Penn at Princeton: Rivals meet for monster Ivy League game


Penn at Princeton: Rivals meet for monster Ivy League game

Penn (5-2, 4-0 Ivy League) at Princeton (5-2, 3-1 Ivy League)
Princeton Stadium, Princeton, N.J.
Saturday, noon, CSN

With a big chance to take another step toward at least a piece of its second straight Ivy League title, Penn makes a short trip to clash with its biggest rival. Here’s a look at what’s on tap:

Scouting Penn
After thoroughly trouncing Yale two weeks ago, the Quakers had a bit more trouble last week, fending off a second-half Brown comeback to win, 21-14, in front of a homecoming crowd. Once again, wide receiver Justin Watson was the star of the show, catching 11 passes for a career-high 210 yards a week after setting a previous career high of 160 yards and three touchdowns. Watson — who enjoys near-perfect chemistry with quarterback Alek Torgersen and a promising partnership with fellow playmakers Christian Pearson and Tre Solomon — currently ranks 15th in the FCS in receiving yards with 807. Meanwhile, Penn’s defense continues to improve. Once ranked near the bottom of the Ivies, the Quakers are currently fourth in scoring defense and fifth in total defense.

Scouting Princeton
The Tigers are decidedly one of the favorites to win the Ivy League championship with their only conference loss coming to unbeaten Harvard in overtime two weeks ago. Before then, Princeton won four of its first five games, including two easy league wins. And after the loss to the Crimson, the Tigers trounced Cornell, 56-7, last week behind a staggering seven touchdowns from quarterback John Lovett (four passing, two rushing, one receiving). Lovett, the FCS touchdown leader, actually shares snaps with Chad Kanoff, who handles more of the passing. Princeton also boasts a dual threat at running back with Joe Rhattigan and Charlie Volker ranking fifth and sixth in the Ivies in rushing. As a whole, the Tigers are perhaps the Ivy League’s best statistical team, ranking first in scoring offense (35.6 points per game) and total offense (423.9 yards per game) and fourth in the entire FCS in rushing defense (79.9 yards per game).

Series history
Princeton leads the overall series 65-41-1 as the two teams prepare for their 108th meeting. But Penn is 23-10 since 1983 and is 8-2 all-time at Princeton Stadium. Last year, the Quakers beat Princeton in one of their most dramatic games in recent memory, blocking a short field goal at the end of regulation before winning in overtime at Franklin Field.

Storyline to watch
Trying to come up with a defensive game plan for two quarterbacks is difficult for anyone, and Penn will likely be no different. And on the other side of the ball, it will be fun to watch the Ivy League’s top rusher in Tre Solomon try to move the chains against of the nation’s premier run defenses.

What’s at stake?
This is one of the biggest games of the season for both teams. On top of the heated rivalry, Princeton needs to win to stay in the hunt for a piece of the title while Penn needs to win to potentially set up a battle of the unbeateans next Friday vs. Harvard under the lights of Franklin Field.

The Tigers will be out for vengeance after last year but they may have a hard time slowing down Penn’s dynamic passing attack. 

Penn 28, Princeton 27

Villanova, Penn with polar opposite NCAA Tournament draws

Villanova, Penn with polar opposite NCAA Tournament draws

No surprises on the Main Line and well, the Quakers have quite the hill to climb to advance.

Villanova on Sunday night was awarded the 1-seed in the East Region and will face the winner of the LIU Brooklyn/Radford game Thursday in Pittsburgh. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:50 p.m. on TNT.

The Wildcats have been a top-two seed since 2014 and it's the second straight year they're a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova was the No. 1 overall seed in last year's tournament.

Penn was named the 16th seed in the Midwest Region and will face the No. 1-seeded Kansas Jayhawks on Thursday at 2 p.m. on TBS in Wichita, Kansas.

Steve Donahue has the Quakers back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 in his third season as Penn's head coach.

The Quakers are 24-8 and this will be their 24th-ever appearance in the tournament.

'Nova survived a scare from Providence on Saturday night to win its second straight Big East title and its third in the past four years.

