January 9th, 2016 is not a pleasant memory for most Penn basketball fans. Normally it would be. That night, Penn was opening up its Ivy League season at home, in front of a packed crowd, to face off against their archrival, the Princeton Tigers. It was an oddly warm day for early January with a high of 54 degrees, 14 degrees above the normal average. It was supposed to be the storybook beginning to Steve Donahue’s first Ivy League game as Penn’s head coach.
But hours before the game, it was announced that Antonio Woods would be out for the season, and maybe even longer, due to academics. It didn’t faze the Quakers though. Behind freshmen Jake Silpe and Jackson Donahue and senior center Darien Nelson-Henry, the Quakers dove on the floor for balls, pushed their way to fight for rebounds, and forced overtime against one of the Ivy League’s top teams. Without Woods, Penn was not supposed to compete. They were supposed to get beat by 20. The Quakers just didn’t have enough to pull out the win, losing 73-71, despite leading for much of the second half of the game. In the press conference after, Donahue fought back tears. The magnitude of this rivalry was clear right then and there.
Fast forward 428 days and the Quakers have come full circle. Tomorrow, they will appear in the first ever Ivy League Conference Tournament after magically turning around a 0-6 conference record. They will, of course, face Princeton.
Still, they find themselves in a similar situation. They’re the underdog. They’re the younger, less experienced team. They’re once again without Woods.
The Quakers sport only two seniors, and one of them, Dylan Jones, hasn’t even played a game this season because of an injury. 3 of their 5 leading scorers are underclassmen, while freshman sensation AJ Brodeur leads all Penn players with 13.9 points per game.
Meanwhile, 10 of the Tigers’ 18 players are upperclassmen. They have the Ivy League Player of the Year (Steven Weisz), Defensive Player of the Year (Myles Stephens), and Coach of the Year (Mitch Henderson). They went undefeated in conference play and are easily the tournament’s favorites. It’s no secret that the Quakers will have their work cut out for them.
They will have to start by maintaining Princeton’s balanced scoring attack that includes four players averaging double digit points. The Tigers follow that up by having four players in the regular rotation who shoot 40% or above from three. As a team, they only have 273 total turnovers on the year (10 per game), which is 1st in the country. But Princeton’s most impressive aspect is their defense. They allow only 61.5 points per game (9th in the country) by holding opponents to shoot 42% (1st in the Ivy League) from the field against them.
“They play with such confidence,” Brodeur said before Saturday’s game. “They have such good leaders on their team and they’re very experienced, which goes a long way, especially in the Ivy League. Everyone [on Princeton] is taught to play the right way. The teams that end up doing the best are the teams that...play the right way, play smart, play within themselves, and play to their level of talent. That’s what I think they do best.”
Penn will look to rally behind Brodeur and senior guard Matt Howard. The team’s clear leaders on the court dictate the tone offensively and defensively. Howard, who exploded for a game-high 24 points and 12 rebounds last week against Harvard, will try to bounce back after scoring a combined 3 points in his first two outings against Princeton. Brodeur similarly struggled against Princeton’s stout defense this season, only scoring a combined 16 points on 5-14 shooting in both games. It’s no surprise why they lost both of those games. Brodeur and Howard will have help now from emerging freshmen, Ryan Betley and Devin Goodman, both of whom have played a major role in the team’s turnaround.
“The freshmen are really talented,” Howard said when asked about what has been different about this season. “They contributed a lot this year. They stepped in and were ready to play.”
Many will point to Penn’s youth as a reason they won’t be able to hang in. But Penn has already been in multiple elimination game scenarios. Ever since going 0-6, they’ve had their back against the wall. Once they noticed that the conference tournament was actually a possibility, it took some time for Donahue’s team to fathom that. In close losses to Columbia and Dartmouth down the stretch, the team played “tight,” according to Donahue, afraid to lose with so much on the line. Last weekend, with opportunity to go to the Ivy League Tournament looming once again, the Quakers finally played free in their final regular game against Harvard.
“I sensed the change before the Harvard game,” Donahue remembered. “The locker room was different. The vibe was different. The excitement level was different. I thought we played as good of a basketball game as we played all year.”
They’ll need that same ease against one of the best Ivy League teams in recent memory. They’re lucky, however, that they even have the opportunity.
“For the first time in league history,” Donahue added, “we can set the reset button.”
Penn faces Princeton at 1:30 PM tomorrow at The Palestra. The game will be aired on ESPNU.
Photo: Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer
After losing their first six games to begin Ivy League conference play, the Penn Quakers have begun to salvage this season by going on a four-game win streak, beating the likes of Columbia, Cornell, Brown, and Yale. All of the sudden, the Quaker’s season has been revived and they have something to fight for down the home stretch of the schedule.
