Season Preview: Pennsylvania Quakers

Penn looks to build on last year's impressive youth showing to catapult up the Ivy standings in '13-14.
Penn looks to build on the foundation laid by last year’s young team as the Quakers try to catapult up the Ivy standings in ’13-14.

In 2012-13: 9-22, 6-8, 5th place, No Postseason.

Yes, it is I, The AQ. ready to bring you yet another year of irreverent awesomeness on IHO.

My friends, history is replete with examples of improbable victory against overwhelming odds: David and Goliath, Alexander and Darius III, Henry V over the French at Agincourt, the RAF over the Luftwaffe, and, of course, my Mom over the PS 45 PTA. Now it appears that this year on the Ivy hardwood, hoop fans of seven schools are hoping that history can somehow repeat itself. This is because the media, as early as last May, and not without reasonable justification, has already awarded the Crimson the Ivy crown. By now we’ve all heard the talk: “the Harvard B squad alone could win”, “Zena Edosomwan is a game changer”, “the deepest Ivy team of all time”…blah, blah, blah…it all makes me want to barf. So in response to this rhetoric I say, “not so fast.” The Boys in Philly just may have something to say about the Crimson’s de facto coronation. Let’s see why.

A Look Back

Last year, the Red and Blue possessed every conceivable disorder a collegiate basketball team could possibly own: rampant injuries, persistent foul trouble, a dearth of senior leadership, a brutal non-conference schedule, wild inconsistency, a Teflon coach, no true point guard, and inflexible youth. In fact, they weren’t just young, they were one of the youngest D-1 teams in the nation. As such, the Quakers stumbled their way to a dreadful 9-22 record. Along the way, they lost to Wagner (a team from Staten Island!), Dartmouth at home (just the fourth failure to defend The Cathedral floor against The Big Green since 1959), and Columbia, a defeat which has to go down in the annals of Penn Basketball as the most putrid example of athletic ineptitude since Ben Franklin lost a game of H-O-R-S-E to Betsy Ross in 1774. (True story.) On the other hand, they beat Harvard, took Temple to the wire, split every single Ivy weekend, and ended the season (with a team consisting mostly of freshman) as the 9-22 team that no one wanted to play. So then, can the Quakers finally rid themselves of all the misery that had befallen them last year?

Read moreSeason Preview: Pennsylvania Quakers

Penngineered to Perfection

The AQ hit rock bottom on Friday before seeing the light in a huge upset over Darth Amaker and the Crimson.
The AQ hit rock bottom on Friday before seeing the light in a huge upset over Darth Amaker and the Crimson.

Friday, my beloved Quakers fell, in The Cathedral no less, to bottom feeding Dartmouth; marking only the fourth time since 1957 that Penn had failed to defend its home floor against The Green. With this new loss, I had finally reached the nadir of my fandom. Since the agonizing debacle in Morningside Heights the week before, I hadn’t eaten and had shunned all manner of personal hygiene. With my unshaven face, fetid halitosis, and baggy clothes, I bore a striking resemblance to the Unabomber (except the Unabomber was probably better looking). At about midnight, stunned, bewildered and “ridin’ a high a mile wide” courtesy of my personal physician and our friends at Hoffman-LaRoche

(the makers of Valium and other fine benzodiazepines), I walked briskly out into the cold March night. It was then that I began to seriously question my team, Jerome Allen, and my strong belief that the Quakers were better, much better, than the harsh criticism that has been mercilessly leveled upon them over the last three months. But now it looked like the detractors may have been right all along. On this night, Pennsylvania Basketball had managed to attain something far worse than a mere loss to a bad team– they had finally achieved Ivy irrelevance. After decades of dominance, this stark realization sickened me. To make matters worse, the Tigers, our ancient rivals and a group only a few years removed from their own brief interlude with hoops incompetence, had just beaten the upstart Crimson in their race for yet another championship. As I collapsed onto the icy sidewalk a hefty wave of nausea, no doubt born out of jealousy, overwhelmed me. Then in the midst of my despond, I felt something warm run down my leg. I had urinated in my pants.

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Weekend Recap: Feb. 1-2

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A two-team race has developed pretty quickly in this year”s 14-game tournament, though the path that Harvard has taken to get to the top has been anything but easy.

The start of back-to-back Ivy weekends did not disappoint as we

were treated to some thrilling contests last night. Storylines abound at all levels of the league, so let”s just jump right in.

