Self impressed with Penn's defense heading into first-round NCAA Tournament game

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By Gary Bedore gbedore@kcstar.com

Kansas coach Bill Self has watched plenty of tape on Penn basketball since Sunday night’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show — a film study that has left him impressed with the 24-8 Quakers, who will meet the Jayhawks in a first-round Midwest Regional contest at 1 p.m. Thursday in Wichita.

“The biggest thing is they guard,” Self said on Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. “Look at their stats. They are only giving up 41 percent for the year — 29 from three — and they are a good rebounding team.”

Indeed … the Quakers, who tied for the Ivy League regular-season championship at 12-2 with Harvard, then beat Harvard for the league tournament championship, have the second-best three-point percentage defense in the country.

Opponents have made 185 of 633 threes for 29.2 percent. Only Grand Canyon’s 27 percent mark is better. Overall, Penn’s opponents have made 789 of 1,909 shots for 41.3 percent.

No. 1 seed KU (27-7) of course, relies heavily on the three.

KU has made 345 of 857 for 40.3 percent. That percentage ranks 13th nationally. KU is 20th in threes made per game at 10.1.

“I know they have balance,” Self said of the 16th-seeded Quakers, who have double-digit scorers in Ryan Betley (6-5 sophomore, 14.5 points per game), A.J. Brodeur (6-8 sophomore, 13.1), Darnell Foreman (6-1 senior, 10.7) and Caleb Wood (6-4 senior, 10.1). I know they can score in and out. They play around a 5-man and certainly have stretch 4s and 3s that can really shoot beyond the arc (280 of 801 for 35 percent).

“They are really, really solid. Steve (Donahue, coach) has done a great job with them. They’ve got our attention. We’re going to focus in on Penn even though we know it’s a two-game weekend if you win, but our focus is on Penn.”

The winner of KU-Penn will meet either No. 8 seed Seton Hall (21-11) or No. 9 North Carolina State (21-11) on Saturday for a spot in the Sweet 16 on March 23 in Omaha, Neb.

Self sees little difference in seeds

There has been no apparent controversy — certainly no national outcry — over Kansas snaring a No. 1 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament for the third straight postseason.

The Jayhawks do have seven losses, which is more than No. 2 seeds Cincinnati (30-4) and Purdue (28-6), but they also have a resumé that includes a 14th-straight regular-season Big 12 title (by two full games), the Big 12 Tournament crown as well as 12 quadrant one victories, which ties for second nationally with Virginia. No. 2 seed North Carolina, which has 10 losses overall, has a nation’s best 14 quadrant one victories.

Anyhow …

“I don’t think there’s much of a difference between a 1 and 4 seed or 5 seed this year as have been in years past,” Self said.

“The biggest thing is we need to go play our best ball right now. This year is a little different in my opinion because there’s some teams that had unbelievable years. I’m not putting us in that group. Look at Virginia (overall No. 1 seed at 31-2) or Villanova (overall No. 2 at 30-4; KU is the third No. 1 seed; Xavier fourth). They’ve just been incredible from start to finish. There’s a lot of teams that have the potential to play incredible basketball.”

The overall No. 4 seed Xavier enters the tourney at 28-5 and top seed in the West Regional. The No 2 seeds are Duke (26-7), UNC (25-10), Purdue (28-6) and Cincinnati (30-4).

The Big 12 had seven of 10 teams net NCAA Tournament berths. Bubble teams Oklahoma State and Baylor were denied, while Iowa State was not in the conversation.

“I really felt like seven was what we’d get, especially after Davidson won (the Atlantic 10 Tournament), especially after San Diego State won the Mountain West, because there's obviously teams in there that were going to get automatic bids,” Self said. “At least the theory was that they stole a bid. I can't say this because it's hard for me, without being in the room and knowing what goes into it, to say, well, this team definitely deserved to be in and this team didn't. I can't go there because those people in that room have studied it to the point where they know everything that's going on. So how can we say their decision was wrong? Because I don't think it was a wrong decision.

“I think I am disappointed for our league, though, knowing that nine teams could have got in and we got in seven. But I'm happy for the ones that got in. They deserved it. But I still think a couple more teams could have easily been in if things had fallen a little bit differently.”


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