How Penn basketball can keep us from forgetting about it

Penn's win over Marist Tuesday marked its first victory at the Palestra in six tries. (upenn.edu)
Penn’s win over Marist Tuesday marked its first victory at the Palestra in six tries. (upenn.edu)

Like many, I was a bit shocked that Jerome Allen has not placed on ESPN’s “10 Best-Dressed Coaches List.” Anyone who has seen the man up close knows his elegant sartorial choices are beyond reproach.

I was equally shocked when this very forum expended more than 51 minutes of last week’s On the Vine podcast discussing Ivy League basketball and spent exactly two seconds on the Quakers. In fact, after discussing six other teams, host Peter Andrews at one point says, “There’s only one other team that we haven’t talked about, Dartmouth.”

Shame on you gentlemen…

These two incidents, albeit small, point to one thing: the current irrelevance of Penn basketball.  Both mainstream and social media blather on and on about everything from the overall strength of the league to the beauty of the Yale offense, to the disappointment of the Brown defense, to the burgeoning diameter of Mitch Henderson’s bald spot.

But nothing about Penn.

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No More ‘Next Games’ for Jerome Allen, Penn Basketball

In his first post for Ivy Hoops Online, former Daily Pennsylvanian Sports Editor John Phillips weighs in on what this season means for the future of Jerome Allen and Penn basketball. 

It is Penn coach Jerome Allen’s favorite mantra: The next game is the most important, because it’s the next time we play.

For the four-plus seasons Allen has served as Penn’s coach, however, that has rarely been true. There have been plenty of meaningless games played under Allen’s eye for the Red and Blue. He carries a 56-85 record into this season, so the next games on the schedule haven’t mattered much where winning is concerned.

But even when the team was going a combined 17-42 over the last two seasons and some were calling for Allen to be fired depending on his team’s performance during a stretch of bad games, Allen’s mantra proved to be false as well. Due to a long list of reasons, or what some would consider excuses, Allen’s struggles have been given a free pass. After superstar Zack Rosen left the team, Penn’s struggles were framed as natural following the departure of such a strong presence. Then, last year, after Allen’s team showed a stark lack of discipline throughout the season, Allen made a culture change in the locker room that led to Julian Harrell and Henry Brooks, two of the most talented players on Penn’s roster, leaving the team. So despite the struggles that Penn faced on the court in 2013-14, the Quakers were still granted a reprieve, supporting the argument that each “next game” Allen’s squad faced last season was in no way the most important.

Read moreNo More ‘Next Games’ for Jerome Allen, Penn Basketball

2014-15 Penn Season Preview – Empires Crumble

Ancient QuakerNothing lasts forever.  Of what was once a powerful 500-year-old Republic, all that remains now of the Roman Empire are some weathered boulders scattered across Italy in the form of decaying monuments. And what has become of Britain’s Empire that once stretched to every continent on the planet? It has been reduced to a token naval force and an army of T-shirted, potbellied, Guinness-fueled, vomiting soccer hooligans who now invade neighboring lands in the name of “Man U” instead of Her Majesty the Queen.

Therefore it should not be a shock to Quaker fans that the era of Quaker hoops dominance is now effectively over. Having ruled admirably over the Ivy League for almost 30 years (along with Princeton—an effete and supercilious France to our noble and righteous England), the torch has now been passed to upstart Harvard. (The powerful but crass and cultureless “America” if you will in my little imperial scenario.) What was for years our birthright (at least we thought it was) is now handily out of reach for the foreseeable future.  Since our last championship in 2007, The League has been effectively turned upside down with Harvard, Columbia, Yale and, most likely, Brown at the top.  Twenty years ago, no one could ever have imagined this anymore than they could a bunch of ill-equipped colonists defeating the most powerful Domain in the history of civilization.

Read more2014-15 Penn Season Preview – Empires Crumble

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.

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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.

