La Salle representing a few former Quakers in the Sweet 16

While Penn basketball’s season came to a close two weeks ago, there is one Big 5 team keeps on going.
                                                                                                                                                               La Salle, which won a share of the Big 5 Title this season, is still dancing, having won three games to make the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
The Explorers' run began in Dayton as one of the final four teams into the tournament, where they defeated Boise State to get into the main field of 64.
                                                                                                                                                                               Next up was a trip to Kansas City, where the 13th-seeded Explorers pulled out two close victories over fourth-seeded Kansas State and 12th-seeded Ole Miss.
                                                                                                                                                               But this La Salle team has some firm connections with the Red and Blue other than simply playing in the Big 5.

Game 9: Villanova — The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The Palestra hosted its first Big 5 matchup of the 2012-13 campaign, a foul-filled and turnover-laden affair between Penn and Villanova. Despite shooting just 4-for-17 from the field in the first half, the Quakers stayed in the game behind 24 free throw attempts, including a perfect 8-for-8 performance from Miles Cartwright, in the opening frame. But Penn could not keep pace with Villanova in the second, as its shooting woes continued and turnovers piled up. The Wildcats extended their lead to double digits and shutdown Penn's attempts to get back in the game, as Villanova went on to win, 68-55.

THE GOOD: Steve Rennard puts up 12 points.
After scoring some crucial buckets toward the end of last season, the shooting guard had all but disappeared from the stat sheet this winter, averaging just 3.5 points per game through eight games. But Rennard looked more like himself tonight, knocking down two treys late in the game to go along with six free throws. Perhaps even more important than him scoring was that he didn't stop shooting even after his first couple shots rolled out. Penn will need him to stay confident and keep firing in order to make the Quakers a legitimate threat from three-point range.

THE BAD: Dougherty disappears.
Villanova came ready to guard Fran Dougherty and succeeded in stifling the junior forward. The Ivy League's leading scorer at 17.1 points per game finished with a measly two points on 1-for-3 shooting. Even in a game with 52 personal fouls between the teams (yes, we'll get to that), Doc shot no free throws whatsoever. After his seven-point performance against Penn State and tonight, it's become clear that opposing squads know that shutting down Doc is a key to beating Penn. And it would seem they're right.

THE UGLY: Hack-a-thon at the Palestra.
Villanova and Penn tallied a combined 52 personal fouls on the night, leading to 71 free throws. That said, the whopping number of fouls cannot be entirely attributed to the players, since the referees seemed determined to call virtually every bump, and love tap, as a foul. For a game between two Philadelphia basketball squads, the matchup had none of the grittiness or toughness expected from a Big 5 contest, primarily because anything smacking of toughness at all was called a foul.

Penn-St. Joe’s to be nationally broadcast

Per Philly.com's Jonathan Tannenwald, Penn basketball's Big 5 tilt with St. Joe's will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2/ESPNU. The Quakers and Hawks are set to square off at the Palestra on Sat., Jan. 19 at 5 p.m.

Penn has a small winning streak going in its series with St. Joe's, having won the contest in each of the last two seasons. The Hawks are the only Big 5 team the Red and Blue have been able to beat since the 2006-07 season.

The Quakers' game against La Salle on Jan. 5 at the Tom Gola Arena will also be televised, but on CBS Sports Network. Penn's other Big 5 matchups — against Villanova on Dec. 8 and Temple on Jan. 23 — have yet to be picked up by a network.

Correction: This post previously stated that the Penn-St. Joe's game would be shown on NBC Sports Network.

Penn basketball to host Quinnipiac in CBI postseason game Wednesday

Penn men's basketball missed out on its shot at an Ivy playoff and the chance to play for an NCAA tournament bid last week in a crushing loss to Princeton — but the Quakers will have at least a chance to end on a better note.

After missing out on a bid to the National Invitational Tournament, the Quakers will host a game in the College Basketball Invitational Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against Quinnipiac out of the Northeast Conference. The Bobcats lost to eventual NEC champion Long Island in the conference semifinals. For Penn it is the program's 25th post-season appearance, but just second outside of the NCAA tournament.

Quinnipiac beat Yale, 68-62, in November. The other common opponent between the Bobcats and Quakers this season is Robert Morris, which lost to Qunnipiac twice this season by narrow margins. Penn beat RMU by six in the fourth game of the season. The Bobcats have an RPI of 155, compared to Penn, which sits at 98.

If Penn advances, it would play the winner of Delaware-Butler. The Quakers beat Delaware by nine earlier this season. Butler is the two-time NCAA tournament runner-up. The quarterfinal game would be Monday, March 19th.