At this point, the Quakers’ goal has to be playing in the Ivy League’s new inaugural conference tournament. Held at The Palestra, for Penn to stay home and make the postseason tournament, they need to place in the top 4 of the conference standings. While Princeton is the cream of the crop, holding a perfect 10-0 record, and Harvard and Yale are a step behind at 8-2 and 6-4 respectively, the fourth seed is now ripe for the Quakers’ taking thanks to their play during the past two weeks.
The Quakers have put themselves in the position to seize a tournament bid thanks the solidified eight man rotation, more effective ball movement, and the play of freshman wing Ryan Betley.
Coach Steve Donahue has experimented with ten different starting lineups this season. However, the last four games, Coach Donahue has used the same starting five in Foreman, Donahue, Howard, Betley, and Brodeur. With Goodman mixing in with the guards off the bench, Sam Jones rotating in with the wings, and Rothschild spelling Brodeur, gives Penn an eight-man rotation that is balanced from top to bottom and suited for their 4 out 1 in attack.
While some players, like Ryan Betley, have benefitted from the coach Donahue’s most recent lineup, players that began the season as starters, like Caleb Wood and Matt MacDonald, have seen their minutes drop to zero.
When asked about whether the fluctuating minutes have hurt his play, Devon Goodman told the Daily Pennsylvanian, “I think that coach has been trying to find a core group of guys that can contribute to the team and find that right lineup.”
In their halfcourt motion offense, effective ball movement is critical to the Quakers’ production. During their four game winning streak, Penn has amassed an assist-to-turnover ratio of 75/62 or 1.21%. During conference play, the Quakers assist-to-turnover ratio has been 135-142 or .95%. As you can see, over the past four games, Penn has clearly improved their passing and ball movement in the offense, which has to do with their recent success.
When Penn is running it’s sets cleanly and getting good side-to-side ball movement, it is a tough offense to stop. This was highlighted in Penn’s trouncing of Brown when they scored 96 points, a season high for the Quakers.
Brown had absolutely no answers to Penn’s offensive attack. But, the Quakers’ success did not come from where it may have been expected.
Motion offenses are often expected to produce high-quality three point shots. Smaller teams like Penn are expected even more to live and die by the three point shot. But in the Brown game, it was not the three point shot that buried the Bears, rather, the shots from two. Sure, the Quakers did shoot effectively from long range against Brown, 14-29 (48%), but most of the damage from long range was done by two players, Jackson Donahue and Ryan Betley, who combined for 12-21 on three point shots, while the rest of the team shot 2-8. However, from inside the three point arc, the Quakers team combined to shoot 20-30 (66%). This high 2-point shooting percentage is reflective of how well they moved the ball around in the offense. Many of the Quakers’ baskets in the half court came off of timely backdoor cuts that got behind the defense and created a wide open layup. With Ryan Betley’s four assists, Darnell Foreman's five assists, and AJ Brodeur’s five assists, the Quakers displayed exactly how potent motion offenses can be when there are multiple players on the floor that are good passers.
Ryan Betley has been another key. After not playing in the Quaker’s first nine games, the freshman swingman has improved his play to the point where he is an important cog in Penn’s offense. Betley was given a career-high 30 minutes in Penn’s game against Cornell, and he rewarded the coach with a career performance with 22 points and 8 rebounds. On Friday night, Betley was again given 30 minutes of playing time, and again he responded by scoring a career-high 28 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. On Sunday, Betley continued his effective shooting, going 5-9 from the field and dishing out 3 assists in 34 minutes played.
If Betley can continue to prove coach Donahue right in giving him minutes and a starting role, Betley will develop into a multi-faceted offensive weapon that can be played at multiple positions. This will give opponents matchup problems for the next four years with his height, perimeter shooting, slashing, and passing skills.
Now that the Quakers have begun to turn their season around, it will be interesting to see how well they respond to all of this acquired momentum. Certainly, after winning on the road, against the third-best team in the conference (Yale), Penn will no longer catch opponents off guard. The rest of the Ivy league now has plenty of tape showing Penn playing at its best, and it is a certainty that opponents will be giving the Quakers all sorts of different looks, both offensively and defensively, to expose the Quakers’ weaknesses. But for now, the Penn program and fans should be glad to see that the Quakers have been establishing a blueprint for winning, centered around their solidified eight-man rotation, the emerging stud in Ryan Betley, and their more productive and efficient ball movement.
