Hey Quakers. We really appreciate it when you try and be like us. No, we really do. You stole Steve Dolan from us to be your head track coach. You stole Amy Gutmann from us to be your president. You hired one of your own alumni in Jerome Allen to be your basketball coach, just like we did. So last year, when you needed to win your regular season basketball finale to force a one game playoff with Harvard for a berth in the NCAA tournament and a share of the Ivy League, we were impressed. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Of course, in order for the flattery to work, you actually have to pull it off. Of course, it did not help that the team that was standing in your way was a certain old friend, the team you were trying to imitate. Of course, you lost 62-52 at Jadwin Gymnasium. Of course, you weren’t able to replicate what the Tigers did two years ago, taking down Penn, 70-58, in a must-win game on the road, and eventually winning the Ivy playoff game against Harvard with a buzzer-beater.
Of course, Penn simply can’t match Princeton in basketball. Kobe Bryant even got the Lakers to adopt the “Princeton Offense” this fall (and although it was criticized at the time, how has L.A. done since getting rid of it?). When was the last time you heard of the “Penn Offense?” That’s because backdoor cuts and easy layups work a little better than committing three turnovers before even reaching halfcourt.
When was the last time Penn won a game at Jadwin Gymnasium? If you’re a student reading this, you won’t remember, as it hasn’t happened since an overtime squeaker in February 2009. (And three-quarters of you won’t even remember the last time any Ivy League team has emerged happily from Jadwin, where the Tigers have won 17 straight conference games.)
That is unlikely to change this year. The Quakers are limping into their Ivy season with a 2-12 record, having beaten terrors UMBC (with a record of 3-13) and Binghamton (2-14). Princeton was picked to finish first in the Ivy League and has the presumptive Player of the Year in Ian Hummer; the Quakers, according to Ken Pomeroy, will be underdogs against NJIT, which has never had a winning record in Division I.
Penn’s problems are not limited to the court — Allen suspended five of his key players for a game against Delaware on Dec. 21 for a violation of team rules, reportedly due to alcohol violations. What is this, high school? Next you’ll tell us Miles Cartwright got sent to the principal’s office for throwing spitballs in art class.
Princeton has no problem playing in the big leagues. The Tigers earned 10 Ivy League titles last year, while the the Quakers had two. Princeton has won four national titles this calendar year, including two team titles, a CSA title in men’s squash and a NCAA title in field hockey. The last time Penn won a national team title was in 2000, in women’s squash. The last time Penn won a NCAA team title was in 1986, in women’s fencing. Sorry, Quakers fans. You just can’t compete.
As an added bonus, Saturday’s game will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network, so Princeton and Penn alumni around the globe can enjoy the rivalry (though, let’s face it, Tiger fans will be more interested to see their team face Harvard next month). They’ll get to see this year’s conference season begin the way Ivy League play ended in 2012 … and 2011 … and 2010: with a Princeton victory.
SHAYAN RAKHIT and KEVIN WHITAKER are the sports editors of The Daily Princetonian. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org