Princeton will also play in the CBI, traveling to Evansville, in a bracket that also features Wofford and Pittsburgh. You can view the full CBI bracket here.

Earlier in the day, Harvard heard its fate during the NCAA tournament selection show. The 12th seeded Crimson travel to Albuquerque, N.M., to face Vanderbilt, a five-seed in the East region. The Commodores beat No. 1 overall seed Kentucky earlier Sunday to capture the SEC title. Should Harvard advance, they will likely face No. 4 Wisconsin in the next round.

No Ivy teams made the NIT, though Princeton was considered a bubble team for that tournament. Philadelphia's lone representative in the NCAA tournament is fifth-seeded Temple, which will take on the winner of California/Southern Florida in the Midwest region. La Salle and St. Joseph's will both represent the Big 5 in the NIT, facing Minnesota and Northern Iowa, respectively. Drexel, which barely missed the cut for the NCAA tournament, will also play in the NIT against Central Florida. Yale will also get another chance to play, facing former Princeton coach Sydney Johnson at Fairfield in the first round of the College Insider Tournament (CIT). The Stags lost in the MAAC conference finals last week.

On Friday, Penn Athletics emailed basketball season ticket holders informing them that the Quakers would play in a postseason tournament, hosting a game at the Palestra Wednesday if the Quakers didn't make the NIT. The email offered an exclusive presale to season ticket holders, adding the general admission tickets would go on sale Monday.

CBI host teams pay a substantial sum to play the game on their home court. According to this piece from Hamptonroads.com, it costs $35,000 to host a first-round matchup. Teams recoup costs in ticket and concession sales, as well as eliminated travel costs. Chairback seats will cost $20, general admissions will be $12 and student tickets will be $5. Penn needs only to sell about 3,000 tickets $12 to make back the entrance-fee cost. That shouldn't be a problem for Penn, which averaged about 4,400 per home game this season.

The Red and Blue Crew will sell student tickets to the game on Locust Walk Tuesday and Wednesday.

Martelli speaks on the state of the Big 5

lancasteronline.com

This year, St. Joe's became the final team (other than Penn) to move its Big 5 home games out of the Palestra. With a declining interest in the city series, combined with speculated tension between two of its schools, how much clout the unofficial conference will carry in the coming years remains unclear. For the present time, though, the Big 5 appears to be safe. Yesterday, I talked to St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli about his thoughts on the importance of the Big 5, its current status and what the future holds for the staple of Philly college hoops:

In general, how important would you say the Big 5 is to Philadelphia and to college basketball as a whole?
I think that the Big 5 is a very special fraternity. It's an honor to be part of it, and I think it's the envy of other college basketball towns and coaches. They’ll always talk to us about, 'How could six Division I schools be in close proximity? How do you split up the public relations? How do you split up the newspapers? How do you split up the fan support?' It’s just really a proud badge that all of us get to wear by being in the Big 5.

How would you characterize the status of the Big 5 today?
I’m a huge proponent of the Palestra — I still believe to this day that every Philadelphia game should played in the best college basketball building in America. I think all the tickets should be 50/50, and if people want to say that’s pie in the sky or that’s not doable, I understand what they’re saying. But I’m just suggesting that the beauty of the Big 5 is half the building for your team, half the building for the other team, and then we create these special memories like what was created Saturday night. Penn and St. Joe’s — both teams kind of scuffling along, and you get that kind of crowd, that kind of enthusiasm. I think it’s very special for the players, I think it’s very special for the students. So I think the Big 5 is healthy. The competition is healthy, there were a number of close games this year. And it’ll never go back to the way it was, but I can be a guy who wishes it would go back.

Continue reading

Why this was more than a Big 5 win

About one year ago, Penn handily defeated Dartmouth at the Palestra on a Friday night to improve to 3-0 in the Ivy League — the Quakers were starting to make a little noise at just the right time; a talented Harvard team was on its way down I-95 to play Penn in a must-win game for Penn the next night.

That Saturday Harvard game was receiving quite a bit of hype on campus. "Tomorrow night is going to be packed," Zack Rosen said at the time, perhaps a little hard to believe given the box score from that Friday win over the Big Green read "attendance: 3,124" (and having been there, even that's a stretch).

As he was heading out of the gym, Rosen mentioned to me how important Saturday's Harvard game would be. Of course, it would be crucial for his title hopes. But the point guard — always an ambassador for the Penn basketball program to the campus at large — was thinking a little bigger. With students packing into the gym like they had rarely done in his career, he knew he had a shot to hook them. He knew they would come back if they saw a win.