Photo: Zach Sheldon/The Daily Pennsylvanian
The University of Pennsylvania Quakers snapped a six-game losing streak against the Drexel Dragons yesterday, which dated back to the 2007-08 season, as junior Darnell Foreman provided a spark off the bench in the second half. The guard hit 4 of his 5 field goals after intermission, found teammates for high percentage shots in the paint and forced Drexel big man Rodney Williams into two decisive turnovers in the final three minutes of the game, to help the Quakers defeat the Dragons 75-67 in front of a crowd of 3,836 spectators at the Palestra.
Penn head coach Steve Donahue decided to switch things up after the Quakers returned from their holiday break by giving freshman Devon Goodman and Ryan Betley their first collegiate starts against the Dragons.
The inexperienced backcourt duo played together for two years on Team Philly before arriving at Penn, which gave them a sense of normalcy and continuity in an eclectic filled environment. Alongside freshman phenom AJ Brodeur and junior Caleb Wood, who both scored 9 points in the first half, Goodman and Betley combined for 9 points of their own, on three three-pointers, to help the Quakers take a 4-point lead into halftime.
Although the freshman paring began the second half on the floor together, coach Donahue sensed that Goodman, in particular, let the moment get the best of him.
“I sensed Dev's [Devon Goodman] tentativeness in the beginning of the second half,” said Donahue at his post-game press conference. “They scored and Dev was kind of back at Germantown Academy for a second, where he kind of looked up and walked over to the ball. That's not how we play. ”
As a result, Goodman was replaced by Foreman with less than four minutes off the game clock. The New Jersey native did not waste anytime making his presence known as he found co-captain Matt Howard for an easy lay-in off a pass from the top of the key and hit a three-pointer after a thirty-second timeout, which was called after sophomore Jackson Donahue caused a Drexel turnover.
The 6-foot-1 guard scored 10 of his season-high 12 points and dished out 2 assists in the second half.
“I thought Darnell [Foreman] was terrific in the second half tonight,” said coach Donahue. “He understands what we want. I sensed that he was the guy to go with on both sides. Guarding [Kurk] Lee, which I thought was a big part of the game and just getting us into the offense and running.”
While Foreman noticeably played well on the offensive end, it was arguably his contribution on defense that made the most difference. Foreman played a major role in holding Drexel's star freshman, Kurk Lee Jr., who came into the game averaging 15.3 points per game, 3.6 assists per game, and only 2.5 turnovers per game, while shooting 44% from the field and 41% from 3 in 31.5 minutes.
Lee scored just 9 points, his second single digit game of the season, after shooting 4-15 from the field and being forced into 6 turnovers (his highest total of the season). Foreman, who played 16 minutes in the second half, clearly disrupted the young guard with his experience and length, as Lee shot 1-7 from the field for just 3 points in the second half.
Foreman's ability to disrupt the Dragons was apparent the whole night and he capped it off with 21 seconds left, stealing the ball from Williams in a close 4-point game, leading to two free-throw makes by co-captain Matt MacDonald.
Coach Donahue said that Goodman has a chance to be a great player in this league and could possibly help the Quakers by playing thirty minutes in the next game but he sensed that Foreman, unlike Goodman, was locked in during yesterday's contest.
“I thought they [Goodman and Betley] did a good job in the first half,” said coach Donahue. “That's our dilemma, you want to put guys out there who can make [three-pointers] but you have to play both sides of the ball and when it came down to it, trying to win this game, my decisions were based off who were the best five guys on both sides of the ball.”
Photo: Ananya Chandra/The Daily Pennsylvanian
A 2-4 record through their first six games of non-conference play may not be the ideal start for Penn, but the Quaker's play should fuel optimism for their fans. They have competed well and have shown signs of being a complete, two-way basketball team that will be formidable force in Ivy League play. Besides the two-point loss on the road to a Navy team that uncharacteristically shot 47% from three (the Midshipmen average 35% on the season), Penn's losses have been to teams that simply out match the Quakers on size and skill. Nothing to be ashamed about with that.
The Quakers schedule has not been on their side. Not only have they played big-time programs like Villanova, University of Miami, and Temple, but five of their six games have been on the road, and their home opener was against the defending national champions. While this is a challenging way to start the season, it may benefit the Quakers in the long run.
“Playing on the road is such a challenge,” said head coach Steve Donahue, “it lets us figure out who we are. It's normal now. The crowd is against you and it almost helps you focus more.”
As Penn's schedule becomes more friendly, they still have a chance to enter Ivy League play with a winning record.
“We've had a tough stretch of games, but I imagine we're going to start winning soon,” A.J. Brodeur reflected following the Villanova loss.
For their next five games, the Quakers play at the Palestra against Lafayette, George Mason, Drexel, and Fairfield, with a trip to Orlando to play UCF wedged in the middle. This is certainly the favorable portion of the non-conference schedule for Penn.
