The first year of Penn men’s basketball was the 1897-98 season.
On March 20, 1897, the Quakers faced off against Yale in their first-ever basketball game, which also served as one of the first intercollegiate five-on-five basketball games ever. Penn lacked a coach or captains for that game, and dropped the contest in the Bulldogs' home court by a score of 10-32.
The next recognized game at Penn was not played until 1902, but in 1901, an unofficial Penn team named “Houston Club” played 11 games.
Prior to the formation of the Ivy League in 1956, the Red and Blue were a member of the Eastern Intercollegiate League from 1903 through 1955. The Quakers won 13 EIL Regular Season Championships over that span.
The Red and Blue were retroactively recognized by the Helms Athletic Foundation as the pre-NCAA Tournament national champions for the 1919-20 and 1920-21 seasons.
The Quakers have appeared in a total of 24 NCAA Tournaments, the first of which came in 1953. Since the official start of conference play in the 1956-57 season, the Quakers have had 24 undefeated Ivy League home campaigns.
The Quakers are the twentieth-winningest men’s basketball program of all-time. They have appeared in one NCAA Tournament Final Four, which came in the 1979 season. That year was the last time an Ivy League school reached the National Semifinal. The ninth-seeded Quakers beat Iona, North Carolina, Syracuse, and St. John’s before they were defeated by Michigan State 101-67.
The Quaker’s main Ivy League rivalry is with the Tigers; Penn and Princeton are tied for the most Ivy League regular season championships with 26 apiece. The Red and Blue have gone 6-1 against Ivy League opponents 17 times at the Palestra. Of these seasons, 10 times the lone loss was to the Tigers, three times it came against Columbia, twice it came against Harvard, and one time each it came against Brown and Cornell.
Penn’s record in the NCAA Tournament is 13-26. The Quakers’ first win in a non-consolation NCAA tournament game was a 70-65 win over Duquesne in the first round of the 1971 tournament, where forward Bob Morse led the Red and Blue with 24 points and 16 rebounds.
The last NCAA Tournament victory for the Quakers was on March 17, 1994, at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in New York. The 11th-seeded Quakers defeated sixth-seeded Nebraska 90-80 in the first round, where forward Barry Pierce led the Red and Blue with 25 points and eight rebounds. The Quakers would fall in the second round to third-seeded Florida on March 19, 1994, as the Gators prevailed 70-58.
While they didn't get the chance to face their Ivy rivals this year and they aren't playing in the NCAA Tournament, the Quakers will look to build on their illustrious program history when they next return to intercollegiate competition.