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.

So what now can we expect from these 2014-15 Quakers?  Not much, I would venture to guess.  Jerome Allen’s squad is mostly young, untested and relatively small in stature. More than three years since Zack Rosen graduated, Penn still lacks a true point guard and has a poor bench. It remains to be seen whether veterans Darien Nelson-Henry and Tony Hicks have improved their games enough to carry the team. Although the incoming freshman class looks relatively solid, there are no blue-chip stars to look out for. Jerome, after misfiring badly on the recruiting trail the last few years (see Tony “light fingers” Bagtas), finally seems to be looking a bit less at raw talent and a bit more at quality student-athletes. Regardless, things remain pretty bad in Quakerland.  The signs of an Empire continuing to crumble are everywhere:

  • Three players parted ways with the program as of last season, one for multiple criminal charges. Say what you want about Harvard’s AI-smashing recruiting standards, there still aren’t any Crimson players behind bars.
  • The upcoming nonconference schedule is the weakest I have ever seen, more befitting Harvard during the pre-Amaker era (or Columbia in the post-Alexander Hamilton).  Delaware State, Wagner, Rider, Lafayette – really? Is this the challenge for one of the most successful programs in NCAA hoops history? This schedule says much more than just rebuilding, it screams survival.
  • Speaking of schedules, you know things are really bad when the Ivy schedule seems far more daunting than your non-conference line up. There are no longer any “easy” games across the Ancient Eight.  The 14-game tournament has in effect become a roundball gauntlet. The overall talent across the league has improved immensely in the last four years. The Quakers, after playing at Princeton, face a powerful Harvard team and then a relentless Dartmouth squad at home.  Penn could easily be out of it by the end of its first full weekend.
  • Jerome failed to recruit his own godson, a four-star player who eventually chose Temple, and his former coach Fran Dunphy, over coming to West Philly. In fact, it appears Penn is continuing to lose the recruiting battle far more often than it is winning it. While the Quaker coaching staff is busy courting the next Lehigh or Holy Cross prospect, Tommy Amaker is sitting in the living rooms with prep stars gunning for Stanford, Vanderbilt and Northwestern. If this is the new Ivy standard, then it seems one must be capable of matching it. Yet, just like Napoleon, it appears that trying to recruit against Harvard is now as perilous as attempting to fight a land war in Asia.
  • The Palestra, that majestic imperial hall, is empty and student apathy is at an all-time high. Long gone are the heady days when the Big 5 was considered a blood sport and when exiting “The Cathedral” you had to wait a full 12 hours before you could regain your hearing. The University blames the lower attendance on the influx of foreign students who don’t care or understand college hoops. Funny, Harvard has no problem drawing sellouts. Don’t they have foreign students too?
  • Finally, the other seven Ivies and Philadelphia Department of Health send letters of thanks to the Penn Athletic Department as they no longer have to keep extra units of plasma in their local blood banks since Henry ”I’ll hack if I want to” Brooks has been released from the team.

Overall, the outlook for the Quakers this season cannot be considered anything else but bleak. The league is too strong and the team is simply too inexperienced.  Amazingly after four years at the helm, it is still unclear whether Jerome Allen can actually coach at the D-1 level. Objectively, his track record is poor. (I say this and please understand that I am a JA fan.)  In addition, last year there were a plethora of puzzling season-ending injuries, disciplinary issues and an astounding lack of player growth, chemistry and grit. Should all of this continue, and there is no reason believe that it will not, a last-place Ivy finish and the fall of Penn Basketball will be complete.

Stay Red and Blue my friends,

The AQ


11 thoughts on “2014-15 Penn Season Preview – Empires Crumble”

  1. Continuing your superpower analogy, is Cornell Portugal (Coach Steve the Navigator at the helm)? A brief run as a power that, with each passing year, seems harder and harder to believe actually happened?

    Not to pile on, but from the outside it is hard to fathom Penn falling to this level. And, it is increasingly clear to this outsider that JA is not a D1 level coach — at least not now. Last season’s Penn/Cornell match-ups looked more pick up games at the Y than top level college hoops.

    • Thank you Eric.

      I think Penn definitely has a shot at the basement as appalling as that seems. They are a Hicks turned ankle away from an RPI in the 752,000 range.

      Cornell, as you might guess, can only be considered the Kardashians of Ivy Hoops History. They don’t even rank. A bizarre, disgusting and noxious historical anomaly never to be repeated again. Coach Steve has as many championships as Kim has husbands. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

      The AQ

      • Hey now, the Kardashians? I understand you’re hurting, but there is no need to lash out. Besides, the Kardashians are showing no signs of going away and Big Red basketball certainly has.

    • The East Coast just isn’t the same without you here. A terrible disturbance in the Northeast Corridor from Hanover to Philly. Almost like thousands of Ivy hoops fans cried out for you and then were suddenly silenced.

      The AQ

  2. Excellent article AQ! Although I think I would probably enjoy it more, if I was not a fellow member of “The Periphery”.

    SI came out with a rank of teams #1-351: http://www.si.com/college-basketball/2014/10/30/college-basketball-preview-teams-ranked . Penn was ranked #240!!!!

    Looking at the schedule, we are only ranked higher than Delaware State (#284), Wagner (#291), Marist (#298), Binghamton (#300), Cornell (#301), and Niagara (#316).

    Pessimist: continue the downward trend at 7- 21 (if we’re lucky)
    Optimist: steal a few Ivy League wins, other than Cornell, and we make it to double digit wins!

    You are right, AQ, the Empire has truly crumbled.

    Hopefully, the good Dr. Calhoun can come to the rescue of the basketball and football programs!

    • In all seriousness, Dr. Calhoun is well aware of the dire situation of Penn Basketball. (For no other reason than I personally told her.) The “brand” has been severely damaged over the last 5 years and the alumni are miserable. I think she will give JA this year to try to succeed. If he cannot, he will be gone. However I think success for him will be a >.500 record which seems completely unattainable for this team as presently constructed. The Quakers do in fact have a talented, if not championship caliber, nucleus that perhaps a more seasoned coach could possibly have overachieve and actually do something. Do I think JA is that guy? No, not at this point in his career. Aside from the Zach Rosen years when it was now clear that Zach was in fact running the team, Jerome’s teams have all been listless, ill-prepared and dysfunctional.

      I still hope he does well, not just for Penn but for himself. He was a great player and appears to be a genuinely good-hearted person. That however, as we have unfortunately seen ,does not necessarily translate into being a good coach.

      As for football, as I mentioned last year with JA being a protege of both Fran Dunphy and HOF coach Larry Brown, “proximity to greatness does not equal greatness”–Colin Cowherd. Priore may also be a good guy, but it remains to be seen whether he can actually replace Bagnoli. Regardless, one disaster at a time please.

      The AQ


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