Home court advantage and a lighter schedule is not the only reason Penn can start getting some wins. They have received exceptional play out of two newcomers, in A.J. Brodeur and Caleb Wood. When expectations are as high as they are for Brodeur, a guy who Steve Donahue has been courting since his days at Boston College, playing up to the expectations while acclimating to the new school is a challenge. With the potential that Max Rothschild had shown last season, it was unclear how Brodeur would impact the team this year, but he has rose to the opportunity.
He currently leads the Quakers in minutes played with 29 per game, points with 13.7 per game, rebounds with 6.5, steals with 1.6, blocks with 2, and player efficiency rating with 22.4. It is safe to say, that five games into his collegiate career, Brodeur is the best player on his team.
Caleb Wood was also another question mark for the Quakers as the season started. Part of the reason being that he is a transfer from junior college, and unlike fellow starting transfer Matt MacDonald, Wood did not benefit from already being with the program for a whole season.
While Wood was a high-level Junior College player, playing teams like Miami, VIllanova, and Temple is an entirely different experience. Wood, however, has adjusted very nicely to Division I ball with 11.2 points per game on 43% shooting from three and a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line.
“Terrific three-point shooter,” Donahue said of Wood after Penn's throttling of Central Connecticut State. “It's been him getting used to us and us getting used to him. If anything, I want him to be more aggressive.”
While the Quakers are limited physically on paper, Coach Donahue would prefer his team to be more tailored to skill rather than size anyway. Penn's shooters have rewarded coach Donahue's trust in them by shooting 36% from behind the arc. While that may not put them in elite company as far as perimeter shooting, if the law of averages kicks in, and normally solid shooters like Jackson Donahue and Sam Jones can get their averages closer to their previous seasons, Penn will be in a much better position to win close games.
“This group is way more committed to winning,” coach Donahue remarked following the Central Connecticut win. “They are making priorities and making sacrifices on and off the court to be a better basketball team.”
Even when the shots are not falling, coach Donahue will take the way Penn has competed.
“After watching the film,” Donahue told the Daily Pennsylvanian after their loss to Villanova, “I thought we competed really well. We competed hard when nothing was really going our way in terms of balls falling, so I am encouraged and pleased, but we have to keep working to get better.”
Certainly, the Quakers have room for improvement, as do all other teams this early in the season. But they have been trotting out a starting lineup with three players new to the program, and have grinded through a schedule that had them away from the Palestra for 5 of their 6 games. As the Quakers become more familiar playing with one another and find their identity, more wins are sure to come their way.
Photo: Ananya Chandra/ The Daily Pennsylvanian
The Penn Quakers had a roller coaster 2015-16 season, going 11-17 in their first season under head coach Steve Donahue.
Before the season even began, Penn star Tony Hicks decided to leave the program, which immediately put more pressure on the first year head coach and his players.
Despite the loss of Hicks, the Quakers got off to a hot start, winning 4 out of their first 5 games. It was stopped short though, when they suffered a 4 game losing streak, which included a home loss against Big 5 rival Temple. The Quakers would rebound and defeat coach Donahue’s alma mater Ursinus but then lose back-to-back games against two Big 5 rivals in Drexel and Villanova.
After the Quakers destroyed Binghamton, they were poised to take on rival Princeton at the Palestra but more devastating news ensued. Standout guard Antonio Woods was declared academically ineligible before the contest and would ultimately miss the rest of the season.
With Woods gone, freshman guards Jackson Donahue and Jake Silpe filled in. The duo combined for 20.2 points per game, 5.4 rebounds and 5.3 assists in Penn’s final 15 games. That doesn’t go without mentioning the impact that then senior Darien Nelson-Henry and junior Matt Howard had throughout the season at both ends of the court.
Nevertheless, the Quakers would go on to only win 5 of their last 14 regular season games.
With a strong incoming recruiting class, the additions of transfers Matt MacDonald and Caleb Wood, in addition to 11 returning players, Penn looks poised for a strong campaign.
Mike Auger (F, no longer on team), Jamal Lewis (G, graduation), Darien Nelson-Henry (C, graduation), Antonio Woods (G, status up in the air)
The Quakers didn’t lose many players, but did lose two important players and will be without one of their best players for at least half of the season, in addition to a key role player. Nelson-Henry had played consistent minutes for the past four seasons and was always a key part of the game plan. Lewis returned last season after missing the 2014-15 season due to illness and played in 25 games. Though he did not get an abundance of playing time, he provided the team with veteran leadership. Both graduates will be missed.
Woods’ status is still unknown, according to a Penn official. He may return mid-way through the season or he may wait until the 2017-18 season to return, which would leave him with two years of eligibility.
