3-on-3: Comparing the two Penn hoops squads
Even though their regular seasons have wound down, both Penn men’s and women’s basketball have been in the news of late. As Steve Donahue prepares to take over the men’s team while Mike McLaughlin’s unit enters postseason play once again, our 3-on-3 writers compare the two squads.
1. Who was better in 2014-15: Antonio Woods for the men’s team or Michelle Nwokedi for the women’s side?
Associate Sports Editor Tom Nowlan: Nwokedi. Yes, Woods was certainly a bright spot for the men’s squad, but what Nwokedi was able to do this season was simply stunning. Despite playing relatively few minutes early in the year, the Texas native got better as the season progressed, winning six Ivy League Rookie of the Week nods and establishing herself as a starter. Despite averaging only 18.2 minutes per contest, Nwokedi was able to finish second on the team with 7.1 rebounds per game and scored the Quakers’ third-most points per game with 8.9.
Associate Sports Editor Tommy Rothman: Nwokedi, easily. She averaged nine points per game (slightly more than Woods) in 19 minutes per game (far fewer than Woods). Nwokedi was also a force on the boards, notching seven rebounds per game also finishing second in the league with 2.3 blocks per contest. It's tough to compare a guard to a forward, but Woods didn't do enough "guard stuff" (passing, steals, hitting threes) to beat out Nwokedi. Penn Rookie of the Year isn't a thing, so Nwokedi will have to be content with the Ivy Rookie of the Year she was awarded last week.
Associate Sports Editor Thomas Munson: I'm leaning towards Nwokedi on this one. We were spoiled by Stipanovich double-doubles late last season, but Nwokedi was Penn’s leading rebounder over the final four games. Her 6-foot-3 frame made her nearly unstoppable in a relatively vertically challenged Ivy League; yet she can make plays with the ball in space and drain shots like a guard. Woods impressed, but Nwokedi was a driving force behind a winning team and was often a difference maker.
2. Which team’s backcourt is in better shape moving forward?
Nowlan: The men. And it’s all because of one guy: Antonio Woods. Sure, freshman Anna Ross was a valuable cog in the Quakers’ offense this season, but no guard on the women’s squad has the sheer transcendent talent of Woods. He can score in bunches while still effectively operating the point, something that will be really fun to watch for the next three years. Things will get even better for Woods when Tony Hicks graduates and his touches increase even more.
Rothman: The men's team. Anna Ross had a strong season and Beth Brzozowski had some good games, but with Kathleen Roche and Renee Busch both and Keiera Ray a question mark due to injury, I have to give the men their tenth win of the season here. Antonio Woods and Tony Hicks form a dynamic duo in the backcourt, and they'll be joined by incoming freshmen Jake Silpe and Jackson Donahue (no relation to Steve). Matt Howard provides depth, and Jamal Lewis could be a factor, although he, like Ray, must get back on the court first.
Munson: While it's hard not to choose a backcourt led by the dynamic Anna Ross, I definitely have to take the men on this one. Antonio Woods and Matt Howard both have superstar potential for the Red and Blue. What stood out to me most about this season as a whole was Woods' progression. By the final game against Princeton the offense ran through him and he looked more than comfortable taking the reins and running the point. Sure, Hicks will be back next season but I think the last few games proved that there's been a changing of the guard as the team’s core gets younger and deeper. Finding minutes for Hicks, Howard, Woods and Darnell Foreman will be a tough task for Donahue next year.
3. Penn women’s basketball will play in its third consecutive postseason beginning on Thursday. What are the chances that both basketball squads receive postseason bids in 2015-16?
Nowlan: 15 percent. Yes, the women are a lock to finish in one of the Ivy League's top two spots next year and earn a postseason berth, but the men's team has a long way to go to get back to the top of the Ancient Eight. Sure, sophomores-to-be Woods and Mike Auger — along with returning veterans Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry — will bring plenty of talent to the table, but a worst-to-first jump, especially with a new head coach factored in, isn’t that easy.
Rothman: So, how likely is it that the men's team is decent? Why didn't you just ask? Anyway, I'd say 35 percent. The Red and Blue had their moments this past season, especially down the stretch. Steve Donahue is an impressive new hire, the recruiting class is solid, and Penn isn't losing all that much to graduation. But overall, the men's team was very bad this year, so even if they improve, they could still be pretty bad. They won't be playing in the NCAA tournament and the NIT is almost certainly out of the question as well. Could they finish a hair over .500 and get into one of the lesser tournaments? Maybe.
Munson: I might sound crazy, but I'm gonna say 75 percent. The women may be losing a few key seniors but that shouldn't stop them winning their share of league games. For the men's team, I'm incautiously optimistic about the future. They have an excellent young core and an incoming recruiting class that looks strong (assuming it stays intact). Wesley Saunders is graduating from Harvard and there are some depth concerns for Tommy Amaker’s squad. The biggest question mark for Penn is whether any big men not named Mike Auger can play consistent basketball. You can't teach height but you also can't just be tall if you want to win games. Without Greg Louis the Quakers might get challenged a little more on the defensive end, but I have full faith in the Red and Blue’s ability to finish in the top three of the Ancient Eight.