Omaha, Neb. — As the final minutes ticked off the clock in the Kansas basketball team’s 80-76 victory over Clemson in the Sweet 16 on Friday, Duke players stood in a tunnel waiting for their chance to take the floor in the following game.
The Blue Devils were behind a curtain so they couldn’t see the court or much of the video board. They heard the cheers and groans as the Jayhawks saw their 20-point lead drop into single digits, but really only knew the final result.
Focused on Syracuse, before their eventual 69-65 win at CenturyLink Center, Duke players said they needed to watch film in their hotel before they could give much of a scouting report of Kansas. But they are plenty familiar with their Elite Eight opponent.
Many of them were recruited by both schools. They’ve played against each other in AAU. Duke freshman point guard Trevon Duval took one of his official visits to Allen Fieldhouse. Plus, they saw each other earlier this season at the Champions Classic despite playing different teams.
“Great shooting team. Very feisty and very hungry,” said Duke freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr. “They are going to come out here and play great defense. And they run the floor. That’s really all I know about them.”
Duval, who had two points and four assists vs. Syracuse, considered playing alongside Devonte’ Graham and Malik Newman during his recruitment. He met most of KU’s players during his visit and he played with KU freshman Silvio De Sousa at IMG Academy in Florida last year.
Now he has a chance to line up against them for a spot in the Final Four.
“Devonte’, he’s been winning and nominated for a lot of awards,” Duval said. “They have great shooters and a really good big guy, Udoka (Azubuike). They are a really good team. We have to go back to the hotel, do our scout and then see what we can do to beat them.”
It’ll be the first meeting between the two schools since the 2016 Champions Classic in New York, which ended with a game-winning shot from Frank Mason III. Grayson Allen was limited to 12 points (4 of 15 shooting) in 38 minutes.
Both teams have a much different look than their last matchup. Duke features its latest crop of one-and-done NBA prospects. For Kansas, Azubuike was just playing in his second collegiate game and Newman was sitting out the season as a redshirt.
“They are in the Elite Eight for a reason,” Duke sophomore center Marques Bolden said. “We just know they are a real tough and physical team, and we look forward to the matchup."
At this point in the tournament, teams expect to play the best players and teams in the country. Looking ahead to potentially matching up against Graham, Duval said it will be “pretty cool” to play the Big 12 player of the year.
“It’s another time for me to prove myself and for our team to prove ourselves also,” Duval said. “It’s just another opportunity.”
Omaha, Neb. — The purpose of the trip was to mix in freshmen, transfers and upperclassmen at the beginning of the season. Essentially an opportunity to bond overseas before the grind of the season begins.
Scheduled to play four games in August, the results don’t matter. Traveling overseas to play various all-star teams is a lower level of competition than anything in a Power Five conference. Perhaps, it’s a small chance to gain some chemistry but players learned as much off the court as they did while playing.
But looking back months later, players were grateful for the chance to spend some extra time together. Kansas traveled to Italy and Clemson went to Spain. The Jayhawks had a 4-0 record, winning each game by more than 25 points, and Clemson went 3-0.
“We got a lot of new guys that came in just this year so I think it was just a really good chemistry building thing,” Clemson forward Mark Donnal said. “We played three games out there, but the focus wasn’t even on that. It was just being around each other, establishing those relationships and I think it’s kind of carried over to the season.”
The fifth-seeded Tigers (25-9) opened the season by winning 14 of their first 15 games, including non-conference victories over Ohio State and Florida.
During the trip to Spain, Clemson canceled its fourth and final game after a nearby terror attack in Barcelona. Starting guard Marcquise Reed said it was a reminder to not take anything in life for granted and possibly brought the team closer together.
“For whatever reason I just think this team clicked right away,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “We have some freshmen on our team that have outgoing personalities and some characters that have really kind of energized our program and combine that with older players that are good players, mature, and I think there is just a feeling that guys like each other.”
