Penn Quakers

Penn football picked to finish 3rd in Ivy League as conference focuses on player safety

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Penn football picked to finish 3rd in Ivy League as conference focuses on player safety

Preseason college football practices opened across the country in recent weeks to increased safety due to the elimination of multiple practices with contact during a single day - the two-a-days.

Such mentality fell into line with some of the measures previously taken by the Ivy League.

With their league at the forefront of trying to reduce concussions and keep student-athletes healthy, Ivy coaches reflected on some of the changes Tuesday during a preseason conference call to preview their upcoming season.

Princeton and Harvard were installed as the preseason co-favorites in a close media vote over Penn. Harvard coach Tim Murphy said the Quakers were too low considering they're a two-time defending Ivy champion, sharing the 2015 title with his Crimson and last year's title with Princeton.

The tie atop the poll was the first since 2008 and the third all-time. Yale was picked fourth followed by Dartmouth, Brown (one first-place vote), Columbia and Cornell.

Coaches lauded the level of play in the league, especially veteran coaches such as Murphy, Brown's Phil Estes and Columbia's Al Bagnoli. The rise could be impacted by the emphasis on keeping players healthy.

"Most guys 25 years or older, they had never had that mind-set back when we played. You did what you were coached to do and you taught what you learned when you were a player. Nothing had changed for a long period of time," said Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens, acknowledged as the league's chief driving force for implementing safety measures. "Certainly with technology and some of the concerns with compression head injury, TBI (traumatic brain injury), growing awareness, we can do things in a different fashion. What I'm finding right now is there's a greater receptivity."

The Ivy League formally eliminated "live" to-the-ground tackling in practices during the regular season last year, continuing to address safety measures alongside the Xs and Os. In addition, league members moved kickoffs to the 40-yard line and touchbacks to the 20-yard line in an effort to limit returns and the possibility of concussions from one of football's more dangerous plays. Two-a-days also had been scaled back in the preseason.

"I think that the rule changes that we made in the league have given us an opportunity to keep the players safe and also decrease the high collisions on special teams, especially on the kickoff game. It's really made the game better," Yale coach Tony Reno said.

Added Penn coach Ray Priore, "How you teach tackling has changed. We used to put the helmet on the ball to cause fumbles; now it's on the back hip in the rugby style. It's changed in that facet, how we as coaches have to re-look at the teaching of some of those mechanisms. I think some of the rules are spot-on with what we want to do without changing the integrity of the game."

The Ivy League has been reviewing concussions since 2010, moving from football to a number of other sports such as lacrosse, ice hockey, soccer, wrestling and rugby.

Safety measures go beyond concussions as well. Cornell coach David Archer notes the risk of knee and leg injuries are down because players aren't being driven to the ground in practice.

Dartmouth has been especially active, developing a robotic tackling dummy, called the Mobile Virtual Player (MVP), to simulate live tackling in an effective and realistic way. The product was unveiled in 2015, nearly five years after coach Teevens instituted a no-tackling policy in practice to keep more players healthy.

Said Priore: "You could see based on the lack of injuries that were reported at the end of the year that … being a successful football team is how healthy you can you stay. I think all these measures go into helping us stay healthy."

Key Ivy League games
Penn at Harvard (Nov. 11) - The last 10 Ivy League titles have included one or both of these powers. Expect the streak to continue in 2017.

Five More: Yale at Dartmouth (Oct. 7); Penn at Columbia (Oct. 14); Princeton at Harvard (Oct. 21); Princeton at Penn (Nov. 4); Harvard at Yale (Nov. 18).

Ivy League football preseason media poll
1. (tie) Princeton (6 first-place votes), 120 points

1. (tie) Harvard (5), 120

3. Penn (5), 110

4. Yale, 71

5. Dartmouth, 60

6. Brown (1), 57

7. Columbia, 38

8. Cornell, 36

Penn's miracle upset bid implodes in second half

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Penn's miracle upset bid implodes in second half


WICHITA, Kan. — Devonte Graham kept driving to the rim, using his deft crossover and blinding first step to get past Penn's defenders, only to watch every shot he put up bounce out.

He turned to teammate Malik Newman and said, "Man, I'm just not finishing."

Newman's reply: "Keep being aggressive."

Graham evidently listened.

The Big 12 player of the year finally started to get his shots to go, igniting sluggish Kansas midway through the first half and finishing with 29 points, lifting the top-seeded Jayhawks to a tough, grind-it-out 76-60 victory over the Quakers in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Lagerald Vick added 14 points for the Jayhawks (28-7), who trailed the Ivy League champs by 10 in the early stages Thursday before going on a 19-2 run late in the half to take control.

Graham, perhaps atoning for a dismal performance in last year's tournament loss to Oregon, also had six rebounds and six assists as the Jayhawks cruised into a second-round matchup with eighth-seeded Seton Hall — which beat North Carolina State — in the loaded Midwest Region.

