During Rex Ryan’s final season with the New York Jets in 2014, there was often so much chaos on the field I remember TV color analyst Cris Collingsworth lamenting that he often had “no idea what the Jets were doing.” For the past few years, I could say the same thing about the Quakers: the fouls, the turnovers, the fistfights, the lack of spirit and, of course, the confinement sentencings. After this weekend’s games, it appears Steve Donahue appears to have at least restored our dignity.
The swing through New York is usually one of the more difficult road trips. Although Penn split the weekend series, I think they acquitted themselves quite well nonetheless. On Friday, their undermanned, mostly inexperienced squad held their own against a significantly deeper more skilled Lion team. Having been blown out in Morningside Heights the last two years (not mention the now infamous Tony Hicks uppercut to Meiko Lyles) and down by only four at halftime, the Quaker freshmen kept it interesting for most of the game until the Lion seniors finally took over the contest toward the end.
Then of course it was on to Ithaca, where the Quakers beat Matt Morgan by scoring almost 100 points. I have to say that this game surprised me more than the Friday’s contest. I absolutely thought the subzero temperatures and five-hour bus ride would doom the boys from Philly to yet another humiliating loss. Fortunately, this was not the case. They kept their poise and pulled out a gutty win. Matt Howard and Jackson Donahue are becoming a reliable scoring tandem and, based on his rising assist total, Jake Silpe is starting to get the hang of the college game.
Think about it: an overtime loss to Princeton, a sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth, a road win in Ithaca – so far this youthful Quaker squad has managed to stay somewhat relevant in Ivy play. (Of course, 10 years ago this would have been a fatuous comment, but at this point I’ll take what I can get.) Although the talent gulf between the top three and the bottom five is wide, at the midway point, the Quakers have surprisingly succeeded in momentarily cracking the “upper division” of the league. There is still much work to be done (like shooting with some semblance of consistency), but they’ve gotten there by playing a structured, fundamental, gritty brand of hoops that our veteran coach has clearly instituted. It is indeed a welcome change.
The AQ’s Ancient Artifacts:
Dartmouth: I still like Evan Boudreaux for Rookie of the Year. Although Matt Morgan is having a phenomenal freshman campaign, Mr. Boudreaux not only gives you scoring punch, but also a solid rebounding effort as well. He also seems to make his entire team better (a la Magic Johnson), while Mr. Morgan is more of a Kobe-esque, put the team on my back, scoring machine. Both are excellent additions to the league nonetheless.
Yale: Yale could be in trouble. On Friday, they will get wave after wave of talented, springy Princeton underclassman who will run Mr. Sears and Co. ragged. What’s more the Tigers have momentum after Saturday night’s amazing win in New York. If I were Mitch Henderson (I have more hair though), I would push the pace not only because it benefits my team, but also because the next night Yale gets Penn at the Palestra. The Quakers have become a dangerous home team. If the Boys from Philly can make their 3s like they did in the second half against Matt Morgan, a tired Yale team could be facing another James Jones “no cigar” year. For their sake, I hope they do not. (But I would still enjoy a Bulldog loss on Saturday night. It would be a signal the Quakers are continuing to mature.)
Harvard: The Crimson are irrelevant and I couldn’t be happier.
Columbia: I’m as shocked as anyone with Saturday’s collapse. I have seen a lot of Columbia games over the last three years, and this year, despite all of the senior help, they seem, well … old and tired. Somewhat of an oxymoron for a college team, I understand, but I thought they were far more entertaining the last two years and they seemed to play with a lot more energy and determination. I feel bad for Kyle Smith, but this is Columbia being Columbia.
Brown: Jordan Spieth is tied for 54th at Pebble Beach.