-headed snake on the offensive end with Desi Rodriguez, Myles Powell, Khadeen Carrington and Angel Delgado. Kansas lacks depth and the Pirates play physical, so getting to the Sweet 16 will be no cakewalk.
Teams To Watch Out For
No. 4 Auburn If you’re not familiar with Mustapha Heron, you better ask somebody!
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No. 6 TCU The Horned Frogs are long and athletic, and Jamie Dixon can coach. And their big men, Vladimir Brodziansky and Kenrich Williams, are one of the country’s most underrated frontcourts.
No. 7 Rhode Island The Rams lost in the second round to an Oregon team that advanced to the Final Four. Coach Dan Hurley’s squad won the Atlantic 10 title outright for the first time this year, they played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country and owned the nation’s longest winning streak at one point with 16 wins in a row. Jared Terrell and E.C. Matthews form one of the most potent backcourts in the country and sophomore guard Jeff Dowtin is a star in the making.
December 2, 2017 Rhode Island 75 Providence 68
No. 12 New Mexico State The Aggies have some ridiculous offensive firepower. Transfer Zach Lofton might be 157 years old, but last year’s SWAC Player of the Year at Texas Southern averaged 19.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game this year while shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 38.2 percent deep. They’re also very good defensively and defeated two NCAA Tournament teams, Miami (FL) and Davidson, on neutral courts this year.
Players You Don’t Want To Miss
Devonte Graham, Kansas
Pretty much guaranteed to be a member of the AP All-America First Team, the Jayhawks senior leader averaged 17.3 points, 7.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game.
Marvin Bagley III, Duke
Bagley averaged 21.1 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.0 blocks and 0.9 steals per game. He shot 60.5 percent from the floor and 37 percent from deep and is expected to be among the top three selections in the upcoming NBA Draft.
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Trae Young, Oklahoma
Young led the country in scoring and assists, averaging 27.4 points and 8.8 dimes per game. He’s, by far, the country’s most electrifying player.
Miles Bridges, Michigan State
Many experts see Bridges as a top ten pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. With a powerful build, aggressive mindset and standing 6-foot-7, he has the lateral quickness and a wet jumper allows him to dominate on the college level. Combine his elite strength with some freakish explosiveness and athleticism, and dude is a highlight reel just waiting to happen.
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Rhode Island vs. Arizona State in the Sweet 16
The Sun Devils need to get out of the First Four on Wednesday night, but if they can get by Syracuse and then pull off an upset of Michigan State in the Round of 32, coach Bob Hurley’s squad could be looking at a matchup against Rhode Island.
That would be the aforementioned Rams squad that is coached by his brother Danny.
Rhode Island would have a formidable task of its own, having to likely beat No. 2 seed Duke in order to get to the Sweet 16.
It’s not likely to happen. But if it does, it would be the biggest story of the NCAA Tournament’s second week.