This Penn men’s basketball season has aged me far more than it should have. Everything about it was nerve-wracking and emotional and anxiety inducing. Every emotion felt like a stab to the heart. I haven’t breathed since February.
The highs and lows are well documented, so I won’t run through them again. Certain champions turned into hopeless losers over the span of about a month. The happy medium was there all along, staring us in the face: In any balanced league where half the teams make the playoffs, under most circumstances, all you need is to be .500. That’s just math.
A 7-7 record gets the Quakers into the Ivy League Men’s Basketball Tournament. It’s official.
The only obstacle left is a 7-6 Brown team they beat earlier in the season by double-digits.
In a year when the Ivy League decided to move the Tournament away from the Palestra to give the other seven ratty Ivy gyms a turn, Penn men’s basketball claimed a tournament game anyway. In 2019, there will be a five-team Ivy Tournament.
Game one of this week-long event is Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Cathedral of College Basketball. Winner moves on. Loser goes home.
It is, of course, unfortunate that spring break had to be now. Seemingly every year, Penn’s most important games come on breaks: Princeton twice this year and last, last season’s Ivy Tournament, and now this. When the team needs the energy of the crowd the most, the schedule doesn’t allow it. Frankly, that sucks.
But if you aren’t excited for this game, check your pulse. What more can you ask for: home court in what could be the most meaningful basketball game the Palestra will host in the foreseeable future.
If you happen to be within 50 miles of campus as spring break winds to a close, your butt needs to be in a seat. Scratch that — don’t sit.
If you’ve never been, now is your chance. If you don’t have anyone to go with, here’s a tip: Everyone in red and blue is a friend. Don’t stay home and have regrets when something historic happens. Your team needs you. Go.
Never watched basketball? No problem, here’s a run-down.
Cheer for the people with Penn written on their shirts. Ball in hoop: good. Number 25 — that’s AJ Brodeur — is probably the best player; he’ll have something close to 20 points and 10 rebounds by the time he leaves the court. Watch out for number 12, Devon Goodman, too: He’s the fastest guy out there. And don’t forget the seniors. Whether its number two, three, or five (Antonio Woods, Jake Silpe, and Jackson Donahue): One of them will light it up from distance.
As for the bad guys, they’ll be wearing brown. Desmond Cambridge is a scary good player, but Penn’s guards (it’ll be Goodman and Woods for most of the night) will shut him down, just like they did Yale’s Miye Oni.
Want to know what to expect?
Penn, energized by the home fans (that’s you!) and the momentum of knocking off Yale, will run out to an early lead. Maybe five, maybe 10 points. Cambridge and the Bears will storm right back, and it will be tight all the way into the half. The refs will inevitably blow a few calls: Probably at least one will be a charge/block call on Max Rothschild.
After a tense halftime, both teams will trade blows. Brown might even take the lead for a little bit. But with around seven or nine minutes to play, Brodeur will hit a few of his trademark hook shots, Woods will hit a deep three, and Goodman will get an acrobatic and-one circus shot to fall in traffic. All of a sudden, Penn is up by a few possessions. Cambridge will hit his circus shots too, but the Quakers will make their foul shots late and finally close out a tight game in the Ivy League and extend their season.
They have no choice. Anything less means an offseason of what-ifs and punishing conditioning workouts that start two weeks early.
Make the pilgrimage to the Palestra and help cheer this team’s fate into existence. There’s one final 40-minute rollercoaster to end a season full of them. Be there.
THEODOROS PAPAZEKOS is a College junior from Pittsburgh and Senior Sports Editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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