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Villanova, Penn find out their landing spots for NCAA Tournament

03/11/2018, 6:30pm EDT
By Zach Drapkin & Owen McCue

Steve Donahue (above) and Penn drew a tough matchup with No. 1 seed Kansas in the NCAA Tournament. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Zach Drapkin (@ZachDrapkin) &
Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)

Two local teams learned their NCAA Tournament fates when the brackets were announced on Sunday evening.

Villanova and Penn, both winners of their respective conference tournaments, already knew they were in the Big Dance, but now both squads know exactly when, where and who they will playing.

The Wildcats, who are making their sixth straight tournament appearance and 13th in the last 14 seasons, will play in Pittsburgh as the No. 1 seed in the East regional against the winner of No. 16 seeds LIU-Brooklyn and Radford.

This is Villanova’s third No. 1 seed in the past four years. However, the Wildcats were upset in the second round in the prior two occasions, and won the national title as a No. 2 seed in 2016.

Outside of the 2016 championship season, the Wildcats haven't gotten out of the first weekend of the tournament since their Final Four run in 2009.

"I did try to find some consistencies," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "The only thing that was consistent I thought was tough matchups...Honestly, I would address it if I thought it was something consistently, I would look for it, but I think it's just part of the tournament."

Penn will match up with No. 1 seed Kansas as the Midwest Region’s No. 16 seed. The Red and Blue are set to play in Wichita, Kansas.

“We were hoping to be on the East Coast, maybe Pittsburgh or Detroit, but we’ll see what Wichita’s about," senior Darnell Foreman said.

The Quakers are buzzing after punching their ticket to the Dance with a 68-65 win over Harvard in Sunday’s Ivy League championship. It’s been more than a decade since Penn last made an NCAA Tournament appearance; the Quakers’ previous Ivy League title came in 2006-07.

“We’re a part of history now. We stopped that drought. It’s something the Palestra will talk about forever," Foreman said. "Obviously we're trying to win a game, and we’re just ready to go, we’re going to enjoy this moment. There’s nothing like being in the Big Dance and anything can happen there. Anything can happen. We’re confident, we’re loose, we’re relaxed as always. We’re ready to go.”

While Villanova will be expected to make it out of the first weekend, Penn has the tough task of being a No. 16 seed, a heavy underdog. If they do pull off at least one upset, the won’t be the only Ivy League team to have done so in recent history: No. 12 Yale took down No. 5 seed Baylor in 2016, No. 12 Harvard beat No. 5 seed Cincinnati in 2014, and the No. 14 Crimson defeated No. 3 seed New Mexico in 2013.

Penn coach Steve Donahue also has a history of March Madness upsets from his time coaching Cornell. Donahue’s Big Red team made it to the Sweet 16 in 2010, beating No. 5 Temple and No. 4 Wisconsin along the way.

However, no No. 1 seed has ever lost a first-round matchup to a No. 16 seed.

"They think they can be the first. I’m not going to step on their dreams," Donahue said. "Crazier things have happened, in my opinion."

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