Penn men’s basketball seems to be the second-place pick behind Harvard, which received votes in the preseason top-25 rankings and will have home court for the Ivy Tournament in March.
The women finished tied with defending champion Princeton in the conference preseason poll but got fewer first-place votes. Most observers think that Princeton and back-to-back Ivy Player of the Year Bella Alarie will take the League’s NCAA Tournament bid.
Second place would be fine for most programs in most years, but not these ones. Expectations are high, and justifiably so. At least one of these programs will win the conference — a declaration that sounds a lot less wild when you look at the history. Over the past 20 basketball seasons, 14 have ended with a Penn champion. The current streak of championship basketball sits at four years. This year, both teams look promising. Why should we expect anything less?
Let’s start with the women. Junior Eleah Parker is on a mission to claim a Player of the Year award of her own, and if she’s even in the conversation, Penn should have better than even odds of winning the conference. If Parker can close the gap between her and Alarie, the supporting cast coach Mike McLaughlin has built around her should be enough to propel the Red and Blue past the Tigers.
At point guard, the Quakers will start Kendall Grasela, one of the two senior captains. The other, Phoebe Sterba, could be the team’s primary scoring threat outside Parker. Unlike last season, where so many minutes had to be claimed by the graduated Ashley Russell, this team features depth in spades — more than any other team in the conference. Even if Parker turns out to be the second-best player in the League again, she boasts the conference’s best supporting cast. This is a team built for March.
On the men’s side, the same trademark depth is present even without the core of veteran role players that graduated in May. Coach Steve Donahue has assembled a legitimate Big 3 of seniors that matches up favorably with pretty much any other mid-major senior class in the country. Harvard’s pairing of Bryce Aiken and Seth Towns come as close as any but neither has been consistently healthy.
Penn has depth — the rotation could go to as many as 10 players or more if a talented freshman class proves itself early in the season. The best team in Philadelphia last year, Penn loses locker room presence but inherits a talented freshman class in return. AJ Brodeur, the biggest of the Big 3, has Player of the Year aspirations of his own, and the return of the injured Ryan Betley will provide the team with a much needed consistent second option on offense. The third senior, and the third starter Donahue has named at this point in the preseason, is Devon Goodman — an improved Devon Goodman, according to Donahue, an impressive feat for someone coming off such a successful breakout season.
Penn men’s and women’s basketball have never won Ivy titles in the same year. Could this season see history?
THEODOROS PAPAZEKOS is a College senior from Pittsburgh and Senior Sports Editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at email@example.com.