Penn is having deja vu all over again.
Two years ago, the Quakers beat Princeton on the road to clinch the Ivy League title and then traveled to College Park, Md., to face Texas. This year, the story is nearly identical, with Penn (24-4, 13-1 Ivy) set to travel to the University of Maryland again this weekend, though the Red and Blue earned a 10-seed and the chance to play seventh-seeded Washington in 2016.
“It’s the culmination of a great season,” coach Mike McLaughlin said after the announcement.
“The number [doesn’t] matter when you start the game, but the recognition of having an RPI of 26, it’s great as the regular season is now over to say, ‘That was pretty good work.’ It’s a credit to this group.”
The No. 10 seed is the highest the Quakers have received in program history, previously earning 15-seeds in 2001 and 2004 along with a 12-seed in 2014. Penn is still seeking the first NCAA Tournament win in program history, and Saturday’s game will provide the Red and Blue their best opportunity yet.
The Huskies (22-10, 11-7 Pac-12) ranked as high as No. 24 earlier this season, but currently rank below the Quakers in RPI. The team is led by second team All-American guard Kelsey Plum, who ranked third in the nation with 26.2 points per game this season. This will be the first-ever contest between the two programs from opposite coasts.
It’s interesting to note the geography of the contest relative to Penn and Washington, as the Quakers will essentially have what amounts to a home game in relatively local Maryland.
“We’re excited, hopefully we’ll get a good crowd out there. It’s an ideal location,” junior center Sydney Stipanovich said.
Penn will look to build off of its last contest in College Park, where the team fell to fifth-seeded Texas despite building a 15-point first half lead and taking a seven-point lead into halftime.
“I still look back at it and look at the pictures, playing at Maryland with such a huge crowd, it’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget,” Stipanovich added. “I’m looking forward to going there with this team too. We’re going to enjoy the moment.”
If Penn manages a win — which ESPN-affiliated blog FiveThirtyEight gives the Quakers a 36 percent chance of doing — McLaughlin’s squad will likely find themselves facing second-seeded Maryland, which ended Princeton’s tournament run a year ago. The Terps are currently ranked No. 5 in the nation and finished the regular season 30-3 en route to the Big Ten conference title.
However, Selection Monday wasn’t just historic for the Quakers, but instead for the entire Ivy League, as Princeton landed the conference’s first at-large bid. The Tigers (23-5, 12-2) earned an 11-seed and will face sixth-seeded West Virginia in the first round — where FiveThirtyEight again gave an Ivy contestant a 36% chance of victory.
“It’s great for Princeton. It shows that the league has gotten so strong,” McLaughlin said. “I’m glad that Princeton got rewarded. [...] It’s great for our league. It shows this league is for real.”
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