The clock is ticking on Jerome Allen.
Penn basketball is 3-8 this season, a subpar record in its own right. But more importantly, the squad is 0-1 in conference. That’s where the games truly matter and starting out 2015 with yet another loss to Princeton is bad news for the Red and Blue, especially with a second half collapse like that seen on Saturday.
After all, it’s not like this season is different from the last two.
2012-13 began with a 2-13 start and the Quakers stumbled to 6-8 in conference. Penn started 2-11 in 2013-14 before the Quakers beat Princeton for just the second time under Allen. However, that win was an exception – not the rule – for the Red and Blue's season, as the squad went 5-9 in conference.
And when was the last time a Penn coach finished under .500 in Ivy League play in two consecutive years before that?
After a half season as interim coach, Allen was faced with the unenviable task of rebuilding a program that had finished in the bottom half of the league in consecutive seasons.
And for two years, he seemed likely to bring Penn back to the promised land of the NCAA Tournament with Harvard narrowly holding off the second-place Quakers for the Ivy title in Allen’s second full season.
But the past two seasons haven’t gone nearly as smoothly. This year’s squad is much different than last season, with 10 players leaving the program due to either graduation or other reasons. With that in mind, expectations are certainly much lower for this team than in years past (the 2013-14 team was picked to finish second in the Ivy League Preseason Media Poll).
Even with the loss to Princeton, it isn’t hard to see progress being made this season, including the squad’s first three-game win streak in three years.
On top of that, Penn has a fine recruiting class coming in next season to join a group that has won a combined four Ivy League Rookie of the Week awards already. And the team will still have current starters Tony Hicks, Darien Nelson-Henry and Matt Howard for 2015-16.
But at a point, progress will mean more than a few nonconference wins or awards handed out via a conference press release. Progress needs to be defined by winning.
Winning isn’t just outscoring your opponents — although that is pretty essential. It’s about outplaying your opponents. Outhustling your opponents. Outcoaching your opponents.
For three straight years, it appears that other Ivy League squads are better suited to win than Penn. Columbia has progressed like any underclassmen-heavy squad would. Harvard is still at the top of the league. Yale has become less reliant on Justin Sears alone and brings a more well-rounded core to the court.
Even Cornell and Brown are finding ways to win games despite their leading scorers from a year ago having left the program or graduated.
And with those squads all finding ways to make progress and compete for position in the Ancient Eight, it becomes essential that Penn defeat Princeton, its chief rival as well as a young squad that is ripe (or more ripe than other Ivy squads) for the picking.
But the Quakers couldn’t do that on Saturday. They lost at Princeton again, letting a 15-point lead slip away despite 18 points apiece from the team’s junior stars in Hicks and Nelson-Henry.
It seemed to follow the same formula of the last two seasons as well. The team relied on Hicks at the end, yet he couldn’t get a clutch shot to fall while the team’s foul trouble came back to bite the Quakers. You won’t win many games when your opponent shoots 29 more free throws than you.
When this season comes to a close after Penn’s second meeting with Princeton, everyone will have a clearer picture of the Red and Blue. Fans, alums, donors and, most importantly, Athletic Director Grace Calhoun will be able to see if the Quakers have finally made progress after three years of bumps in the road.
But with that 0-1 start to Ivy play and a three-game losing streak to boot, things are trending in the wrong direction, placing Jerome Allen squarely on the hot seat
Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.