Despite being seen on campus, forward Mike Auger has left school and is not on the team, according to the same Penn official. The Massachusetts native had a decent freshman season, as he was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his efforts against Rider and Lafayette, where he scored 10 points and 18 points respectively. Furthermore, he played in 22 out of 28 games. His sophomore year was not as kind, as he only played in 15 games after battling injuries.
Ryan Betley (G, Fr.), A.J. Brodeur (F, Fr.), Devon Goodman (G, Fr.), Ray Jerome (G, Fr.), Zack Kaminsky (F, Fr.), Matt MacDonald (G, Jr. Transfer), Jakub Mijakowski (F, Fr.), Caleb Wood (G, Jr. Transfer)
Penn enjoys a plethora of newcomers joining coach Donahue for his second year as head coach. Many of them will also see significant minutes. Brodeur was the biggest recruit and has a good chance to play consistently early in the year. Brodeur is a well rounded, mature big man. Wood, the JUCO transfer, looks to fit in as a legitimate threat at the starting point guard position. His ability to shoot, score, and facilitate will work perfectly with coach Donahue’s vision for the team. They also bring in another transfer, Matt MacDonald, who won’t be so new to his teammates. MacDonald, a transfer from Fairleigh Dickinson, practiced and participated in all team events last season after having to sit out the year due to transfer rules. He was voted team captain and will bring leadership to a young team.
The other new faces will have a hard time finding the floor on a crowded Penn roster. Goodman and Jerome will be the most likely to find minutes early on of the remainders. Goodman, who was the MVP of the Inter-Ac last season, is ready to play, but finds himself pinned behind Wood, Jake Silpe, and Darnell Foreman on the depth chart. The other freshmen guards, Jerome and Betley, have the skills to play, but just not the space. Jerome is an athletic wing who can shoot and could find minutes for a quick blow here or there. Betley is a scorer and shooter, as he knocked down 48% of his threes on the Adidas Circuit the summer going into his senior season. He could find minutes as the season progresses because of his ability to shoot. Finally, big men Mjakowski and Kaminsky provide depth and sustainability.
Projected Starting Lineup
G: Caleb Wood (Proj. Stats: 12 PPG, 4 APG, .43 3p%)
Caleb Wood joins the Quakers as a rare JUCO transfer. He just happens to be the perfect fit. Not only is he a true point guard with fantastic ball handling ability, but he is a knockdown three point shooter -- perfect for the Quakers’ system. Last season for Lassen Community College, Wood averaged 23.2 points per game, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.7 assists, nailing 49% of his three pointers. At 22 years old, Wood is mature and seasoned, but still has two more years left to play. He brings an offensive punch and experienced skillset that the Quakers desperately needed from their point guards last season when Antonio Woods left.
G: Jackson Donahue (Proj. Stats: 17 PPG, 2 APG, .41 3p%)
The sophomore guard returns arguably as Penn’s best scorer. Last season, he averaged 14 points per game in the final 16 games of the season when he finally started to earn minutes. He capped that off by showing off his long range, averaging 3 three pointers per game as well during that stretch. Donahue is a legit scorer and competitor who doesn’t quit attacking. Playing besides an experienced point guard crew and a young, talented big man in AJ Brodeur, Donahue will thrive in his second season at Penn.
G: Matt MacDonald (Proj. Stats: 10 PPG, 5 RPG, .46 FG%)
Matt MacDonald will hit the hardwood after sitting out a season because of NCAA transfer rules. At Fairleigh Dickinson, where MacDonald spent his first two seasons, he started in all but one game, earning captain of the team in his sophomore season. MacDonald averaged nearly 30 minutes per game in each of his seasons at FDU, giving the Quakers some experience at the 3. Now, as a voted team captain, MacDonald will get the opportunity to finally suit up as a Quaker. As he has already been with the team for a year, he is familiar with the system and poised to play major minutes. At 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, he is the ideal size for a starting off-guard and should have no problem adjusting into the starting role.
G/F: Matt Howard (Proj. Stats: 13 PPG, 5 RPG, .48 FG%)
Last season, Matt Howard emerged as one of the Ivy League’s most well rounded players. As a 6-foot-4 hybrid player, Howard averaged 12.3 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 46% from the field. He also expanded his offensive game, adding in a three point shot. Although he struggled to connect, it showed coach Donahue’s confidence in his perimeter shooting ability which gives hope for improvement. But it was on the defensive end that Howard did much of his work. From covering Princeton’s star guard Henry Caruso to Dartmouth's Evan Boudreaux, Howard was as versatile a defender as they came. This season he comes back as a captain and presumed starting player. He will undoubtedly compete as one of the best all around players in the Ivy League.