After the trip to Italy, Kansas players mentioned the same chemistry-building, bond-tightening experience even if the competition wasn’t as high as they expected.
Donnal said he wasn’t sure if the overseas trips, which schools can only take once every four years, would be as beneficial for a team with a ton of returning players. But when there’s plenty of newcomers, it’s like a sped up preseason.
“You’re all you got when you get out there,” Reed said. “You don’t really know nobody. You have no choice but to stick close to each other.”
Brownell added: “When we went to Spain on a foreign tour, I just left feeling unbelievably confident about our group because I loved our leadership. I loved the synergy and spirit of our team. And I knew we had good players. I knew our starting five were good players and would play well this season.”
In the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1997, Clemson will play Kansas at 6:07 p.m. Friday for a spot in the Elite Eight. The Jayhawks have played in the Elite Eight in each of the last two seasons, Clemson has made it once in program history.
The fifth-seeded Tigers, voted to finish 13th in the ACC in the preseason poll, beat New Mexico State in the first round and crushed Auburn to continue their season. They’ve played without star senior forward Donte Grantham, who tore his ACL, since the end of January.
“They were probably the most impressive team, I felt like, in the first weekend,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Without Grantham, Clemson owns a 9-6 record with wins over NCAA Tournament teams North Carolina and Florida State in conference play.
Fun fact: The Tigers tied a program record for wins in a season (25) with their victory over Auburn in the Round of 32 last weekend.
Series history: It’s the first meeting between the two schools.
BREAKING DOWN CLEMSON
No. 2 — G Marcquise Reed | 6-3, 189, r-jr.
A second-team all-ACC selection, Reed surpassed the 1,000-point milestone earlier this season. Averaging a team-best 15.9 points, Reed is shooting 35 percent from the 3-point line and 84.5 percent at the free-throw line. He leads the team with 58 steals.
Reed played his freshman season at Robert Morris, reaching the NCAA Tournament, before transferring to Clemson. Only three assists behind teammate Shelton Mitchell, Reed could become the first player to lead the Tigers in scoring, assists and steals since 2000.
In the NCAA Tournament: Totaled 31 points and 14 rebounds on 13-for-31 shooting (1 of 8 from 3), adding four assists and four steals.
- “He doesn’t talk a lot, he’s not a guy who’s showy at all. I think he just kind of comes in and does his thing,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “He’s kind of like that as player because he will be quiet for 20 minutes and then all of a sudden, something will happen and he snaps and turns into this assassin making big shots.”
No. 10 — G Gabe Devoe | 6-3, 207, sr.
When the Tigers are playing well, Devoe is usually scoring. After Donte Grantham’s injury, the Tigers are undefeated when he scores more than 11 points, winless when does not. Clemson’s top 3-point shooter (39.9 percent), Devoe is averaging 13.7 points and 4.6 rebounds, earning an all-ACC honorable mention.
In the NCAA Tournament: Averaging 22 points, 3 rebounds and 3.5 assists on 8-for-14 shooting from the 3-point line.
No. 14 — F Elijah Thomas | 6-9, 237, jr.
A dominant shot shot blocker (2.2 swats per game, named to the ACC’s all-defensive team), Thomas is averaging 10.9 points and 8.1 rebounds with nine double-doubles. He leads the Tigers with 78 offensive rebounds, more than double any other player on the team. Thomas played his freshman season at Texas A&M before transferring to Clemson.
In the NCAA Tournament: Recorded 24 points, 21 rebounds and 5 blocks in 57 minutes while shooting 9-for-17 from the field.
No. 4 — G Shelton Mitchell | 6-3, 194, r-jr.
A transfer from Vanderbilt, Mitchell leads the Tigers with 3.7 assists per game. He’s averaging 12.3 points, shooting 37 percent from the 3-point arc. According to hoop-math.com, he takes about a third of his shots at the rim, the highest mark among Clemson’s guards.
