Bring on the Jayhawks.
Just hours after Penn men's basketball's 68-65 victory over Harvard in the Ivy League Championship game to secure its first March Madness bid since 2007, the NCAA Tournament selection committee announced that the Quakers will be taking on Kansas in the Round of 64.
Penn (24-8), which received a 16-seed in the Midwest Region, will travel to Wichita, Kansas to take on the No. 1 Jayhawks (27-7) on Thursday at 2:00 PM Eastern Time.
This draw is a tough one for the Quakers, as they will attempt to do something that no team has ever done in the history of men’s college basketball: beat a number No. 1 seed as a 16-seed.
While Penn may have wanted a better position on the bracket, senior guard and captain Darnell Foreman doesn’t feel that the Ivy League or Penn has been slighted by the selection committee.
“You’re in the tournament,” Foreman said. “Once you’re in there, you make your own judgement. Just like how teams and people counted us out in the regular season and in non-conference, we were never worrying about that. We were only focused on us and focused on how we can get better.”
In addition to battling a powerhouse program, the location of Thursday’s game is not favorable for the Quakers. Going to Wichita will be about a two-hour ride for Kansas and its fans, while Penn will have to travel as far as it has all season. The only trip similar in length was the three-game Gulf Coast Showcase in November, in which the team played near Fort Myers, Fla.
Penn coach Steve Donahue is embracing this unique challenge of playing Kansas close to its backyard.
“It’s kind of cool, honestly, for the kids to get on a plane and charter out,” Donahue said. “Wichita is a huge basketball city, and they’ll treat you like kings, and the excitement level is kind of neat. I’m sure our guys will be really enamored with all of the surroundings.”
The team and fans were certainly excited during the selection show watch party in Houston Hall on Sunday evening. Everyone in attendance rose to their feet and cheered as Penn’s name appeared in the bracket.
“To see [the players’] little window of 18 to 20 years old, their chance to go to something they dreamed about their whole life, and there it is in front of them, the excitement, and that’s why you feel incredible for them,” Donahue said. “Their actions are pure. They’re excited, they want to play Kansas, they think they’re as good as Kansas, and as I said, I’m not gonna be the one that steps on their dreams.”
The odds may be against them, but on Thursday, the Red and Blue will get their shot to shock the Jayhawks and the rest of the college basketball world.