Steele | Penn’s season doesn’t stack up to fellow Big 5 members
March 20, 2013, 10:07 pm·
The Quakers’ repeated shortcomings in games over the past five months are well-documented. But it is impossible, at least for the time being, to shake the disappointment that spawned from a team that finished 9-22 overall.
There are a number of ways to capture just how disheartening Penn’s lackluster play was throughout the 2012-13 campaign.
The Quakers finished below .500 in the Ivy League for the first time since 2009-10. They won a mere three non-conference games, failed to pick up a victory at the NIT Season Tip-Off and managed to win exactly once over a 14 game stretch from Nov. 12 until Jan. 12.
But perhaps what best illustrates Penn’s lack of success this season is the way it failed to stack up to its rivals within the Big 5.
With all due respect to Penn’s Ancient Eight opponents, the most intriguing and challenging games on the Quakers’ schedule are consistently St. Joseph’s, Villanova, La Salle and Temple.
The Quakers finished 0-4 in the Big 5 this season, with losses to the latter three teams coming by a combined 37 points.
Penn’s Big 5 opponents finished with a combined 82-45 regular season record this year.
It’s no surprise that Villanova, La Salle and Temple, three of Penn’s toughest 2012-13 matchups, made the NCAA tournament.
After a rough start to its season, Villanova finished the season hot, scoring three upsets against teams ranked in the top five at the time. Temple also knocked off a premier opponent when it beat then-No. 3 Syracuse at Madison Square Garden in December.
La Salle continued its program’s ascension under Dr. John Giannini in 2012-13. After compiling a 21-13 record a season ago, the Explorers finished tied for third in the Atlantic 10, clinching their first NCAA tournament berth since 1992.
Even St. Joseph’s finished above .500, managing to handle the Red and Blue in an easy 20-point victory en route to an NIT bid.
So as the Quakers and coach Jerome Allen sit back and watch the NCAA tournament unfold over the next few weeks, it’s more than likely that they will see some familiar faces on the screen. Hopefully, they’ll all take note of what they’re seeing — teams from Philadelphia, just like Penn, who have found big-time success.
It’s true that as Penn’s season came to an end, freshmen like Tony Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry showed signs of progress in Ivy play moving forward, giving fans optimism heading into next season.
But if the Red and Blue truly want to capitalize on their opportunity to improve in 2013-14, they need to think bigger than Harvard and Princeton, or anyone else in the Ivy League for that matter.
When a program has a winning tradition like Penn basketball, that program needs to set its goal for success higher than what amounts to beating Brown and Dartmouth every season.
So the Red and Blue must be judged first or foremost in comparison with its Big 5 foes.
And if three teams from the Big 5 can put themselves in position to bust a few brackets, all eyes need to be on the Big 5 going forward for Penn basketball.
RILEY STEELE is a College freshman from Dorado, Puerto Rico, and is an associate sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at email@example.com.