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?

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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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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.

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