Penn basketball fans living in hope again

Hope is a powerful thing.  There is the hope for that coveted job, that special girl/boy or, at one time in high school, hopes that the school of our dreams would take us. Hope is especially important this season in Ivy hoops, just ask Columbia, Yale and Princeton.  For Penn fans when it comes to Quaker basketball, there have been hopes of the quixotic variety since 2007. Each year since then, however, our optimism has often been punctured by the harsh realism of what we all knew would eventually transpire nonetheless – that is, until now.

The Quakers, as young and undermanned as they are, once again “looked good” this past weekend as they split the back-to-back with Brown and Yale.  Sure, they lost to a better team, but just like last week on the road at Columbia, they hung in there for a solid half of basketball against a more experienced and deeper squad.

Not good enough, you say?

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Hey look, Penn’s an upper-tier team again (for this week at least)

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.

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Ivy 60 for 60: Zack Rosen

Zack Rosen averaged 14.7 points, 5.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game during his Penn career. (Penn Athletics)
Zack Rosen averaged 14.7 points, 5.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game during his Penn career. (Penn Athletics)

Following our countdown of the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s men’s basketball history this summer, Ivy Hoops Online is delighted to continue celebrating the 60th anniversary of modern Ivy League basketball by honoring the top 60 players in Ivy hoops history throughout the season (in no particular order):

One could argue that Zack Rosen is the greatest Penn player of the modern era.

His personal achievements on the court clearly support this. He is Penn’s all-time leader in assists, games started and minute played, third all-time in points, free throw percentage and three-point shooting as well as fourth in steals.  He was named Honorable Mention AP All-American in 2012, first-team All-Ivy three times (2012 unanimously) and All-Big 5 twice. Zack also has a plethora of personal awards and accolades far too numerous to mention.

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Ivy Power Rankings – Feb. 9, 2016

McCoy and Spock

The Ivy hoops fan base is a small and select group. Unlike other colleges (and I use the term extremely judiciously for most institutions located outside The Eight) there are few zealots.  However, there are two who deserve a certain amount of praise. Thus I would like to dedicate this Power Poll to two of the stalwarts of our avocation, namely, Michael James (@Ivybball)   and the Cornell Basketball Blog. They both add a certain dimension to the analysis of watching Ivy hoops and they couldn’t be more different. Their occasional domestic spats on social media are legendary — the cool, calculating number-cruncher versus the overly emotional and often fairly delusional Big Red fan.  One, a haughty winner in the recent Ivy rooting sweepstakes and the other, a “we try harder” guy who still wishes beyond any reasonable hope that it was still 2009 and Jeff Foote was roaming the Ithaca post. In essence, these two play the Spock and McCoy respectively in Ivy hoops coverage to my omniscient, gallant, rational, and let’s be fair, womanizing, Kirk.  With these two in mind, and six games into the 14-Game Tournament, here is my usual Penn-centric IHO power poll.

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Ivy 60 for 60: Butch Graves

Butch Graves averaged 20.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in his four years with Yale, finishing with 2,090 points for his career, third all-time in Ivy League history behind only Bill Bradley and Jim Barton. (Yale Athletics)
Butch Graves averaged 20.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in his four years with Yale, finishing with 2,090 points for his career, third all-time in Ivy League history behind only Bill Bradley and Jim Barton. (Yale Athletics)

Following our countdown of the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s men’s basketball history this summer, Ivy Hoops Online is delighted to continue celebrating the 60th anniversary of modern Ivy League basketball by honoring the top 60 players in Ivy hoops history (in no particular order):

In the early 1980s, if your team was not known as the Quakers or the Tigers, the Ivy was a one-star league. That is, the other six teams usually had one serviceable, if not transcendent, star player who needed to be dealt with lest your ‘P’ suffer a humbling and humiliating loss.  Butch Graves was Yale’s transcendent star from 1980 to 1984.

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Ivy Power Rankings – Dec. 15, 2015

AQ Bite

Yes, it’s time for another completely biased, absolutely unrealistic Penn-centric IHO Power Rankings.  Although it’s still early in the basketball season, the nonconference schedule will in no way stop me from mercilessly belittling and mocking the competition in the Ivy League. There is more fodder than usual as unfortunately no team has distinguished itself as  “Q” worthy.  So without further ado, I bring you the AQ’s “Special” IHO Power Poll.

