Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we’ve all been waiting for has arrived: basketball season.
First up, the men. On Saturday, Penn men’s basketball team will open the season on the road at Fairfield University before returning to the Palestra for Monday's meeting with Big 5 foe La Salle.
By now you’ve heard the story of last year’s team – probably a few times. If anyone has cause to be annoyed it’s the players themselves, but newly minted senior captain Darnell Foreman said he isn’t tired of it.
“We more or less don’t want to get rid of that whole 0-6 [narrative], because that’s what made us a team. Any type of tough time would help the team get better,” Foreman said.
In that case, one more retelling couldn’t hurt.
After a rough start to Ivy play, the 2016-17 edition of the Quakers found themselves winless in the conference and in last place in early February. Most people wrote them off; few suspected the Red and Blue could pull off a comeback. Long story short, they did. Penn rattled off five straight wins on the way to a 6-2 finish and a berth in the conference playoffs.
Not that Penn worries all that much about the media narrative either. The media poll might have pegged the Red and Blue in fourth, but as with every season, every team in the country has a clean slate. There is plenty of time to write their own narrative.
“It’s been no reaction [to the media], because honestly, we don’t spend too much time thinking about polls or what people think,” Foreman said. “We’re as confident as ever in our squad and the guys in our locker room to get it done as long as we apply ourselves the right way.”
Last season, coach Steve Donahue’s lineups varied early on as players tried to establish their roles in the program. Now, after the success of the back half of the conference slate, Donahue thinks his lineup is more fleshed out.
“I mean right now we’re pretty set on Darnell, Antonio [Woods], Ryan [Betley], AJ [Brodeur], and Max [Rothschild],” Donahue said. “Guys are fighting. Jackson Donahue is someone that definitely will have a role. There’s got to be a back-up big: I’m thrilled with Jarrod Simmons and Eddie Scott, they’re going to be part of what we’re doing for sure.”
Donahue proceeded to name almost everyone on the roster, specifically pointing out the large role sophomore guard Devon Goodman has earned. If Donahue’s analysis of his team remains true, as many as 12 Quakers will regularly see the floor this season.
As for Fairfield, Penn’s growth since last February should be troubling. The Quakers defeated the Stags in last year’s matchup at the Palestra, and they have only improved since then.
“[Fairfield] played really fast. The last game I thought we had to really do a good job in transition defense; setting up the defense quickly. They move the ball. They have probably one of the best scorers we’re going to play against in Tyler Nelson. They have a good offensive basketball team,” Donahue said.
Fairfield’s Nelson enters his senior year on pace to become the programs all-time leading scorer. Assuming Penn can slow him, at least to the extent possible (last year Nelson scored 21 points against the Quakers), the season should get off on the right foot.
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