F: A.J. Brodeur (Proj. Stats: 7 PPG, 5 RPG)
The highly touted freshman from Northborough, Massachusetts is primed for a shot at one of the starting big man spots. Brodeur plays with his back to the basket, but can also step out and hit a jump shot if needed. At Northfield Mount Hermon, Brodeur averaged 15.6 points per game and 8.7 rebounds. In Penn’s first scrimmage against Keiser, the young forward got the starting nod, scoring 14 points and bringing down 15 rebounds. With the loss of Darien Nelson-Henry, there isn’t a better time for such a talented freshman to come along. He has all of the tools and complementary pieces to have success in his first year at Penn.
Ryan Betley (G, Fr.), Dan Dwyer (F, Jr.), Darnell Foreman (G, Jr.), Devon Goodman (G, Fr.), Tyler Hamilton (G/F, Soph.), Ray Jerome (G, Fr.), Dylan Jones (F, Sr.), Sam Jones (F, Jr), Max Rothschild (F, Soph.), Collin McManus (C, Soph.), Jake Silpe (G, Soph.)
The Quakers will be deep and have lots of options off of the bench. Sam Jones will likely start the season as the 6th man. He began the year as a starter last year, but his inconsistency forced him onto the bench. With that said, he is a stellar three point shooter who can get hot at any moment. The backup point guard role will be an interesting battle between Darnell Foreman, Jake Silpe, and Devon Goodman. Silpe, who started the majority of the games last season, will likely see the most minutes of any of the point guards off the bench. Foreman returns after an up and down season last year that featured three double digit scoring games in the final 7 games. He is a strong defender, who is long and relentless. Tyler Hamilton should also see some minutes in the lineup as well after a promising freshman season. Although Hamilton only played 4 minutes in their scrimmage against Keiser, coach Donahue liked what he brought to the table last season.
Max Rothschild, Collin McManus, and Dan Dwyer will all most likely get minutes off the bench in the frontcourt. Rothschild is by far the most smooth offensively of these big men. In the 2015-16 season, the big man from Chicago averaged 5 points per game, including two 18-point outbursts against Brown and Dartmouth, respectively. McManus struggled to find minutes last season, but is a big body who is still developing. Dwyer always found ways to etch out minutes last season. He will provide energy and defense if needed.
However, everyone knows that after a year under coach Steve Donahue, the lineup and roster is bound to change many times. Last year, he experimented constantly with new players and lineups throughout the season. A rotation will never be set in stone for the Quakers.
at Temple (Dec. 3rd, 2016)
Penn has a tough schedule to open the season. Defeating Miami will be a tall order, but they also have a chance against Temple early in the season. Their fellow Big 5 rival lost 4 seniors and look vulnerable to start the year without Josh Brown. It would be a great win for Penn against a team that has defeated them consistently for the past decade.
at Princeton (Jan. 7th, 2017)
Last year when the Quakers and Tigers met during conference play, the games were emotional and well played, with Princeton winning both contests by slim margins. Donahue and company will look for revenge this year when they go against a Princeton team picked to finish atop the Ivy League. However, when it comes to the Penn vs Princeton basketball rivalry, preseason polls do not play a role in the electric energy that both teams play with.
vs. Cornell (Feb. 11th, 2017)
In coach Donahue’s first season at Penn, the Quakers beat Cornell twice, but the game on February 11th is the definition of a trap game. The Quakers will have three games that week in the middle of conference play and may be tired for their last game of the week against a lesser team. With that said, Donahue spent ten years coaching Cornell so there’s a little bit of extra motivation for the second-year coach to beat the Bears. Penn will look to repeat last year’s success against Cornell, who was picked to finish 7th in the Ivy this season.
The Quakers face a tough conference and nonconference schedule, but this team is one of their best in recent years. At each position, they have depth, talent, athleticism, and size. While they will struggle to compete in early season matchups with Miami and Villanova, they will have many evenly matched games that they should win. The toughest stretch will come during conference play, where they will have to face off against Princeton, who returns three All-Ivy League honorees, and Harvard, who brings in a recruiting class with 4 players in the ESPN top 100. Even Dartmouth, ranked 6th in the Ivy League preseason rankings, comes into the 2016-17 campaign loaded with star sophomore Evan Boudreaux at the helm. The Ivy League is full of talent, but Penn is too. Their depth will give them advantage night in and night out.
