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When it comes down to which Ivy League team is in fact headed to the Big Dance every year, the answer is one of two options -- Penn or Princeton.

The Quakers or the Tigers have represented the Ivy League at the NCAA tournament in 32 of the last 34 years.

But getting to the tournament is just one step -- and it's very rare for any Ivy League team to make it past that point.

Since 1982, the Red and the Blue have only made it past the opening round of the Tourney once -- in 1994, the Quakers defeated Nebraska as a No. 11 seed, 90-80.

Last season, it seemed that the trend might be broken when a hot Penn squad -- who stormed back late in the season to capture the Ivy title -- headed to Pittsburgh to take on the Golden Bears of California.

But the Quakers' season, which was up and down to say the least, ended on a low note in a 82-75 loss at the hands of No. 6 seed Cal.

In the first half of play, the Red and Blue stuck with the Golden Bears, burying five three-pointers, which helped to keep pace. Then-sophomore Jeff Schiffner contributed three of those buckets from behind the arc, but fell silent for much of the rest of the game.

Penn kept it close throughout the majority of the first half, but with less than ten minutes to go, the Bears went on a 10-0 run that turned their four point deficit into a six point lead.

Before heading to the locker room, Penn had a final chance to bring the game within four before the break. But Cal guard A.J. Diggs stole the ball from Penn's David Klatsky and ran the ball down for an easy layup, extending the Bears' lead to eight. The play not only extended Cal's lead, it swung the momentum out of Penn's hands.

"That was a huge play that gave us momentum and distance," Cal coach Ben Braun said at the time. "There's a big difference between a six-point lead and an eight-point lead. It made the climb for Penn a little bit harder."

Due to foul trouble and streaky shooting, Penn failed to pull off a serious comeback and eventually fell to the Golden Bears, 82-75.

In 2000, the Quakers traveled to Winston-Salem, N.C., to take on Illinois. That year, the Red and Blue got that much closer to a first-round victory and NCAA glory, with the help of Penn center Geoff Owens and point guard Michael Jordan.

Fourth-seeded Illinois won by a final score of 68-58, but the margin seemed much closer in the waning minutes of the matchup.

Once again, foul trouble plagued the Penn squad, as both Owens and Jordan were forced to sit out crucial minutes due to early fouls.

Although, in an oddly similar situation, the Red and Blue were able to jump out to an early lead, but shortly later the Fighting Illini went on a 16-0 run that put Penn down for the remainder of the game. The Quakers managed to stick with the Illini, but as Penn's points increased, so did their fouls.

"We had a number of opportunities in the second half, but we missed a couple of easy chances at that," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said after the game. "Against a team like Illinois that will hurt you badly."

In 1999, the Quakers flew to Seattle, Wash., where they faced off against Florida, a possible contender in this year's tourney.

However, Penn was unable to mount a legitimate effort against the Gators, ultimately losing 75-61.

The Quakers are obviously looking to break the trend of first-round defeats this week against Oklahoma State and they have a decent chance -- but it might be wise to learn from past mistakes.

Holding on to early leads and staying out of foul trouble may be crucial in a Penn victory.

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