As always, for the purists, out there here’s how the poll probably should look based on current results:

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Keeping the faith through Penn basketball growing pains

I love a man with a plan.  The first few games of 2015 for the Penn Quakers have undoubtedly shown that first-year Penn coach Steve Donahue has a system.  He is also doing his best to implement that system with young players that are not necessarily the best fit. The early results are therefore quite predictable: a few wins, a few competitive losses, a few bad losses and one game in which they were predictably “Cornelled.”™ (Cornelled: adv. A punishing, demoralizing and humiliating loss where a team surrenders 100 points or more.) So, despite their weak schedule, not a horrendous start for the Quakers.

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Steve Donahue: The Reconstructionist

Does this look like a man ready to turn around Penn basketball? Why yes, yes it does.
Does this look like a man ready to turn around Penn basketball? Why yes, yes he does.

It is ironic that Steve Donahue has become our new head coach.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with the choice.  After all, this has to be his dream job. A Philly guy with Quaker DNA who has a deep respect, if not love, for the hoop traditions of the city, returns as leader to the campus that once nurtured his coaching skills as a young assistant.  In fact, he was so enamored with his new position that in his introductory press conference he said, “This place is one that has everything I ever wanted in an institution.  I am a Big 5 coach. There are only five of us. To imagine that I am one of them, at this institution, is just incredible.”

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Penn all-time moment No. 1: The 1979 Final Four run

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. We covered Penn now because Steve Donahue knows what’s up:

YQ = Young Quaker, of course. Bob Weinhauer = forever.
YQ = Young Quaker, of course. Bob Weinhauer = forever.

For those who did not experience it, the 1979 Penn Final Four season is almost indescribable. It was a once in a lifetime moment that happened to last two weeks. As students, our time in Philly was indelibly shaped by the completely unexpected rise of the Red and Blue to national prominence. School spirit was at an all-time high, and people who otherwise knew and cared little about college basketball were swept up in the mania that those few weeks in March brought. USA Today ranks it as the greatest Final Four ever and it is still, 36 years later, one of the highest-rated in terms of television viewership. This is because it not only changed our lives, but it changed the panorama of college basketball in America forever.

The ‘78-79 campaign started out like most for the Quakers in Bob Weinhauer’s second year as head coach. The team had finished 20-8 in his rookie season and was well on its way to repeating as Ivy League champions. The Quakers deftly handled their nonconference schedule, losing only to Iowa in two overtimes and getting blown out by San Diego State, 110-86. Then in late January came the Georgetown game at the Palestra. It was a nationally televised contest, a rarity for an Ivy League school, on a freezing Saturday afternoon. (Let’s face it, the networks certainly weren’t going to give it Brown or Cornell). The Cathedral was packed. Georgetown was ranked 10th in the nation and featured All-American guard Eric “Sleepy” Floyd and forward Craig “Big Sky” Shelton. (They just don’t make nicknames like that anymore.  Tony “Big Float” Hicks? Nah.)

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Penn all-time moment No. 2: The almost perfect 1971 season

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Penn is next because Corky Calhoun somehow lived up to his mindblowingly awesome name. 

There will never be another season like it in the Ivy League. Despite Harvard’s perennial chest pounding, Yale’s unrequited dreams of glory and Princeton’s … well, whatever they do, no team will ever go undefeated for an entire season (on the men’s side, anyway).

In 1970-71, the Quakers went an astounding 28-0 before finally losing to cross-town rival Villanova (a team they beat earlier in the year) in the Eastern Regional Final, 90-47.  Regardless, they dominated their competition throughout the season, beating Ohio State, Utah and Syracuse, winning both the Ivy and Big 5 titles (the Quakers scored 103 and then 102 points on consecutive nights vs. Harvard and Dartmouth), winning 61 of their previous 65 games and achieving a No. 3 national ranking.  They are therefore considered by many as the greatest Quaker team of all time.

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