If the Wildcats beat LIU Brooklyn/Radford, they'll face the winner of the No. 8-seeded Virginia Tech and No. 9 seed Alabama. Purdue is the No. 2 seed in the East.

Also in the East are No. 3 Texas Tech and No. 4 Wichita State.

Penn aims to end 11-year drought this weekend

USA Today Images

Penn aims to end 11-year drought this weekend

NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Amy Fadool and senior producer Sean Kane get you set for all the weekend's local college basketball games with Fastbreak Friday. With the regular season ending this weekend, this will be the final Fastbreak Friday column of the season.

Temple (16-13, 8-9 AAC) at Tulsa (18-11, 11-6 AAC), Sunday at 3 p.m.
 It’s been a rough season for the Temple Owls. Yes, there was that win over ranked Wichita State in the middle of a 5-game win streak. But after the stumbles down the stretch, that seems like a distant memory. 

Of course, the bad can be washed away with an AAC tournament run, but first, the Owls need to close out on the road against Tulsa. 

Given their track record on the road, things don’t line up well for Fran Dunphy’s crew. Plus, it’s dollar dog, dollar soda and dollar popcorn night at Tulsa. That’s a delicious trifecta. 

But there is still some fight in this team. Quintin Rose and Shizz Alston have been everything the Owls have needed, and throw in Nate Pierre-Louis and you have a nice core back for next season.

Temple 71,  Tulsa 70

Pennsylvania (21-7, 11-1 Ivy) at Yale (14-14, 7-5 Ivy), Friday at 7 p.m.
Pennsylvania (21-7, 11-1 Ivy) at Brown (11-14, 4-8 Ivy), Saturday at 6 p.m.
Penn enters the final weekend of the regular season in control of its own destiny. If the Quakers beat Yale and Brown on the road they'll win their first Ivy League championship since 2007 and earn the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which will be played at the Palestra next weekend. It all adds up to Penn having the inside track to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 years.

This seems like an appropriate time to salute the job done by head coach Steve Donahue. In just his third season at Penn, he has the Quakers poised to reclaim top billing in the Ivy League. He inherited a team that finished 9-19 in the 2014-2015 season and promptly began a swift rebuilding project. Penn went 11-17 in Donahue's first season, 13-14 in his second year, and now stand at 21-7 overall and 11-1 in conference play. Look for those winning ways to continue this weekend and for Donahue and company to do some celebrating.

Penn 73, Yale 66
Penn 69, Brown 60

La Salle (13-17, 7-10 A-10) at St. Joseph's (14-15, 9-8 A-10), Saturday at 2 p.m.
La Salle and St. Joe's will each try to keep the good times rolling heading into next week's A-10 Tournament. La Salle has won three of its last four games, including a convincing 18-point win over Dayton earlier this week. St. Joseph's meanwhile has a 5-1 record in its last six games and just recorded arguably one of the most stunning victories of this college basketball season.

The Hawks went on the road and beat No. 18 Rhode Island, 78-48, on Tuesday, spoiling the Rams' senior night in the process. It was the first road win over a ranked team for St. Joseph's since 1979 and it came in shockingly easy fashion. I expect the Hawks to build on that momentum this weekend and avenge a three-point loss to La Salle earlier this season.

St. Joseph's 74, La Salle 68 

Drexel (12-19, 6-12 CAA) at James Madison (10-21, 6-12 CAA), Saturday at 4 p.m. in first round of CAA Tournament
The Dragons' season has been marked with highs and lows. While it may seem like a marginal improvement — with 12 wins to their credit compared to nine last season — they did double their conference win total. 

Also, Drexel beat the top two teams in the CAA this season as well as set an NCAA Division-I record for the largest comeback ever when they erased a 34-point deficit against Delaware. 

But the Dragons did have two separate losing streaks that would cause any coach to lose sleep, one of five straight and the other of four straight losses. 

Drexel begins the quest for its first-ever CAA tournament title against JMU, then Charleston awaits on basically home turf. Go ahead and make it a baker’s dozen, Dragons. 

Drexel 76, JMU 74

Prediction Records
Sean Kane: 30-11
Amy Fadool: 22-21