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Saturday's Best

Zack Rosen is a man on a mission. (Photo Credit: philly.com)

Best…Wow: Zack Rosen did it again. Two clutch Rosen free throws with 23 seconds left put Penn up one, and after a rebound off a missed Corbin Miller three ended up in Harvard”s possession, Tyler Bernardini stepped up and drew a charge on Kyle Casey with only seconds remaining. Penn was able to run the clock out on the inbounds, securing a 55-54 victory and breaking Harvard”s 28-game home winning streak. More importantly, the Quakers are now a half-game back of first place, and tied with the Crimson in the all-important loss column. A Penn victory seemed unlikely late in the second-half as a Curry back door pass to Saunders put Harvard up 7 with only five minutes to play. Cue Rosen. The soon-to-be Ivy Player of the Year once again one-upped himself, knocking down a three on the wing, an elbow jumper, and the game-winning free throws in the final minutes to lift the Quakers. Rosen finished with 20 points on 6-14 shooting (4-7 from deep), while Miles Cartwright added 8 points. Props must be given to Tyler Bernardini who despite playing with an ankle injury, stepped up with great help defense to draw the pivotal charge on Casey. For Harvard, Casey led the way with 12 points

and 6 rebounds, with Keith Wright adding 9 points and 5 rebounds. Wesley Saunders had 10 off the bench and Laurent Rivard had 8. The Crimson outrebounded the undersized Quakers 24-15, but only shot 2-11 from three. Harvard now goes on the road to Columbia and Cornell for its final weekend. Penn returns home to face Yale and Brown before closing out the season against archrival Princeton. It”s worth noting that half of the league remains alive for the title as we enter the final weekend. Yale needs a sweep and one Harvard loss; Princeton needs to win out, have Harvard lose both, and have Penn lose one. It should be a fun finish to the Ivy season.

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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?

Game Preview: Penn at Brown

Zack Rosen is licking his chops at the opportunity to take on the porous Brown defense tonight. (Photo Credit: penngazettesports.com)

Let”s get right to it here. Penn isn”t losing this game. The Quakers are coming off of a frustrating loss at Yale last night, their first of the conference season, and they are going to be angry and determined. Meanwhile, Brown got throttled by a mediocre Princeton team, and despite what the Cornell Basketball Blogger claims, the Bears are far and away the Ivy team most devastated by injury and other absences. Yes, last year”s leading scorer and All-Ivy player Tucker Halpern and Rookie of the Year frontrunner Rafael Maia are out for the season, but now the already-razor thin Bears bench is taking a hit. According to Scott Cordeschi at GoLocalProv, Freshman Longji Yiljep is out for the season with a toe injury, junior Patrick Donnelly is out for the season with a hip injury, freshman Jon Schmidt has an eye injury, Jean Harris can”t play due to the flu, and Steven Albrecht is experiencing those pesky back problems. It”s honestly a war zone down in Providence, and given the lack of depth the Bears had to begin with, it”s a wonder that Brown is competing as well as they are in the league this year.

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Game Preview: Penn at Yale

Zack Rosen has been unstoppable this year. The way Yale's backcourt has struggled, the Bulldogs have their work cut out for them Friday night at home. (Photo Credit: pennathletics.com)

This game contains the weekend's biggest title implications. Of course, a loss would be less dire for undefeated Penn, as the Quakers would still technically control their own destiny with a loss, but I think even the most optimistic of Penn fans are seeing a Harvard season sweep as a significant long shot.

Given the heightened significance of this game, this one should be really fun to watch. Yale’s guard play this last weekend was highly inconsistent, and the turnover bug bit the Bulldogs about as badly as I’ve ever seen (ignoring Jake Delhomme’s 6 turnover playoff performance 4 years ago) in both games, resulting in 41 giveaways on the weekend. The Bulldogs have to feel fortunate to have come away with even the one win. I’m really interested to see if the Yale backcourt can rise to the occasion, particularly given the fatigue factor of the dozens of suicides they were likely required to run in practice this week.

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