A No. 1 seed has never lost in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament - and the Kansas Jayhawks certainly don’t want to be the first as they face the 16th-seeded Penn Quakers in Midwest Region action on Thursday.
The Jayhawks will have a significant fan advantage at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita as they seek their fourth national title, and their first in 10 years. And after a convincing showing in the Big 12 Tournament, they’re certainly in the running.
NCAA Tournament Odds and Betting Analysis
The Jayhawks are expected to cruise in this one after claiming the Big 12 title with double-digit victories in all three tournament games. Kansas has saved its best for the top opponents, going 7-0-1 ATS in its last eight games vs. teams above .600. Penn did well to knock off Harvard for a spot in the Tournament, but have covered just one of their past six March Madness games and are 1-4 ATS in their last five contests vs. Big 12 opponents.
From a totals perspective, March Madness bettors should keep in mind that this one could be a high-scoring affair – or at least, higher than oddsmakers believe. The Quakers are 4-1 O/U in their past five games overall and have exceeded the total in six consecutive encounters with teams who win better than 60 percent of their games. Kansas is 5-1-1 O/U in its last seven heading into Thursday, and has exceeded the number five of six times following a straight-up victory.
The Quakers can’t hope to keep pace with the high-powered Jayhawks – they averaged nearly six points fewer in a much less competitive conference – but they can certainly make life difficult for Kansas from beyond the arc. Penn limited opponents to a minuscule 29.2-percent success rate from 3-point range – the second-lowest mark in the nation. The Quakers also rank fifth in the country in defensive rebounds per game (29.0).
The Jayhawks do many things well – but shot selection might just be their best quality. Kansas boasts a 58.6-percent effective field goal rate on the season, the sixth-best mark in the country. They’re also one of the most dangerous first-half teams in the country, averaging 41 points before the break – fewer than only four other Division I schools. Kansas has covered five of its previous seven games against Ivy League schools.