  • The biggest story of the weekend was Columbia crashing out of the title race after getting swept by the Ps, just like old times. The Lions put forth a valiant effort on national TV against Princeton, but couldn”t convert late and went down 72-66 at Jadwin, falling to 1-3 on the young season. Despite a career night from Maodo Lo (16 pts) and only three team turnovers, the Lions couldn”t stop a hot shooting Tigers squad. Princeton shot 51% from the field and a scorching 73% (8-11) from three. Hummer was just 2-8 from the field, but made his impact in other ways, getting to the stripe and knocking down 12-14, and dishing out seven assists to go with seven rebounds. TJ Bray had another great performance, hitting 6-10 including 3-3 from deep and committing zero turnovers. Brendon Connolly, who has seen his minutes dwindle as of late, knocked down a pretty running hooking shot to put the game away late. Princeton continues its perfect homestand and moves to 3-0. Brown and Yale visit Jadwin next weekend.

Read moreWeekend Recap: Feb. 1-2

Toxcatl

Though the AQ
Though the AQ”s heart is being ripped out by Penn”s recent results, he still believes in Coach Allen and the young Quakers.

Recently, I came across one of my old undergraduate notebooks. It was from a rather derivative course in Philosophical Anthropology, The Death Ritual in Ancient Civilizations: Meaning and Myth. As I flipped through the tattered, yellowed pages, I perused the notes on the practices of the Aztecs during the Feast of Toxcatl.

For one year, a flawless youth was selected by the Ancient Mexicans to live among the tribe as a God. The young man was perfection personified: the avatar of beauty and health. He was given lavish clothes, eight servants and four virgins to attend to his every wish. However, at the end of the year when the feast began, The Chosen One climbed the stairs of the great temple where priests cut his heart out and offered it, still beating, to the sun.*

*Full disclosure: There was never any course in “Philosophical Anthropology.” I’m not even sure such a discipline even exists. I simply lifted the preceding material from an article on Megan Fox in the February edition of Esquire Magazine. The actress’ sultry eyes, dangerous curves, and tattooed skin served as a necessary distraction to keep my eyes averted from the television as the St. Joe’s Hawks opened a “can o’ whup ass” on the Quakers.

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IHO Midseason Power Poll: January 9, 2013

The midseason IHO Power Poll has arrived just before teams dive into the dogfight that is conference play.
The midseason IHO Power Poll has arrived just as teams dive into the dogfight that is conference play. Did we shaft your team in the rankings? Let us know where you think we whiffed in the comments.

Believe it or not, the conference slate is merely three days away, and in some sense, that”s a bit of a shame because the Ivy League has really been cranking into gear over the last couple weeks, sticking it to some big conference squads. Wins over California, Bucknell, and Providence (among other impressive performances) have elevated the league all the way to 18th in the Pomeroy conference rankings and to 23rd in the conference RPI. While some had feared that in such a down year, the Ivy champ would receive a dreaded #15 or even #16 seed in the NCAA tournament, it now seems that the Ancient 8 king will earn a more palatable #13 seed, according to Joe Lunardi”s first edition of Bracketology, released January 8th. Furthermore, all eight Ivy teams have defenses ranked in the top 215

teams of Division I, but only three have offenses ranked in the top 215. With that in mind, we are going to buck convention and predict that offense wins championships as those three top 215 offenses make up our top 3 spots in this week”s Power Poll.

Read moreIHO Midseason Power Poll: January 9, 2013

Checking in on Penn

The Ancient Quaker checks in with Penn, breaking down the growing pains of a young and inexperienced squad, but remaining optimistic about the Quakers” future.

Many years ago, a young man strode confidently onto a verdant campus in West Philadelphia. His eyes sparkled, his body lithe and sinewy, his mind was sharp and able. He had grand thoughts of becoming an engineer; to create wonderful machines to better mankind or perhaps destroy it, whichever job would pay him more. But there were parties to attend, beautiful women to meet and get rejected by, as well as many other diverse forms of collegiate debauchery to engage in. Still, life was good. That is until one semester when he took thermodynamics. Ah yes, thermodynamics, a trial by fire. It really brought the heat.

The Quaker Basketball season began in terrifying fashion. Twenty minutes into a brand new Zach Rosen-less year and down 24 to UMBC (KenPom: 314), the team looked disorganized, confused, lost, and the seemingly stillborn year was spinning hopelessly counterclockwise down the can. Then just as I was about to upchuck on to the shiny Palestra floor, nothing short of a miracle happened. The defense suddenly stiffened, shots started falling, and Captain Miles Cartwright took charge, dropping in 21 points while passing the ball to his teammates with aplomb. The Quakers showed grit, character, moxie and, after finally emerging with a 80-75 win, disaster (not to mention widespread fan alienation) was averted. Never, in all my years of watching Penn Basketball, had I witnessed such a comeback. Amazing.

