March Madness Round 64 Preview
Kansas vs. Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s reward for winning the Ivy League is a No. 16 seed and a date in the NCAA Tournament with top-seeded Kansas in Wichita, Kan., on Thursday. The Jayhawks earned the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region by winning their 11th Big 12 tournament, which came a week after they sewed up at least a share of their 14th consecutive Big 12 regular-season crown.
Kansas was throwing up some inconsistent performances before going into the Big 12 championship game and knocking off West Virginia 81-70. “I think it should give us confidence moving forward,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self told reporters after the win. “The best thing that can happen for our team right now is to get some rest, but to try to somewhat bottle the energy and how well we played together today.” Kansas earned a No. 1 seed for the third straight season and the eighth time in the last 12 NCAA Tournaments while making its 29th consecutive Tournament appearance. The Quakers are not quite as storied a program when it comes to March Madness and are returning for the first time since 2007 after knocking off Harvard 68-65 in the Ivy League title game Sunday.
TV: 1:50 p.m. ET, TBS
ABOUT PENNSYLVANIA (24-8): The Quakers are bidding to become the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament and were surprised to get this far. “Honestly, I didn’t even dream about this, I didn’t think we could do it,” Pennsylvania coach Steve Donahue told reporters after the win in the Ivy League title game. “I drove home last night saying, ‘I gotta get that out of my head, I gotta show some confidence. I didn’t think it was possible for us to get to the NCAA Tournament until that horn went off. In a building I grew up in, and watching the kids storm the floor for our guys, it’s magic.” The Quakers have four scorers averaging double figures, led by sophomore guard Ryan Betley (14.4 points).
ABOUT KANSAS (27-7): The Jayhawks are led by Big 12 Player of the Year Devonte’ Graham but have five players averaging at least 12 points, and watched sophomore guard Malik Newman step up in the Big 12 tournament while averaging 24 points and winning Most Outstanding Player honors. “He has had a great attitude,” Self told reporters of Newman. “He works hard. He’s really starting to understand exactly how he needs to play in order for him to have total confidence and freedom, and I think he’s buying into that better than he has all year long.” Graham handed out 13 assists in the Big 12 title game and is averaging 9.8 over the last five contests.
1. Kansas C Udoka Azubuike (sprained knee) missed the Big 12 Tournament but is expected back Thursday.
2. Pennsylvania’s last NCAA Tournament win came in 1994.
3. The Jayhawks fell in the regional final in each of the last two seasons.