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Penn

vs.

Kansas

March Madness

Pick

3/15/18

This is the 16-1 matchup that everyone is talking about, so might as well dive into the numbers. Maybe most interesting is that Kansas is only favored by -14.5 points at 5Dimes Sportsbook, which is pretty small for a No. 1 seed, especially with the game in Wichita.

Penn has a lot of buzz, but nothing about the resume suggests it will win this game. It barely won the Ivy League tourney and that was on its home court against a more talented (but younger) Harvard team. The Quakers were destroyed by Villanova 90-62 and that was their only high-end opponent all season. The numbers look great, especially three-point defense which is second best in the country (29.6%), but that has to be taken with a grain of salt against Ivy teams.

There’s no doubt the Jayhawks have been impressive as of late after winning every game in the Big 12 tournament by double digits without starting big man Udoka Azubuike. So even if Azubuike remains hurt, that shouldn’t matter for Kansas since it’s been just as good with Silvio De Sousa and Mitch Lightfoot playing more. Penn may have good three-point defense, but if the shots aren’t falling, Devonte’ Graham has the ability to go past any defender he wants on Penn. Graham is in contention for National Player of the Year and makes everything go in the offense.

And then if Azubuike plays, Penn probably doesn’t have the bodies to deal with him as they max out with a couple 6-foot-8 guys down low, none of them pushing 230 pounds. Azubuike is a 7-footer that weighs about 280. As a small ball team, the athleticism of Svi Mykhailiuk will also be a problem because he’s 6-foot-8 and can guard down low, but he’s also the best shooter on the team. Throw in Malik Newman, who made 15-of-22 threes in the Big 12 tourney and it’s hard to see the Quakers winning.

Covering will be more than possible, though, as long as they make shots. Penn has multiple guys that can score and that was seen throughout the season with almost the entire team having reached 20 points in a game. The main guys to worry about are AJ Brodeur and Ryan Betley, both of which have difficult matchups in the frontcourt. The other problem is that KU’s biggest weakness is defensive rebounding and that’s not something Penn relies on.

At the end of the day, the Jayhawks have more size, athleticism and talent and while that doesn’t show in every game, it’s hard to see them taking it easy in the first round. They cruised through their conference tournament and should cruise here. The best chance Penn has is if it gets hot from deep, however, its two main shooters are just 39% from three and that’s not going to cut it. The next two that have taken the most threes for the Quakers are at 32.5% and 27.5%. Those numbers are good enough to beat Ivy League schools, but Kansas is a different animal and this could be a similar result to the Villanova matchup earlier in the season.

Our Pick - Kansas -14

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