Not too many Big 12 coaches know much about the Ivy League.
The conference's dozen teams played a total of four games against the Ancient Eight this season. Not surprisingly, the midwesterners are 4-0 in those games, all of which were played before the first week of January.
So how much does Texas coach Rick Barnes know about his team's first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament?
"They're going to play ... extremely hard," Barnes said of 15th-seeded Penn. "You might look at them and think that they're not the most athletic team; I think they're probably more athletic than people think."
Although he didn't say it, it would be a stretch to claim that the Quakers are on the same plane athletically as the second-seeded Longhorns, who were ranked No. 9 in Monday's poll.
But Barnes is not ready to take anything for granted.
"We know that when you get here, you're not playing this time of year if you're not a good basketball team," he said. "We'll come into that game knowing that we're going to have to play good basketball."
There was also plenty of praise for the Quakers' Ivy League Player of the Year, Ibrahim Jaaber.
"I understand that they do have a terrific guard who can play anywhere at any level."
Outside of Jaaber, Barnes chalked up Penn's "smart" brand of basketball as its biggest strength.
"I think they're very intelligent," he said. "They do a good job of driving the ball and getting you to help and then kicking the ball out. I think they do a really nice job of going inside. Somewhere I think people underestimate them is [in] getting second chances."
Penn coach Fran Dunphy, however, isn't ready to say that the Ivy League's academic reputation translates so easily to the hardwood.
"Sometimes we get the label of playing smart basketball," Dunphy said. "Sometimes we don't always play smart basketball. We probably have high IQs in the classroom -- I don't know how many high IQ guys we have on the basketball court. I think it's a separate deal.
"You have to have a feel for the game. You have to know where the ball is going to be next, and we don't always do that."
Barnes and Dunphy are no strangers. Both were assistant coaches in the Washington area in the early 1980s. Dunphy worked the sidelines at American University, while Barnes was at nearby George Mason.
"Fran and I spent a lot of nights together watching summer-league games throughout the D.C. area," he said. "I've got a great deal of respect for him. I've watched him coach over the years. His teams are very intelligent, and they're not going to beat themselves."
Barnes' George Mason team defeated American in both meetings in 1982 and '83.
The coaches have both come a long way since then.
Barnes made his head coaching debut at George Mason in 1987 and posted a 20-10 record. After leaving Mason, he led Providence, Clemson and Texas to the postseason in 16 of 17 seasons. Three years ago, Barnes took the Longhorns to the Final Four, losing to eventual national champion Syracuse.
This year, there's plenty of pressure in Austin to get back to that big stage.
Barnes wants to take it one step at a time.
"You can't allow yourself to get caught up in March Madness," he said. "You can't get caught looking through brackets and trying to figure out what could happen."
Barnes says the worst thing you can do this time of year is play not to lose.
You can bet the other 64 teams in the tournament are thinking the same thing.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.