“I am very pleased with how our schedule came together for this season. A challenging non-conference schedule will provide us with tremendous opportunities to make some noise this season.” -Head Coach Steve Donahue in a statement, found via The Daily Pennsylvanian
“I think A.J. Brodeur is pretty clearly ready to help us immediately. I think he’s going to be one of the better frontcourt players in this league. He is very talented and skilled but he also has a natural ability to compete and it means something instinctively right away where some kids are trying to fit in.” - Head Coach Steve Donahue via City of Basketball Love.
“I completely agree with these two choices! Both have proven not only to be leaders on the court, in the weight room and in the classroom, but they are also tremendously mature individuals. In addition, Matt and Matt have shown that they want to win, no matter how it gets done, and that is a concept we constantly stress to our student-athletes.” -Head Coach Steve Donahue in a Penn Athletics press release on the team’s decision to label Matt Howard and Matt MacDonald as captains.
“I think from starting two weeks ago until today, [Betley and Goodman] have made great progress. I think they both have great potential. Honestly, I’m seeing stuff at this point that I thought would take a couple months with how they both played.” -Head coach Steve Donahue via The Daily Pennsylvanian
“I just keep looking at the calendar and the schedule. It’s been a long time since I’ve played an actual game. But I’m just excited to play with these guys, these guys are awesome, they’re my best friends, my brothers, so I just can’t wait to play. -Matt MacDonald via City of Basketball Love
Photo: Ananya Chandra/The Daily Pennsylvanian
Benjamin Simon & Benjamin Boswell
The Empire will be running periodic op-ed columns throughout the season called “Ben vs. Ben.” Editors Benjamin Simon and Benjamin Boswell will square off and take different sides on topics, defending their points of view through statistics and analysis. Join the conversation by commenting on the website and social media with your opinions. We want to hear what you have to say too!
Benjamin Simon: Yes, Jackson Donahue will be an All-Ivy League selection
When Jackson Donahue hit his first three pointer against Temple, he was already 0-3 from deep on the night and his team was slowly being defeated. Temple was finally gaining momentum and starting to wear down the Quakers, having stretched the game out to 10 points with 10 minutes left in the game prior to Donahue’s first three of the game.
Not for long though.
In the next minute and a half, Donahue would hit two more three pointers and cut the Temple lead to 5 points with 9 minutes left. Then, with 50 seconds left in the game, he would hit another three, once again cutting the lead to 5. He sparked the Quakers, a team who looked like they had played hard but was going to run out of energy. Donahue had saved them. 19 days later against Villanova he would do the same, solidifying himself as a consistent presence in the Quakers’ starting lineup.
Donahue didn’t score a single point in the first half against Villanova. Penn found themselves down 39-11 halfway through the game, severely overmatched against the eventual national champions. Donahue got the nod in the second half and it didn’t take but 2 minutes and 7 seconds for Donahue to turn the tides, nailing a three pointer off a Darien Nelson-Henry assist. Donahue would score 15 more points that half, including 5 three balls and 3 steals.
These two games were a representation of Donahue’s play: energy filled, relentless, sharp shooting, and unafraid. There wasn’t another day during the season that you couldn’t mention Penn basketball without bringing up Jackson Donahue’s name.
For the next 16 games, Donahue played over 30 minutes in all but one game, more than earning his spot in the regular rotation. During that span, he averaged 14 points and 3 three pointers per game, adding up for a three point percentage of 39%. Given the minutes, he showed his true and full potential. Had he not sat for much of the beginning of the season, Donahue would have been an All-Ivy League player last season. Of the six guards who earned All-Ivy League honors, Donahue’s averages during the last 16 games would have ranked him fourth in scoring and third in three point percentage between the players.
Even without playing much during the first 14 games, Donahue still made the 7th most three pointers in the Ivy League throughout the season. He added to that by ranking in the Ivy League’s top 20 in True Shooting Percentage and 4th in Effective Field Goal Percentage. His strong offensive play gave him an Offensive Box Plus/Minus of 2.6, ranking him 9th in the Ivy League. He finally showed that he was more than equipped to handle the defensive pressure of college basketball players, finishing with a turnover percentage of 9.2, good for 2nd in the Ivy League.
In the second half of the season, Jackson Donahue was easily Penn’s most impactful player. Even when he wasn’t shooting well or scoring much, Donahue affected the game with his energy, enthusiasm, and defense. There wasn’t a time throughout the season that the freshman guard didn’t dive on the floor for balls or run around trying to create a jump shot for himself. Despite being asked to play 30 plus minutes almost every night, Donahue never ceased to play like his job was on the line. And this was just in his freshman season.