In the NCAA Tournament: Led the Tigers with 11 assists, 33 points and 9 rebounds in the first two games, shooting 10-19 from the floor.
No. 25 — F Aamir Simms | 6-7, 237, fr.
Simms usually plays off the bench, averaging 4.0 points and 3.2 rebounds on 47.3 percent shooting from the field. In 15 minutes per game, Simms ranks second on the team in blocks (29) and fourth in offensive rebounds (25).
In the NCAA Tournament: Playing 43 minutes, he produced 12 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks while shooting 2-for-2 from the 3-point arc.
ONE THING CLEMSON DOES WELL
Ranked seventh in defensive efficiency by KenPom, the Tigers own one of the best defenses around the rim. With Elijah Thomas protecting the paint, they’ve limited opponents to 52.9 percent shooting on shots at the rim, which ranks 17th in the county according to hoop-math.com.
Add that with their strong transition defense and it becomes even tougher for opposing offenses to find ways to score.
ONE AREA CLEMSON STRUGGLES
Despite the Tigers’ strong defense protecting the paint, they don’t force many turnovers. Entering the tournament, Clemson ranked 213th in the country in turnover percentage defense and that didn’t change in the first two rounds. The Tigers forced 11 turnovers against New Mexico State and only six turnovers against Auburn.
MEET THE COACH
In his eighth season at Clemson, Brad Brownell led the Tigers into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, his first season in the program. Helping remove himself from the hot seat with his first-ever Sweet 16 appearance, Clemson added NIT appearances in 2014 and 2017.
Prior to his time at Clemson, Brownell spent four seasons each with UNC Wilmington and Wright State. He had four 20-win seasons with Wright State and two NCAA Tournament appearances at Wilmington.
Kansas by 5. The Tigers don’t allow many points around the rim and are strong at limiting points in transition. One weakness is defending the 3-point line (34.9 percent). I think it will be a slower-paced game for the Jayhawks, similar to their first-round game against Penn, but Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick should find plenty of looks from deep.
My prediction: Kansas 74, Clemson 65. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 16-14.
Equally skilled at scoring and rebounding, Seton Hall senior forward Angel Delgado presented one of the toughest matchups for Kansas big men all season.
Heading into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, the Jayhawks could face more players like him.
Clemson, KU’s opponent in the Sweet 16 on Friday (6:07 p.m., CBS), is led by 6-foot-9, 237-pound junior Elijah Thomas but he’s not as prolific as an offensive rebounder as 6-foot-10, 245-pound Delgado. Thomas does average 10.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, ranking fourth in the ACC with 2.24 blocks per game.
If the Jayhawks advance to the Elite Eight, they could face prolific scorers and rebounders like Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. or Syracuse’s Oshae Brissett. Bagley is fifth in the nation with 21 double-doubles this season, only one behind Delgado. Carter, a more traditional center than Bagley, has recorded 15.
The 6-foot-11 Bagley and 6-foot-10 Carter combined for 26 rebounds (seven offensive) against Texas center Mo Bamba in November.
With the benefit of already facing Delgado, their second-round win gives the Jayhawks a blueprint of how they will need to attack some of the top forwards remaining in their region. Of course, it’s unlikely any of those forwards will have as much success as Delgado. He became the fifth player in the last 40 years to record 20-plus points and rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game.
What saved Kansas, in the eyes of coach Bill Self, was Udoka Azubuike’s performance to fight strength with strength.
“If Udoka wasn’t able to come back from his injury, we don't win,” Self said afterward.
Delgado had 12 points (5-for-9 shooting), 11 rebounds and one turnover when matched up against Lightfoot. Seven of his 11 rebounders were on the offensive end, tormenting the Jayhawks with second-chance points.
In four minutes against De Sousa, Delgado had four points, three rebounds and a blocked shot. Self said the game was a “little bit too big” for De Sousa. At this point of the season, the Jayhawks can’t afford wasted offensive possessions when players are out of position.
