After winning the Ivy League Tournament Sunday and an automatic NCAA Tournament berth, Penn got assigned a No. 16 seed by the NCAA Selection Committee and a matchup with No. 1 Kansas at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita Thursday at 2 p.m. on TBS.
It’s the first No. 16 seed for an Ivy League men’s team since 1989, when No. 16 Princeton pushed No. 1 Georgetown to the brink but not past it in a 50-49 loss to the Hoyas hailed as “The Game That Saved March Madness” in a memorable Sports Illustrated feature by Princeton alumni Sean Gregory and Alexander Wolff titled as such. 1989 is also the last year that a fourth different Ivy squad in as many years got to the NCAA Tournament, when Princeton made it after Cornell (1988), Penn (1987) and Brown (1986).
Penn is the highest-ranked No. 16 seed by KenPom in the past six seasons, per Jesse Newell of the Kansas City Star.
Ivy League teams have won five NCAA Tournament games in the past eight seasons, not including last-second losses in the Round of 64 by Princeton to Notre Dame last season, Harvard to North Carolina in 2015 and Princeton to Kentucky in 2011. Yale beat Baylor in the Round of 64 in 2016, while Harvard toppled Cincinnati and New Mexico in 2014 and 2013 respectively.
Cornell, helmed at the time by Penn’s current coach Steve Donahue, got to the Sweet 16 in 2010, following a regular season in which the Big Red took No. 1 Kansas to the limit in a 71-66 loss in Lawrence. Donahue is the first Ivy League head coach to lead two different Ancient Eight squads to the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas (27-7, 13-5 Big XII) presents a stiff challenge for Penn (24-8, 12-2 Ivy). The Big XII regular season and conference tournament champion Jayhawks have the sixth-best adjusted offensive efficiency in the country, per KenPom, which ranks Kansas as the ninth-best team nationally.
It’s Penn’s first trip to the Big Dance since 2007, when it lost as a No. 14 seed to No. 3 Texas A&M, 68-52. Penn hasn’t been a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament since 1987, when it lost to No. 1 North Carolina, 113-82. Penn hasn’t won a NCAA Tournament game since 1994, when it upset No. 6 Nebraska as the No. 11 seed.
Kansas is 4-0 all-time in NCAA Tournament games in Wichita. KU’s 29 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, a streak that began in 1990, is the NCAA record for most consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, per the Lawrence Journal-World.