NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Maybe this team isn’t as good as we once thought it was.
We’ve seen what they’re capable of: beating Power Five Miami (Fla.), alongside then-No. 17 Villanova and the rest of the Big 5. But we’ve also seen what they’re capable of on the other end of the spectrum: games like the home loss to Monmouth and the pair of Princeton losses.
After a 78-65 loss to Yale (15-4, 5-1 Ivy) that simultaneously seemed much closer than the score indicated and felt like it was over long before the final buzzer, I’m leaning towards their true talent level being closer to that worse team.
There have been too many poor shooting games for it to be a coincidence. You can’t get unlucky this frequently. At some point it stops being an off night and starts being the norm.
The loss against Yale was the sixth game this season the Quakers (14-8, 2-4) have shot below 40 percent from the field; all six games have been losses. It was the seventh game they’ve shot below 30 percent from deep; six have been losses. You can’t shoot that poorly that often and expect to win League games.
The passing and ball movement that were on full display against Brown were there against Yale as well. The open looks were there. The chances to claw their way back into the game were there. And the Quakers just couldn’t capitalize.
Maybe we’ve underestimated the defensive abilities of the other Ancient Eight teams. The Bulldogs made AJ Brodeur fight for every single one of his points. He had 14, but they came on 14 shots. The shots near the basket that he’s so good at getting separation on weren’t there that often, and even when they were, they weren’t falling.
The pair of freshmen that have been so crucial to the team’s success this year also struggled mightily against the Elis. Bryce Washington and Michael Wang combined to shoot 4-for-26 from the field, including 2-for-15 from three. You can’t win when two of your top five scorers play like that.
Maybe it was nerves, or playing in what was probably the most hostile environment the Quakers have seen in Ivy play so far, or fatigue from the back-to-back. Maybe Yale was successful in forcing Penn to play at a much more frantic pace than it’s used to, and that threw the Quakers off. Or maybe Yale is just that good. All I know is that it’s not the first time I’ve watched a Penn game this year and walked away from it disappointed in how the Quakers played.
I’ve been wrong about this before at about this point in the season. And while I’m not ready to pronounce this team done, I’ve become a lot more realistic in my expectations for them. I know they have the ability to play like they did against Brown, but I just don’t think they can do it on a consistent basis.
As the standings sit now, the Quakers are two games out of a playoff spot. They’ve got their work cut out for them, even though they finish the season with six out of eight games at home. At the start of the year, I would have confidently said they’d be able to win six or seven of those games and get into the playoffs.
Now, I’m not so sure.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.