Ever since the NCAA Tournament expanded to its current format, in 1985, number one seeds are undefeated at 132-0. Thursday afternoon, Kansas will look to continue that trend when they face up against the best 16 seed ever, based on advanced metrics.
The Ivy League champion University of Pennsylvania Quakers boast a 1,700 rating on FiveThirtyEight’s Elo rating, which puts them at 76th in the nation. The average 16 seed, according to the statistical analysis site, would land somewhere around a 1,483.
Prior to Penn, the highest 16 seed on record, in terms of Elo, was Portland State, a team that was also pitted against Kansas back in 2008, the year Kansas last hoisted up a National Championship Trophy.
This year, the Jayhawks will have to deal with another record-setting 16 seed, and will likely have to do so without sophomore center Udoka Azubuike, who has been sidelined for a week due to a grade one strain of his MCL.
In his place, Kansas has had to rely heavily on their late-arriving freshman, Silvio De Sousa. During the Big 12 Tournament last weekend in Kansas City, De Sousa saw his role increase heavily, averaging 20 minutes per game, but his minutes were not the only stats to balloon. The 6-foot-9 freshman from Angola also nearly averaged a double-double in the tournament, registering 10 points and 9.7 rebounds per contest in the championship run.
At the team’s media availability Wednesday afternoon, De Sousa spoke about his performance in KC. “You know, those games meant a lot to me, and I have learned too much from it.”
When asked about his tenacious rebounding, De Sousa claimed that he does it to get approval from his coach. “I think coach Self is more a kind of coach that loves defense and rebounding, and if you get every rebound he’s gonna love you.”
With Azubuike either out, or in at most an extremely limited role, De Sousa will be key for Kansas, as Penn’s roster is limited in size, with no player over 6-foot-8 seeing any substantial minutes.
Just three months ago, Silvio was a high school student at IMG Academy in Florida, but now he is embarking on his first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. “I’m just excited, nervous, I think I should be nervous, but you know, I’m not concerned with nerves, I’m just super excited for tomorrow.”
Kansas will tip-off against Penn at just after 1PM Thursday afternoon, inside Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas, with the Jayhawks holding a considerable homecourt advantage in their home state, returning to Wichita for the first time since 1992.
You can listen to Kansas’s first round matchup with the Quakers live on 90.7fm KJHK, with pregame beginning at noon. Arman Alhosseini and Jack Nadeau will have the call live from Wichita.