Back to school, back to Ivy basketball.
Penn men’s basketball had a rough winter break, losing back-to-back games against Princeton to open its Ivy League schedule. While the rest of the Ancient Eight is set to begin conference play this upcoming weekend, the Red and Blue find themselves in an early hole as they try to return to the Ivy League Tournament for the fourth straight season.
Even though this has been a disappointing beginning to their conference slate, the Quakers have reason to be optimistic going forward. They began the season with a hard-fought win over Alabama, and despite losses to Rice and Lafayette, the team has delivered strong performances in wins over power-conference teams such as Providence and Central Florida.
Princeton soundly defeated the Quakers in their meetings this past week, but the Tigers began the season with a five-game losing streak. As the top team in the League standings, the Tigers still have a mediocre 6-8 overall record, with losses to Drexel, Monmouth, and Lafayette.
Princeton dominated Penn in the teams' first matchup and led big in the following game, shooting the ball well from the floor, while the Quakers couldn’t find the bottom of the net consistently. This indicates some looming regression for the Tigers and room for potential improvement for the Quakers.
Princeton began the season ranked fourth in the Ivy League preseason poll with Penn slotting in at second behind only Harvard. The Crimson have won 11 of their first 15 games and currently ride a six-game winning streak ahead of conference play.
The Crimson may seem dominant, but their record does not show that they have yet to pick up a quality win against a formidable opponent. Harvard's schedule has not been that challenging, and the team has dropped games to weaker teams like Northeastern and Buffalo. The other half of their losses came against powerhouse Maryland and a strong team in Southern California.
Yale placed third in the Ivy preseason poll, but the Elis seem to be the best team in the League at the moment. After losing three of their first six games, the Bulldogs rattled off seven straight wins, including a stretch of four straight on the road. One of these was a nine-point win over Clemson, which just this past week defeated North Carolina and Duke in back-to-back games.
Two of Yale’s losses came against Penn State and North Carolina, but the team lost these games by a combined five points. The Bulldogs have played the toughest non-conference schedule of all the Ivies and have come out of it tied for the top win-loss record with Harvard.
The Quakers have shown that they can beat good teams, but they simply played poorly in their opening Ivy games. Luckily for Penn, the other four Ancient Eight teams look relatively weak, so cracking the top four should not be all too difficult.
Coming out on top against Harvard and Yale is a different story, but the Quakers have a couple of Big 5 contests at the Palestra against Saint Joseph’s and Temple before resuming conference play against the Crimson.