Penn men's basketball will arrive at the Palestra on Saturday with what may prove to be the turning point of their season ahead of them. The Quakers currently stand at 2-4, and have not won a game in conference play since Jan. 7. Even though they currently stand seventh in the Ivy League table, there is a four-way logjam ahead of them at 3-3. A win would put Penn in striking distance of the all-important top four, while a loss would drop the Quakers to 2-5 in-conference and make the second half of the Ivy season that much more difficult.
Harvard 68, Penn 72 — Caleb Crain, Sports Editor
On paper, these two teams match up well. Penn has a better offense, scoring over five more points per game than Harvard, while the Crimson have a better defense, allowing under 65 points per game this year. Harvard's attack is led largely by Chris Ledlum, who currently ranks second in the Ivy League with 19.1 points per game, and first in rebounding at nearly nine per game. Stopping him will require Penn's bigs, notably senior center Max Lorca-Lloyd and sophomore forward/center Nick Spinoso, to step up. But to keep up with Ledlum, Penn has the only person scoring more than him in junior guard Jordan Dingle, who is averaging 23.6 points per game this year.
Both teams have shown flashes of brilliance against much better this season, with Penn keeping it close against Missouri and Harvard nearly pulling off a massive upset against then-fourth-ranked Kansas. In the end, I think it will be three-point shooting that makes the difference on Saturday, as Penn shoots 35% from deep, while the Crimson can barely make three in 10. Look for junior guard Clark Slajchert and junior guard/forward Max Martz making key shots in the second half.
Harvard 57, Penn 62 — Brandon Pride, former Sports Editor
It's tough to say with certainty what will happen in this matchup, but one thing I can guarantee is that it will be close. The last 12 meetings between these two teams have been competitive affairs — a stretch dating back to early 2017, well before any player on either roster was even close to graduating high school.
Penn is a team that lives and dies by the three, and hitting a high percentage of their deep shots will be a necessary component of any win, but especially this one. Both squads are underperforming and badly need a victory. Ultimately, I give a desperate Penn team the win here, especially if the Palestra can be as full as it was Jan. 16 against Princeton. However, with the relatively sloppy way both teams have handled the ball this year, don’t expect a shootout.
Harvard 81, Penn 85 — Griffin Bond, Sports Associate
In last year's match up at the Palestra, Jordan Dingle led the Quakers to victory over the Crimson with a then-career-high 33 points. On Saturday, expect more of the same from Dingle, who has already eclipsed 30 points three times this season and set a new career high with 37 points against La Salle. The capability of Dingle and Slajchert to score, combined with a Harvard team that just won a 95-89 shootout against Cornell, is the perfect recipe for a high-scoring tilt. I wouldn’t be surprised if the game heads to overtime as it has in two of Penn’s last three games at home versus the Crimson. In the end, though, the scoring power of Penn’s stars overpower Harvard to win a close one.
Harvard 70, Penn 68 — Walker Carnathan, Deputy Sports Editor
In a game that marks the halfway point in Penn’s Ivy League season, the Quakers face off with Harvard, a matchup that favors Penn talent-wise. But after being picked to win the conference prior to the season, the Quakers have not quite lived up to their esteemed billing. They have struggled to finish games down the stretch, and rank sixth in the conference in points allowed.
Penn is still entirely capable of playing like the team they were meant to be, but it is clear something needs to change. Figuring out exactly what is easier said than done, and unfortunately for Penn, the Crimson are not a team they can afford to experiment against. Harvard's Ledlum is the only player in the Ivy League within Dingle’s stratosphere scoring-wise, and has scored 20 or more in three of his past five games, with Harvard winning all three of those contests. In the end, I see a big game from Ledlum and another heartbreaking loss for Penn, but one that will serve as the wake-up call they need to save their season.