Then of course came the next five games against Delaware, Fairfield, Drexel, Lehigh and Fordham. Looking at the schedule, I don’t think anyone would consider any of these programs to be particularly sphincter-tightening. In fact, I can’t remember The Quakers having such a relatively easy non-conference line up. Nevertheless, they lost all five games. It was a tough week for Penn Basketball but I still think it’s all good. Here’s why.

Read moreChecking in on Penn

Season Preview: Penn Quakers

Penn will look to its underclassmen to help replace the scoring of Rosen and Bernardini this season.

In 2011-12: 20-13, 11-3, 2nd place.

A Look Back: Two words: Zack Rosen. Not much else needs to be said (but I”ll say it anyway). Quaker fans were led on a roller coaster ride last season thanks to one of the greatest individual performances in recent Ivy League history. But let”s first recall that most people did not expect too much from Penn last year. Rosen, Bernardini, and Cartwright were talented guards, but this team had no size and Jerome Allen was in just his second full season as head coach.

Flash forward to February when the Cardiac Quakers were officially born. Rosen kicked off a magical month by nailing a dagger three pointer in the waning seconds to defeat a pesky Dartmouth squad at the Palestra. The next weekend, the Quakers handled Cornell behind 25 from Rosen and followed that up with an overtime to knock off Columbia.

Read moreSeason Preview: Penn Quakers

Princeton, Penn Fall in CBI Quarters

Pittsburgh sprinted past Princeton in the CBI quarterfinals behind an explosive first half on Monday night. The Panthers shot 8-14 from three in the opening frame and rolled off a 14-0 run to close the half, providing the comfortable 49-25 lead at the break. While Princeton managed to cut the Pitt lead to 11 on a Hummer layup

with 7:19 to play, the

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huge deficit was too much to overcome as Pitt ended the Tigers” season with an 82-61 defeat. The night was not a complete downer for the Tigers though, as senior guard Doug Davis hit a three pointer with just 8:40 to play in his final game that pushed him into second place among Princeton”s all-time leading scorers. Davis finished his time at Princeton with 1,550 points, four points ahead of Kit Mueller. All-time Princeton leading scorer Bill Bradley scored a remarkable 2,503 points in his time as a Tiger.

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Penn Advances in CBI; Yale Falls in CIT

Penn moved on to the quarterfinals of the CBI Thursday night, with a convincing 74-63 victory over Quinnipiac in front of a small crowd of 1,268 at the Palestra. Quinnipiac went ahead 5-4 five minutes into the game on a Zaid Hearst jumper, but Steve Rennard answered with

a quick three and the Quakers would never trail again. Penn”s backcourt had a monster night with Miles Cartwright dropping in 23 points, grabbing 9 rebounds, and dishing out 6 assists. Zack Rosen added 16 points and 9 assists. Perhaps most impressively, the two guards tallied only one turnover between them. Penn moves on to host Butler on Monday. A win against one of March”s winningest teams of the past few years would push the Quakers into the CBI semis, where they could be matched up against, you guessed it, the Princeton Tigers.

Read morePenn Advances in CBI; Yale Falls in CIT

Could Cornell have Stopped Zack Rosen?

Zack Rosen did everything right in the final four minutes against Cornell. Could the Big Red have done more to stop him? (Photo Credit: thedp.com/thebuzz)

Johnny Gray has done a lot of great things this season, but prolific defense has not been what he’s known for. But Gray changed that on Friday. In the first 36 minutes of action, Gray managed to hold the Ivy League Player of the Year favorite to just 10 points on 5-14 shooting. Unfortunately, it was the final four minutes, not the first 36 that made the difference.

Four minutes. How much can really change in four minutes? Just ask Zack Rosen. Rosen, in the final four minutes against Cornell, was unbelievable, playing probably the best stretch of basketball I’ve seen by a point guard at any level. Yes, even including the great Jeremy Lin.

Rosen was the best player on the court. The crowd knew it. Cornell knew it. Most importantly, Rosen knew it, and he played like it. Four minutes, 3-3 shooting, 13 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 steals. Big shot after big shot. Big play after big play. Rosen single handily turned a four-point deficit into a seven-point victory.

Read moreCould Cornell have Stopped Zack Rosen?