They could have had it all.
At 3-0 in the Ivy League after a win over Princeton last Monday, the Penn men’s basketball team was a weekend sweep away from entering the Harvard game undefeated.
Walking from the Palestra last week, senior guard Zack Rosen said this time of year — when Ivy play is just beginning and his team can control its own outcome — is his favorite time of year.
And that was before Princeton.
After the game, Rosen didn’t feel much differently. To him, 3-0 is not much more significant than 2-0. It’s just another hurdle along the way to his goal of finally bringing home an Ivy title.
By now, though, the Quakers’ mantra, “We want to win one game 14 times,” has been drilled into most everyone’s head.
But at Yale, the Red and Blue could not get over a 6-foot-10 hurdle named Greg Mangano, and they stumbled. The next day, they got back up.
Mathematically, it is still entirely possible for Penn to contend for a championship.
It rests, almost entirely, in the hands of the Quakers.
An upset over Harvard would send the Crimson to Princeton with a tick in the ‘L’ column, equaling Penn’s loss.
Of course, a win in Boston also wouldn’t hurt the Quakers’ chances.
And despite Penn’s drubbing of the Tigers last week and Harvard’s 30-point rout of Yale, neither team can be counted out to upset the Crimson. In fact, all it would take for any Ivy team to knock off Harvard would be an off-game by forwards Keith Wright or Kyle Casey.
Given that the Red and Blue are still very much in control of their fate, they won’t count on any other Ancient Eight squad to do the job for them.
In Rosen’s eyes, it’s still the greatest time of year.
This weekend, it gets a little tougher. Harvard, though certainly a beatable team, is in a class of its own atop the Ivies.
Offensively, the Crimson and the Quakers are nearly identical, and Penn averages two more points per game than Harvard.
But defensively, and in areas which cannot be described by statistics, Harvard has the edge.
Friday’s loss to Yale forced the Quakers to take a step back and reassess their approach. They came out strong against an injury-laden Brown team and never looked back.
If Penn continues to look ahead — just to Friday, that is — it could use this weekend to its advantage. Against Mangano, the Quakers’ defense figured out what worked and what didn’t. The easy baskets Rob Belcore gave up in the paint at the beginning of the first half against Brown will fuel the Red and Blue all week.
Penn must take what they learned and move forward.
Even with one loss, they could still have it all.
MEGAN SOISSON is a junior Health and Societies major from Mechanicsburg, Pa., and is Senior Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. Her email address is Soisson@theDP.com.