“We obviously couldn’t guard (Delgado),” Self said. “Angel had 12 and 12 at halftime. This isn’t a knock to Mitch, but Mitch physically is going to have a hard time with that.”
Azubuike limited Delgado to eight points and nine rebounds — only one offensive board. The Dominican Republic native shot 4 of 6 against Azubuike but opted to attempt more jumpers and short hook shots.
“Second half, I thought Dok actually defended him pretty good,” Self said. “Of the 24 he got, he probably got six or eight on Dok and the rest were on our other guys. We thought that our best chance was to put a big, heavy body on him.”
Afterward, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said he wished the Pirates would’ve fed the ball more to Delgado when he was guarded by Azubuike. They went away from him, looking for other scoring options, because Azubuike’s size took so much energy out of Delgado.
In December, Syracuse’s Brissett had 13 points and nine rebounds against KU, but only one rebound was on the offensive end.
“You just gotta give him credit,” Delgado said of Azubuike. “He's an unbelievable player. He did a great job with his bad knee. You just gotta give credit to great players.”
Wichita — Hoping to receive 20 minutes from Udoka Azubuike on Saturday, Kansas coach Bill Self said he thought Azubuike was the team's most valuable player with the way he provided offense in the post and defended Seton Hall center Angel Delgado in a 83-79 win at Intrust Bank Arena.
"We won the game because of Dok," Self said. "That kid would've had 35 and 34 if Dok didn't play. I'm really, really thankful and proud of him for his attitude and coming back so quick."
Advancing to the Sweet 16, Self said he doesn't want to get caught up in how the team played as long as the Jayhawks continue to win.
"We have to win two more games to get where we want to go but so proud of our kids and certainly nobody can say they haven't had a great season," Self said. "Now we have to go make great (turn into) special."
Wichita — In the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004, Seton Hall’s basketball players were going to be confident against any team they were matched up against.
With experience against No. 1 seeds Villanova and Xavier during Big East play, they know what it’s like to play the top teams in the country. The Pirates had an 0-4 record against the top two teams in the Big East, taking Villanova to overtime on Feb. 28 at home. They lost both road games against eventual top-seeded opponents by double digits.
Preparing to take the floor versus top-seeded Kansas at 6:10 p.m. Saturday (TV: TBS) at Intrust Bank Arena, the Pirates expect they’ll be loose when the opening jump ball is tossed in the air.
“There’s no pressure,” Seton Hall sophomore guard Myles Powell said. “We’ve been doing this all year. We’ve been tested all year. It’s nothing new. They tie their shoes just like we tie our shoes. We’re not looking at them like they are something special and we’re not. We’re just going to come out and play our game.”
Seton Hall’s players agreed that Kansas plays a different style than what they saw against Villanova and Xavier, but they value the experience of playing a top team.
Instead, several players said the Jayhawks reminded them of Texas Tech. Seton Hall beat the Red Raiders, 89-79, at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 30.
“It doesn’t put no fear in our heart or anything because we’ve been here before and we know we can play with anybody in the country when we’re playing our game,” Powell said.
Sophomore guard Eron Gordon added: “I think that it’s given us the experience to be prepared and make sure we stay composed.”
After a first round victory over North Carolina State, the Pirates turned their attention to Kansas with two film sessions and a walkthrough before their early afternoon media sessions. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said players probably weren’t happy with him with an early wake-up call.
“When you're playing as good a basketball team as you are in Kansas, you need to do all the little extra things to try to give yourself a chance to win,” Willard said. “You just can't treat it like you're playing any other team. They're just too good.”
Confident in their preparation to play Kansas, the Pirates hope their experience in road games against Xavier and Villanova, along with other big crowds at Creighton and Louisville, will only benefit them in front of a pro-KU crowd in Wichita.
Sitting inside of a cramped visitor’s locker room at Intrust Bank Arena — home of the Wichita Thunder minor league hockey team — the Pirates said they are entering their second-round game like many of their other games.
