Penn is off to a 2-4 start in its Ivy League basketball schedule, but the Quakers (14-8 overall) are far from out of earning one of the four berths in the Ivy League tournament.
One reason is because the Ivy League is as unpredictable as it has been in awhile. “This is as deep a league as I can remember,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said.
In the Ivy League, the teams play consecutive games on Fridays and Saturdays, a true test of endurance. “Back-to-backs are hard and I think the league is so good there are absolutely no easy teams,” Donahue said.
That just isn’t coachspeak. Here are some examples of why anything is possible in the Ivy League.
Princeton is 4-2 and in a three-way tie for second place with Harvard and Cornell, but the Tigers have lost two in a row, including Saturday at Brown (2-4).
Preseason favorite Harvard has lost at Dartmouth (2-4) and at home against surprising Cornell. In addition, the Crimson needed three overtimes to earn a 98-96 home win over Columbia (1-5).
That same Columbia team beat Cornell earlier this year. Penn eked out a 72-70 win at Columbia. For a last-place team, the Lions are showing plenty of fight.
Yale (5-1) is the one team with a winning Ivy record that hasn’t fallen to a team with a losing mark. The Bulldogs, who will host the Ivy League tournament on March 16-17, suffered their only league loss on the road at Harvard.
So Penn, with six of its final eight Ivy League games at the Palestra, is far from out of this race. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be concern for a Quakers team that trails the three second-place squads by two games.
Having only one more road trip is huge for Penn, which plays the next two weekends at home. The road can test even the best of teams.
“On the road, you are taking buses and the travel makes it real tough,” said Yale coach James Jones. “That is why it is so important for you to be able to win the home games.”
So even with one road trip left, at Dartmouth and Harvard, a difficult feat for sure, Penn has a chance to take advantage of extended time at the Palestra.
Penn juniors AJ Brodeur (15.8 ppg) and Devon Goodman (13.5 ppg) are averaging double figures in scoring. What Penn gets out of the rest of the team will likely determine whether the Quakers can move up in the standings.
Two years ago in the first season of the Ivy League tournament, Penn earned the fourth and final spot with a 6-8 mark. This year, it may take a .500 or winning record to earn the fourth spot.
“This is the journey we are on,” Donahue said. “We get to write the story.