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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Cornell at Syracuse: Scouting report from The Juice Online

(The Juice Online)
(The Juice Online)
Last year’s season-opening Cornell-Syracuse matchup got very interesting, with the Big Red leading 36-22 in the first half and 38-32 at halftime before the Big Red faltered down the stretch to lose, 82-60. Cornell then lost 25 more games, while Syracuse started the season 25-0.
We’re lucky to have Wes Cheng, managing editor of The Juice Online, to help make sense of this year’s edition of the Big Red/Orange series:
IHO: Tell us about The Juice Online.
WC: The Juice (then called The Big Orange) was founded in 1992, one of approximately 50 independent publications devoted to the coverage of its school’s athletics programs. In 2002, it became a full-color, glossy magazine which was owned by Fox Sports. The print product ceased publication in June of 2010 and was relaunched as The Juice Online in December of 2010. In February 2012, The Juice Online partnered with SportsNet New York, the official television home of the New York Mets and New York Jets. As part of SNY.tv’s Blog Network, The Juice Online supplements SNY’s coverage of more than 125 college football and basketball games, as well as other college sports programming.
IHO: What are the major story lines with Syracuse?
WC: The last six seasons have been unprecedented successes for the program. Starting in the 2008-09 season, the Orange has averaged 29.5 wins a season, which is the best six-year stretch in program history. During that time, SU has reached the Final Four and the Elite Eight, something that has also never happened. I say all of this because Syracuse is the most vulnerable it’s been since 2008. The Orange lost its top scorer (CJ Fair), top bench player (Jerami Grant), one of its interior defenders (Baye Keita) and clutch guard (Tyler Ennis). In past years, the Orange has been able to reload on the fly, but that appears to have finally caught up to SU as they have four losses in its non-conference schedule, the most since the 2007-08 season, which is also the last time SU missed the NCAA Tournament.

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