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The 2019 Wooden Legacy features just one 2019 NCAA Tournament team but four from 2018. Credit: Chase Sutton

This upcoming Thanksgiving, we can all be thankful for friends, family, good health, and Penn men’s basketball.

The schedule for the 2019 Wooden Legacy in Anaheim, Calif. was announced on Thursday with the Quakers set to face Central Florida (UCF) in the first round on Thanksgiving Day. 

UCF is coming off of a strong season in which they finished fourth in the deep American Athletic Conference, going 13-5 in the conference and 24-9 overall. After earning an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament, UCF handled Virginia Commonwealth in the first round and pushed tournament favorite Duke to the brink before bowing out with a 77-76 loss.

The Quakers have faced UCF just twice in their history, losing 81-64 in 2008 but defeating the Knights 58-40 in 2016.

If they get past UCF, the Red and Blue would then go on to play the winner of Pepperdine and Arizona in the second round, but if not they’d face the loser of that same matchup in the loser’s bracket.

Despite a lackluster 8-10 conference record in the Pac-12 and a 17-15 overall record last season, Arizona will likely be the favorite in the Wooden Legacy. The Wildcats are adding top recruits Josh Green and Nico Mannion to their roster this season. Green and Mannion ranked eighth and ninth, respectively, in the 2019 ESPN100 list of top high school recruits nationwide.

Last year, Pepperdine finished the regular season just 16-18 overall and 6-10 in the West Coast Conference, but they made a run to the conference semifinals where they fell to powerhouse Gonzaga.

The other first-round matchups in the Wooden Legacy feature Providence facing off against Long Beach State and Wake Forest taking on Charleston.

Should the Quakers make it all the way to the Championship game on Dec. 1, they would play in front of a national audience on ESPN. The ESPN family of networks will broadcast all 12 Wooden Legacy games.

The Quakers were disappointed by their performance in last year’s early-season tournament, the Paradise Jam, where they only managed one win in three games. Over the course of the season, however, the Red and Blue played to a very respectable 12-5 nonconference record.

With a 7-7 record against their Ancient Eight opponents last season, the Quakers snuck into the Ivy League tournament but were unable to get past top-seeded Harvard in the first round.

While winning the conference tournament is paramount, nonconference play could matter significantly with the growing strength of the Ancient Eight as a whole. With marquee wins in events such as the Wooden Legacy, we could very well see an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament coming out of the Ivy League one day soon. 

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