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2-16-2019-mens-basketball-versus-harvard-steve-donahue-nicole-fridling
Men's Basketball head coach Steve Donahue throws his hands in the air after a call made on the court during a game against Harvard on Feb. 16, 2019. Credit: Nicole Fridling

Basketball is finally back for the Red and Blue. Penn men’s basketball enters the season fourth in preseason media polls in the Ivy League while the women will start ranked second in the conference. Here are five of the biggest games of the season. 

Men's vs. No. 20 Florida State - Nov. 10 

The Quakers will start their season on the road in Tallahassee, Fla., against a very talented Florida State team. Entering the season ranked No. 20 in preseason polls, the Seminoles have become one of the top programs in the country in the past few years — winning an ACC regular season championship during the 2019-20 season, making four straight NCAA tournament appearances, and three straight Sweet 16 appearances. Despite losing four of their top five scorers and their top three rebounders, shot-blockers, and assist leaders from the previous season, the Seminoles still remain a dangerous team, adding two notable transfers in sophomore guard Caleb Mills from Houston and sophomore guard Cam'Ron Fletcher from Kentucky, in addition to three highly touted incoming freshmen in Matthew Cleveland, Jalen Warley, and John Butler. Looking to pick up right where they left off, the Seminoles will undoubtedly be a handful for the Red and Blue in their season opener. 

Men's vs. No. 16 Arkansas - Nov. 28 

The Red and Blue will take the road again to play another nationally ranked team, Arkansas. Currently ranked No. 16 in preseason polls, the Razorbacks are coming off one of their most successful seasons in recent memory as they made it all the way to the Elite Eight in last year’s NCAA tournament, only losing to the eventual national champion Baylor. Arkansas has five contributors returning from last season, including three with significant starting experience in All-SEC Second Team sophomore guard Davonte Davis, sophomore forward Jaylin Williams, and junior center Connor Vanover. Furthermore, SEC Sixth Man of the Year senior guard JD Notae is also back, looking to once again make a valuable impact for the team. It is without a doubt the Quakers will face not only tough competition but also a menacing environment as they must play in what will be a very loud and hostile crowd in Fayetteville, Ark.

Men's vs. No. 4 Villanova - Dec. 1

Coming off of their game against Arkansas, the Quakers will immediately be put up against the wall again when they play Villanova. The Wildcats will return to the Palestra for the first time since their upset loss to the Quakers in 2018, looking for revenge. Villanova enters the season ranked No. 4 according to preseason polls and are national championship contenders. The team has four of their five starters from a season ago returning, most notably fifth-year guard and Big East Player of the Year Collin Gillespie. Alongside Gillespie are junior guard Justin Moore, who was announced to the watch list for the 2022 Jerry West Award, which is given to the country’s best collegiate shooting guard, and senior forward Jermaine Samuels was named to the Julius Erving Award Watchlist for the top forward in the country. The Red and Blue will need a lot to go their way if they want to pull off the upset. 

Women's vs. Princeton - Jan. 17 & Mar. 5

Penn women’s basketball enters the season ranked second in the Ivy League according to preseason polls, behind only Princeton. The Tigers finished the most recent 2019-20 season with a 26-1 record and will be welcoming back some key pieces from that squad, including honorable mention All-Ivy junior guard Julia Cunningham, who averaged 8.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game, and senior guard Abby Meyers who averaged 6.3 points and 2.7 rebounds during the 2019-20 season. However, Princeton will be playing for the first time without three-time Ivy Player of the Year Bella Alarie, who was the fifth overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft. Alarie has been an instrumental part of the Tigers’ success in recent years, so it will be interesting to see the team's identity without such a star player. If the Quakers hope to have a chance at the Ivy title, they will need to have good games against Princeton. 

Men's vs. Yale - Jan. 22 & Feb. 18

Entering the season, Yale is the favorite to win the Ivy League in the men’s basketball preseason poll. Like the rest of the Ancient Eight, the Bulldogs have not taken the court since the 2019-2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Yale has some very important pieces returning to the team. Senior guard Azar Swain is back from the 23-7 campaign, where he was named first team All-Ivy and set the Yale record for most three-pointers in a season with 93. Additionally, senior guard Jalen Gabbidon is back for his final season. Gabbidon will look to continue his success as the 2020 Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. If the Quakers hope to make a run at the Ivy League championship, they will need to play well against the Bulldogs. 

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