Donahue now enters his sophomore year loaded with major minutes under his belt. He will have a strong supporting class, as coach Steve Donahue brings in a talented freshman and transfer class and returns many common faces, only having lost two players from last season. Donahue will also have more time to get more accustomed to his large, high scoring role. Last year, the guard from Northfield Mount Hermon played a mere 21 minutes in his first 8 games, but was then thrust into a starting role for the rest of the season. Now, he will have minutes under his belt and will prepare the entire offseason practicing with the first team as one of the team’s best offensive players.
The bottom line is that Donahue played like a top Ivy League player for the second half of the season. Whether it was against some of the country's top teams (Villanova and Temple) or versus the Ivy League’s best teams, Donahue never failed to perform. Despite enduring treacherous minutes as the year went on, Donahue always produced at a high level on the defensive and offensive end.
Benjamin Boswell: No, Jackson Donahue will not be an All-Ivy League selection
There is no doubt that Jackson Donahue’s play surpassed expectations last season. After averaging just over six minutes and two points in his first nine games, Jackson Donahue was anointed into the Quaker’s starting lineup and began doing what he does best, stretching opponent’s defense with three point sharpshooting. Donahue had a strong conference season, averaging almost 13 points in 35.5 minutes per game while shooting 39% from the three point line. While those are encouraging numbers for a freshman to put up, to say Jackson Donahue will be an All-Ivy guard next season is putting too high expectations on him that he, in all likelihood, will not match.
For starters, the amount of development he would need over this offseason to get his play to the level of what the recent All-Ivy guards have performed at will be difficult. This is especially true when you look at Donahue’s competition in the other Ivy League backcourts and see who he will have to out-perform to be given the All-Conference recognition.
The table below charts the past four year’s First Team All-Ivy guards and the numbers they put up during that season. It is then averaged out to give a base stat-line of what an All-Ivy guard should look to replicate.
As you can see, Donahue will need to improve his statistics significantly in order to compare to recent All-Ivy performers. Even if Donahue doubled the amount of points he produced last season, he still wouldn't match the average of the past four season’s First Team All-Ivy guards.
If Donahue is to improve his numbers, he would need an even bigger role than he was given last season.
Part of what made Donahue such a weapon offensively for the Quakers last season was his efficiency. Shooting 38% from the three and turning the ball over merely .9 times per game are nice looking numbers for a starting guard to put up. But if Penn head coach Steve Donahue does decide to hand Jackson Donahue the keys to the offense and continue to play him for 35 minutes, while improving his role in the offense, so that his usage percentage matches the All-Ivy guards of season’s past, Donahue’s biggest strengths, his 3-point shooting and turnover numbers, will surely decline.
The next table compares Jackson Donahue’s statistics to six other Ivy League guards that will also be in contention for All-Conference recognition next season. Surely Donahue’s biggest competition is Malakai Mason as he was a first team All-Ivy league guard last season. Matt Morgan looks to build off of an excellent freshman year where he was named to the All-Ivy Second Team. Siyani Chambers, who is returning from injury, should also be seen as favorite after being an All-Ivy first teamer in 2013.
Not only does Donahue need to improve his numbers significantly for All-Conference consideration, but there is plenty of competition that is already near the level of an All-Conference performer that Donahue will need to out-play.
Now that we have a base for what Donahue will need to do and how stiff the guard competition will be, it is time to address the loss of Penn’s best player Darien-Nelson Henry and what that means for Donahue next year.
A good big man is a guard’s best friend. Offensively, DNH’s low post skills demanded that teams double team him down low, giving perimeter players room to work. Even when he wasn’t scoring, you can see that Nelson-Henry’s sheer offensive gravity created space for Donahue to put up open three point shots, contributing to his great shooting numbers. Although sophomore Max Rothschild and freshman A.J. Brodeur have talent and will be solid players in due time, they will not require the same amount of double teams and overall attention from the defense as Darien Nelson-Henry did. This will hinder Donahue and ultimately cause him to see a drop in his shooting numbers.
Being recognized to the All-Ivy team requires excellent play on both sides of the floor. Last season, Jackson Donahue’s 113.8 defensive rating was worst among all of Penn’s regular rotation players and it will not get any easier for him next season with DNH’s graduation. DNH’s interior defense played a part in Penn’s opponents shooting 520 3-point shots last year, 13th most in the entire nation. With Darien Nelson-Henry gone, and no clear defensive anchor down low, expect opponents to attack the Quaker’s rim. For an undersized (6-foot, 175 pounds) guard like Donahue, defending without inside help will be a challenge.
All in all, although Jackson Donahue is a talented shooter that opponents will need to account for whenever he is on the court, he would need to develop his game to a much higher level of play to be considered for the All-Ivy team. The quality competition that Donahue will need to out-play and the team’s young and interior presence also makes his case even more unlikely.
Photo: Luke Risher/PhillyEmpire
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