As finals loom over campus this week, the Quakers have a midterm scheduled for Saturday at the Palestra.
Thus far, the season has not gone the way the Red and Blue would have preferred, with many close losses, and for the most part, their grades reflect that.
Due to low scores in rebounding, assist-to-turnover ratio and personal fouls, the Quakers rank at the bottom of their Ivy League class.
Penn averages 23 fouls per game, but at least Dartmouth, with 22.8 fouls per contest, is there to keep them company in the basement of the Ancient Eight. After all, when you fail a test, you’d want other people to have failed it as well.
The Quakers can’t take as much solace when it comes to turnovers, though, as on average they cough the ball up almost two times more than any other Ivy League team.
Still, the Red and Blue knew going into the semester that this course would be backloaded. Coach Jerome Allen reminds the media quite often that, as long as the Quakers have righted those issues by the time the Ivy slate comes around, Penn will be fine.
With the other Ivy programs working through kinks of their own, it’s not clear yet whether an A is in reach.
This weekend’s game against Villanova is another one of those tests that doesn’t make up a large portion of the team’s final grade but still should be taken seriously.
If the Quakers want to be confident once the Ivy season is in full swing, it starts against Villanova, and the signs point in Penn’s favor.
Sure, let’s get it out there: Villanova has won this Big 5 contest the last nine times. But never has a Villanova team looked so vulnerable. Its performance Wednesday night against Temple, which included 20 turnovers, was just the latest in a long string of disappointing outings, the worst of which was a 75-57 loss to Columbia two weeks ago.
The Wildcats turn over the ball just as much as Penn, get fewer assists and don’t have a player to turn to in crunch time.
In addition, the Palestra will reportedly be a packed house on Saturday. While it is unclear how many fans Villanova will bring — and it very well may be a lot — the Quakers will either get pumped up by their own fans or by the fact that ’Nova Nation has invaded the Quakers’ house.
Even though a win wouldn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, beating a Big East opponent, especially one that has dominated the Quakers in recent years, could be the kind of victory that gives Penn the jump-start it needs looking forward to their Ivy schedule.
Many of the mistakes that the Quakers have made are signs of youth, and as freshman Tony Hicks has shown recently, the second each player simply starts allowing the game to come to them, the mistakes begin to dissipate.
A win against Villanova would give the Red and Blue some much-needed swagger going forward.
But unlike the do-or-die situation most students are in right now, if the Red and Blue get a bad score on this test, it won’t be their last chance to bounce back.
JOHN PHILLIPS is a junior English major from Philadelphia. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.