It’s March Madness, and that generally means it’s time for top seeds to play someone you’ve never heard of, or at least, no nothing about. That said, let’s take a peek at Penn, aka The University of Pennsylvania.
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Per Wikipedia, Quakers are: a member of the Religious Society of Friends, a Christian movement founded by George Fox c. 1650 and devoted to peaceful principles. Central to the Quakers’ belief is the doctrine of the “Inner Light,” or sense of Christ’s direct working in the soul. This has led them to reject both formal ministry and all set forms of worship.
This contrasts slightly with the Jayhawkers, who were basically gangs from Kansas who fought against pro-slavery factions from Missouri in the 1850s, prior to the onset of the Civil War.
Enrollment: 24,806 (2014)
Acceptance Rate: 9.4% (2016)
SB Nation Blog: Nope
Cool Tradition: Toast Throwing. Between the third and fourth quarters of football games, fans sing “Drink a Highball,” which, per Wikipedia, refers to the University’s unofficial cocktail, the Pennsylvanian, made with Calvados, a dash of Madeira Wine, an egg white, and a twist of lemon. The last line of the song is, “Here’s a toast to dear old Penn.” Fans used to actually make a toast with said cocktail, but Prohibition altered that custom. Now, the fans sling slices of toast toward the sidelines. There’s even a “Toast Zamboni” machine that cleans up the track afterward.
Better than KU in football? Yes. Well, probably. Penn went just 6-4 in football last year, but that’s five more wins than KU had. Plus, in one of those games, they scored 65 points. For reference, KU only scored 129 points in Big 12 play, and 61 of those came in two games (West Virginia and Texas). Additionally, Penn shared the Ivy League football title in 2016 and 2015, going 6-1 in conference play both of those years and 7-3 overall.
Kansas and Penn have met three times over the years, with KU holding a 3-0 advantage. It’s been 18 years since the last meeting.
Dec. 8, 1997 - Penn 71 vs #9 Kansas 89 (Washington DC)
Nov. 17, 1998 - #8 Kansas 61 @ Penn 56
Jan. 4, 2000 - Penn 59 @ #2 Kansas 105
24-8, 12-2 T-1st Ivy League
Penn was picked to finish fourth in the preseason media poll, receiving zero first place votes.
Last time out: Defeated Harvard 68-65 in the Ivy League Tournament championship game.
The Quakers have won 7 of their last 8 games.
2016-2017 Record: 13-15, 6-8
The Quakers are coached by Steve Donahue, who is 47-40 in his third year at the helm of Penn. Donahue has a career 248-254 record with previous stops at Cornell (2000-10, 146-138) and Boston College (2010-14, 54-76).
Donahue led Cornell to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including all the way to the Sweet 16 in 2010. Donahue was still the coach at Cornell when the Big Red came into Lawrence and put a scare into the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse back in January of 2010. Kansas needed every one of Sherron Collins’ 33 points in a 71-66 win.
After a 4-year stint at BC, he returned to the Ivy League to coach at Penn.
Donahue was named the Ivy League Coach of the Year for the 2017-18 season.
How scary are they?
On a scale of 1-10, maybe a 2? There’s enough there to take a short pause, but that’s about it. KenPom has Penn’s win probably at 11% and predicts an 80-66 Kansas victory.
Common Opponents: Penn is #127 in KenPom, 11 spots lower than Toledo, whom KU beat 96-58 back on November 28. A month later, Penn would lose to Toledo 85-72 on December 29.
There are no other common opponents for the Jayhawks and Quakers, but there are a couple of other interesting scores to note. Penn beat UMKC at home 68-65; they lost to Villanova 90-62.
Three Man Weave
- Kansas has struggled all year long with defensive rebounding, allowing teams to rebound 31.7% of their misses on the season. Penn has only rebounded 24.1% of its misses this year.
- Penn plays mostly a man-to-man defense. If the Jayhawks can get some pick and roll action going with Devonte Graham, they should have either a layup line or plenty of open threes depending on how Penn tries to defend.
- According to KenPom, Penn is pretty good at running teams off the three point line, 37th in the country when it comes to limiting three-point attempts. However, if the Kansas can hit 40% of their threes while keeping Penn under 40% on their attempts, it should be a good afternoon for the Jayhawks. Penn coach Steve Donahue doesn’t have the shooters he had at Cornell, so barring a statistically freakish output from behind the arc, Kansas should be able to pull away by the time the final horn sounds.
Yet Another Wrong Prediction
There’s gonna be a lot made about how Penn is the best 16-seed (per KenPom) in the last six years. Sure, there are three 15-seeds and one 14-seed in this field that have a worse KP rating that Penn. Some folks may even be calling for the first ever 16-1 upset. Indeed, it may happen someday. But Thursday is not that day - or if it is, it won’t be in Wichita. There’s absolutely no reason why Kansas can’t have its way offensively versus Penn. Even if Penn is successful in keeping KU off the three-point arc, that will only open things up more for Azubuike (if he plays), de Sousa, and Lightfoot. Look for lots of dunks and for KU to take a big first round win, 88-66.