What they saw Saturday night was everything but a win. It was easily the best basketball game I've seen at the Palestra: a double overtime thriller for the ages — and, yes, a packed crowd — but in the end, a win for the Crimson. Perhaps some casual fans appreciated the game they had just seen, but it wasn't the win Rosen knew he would need to begin cementing Penn basketball back in campus culture.

This Saturday night, for the first time since that Harvard game, there was that same hype on campus as Penn hosted St. Joe's. Students who had never been to a Penn basketball game were planning their Saturday night around it — and some weren't even able to get tickets as the game sold out.

And this time, in front of 8,722 spectators — as many as she could hold — Penn came away with an exciting victory.

The Quakers could care less what the official attendance was. They'd still play the game in front of no one. But down the line, this game may serve as a milepost for the basketball program as it rebuilds its reputation not only on campus, but in Philadelphia as well. This was, after all, an upset of a very good St. Joseph's team.

Credit is due to the Penn Athletics marketing staff that convinced the student body that this was a game worth seeing. It's impossible to know whether free white t-shirts or Zack Rosen and Tyler Bernardini handing out swag along Locust Walk actually put students in the seats, but they don't hurt — and for too long the administration did very little, expecting students to come as they used to.

And, of course, credit is due to the team, which took advantage of packed house, and likely finally hooked a few more students who wouldn't otherwise be back at the Palestra any time soon. And maybe those who were shut out of the Palestra when the tickets sold out won't wait so long to secure their seats for Princeton.

Penn men’s basketball vs. St. Joe’s – Liveblog brought to you by the Blarney Stone

Follow along as the Quakers close out their Big 5 schedule against St. Joe's at the Palestra:

Big 5 contest approaches sellout

For those who are planning on attending the Quakers' final Big 5 matchup of the season against St. Joe's, it may be a good idea to purchase tickets today, as Saturday's 7 p.m. game against the Hawks is nearly soldout. Online purchasing is now available only to students, who may reserve tickets for pickup at will call. With only a limited number of seats remaining, all others must call the ticket office. The following was sent via email by Penn Athletics:

In an effort to lure in more students, Penn Athletics has already planned a "white out" for Saturday, as the first 400 students to arrive will receive a free Penn t-shirt. In today's newspaper, columnist Ethan Alter writes that he remembers only one corner-packing game during his time on campus — when LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony visited the arena for the Battle of I-95 in September.

Palestra ‘white out’ planned for final Big 5 game of the season

Penn Athletics is working hard to get students to come out to Penn's final Big 5 game of the year Saturday against St. Joseph's at the Palestra, planning a 'White Out' event for Penn fans.

The first 400 students to arrive to the game will get a free white Penn t-shirt. Seniors Zack Rosen and Tyler Bernardini will be roaming around campus starting at 12:15 Thursday afternoon to pump students up, holding contests and giving out prizes.

The Quakers are 0-3 in the Big 5 this season. They got their first Big 5 win in nearly four years last season against the Hawks, 73-61.

Penn is also bringing back the Drums of Thunder group for some halftime entertainment. The fourth and fifth grade musicians from Hillside Elementary School in Montclair, N.J., performed at the Palestra last season. Here is a video of the group, who has been featured at NFL and NBA halftimes.

Both the Red and Blue Crew and Penn Athletics are working hard to get the students involved in Penn basketball. Do you think their efforts will pay off?

Rosen is still hustling

Despite an "off night" for Zack Rosen — he scored an uncharacteristically low eight points in Tuesday's loss to La Salle — he's the heart and soul of this Penn team. Here's what sports writer Evan Spiller has to say about Rosen's performance:

If there was one redeeming part of Penn’s 68-57 loss to La Salle, it was the play of senior Zack Rosen. He rushed to the ball when it was loose, consistently found the right man, and made several key shots and steals.

But it wasn’t just that his play was inspired that made it a good performance. It’s that it was inspired at the game’s key moments. About ten minutes into the first half, when La Salle was up by seven or eight points, it seemed like the Explorers might run way with it. But Rosen stepped up and, for the next six to seven minutes, Penn barely made a shot that wasn’t his score or his assist. In one play, Rosen knocked the ball out of the opponent’s hand, sprinted half a court’s length to get it, then found a teammate to his side, who hit a three.

A similar thing seemed to happen in the second half when La Salle was up 60-51 with 4 minutes and thirty seconds left in the game. Rosen hit Dougherty with a tough bounce pass in the key, then, on the next play, made a lay-up to put the game at 60-55.

No avail, though. Rosen’s missed three-pointer and the subsequent questionable loose ball foul that voided the tip-in moved the momentum in the opposite direction. La Salle ended the game with a comfortable lead, negating Rosen’s hustle.