Penn basketball – undeniably better this year

So far I believe most Penn hoops fans should be encouraged. There are many positives to take away from this young season both from within the team and from the status (bad) of the Ivy League. So let’s take a peek at them both, shall we?

The Positives:

The Quakers have institutional growth from last season. Incremental to be sure, but growth nonetheless. They are undeniably better. Their movement without the ball has been great, the scoring is more balanced, fouls and turnovers are down, there is finally some defense and the team has most importantly shown grit. Eleven points down against Navy three years ago and we would have been finished. This year, the team stormed back before eventually losing. They do not quit. The contest at Central Connecticut State was one of the best games I have seen the Quakers play  since the Fran Dunphy years. These are all encouraging signs showing that coach Steve Donahue is putting his stamp on the program.

In terms of personnel, I think it is safe to say A.J. Brodeur is the real deal. He already seems more competent than Darien Nelson-Henry was as a senior. He doesn’t play like a freshman whatsoever. The transfers Matt MacDonald and, especially Caleb Wood, are providing much needed firepower and leadership. Finally, Matt Howard, the lone starting refugee from the Jerome Allen years, remains as dependable as always.

This all bodes well so far as the League overall looks much weaker than anticipated. Harvard is a mess, Princeton is delightfully underachieving, and the rest are all a big fat “meh.”  The only bright spot is Yale, which seems to be playing at a relatively high level. Thus the Quakers, I think, should definitely be in the thick of the Tournament race.  Nice.

Finally, all of their games so far have been on the road and a 2-2 record (predicted by me), is not terrible for a rebuilding team.

The Negatives:

The Quakers are young and thin, both literally and figuratively. They don’t have much of a dependable or experienced bench and there is no one that can adequately replace Brodeur when he is tired or in foul trouble. Bigger teams (Miami) will give them trouble and force them to take the outside shot.

Which brings me to my next issue which is the shooting, though improved, can be streaky. Jackson Donahue has underachieved in this category and has thus has been a bit of a liability as of late. MacDonald also is a better shooter than he has displayed so far.  If the team as whole can put a solid shooting performance together on the same night, the Quakers will be a tough out. This of course may be their only hope against Villanova.

It is very unusual for an Ivy squad to host the National Champions however next week the Quakers, for the first time in 31 years, get their chance.  I suppose a blow out by the “Cats” is what most are anticipating, but a full Palestra and a Big 5 matchup can bring out the strange in both squads.  We’ll see. In addition, with this home game Penn will begin the second most difficult home schedule in the nation. Therefore, my hopes are appropriately tempered for the month of December.

Regardless, I am encouraged by the team in general. At present they are winning the games they should win (perhaps Navy is an exception), and losing those they should lose. This consistency is demonstrative of good coaching. Remember the famous “I don’t know who we are” quote from Allen?  I do not suspect Steve Donahue will be saying that anytime soon. SD knows what his charges can do and what they cannot and is clearly working hard to rectify their flaws. The Quakers are currently 183 in the Ken Pomeroy ranking, the fourth-highest Ivy (Harvard is a pleasurable 168).  The team will indeed have a bunch more losses before the Princeton game, but that is to be expected. (I just don’t understand those fans who seem to think that Penn, during the “good ol’ days” prior to 2007, never lost a game. They lost. Trust me, I was there.) Still, all that matters is the Ivy schedule in which I think, barring injury, the Quakers will have adequately matured and will be competitive.

Ya know, I think they’ll be okay.

I believe in Steve.

Stay Red and Blue my friends.

6 thoughts on “Penn basketball – undeniably better this year”

    • I appreciate the optimism, TT. While these two have been an upgrade over the latter part of last season, it is hard to put them in the same class of former Ivy League POYs Matt Maloney (’92 – ’95; transferred from Vanderbilt) and Ira Bowman (’94 – ’96; transferred from Providence).

  1. Agreed that Penn is definitely improving.

    Brodeur is playing really well. If he continues his excellent play, hopefully, opposing announcers will learn to pronounce his name correctly.

    The three pointers are better, as well (39% overall and 9.5 a game). However, Jackson Donahue will need to get things going, since he is hitting threes at 26% and takes the most three-pointers on the team.

    The FG defense is getting better and they are holding their own on the boards.

    A major concern, though, involves free throws. Penn is averaging 13.8 attempts a game, and only makes 8.0 (58%). Both of these are among the lowest in Division 1. Its opponents are averaging 21.2 attempts a game, and are making 15.0 a game. In Sunday’s two point loss at Navy, Penn went 4-6, while the Midshipmen went 15-22.

    The loss at Navy, while lessened by the team’s second half comeback, was difficult since the Blue and Gold have similar rankings of several lower division IL teams. Over the last few seasons, Penn has had trouble winning on the road against these teams. If they want to secure a fourth place finish this season, then they will need to keep up its positives, while improving its FT shooting and narrowing the significant gap.

    • “Brodeur is playing really well. If he continues his excellent play, hopefully, opposing announcers will learn to pronounce his name correctly.”

      Brodeur — as in MOTOR.

      Thank you.

      AJ’s Dad


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