Despite poor weather conditions that forced its weekend back-to-back to be pushed to Saturday and Sunday, Penn men’s basketball increased its winning streak to five games with victories over Columbia and Cornell.
Now sitting at 4-2 in the Ancient Eight, the Red and Blue are tied for third with Brown and are just a game back of both Yale and Princeton. It's still early in the conference season, so the Quakers still have many important games left to decide if they are to return to the Ivy League Tournament and potentially win a conference title. Here are three that may end up being the most crucial.
Feb. 15 vs. Yale
With their recent winning streak, the Quakers have convinced some that they are again contenders for the Ivy League title. That perception will be tested this upcoming weekend against Yale, which is currently the strongest team in the conference.
The Bulldogs played well through their nonconference schedule and began 4-0 in Ivy play before losing to Harvard. They bounced back the next day with a comfortable win over Dartmouth and will be coming into the Palestra looking to establish Ivy League supremacy.
Penn, on the other hand, can prove that it is not only a strong contender but arguably the team to beat in the Ancient Eight by defeating both Brown and Yale at home this weekend. The Bulldogs will likely be the far more difficult opponent to beat considering every conference game they've played other than their lone loss has been a blowout.
Feb. 22 at Harvard
The Quakers got off to a rocky start in conference play, dropping their first two games to Princeton. A hard-fought win at home against Harvard saw Penn squander multiple big leads but ultimately hold on in overtime, turning their season around. Harvard will be looking for revenge when the Red and Blue travel to Cambridge, Mass.
Harvard is a game behind the Quakers in the current standings, sitting at 3-3 in the League. Two of their losses, however, came in the close overtime game at the Palestra and last weekend against Brown when junior forward Tamenang Choh was fouled on a buzzer-beating game-tying shot and sunk the ensuing free throw to win the game.
Harvard’s leading scorer, senior guard Bryce Aiken, was missing from the lineup for both of these losses with a foot injury, but with still no timetable to return, it is unclear if he will be back anytime soon. Penn could be without senior guard Ryan Betley, who was injured against Columbia, which would level the playing field between the two teams.
Feb. 29 at Brown
Ever since the preseason poll, the top four in the Ivy League has always been projected to be some order of Harvard, Yale, Penn, and Princeton. Right now, Brown is crashing that party with a four-game conference winning streak of its own after dropping its first two Ivy games to Yale.
The Quakers will host Brown this upcoming Friday, where one team will see its winning streak come to an end. Two weeks later, Penn will play Brown in Providence, R.I., where the Bears boast an impressive 10-2 record, including all four of their conference wins.
The Bears will be coming off of a four-game road trip for this game, so the Quakers could be facing a hostile atmosphere against a seemingly top home team in the Ivy League.