The Quakers' recent losses aren't helping their chances.
With a strong start to non-conference play boosting its emerging NCAA Tournament resume, Penn women's basketball could have a chance to secure the Ivy League's second-ever at-large bid.
The Red and Blue (10-3, 0-1 Ivy) have beaten their opponents by an average margin of 28.8 points this season, but after falling hard against Princeton over the weekend and against Villanova Wednesday night, its chances at winning the conference championship look slim.
At-large bids are extremely rare for Ivy League squads; the 2016 Princeton women's basketball team was the only Ancient Eight non-automatic NCAA qualifier since 1968. Despite a regular season record of 22-5 last year, the Red and Blue failed to receive an NCAA bid after losing to the Tigers in the Ivy League Tournament final, ultimately taking part in the WNIT.
The 2016 Princeton team finished the year 12-2 in conference play, losing both games to eventual Ivy champion Penn. At the very least, Penn needs to finish at least 12-2 this season to have a shot at an at-large bid. Besides the one remaining Princeton contest, Harvard and Yale pose the biggest threat to Penn's upcoming schedule.
The Quakers have dropped three games this season, each by a sizable margin. Besides their 20-point loss to Princeton, the Red and Blue also lost by double digits to Duke. With the Blue Devils currently sitting at 9-8 and with big defeats at the hands of Northwestern and Texas A&M, this loss is not a strong one for the Quakers.
More recently, the Red and Blue blew an 11-point lead to Villanova in a 70-58 loss. A win against their strong Philadelphia-area rival would have significantly helped the Quakers' chances. In 2016, Princeton only lost one game by double digits all season: to No. 10 Ohio State, a much more formidable opponent than this year's Villanova and Duke squads.
Beating Princeton on Feb. 25 would be ideal, but even with a loss, the Quakers could clinch an at-large bid if they dominate in conference play from here on out. Princeton's team four seasons ago was extremely successful in conference play, as all but two of their conference wins were by double-digit margins.
Penn's RPI is 109th through 13 games, in contrast to 2016 Princeton, which was ranked 36th in RPI, and this factor might be the nail in the coffin. The Quakers' low strength of schedule doesn't help their chances for an at-large bid, and the remaining games do not feature any high-caliber squads that would help their chances.
Next Thursday, Penn will face Temple in their final non-conference matchup of the season. Temple has fared well this season, boasting a 10-6 record with wins over Villanova and Houston. A win over the Owls would certainly help the Quakers' chances, but it will take more than that to push them over the top.