“Regular road game,” Powell said. “We expected something like this. Yesterday they had us in the nice locker room, now look where we’re in. It’s just little stuff like that just helps fuel the fire. I feel like we’ve played better at road games than home. We’re definitely going to be ready.”
Led by a talented senior class, Seton Hall finished third in the Big East and earned its first NCAA Tournament victory in 14 years.
The reward of Thursday’s 11-point victory over North Carolina State is a second-round matchup against top-seeded Kansas (6:10 p.m., TBS) on Saturday at Intrust Bank Arena. The Pirates have won five of their last seven games following a four-game losing streak at the beginning of February.
Kansas players compared Seton Hall’s style of play to West Virginia. Delgado provided a strong post presence and he’s surrounded by physical guards.
“The way they go about doing their business is different,” Self said of the comparison between Seton Hall and WVU. “But I think from a physical standpoint they certainly kind of look that role.”
Playing Texas Tech, its only Big 12 opponent this season in non-conference play, the Pirates (22-11) earned a 10-point victory at Madison Square Garden in November.
Fun fact: With a victory against Seton Hall, Bill Self will pass Roy Williams for the most wins among KU coaches in the NCAA Tournament. Self owns a 34-13 record in the tournament while Williams went 34-14.
Series history: The series is tied, 1-1. Seton Hall won the first meeting in 1988 in the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout. Kansas followed with a win in 2001 in the fifth-place game of the Maui Invitational.
BREAKING DOWN SETON HALL
No. 20 — F Desi Rodriguez | 6-6, 220, sr.
A second-team all-Big East selection, Rodriguez is averaging 17.9 points on 50.5 percent shooting from the field. He’s a 37.7 percent shooter from the 3-point arc, adding 4.9 rebounds per game. According to hoop-math.com, Rodriguez makes 67 percent of his shots that he takes at the rim.
Rodriguez missed three games at the end of the regular season with an ankle/foot, suffering a bone bruise. He’s scored at least 20 points in 12 games this season. Rodriguez ranks 14th in school history in scoring.
In the NCAA Tournament: Scored 20 points on 8 of 14 shooting with three rebounds and two steals in 29 minutes.
- “I'm a fan of Kansas,” Rodriguez said. “But now I'm not no more, just for this game. But I watch their games a lot. Their games come on TV a lot. Just going through a variety of games, that's the best game on TV. They always give you a good game. Other than the other scouting report my coach is going to give me, I got a great scouting report myself.”
No. 31 — C Angel Delgado | 6-10, 245, sr.
A double-double machine and second-team all-Big East choice, Delgado has 21 double-doubles this season. The Big East’s all-time leader in rebounds, Delgado is averaging 13.3 points and 11.5 boards, shooting 50 percent from the field.
Delgado, from the Dominican Republic, takes 55.5 percent of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com. He ranks second on the team with 22 blocks.
In the NCAA Tournament: Recorded 13 points (4 of 7 shooting), nine rebounds and four assists before fouling out in 25 minutes.
No. 13 — G Myles Powell | 6-2, 195, so.
Capable of heating up at any time, Powell is averaging 15.5 points on 37.8 percent shooting from the 3-point arc. But he’s been in a funk, making 9 of his last 45 attempts from deep. Beyond his shooting, Powell is second on the team in assists (2.8 per game) and steals (1.0 per game).
In the NCAA Tournament: Making 10 of his 12 attempts at the free-throw line, he scored 19 points (1 of 7 shooting from 3) with nine rebounds.
No. 0 — G Khadeen Carrington | 6-4, 195, sr.
Seton Hall’s top free throw shooter (83.6 percent), Carrington has scored 15.2 points per game while shooting 35.3 percent from the 3-point line. The dean’s list student leads the Pirates with 36 steals and dishes 4.5 assists per game. He’s scored more than 20 points in five of the team’s last six games.
