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Now-junior forward/center Nick Spinoso dunks on Princeton to end the first half of the Ivy Madness semifinal on March 11. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

The Penn men’s basketball season is right around the corner, and the 2023-24 campaign promises plenty of must-see matchups. The Quakers will take on a medley of teams, from conference adversaries and local rivals to national powerhouses. Calendar in hand, it’s time to highlight a few of these showdowns.

vs. Villanova — The Palestra, Nov. 13, 2023

A Penn season wouldn’t be complete without a game against local powerhouse Villanova. This year, this matchup will take place at the Palestra, in the first year of a restructured Big 5 Tournament schedule. Since 2001, Penn is 3-18 against the Wildcats, with the most recent Quaker win coming in 2018 at the Palestra.

Going into this season, Villanova is the AP No. 22 ranked team in the country. After failing to secure a spot in this year’s NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats will be looking to start their season off strong, in the program's second year under coach Kyle Neptune. In just their fourth regular season game, the Quakers will look to leverage their home-court advantage into an intra-city upset.

vs. Kentucky — Wells Fargo Center, Dec. 9, 2023

As if a game at the Wells Fargo Center wasn’t exciting enough, Penn will host Kentucky, the winningest program in college basketball history, at the home of the Philadelphia 76ers. The Wildcats are the AP No.16 ranked school in the preseason and are coming off of a subpar season by their standards. After securing the sixth seed in the East region of the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky was eliminated in the round of 32.

This will be Penn’s second of two games played at the Wells Fargo Center this season, the first being in the inaugural Big 5 Classic. Kentucky and Penn have played each other five times, with the Wildcats winning every game. The most recent time the two programs met was in 2011 when Penn suffered a 24-point loss in Lexington, Ky.

at Houston — Houston, Texas, Dec. 30, 2023

The Cougars are, on paper, by far the best team Penn will face this season. Currently ranked sixth in ESPN’s Way-Too-Early Top 25 and seventh in the AP Top 25, Houston is one of the top programs in the nation. Houston entered last year's March Madness as the top seed in the Midwest region thanks to their dominant regular season, but ultimately lost to fifth seed Miami in the Sweet 16.

Penn will play Houston and Auburn back-to-back over the course of four days during the Red and Blue’s brief winter road trip. Despite being heavy underdogs, the Quakers will relish the chance to face off against a team at the top of the collegiate crop. With relatively little to lose and plenty to gain in terms of momentum heading into the Ivy season, this game stands out thanks to its high entertainment potential.

at Auburn — Auburn, Ala., Jan. 2, 2024

The last and only time Penn men’s basketball played Auburn was in 1999. The Quakers lost that regular season matchup in Birmingham, Ala., but will have another opportunity to claim victory this season. The odds, however, are not in the Quakers' favor.

Auburn finished with a 21-13 record last season and went 14-2 at home. The Tigers are currently ranked just outside the top 25 in the AP's preseason top 25 and they picked up a win against Iowa in last year's NCAA Tournament before being eliminated by the next school on this list.

vs. Princeton — The Palestra, March 9, 2024

It’s hard to single out just one Ivy League conference game among the 14 on Penn’s schedule. Going into the season, Yale has sat atop preseason polls with Princeton trailing closely behind. The Tigers, however, are looking to defend their Ivy League Championship title and build on last year's impressive run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. Princeton has consistently set the standard for men's basketball success across the Ancient Eight and the Quakers will need to play their best to exact revenge after last season’s Ivy League Tournament loss.

Penn’s regular season finale against Princeton at the Palestra could have major implications for Ivy Madness qualification and, for that matter, a regular season Ivy Title. It could also, realistically, end up being a consolation prize for either team.