T here used to be a time when Harvard and Dartmouth would come to the Palestra and Penn basketball would have an easy sweep.
But times have changed.
And while Penn still took care of the Big Green on Saturday, Friday night was a clear display of a new hierarchy in the Ivy League: Harvard ... and everyone else. And Penn needs to find a way to catch up.
The Crimson dominated every phase of Friday’s game, taking down the Quakers through a suffocating defense with pinpoint awareness and turning Penn’s mistakes into fastbreak opportunities with gusto.
Sophomore guard Siyani Chambers acted as the ringleader for Harvard’s transition attack, using his trademark quickness to burst past Penn’s guards on the open floor while finding his teammates for easy points.
And the Crimson didn’t stop with a 20-point win over Penn. One day later, they did something they hadn’t done in 25 years: beat Princeton on the road, shaking off a slow start to handily defeat the Tigers at Jadwin Gymnasium.
With that weekend sweep, Harvard won all four of its games against Princeton and Penn this year, a first in program history.
The sweep also shows that the days of the Tigers and Quakers thoroughly dominating the Ivy League are long gone. And the reign of Penn and Princeton, which included 51 combined Ivy titles between the two schools, has now given way to the rule of Harvard and coach Tommy Amaker .
“They clearly have made their mark in our conference through the years,” Amaker said of the two rivals. “You applaud that, you recognize the tradition that both of those schools and those programs have, and I am pleased with our ability to become relevant, to be a factor in our conference, to be consistent now.”
Consistency is the name of the game now for Harvard. The Crimson are in the driver’s seat to win their third straight outright Ivy title, and could very well follow up last year’s NCAA Tournament win with another this March.
Where does this leave Penn (and, to a lesser extent, Princeton)?
Let’s ignore Penn’s history. Sure, we all love to talk about the program that has produced a Final Four team among many other impressive runs and 25 Ivy League titles.
But history doesn’t matter right now. Watching Harvard roll past Penn for 40 minutes, it was clear that the Crimson are far ahead of the once-dominant Quakers.
So now the Red and Blue need to find a way to compete against Harvard and an improving Ivy League.
And it starts with recruiting. Looking at the Crimson roster, it isn’t any one recruiting class. When you look at every recruiting class for Amaker, his team has found a significant role player, whether it be senior Laurent Rivard , junior Wes Saunders or a sophomore like Chambers.
Harvard also turned the Ancient Eight on its head by getting a top-100 recruit in freshman Zena Edosomwan , getting the caliber of blue-chip talent that other Ivy teams can only dream about getting.
But outside of recruiting, the Quakers also need to follow Harvard’s blueprint to becoming a disciplined squad that plays an unselfish brand of basketball.
The Crimson limited themselves to just eight turnovers on Friday while capitalizing on Penn’s 21 turnovers to extend their lead and finish off the Quakers.
As he reminds the media at every press conference, Penn coach Jerome Allen is responsible for righting the ship.
But whether or not Penn gets back on the right track, Harvard is here to stay and ultimately is the new benchmark for the rest of the Ancient Eight.
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