In the NCAA Tournament: Scored a team-high 26 points vs. N.C. State, making 6 of his 14 shots (3 of 5 from deep) while earning 13 trips to the free-throw line in 32 minutes.
No. 14 — F Ismael Sanogo | 6-8, 215, sr.
Playing off of the bench, Sanogo has produced 5.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Focusing on defense, he leads the team with 29 blocks and ranks second with 33 steals. When he does look to score, he’s shooting 54.9 percent from the field (45.8 percent on 24 attempts from 3).
In the NCAA Tournament: Finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes, snagging two steals while shooting 4 of 6 from the floor.
ONE THING SETON HALL DOES WELL
It’s no surprise with such a talented rebounder like Delgado, but Seton Hall entered the NCAA Tournament ranking 29th in the nation in offensive rebounding rate. The Pirates snagged 34.1 percent of their misses, tops in the Big East.
ONE AREA SETON HALL STRUGGLES
The Pirates have trouble forcing turnovers, ranking 196th in the nation in turnover percentage defense. That allows opposing teams to settle into their offenses. In their eight losses against Big East opponents, the Pirates failed to force more than seven turnovers in three of them.
MEET THE COACH
Kevin Willard is in his eighth season at Seton Hall, guiding the team to its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. He’s led the Pirates to four 20-win seasons. Prior to his time at Seton Hall, he was the head coach for three seasons at Iona.
Described as a player’s coach, Willard spent time as an assistant at Louisville and with the Boston Celtics. Willard’s father, Ralph, was a former head coach at Holy Cross, Pittsburgh and Western Kentucky.
Kansas by 4. I don’t think it’s a particularly great defensive matchup for Kansas, especially if Udoka Azubuike is still limited from his knee injury. But the Pirates have struggled against high-scoring offenses this season and aren’t among the top teams in defending the 3-point line.
My prediction: Kansas 81, Seton Hall 72. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 16-13.
Wichita — Playing tough road games is nothing new for Seton Hall. That’s life in the Big East, which included games at Butler, Creighton, Villanova, Xavier and Providence.
After traveling to play those NCAA Tournament teams, the Pirates plan to have the same road game, us-against-the-world approach when they play Kansas in the second round at 6:10 p.m. Saturday (TV: TBS) at Intrust Bank Arena.
“We’re in Kansas aren’t we? It’s a road game,” senior forward Ismael Sanogo said. “The NCAA did a good job of making it easier for them but we’re a tough team and we can handle it.”
The Pirates (22-11) advanced with a 94-83 victory over North Carolina State in the first round of the tournament Thursday. In true road games this season, they’ve posted a 5-6 record with victories over Louisville, Butler and Providence.
Kansas has certainly felt the home-state advantage in Wichita, drawing more than 13,000 people to an open practice on Wednesday. Intrust Bank Arena announced 14,390 people attended KU’s 76-60 win over Penn in the first round, a majority cheering for the Jayhawks.
“The fans really did a good job of getting them back in it,” Penn guard Darnell Foreman said. “You know what I mean? Their support was never wavering.”
KU coach Bill Self believes there’s some added pressure playing close to home, referencing last season’s Elite Eight loss to Oregon at Sprint Center in Kansas City — "I think the guys felt like that every fan was holding their breath every possession" he said.
The Jayhawks have a 5-0 all-time record in Wichita, winning their first NCAA Tournament game in the city since 1981 on Thursday.
“It's definitely more positive than not positive, without question,” Self said. “But I don't think it plays a huge role in certain segments of a game. But when you get rolling or you get on a little roll, it definitely gives you momentum, the fans do.”
In the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season, they picked up their first tournament win in 14 years. Minutes after playing N.C. State, most of the Seton Hall players said they were unfamiliar with Kansas and knew they would be logging several hours of watching film when they weren’t practicing.
But they are confident that they can avoid allowing the crowd to affect them in any negative way.
“It’s like you are going to another away game,” Seton Hall senior center Angel Delgado said. “We’ve been doing this for the whole year. It’s kind of easy for us to have the (road) mindset.”
Wichita — Throughout the last few seasons, Penn’s basketball players have noticed a trend inside of the Ivy League: the league is becoming tougher and tougher.
No, this isn’t a case of smart kids just playing basketball in their free time.
Recruiting is at a higher level than ever in the Ivy League. Penn players insist the grind of league play is as tough as anything they saw in non-conference games.
“One of the big misconceptions, I think, people have with our league is that we’re all just brainiacs and we’re all just looking forward to getting back to library and studying after the game,” said Penn sophomore AJ Brodeur, a first-team all-Ivy selection while averaging 13.1 points and 7.1 rebounds.
Of course, studying and the library are still a part of the equation of being an Ivy League student athlete. Brodeur admitted he had to complete a Corporate Finance assignment Wednesday night.
When the Quakers (24-8) tip off against top-seeded Kansas (27-7) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at 1 p.m. Thursday (TV: TBS) at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, they are ready to prove that they aren’t your typical No. 16 seed.
Penn earned an automatic bid into the tournament when it won the Ivy League’s conference tournament — a four-team tournament that has only existed for two seasons.
In the Ivy League, schools typically only play on Fridays and Saturdays in an attempt to make it easier on their academic studies. But when the ball is tipped in the air, there’s no question that those teams can compete with just about anybody.
“People understand how hard it is to be a Division I athlete, regardless of where you are,” Penn freshman Jelani Williams said. “I think doing that in the Ivy League makes it even harder. I do think the athletic part of it is a little bit underestimated.”
Sophomore Ray Jerome added: “I think there’s a lot of guys who do have a chance to go play professionally after the Ivy League. I don’t think a lot of people outside of it realize it.”
Several players across the Ivy League had opportunities to play basketball at more basketball-centric schools. Brodeur, a three-star recruit out of high school, had offers from Notre Dame, George Washington and Davidson.
“You look at guys who the league is pulling in like Seth Towns, who had high-major offers (Michigan, Xavier, Ohio State) and chose to go to Harvard,” Penn sophomore Ryan Bentley said. “You see that all through the league. It’s really changing and it’s awesome. It’s as much of an athletic decision as it is an academic decision.”
In the last 10 seasons, Ivy League schools have 4-6 record in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, usually as a No. 12 seed.
Preparing to play Kansas, even with the history of No. 16 seeds, the Quakers just hope they can prove themselves — and their league — to rest of the country.
“The league as a whole has done a great job of recruiting and done a great job on this stage of the past few years of proving that,” Bentley said. “We are good basketball players. We are athletic. I think that is one of the biggest misconceptions but I think the league has done a great job of proving that to be wrong over the past few years.”
If anybody found it difficult to look away from the TV during the Big 12 Tournament championship game, you weren’t alone.
The Kansas basketball team’s 81-70 victory over West Virginia at Sprint Center was the most-watched Big 12 championship game in 16 seasons, according to an ESPN press release. It drew the third-highest ratings on ESPN’s networks during conference tournament week, producing a 24 percent rating increase from last year’s Big 12 Tournament title game.
The Big 12 title game delivered 2.85 million viewers, according to Nielsen. The game even outdrew Duke-North Carolina’s matchup in the ACC Tournament semifinals (2.82 million).
Of course, it’s no surprise that the Jayhawks can draw a big crowd. Among ESPN’s college basketball games, Kansas City ranked as the No. 2 market throughout the season with a 2.6 rating, slightly ahead of the Raleigh-Durham market (2.3 rating). Louisville remained the top local market for college hoops for the 16th straight year with a 4.2 rating.
During the conference tournament week, the most watched game on ESPN platforms was the ACC championship game (UNC vs. Virginia, 3.435 million viewers).