"We didn't play well offensively the first half. We stunk," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "It's hard for us to play well offensively if we don't make shots because we don't have a big guy to throw it into right now. The way they defended us, we needed a guard to take it on himself to get downhill."

Graham stepped up to the task.

"He was just keeping everybody's heads right," Vick said. "He told us we weren't going to lose."

A.J. Brodeur had 14 points to lead the Quakers (24-9), but he was just 6 of 16 from the field and committed five turnovers. He was also 1 of 5 from the foul line, where Penn was 5 of 14 as a team.

"Give Kansas a ton of credit. Thought they played a terrific game," Penn coach Steve Donahue said. "It was a great basketball game for about 35 minutes. Then they finished us off."

The Jayhawks played most of the way without 7-footer Udoka Azubuike, who hurt a ligament in his left knee in practice last week. The sophomore center played three minutes, all in the first half, and struggled to move around while wearing a bulky brace on his leg.

Newman, the MVP of last week's Big 12 Tournament, and Svi Mykhailiuk scored 10 points apiece for Kansas, which won its 12th consecutive NCAA opener — and avoided some ignominious history.

Trying to succeed where 132 other No. 16 seeds had failed, the Quakers raced to a 21-11 lead with about 7 minutes left in the first half. They leaned on their stingy perimeter defense to limit the hot-shooting Jayhawks' 3-point barrage, and their pick-and-roll offense was humming.

It took the Big 12 player of the year to restore some order.

Graham picked the pocket of Caleb Wood on defense, trailed a fast-break play and was there to lay in Mykhailiuk's missed layup, trigging what would become a 19-2 run over the next six minutes.

Graham added back-to-back baskets at the rim, then knocked down a pair of 3s later in the run. He capped his 19-point first-half barrage by drawing a foul as the Quakers were attempted to give a foul away, then hitting all three foul shots.

That gave the Big 12 champions a 33-26 lead heading into the locker room.

Penn hung around until midway through the second half, when the bigger, stronger Jayhawks began to assert control. Their veteran backcourt did most of the work, slowly drawing away.

"Credit to Graham, he realized what was going on in the game. He has a great feel for the game," Penn's Darnell Foreman said. "Knowing he's a senior, he had to step up and force the tone and create and he did a great job of that."

More on Doke
Self said Azubuike could have played "five or six minutes," but he wasn't needed in the second half. The hope is to get him to 80 percent in practice Friday and play more regular minutes Saturday.

Big picture
Penn was one of the top 3-point defenders in the nation, and the Jayhawks missed eight of their first nine attempts. But Kansas still went 7 of 17 for the game, and each of those 3s seemed to come whenever Penn was threatening to make a run.

Kansas only got four points from its bench, a big concern going forward. The Jayhawks have used a short lineup all season, made even shorter by Azubuike's absence. But teams with little depth tend to wear down in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Up next
Penn is headed for the offseason while the Jayhawks, who made their first appearance in Wichita since 1992, will face Seton Hall on Saturday.

Penn makes it 2 Big 5 teams in the NCAA Tourney

Penn makes it 2 Big 5 teams in the NCAA Tourney

Darnell Foreman scored 19 points, AJ Brodeur had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Penn earned its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007 with a 68-65 win over Harvard in the Ivy League Tournament title game Sunday.

Ryan Betley added 17 points for the Quakers (24-8), who will be making their 24th appearance in the NCAAs.

Senior Caleb Wood, a junior college transfer, drilled two straight 3-pointers, getting fouled on the second, to put Penn ahead 63-60 with 3:42 remaining. Betley followed with a 3-point play, before Harvard's Christian Juzang pulled the Crimson to 66-63 with a 3-pointer with 47.6 seconds to go.

Harvard trimmed Penn's lead to 66-65 on two Justin Bassey foul shots with 14.6 seconds left. But after Betley hit two free throws, Bassey and Juzang both missed potentially game-tying threes in the final seconds, and Penn fans stormed the court for a celebration a decade in the making.

Chris Lewis led Harvard (18-13) with 16 points, while Bassey had 15 and Seth Towns, the league's player of the year, finished with 13.

Harvard and Penn proved to be the top two teams in the Ivies this year after sharing the regular-season title with 12-2 conference records and then dominating Cornell and Yale, respectively, in Saturday's Ivy League Tournament semifinal games.

And after splitting their two regular-season meetings, both teams traded punches like heavyweight fighters in front of a packed crowd at the Palestra, Penn's home gym.

Fueled by a 16-0 run in which Penn was held scoreless for seven minutes, Harvard led 30-17 with five minutes left in the first half. That's when the Quakers turned things around, closing the first half on a 17-2 run capped by a Foreman 3-pointer right before the buzzer. Foreman, who sprinted right into the locker room as the Palestra crowd went wild, scored his 19 points all in the first half.

The Quakers continued to surge after the break, with sophomore standouts Brodeur and Betley combining to score the first 11 points of the first half to put the Quakers ahead 45-32 and complete a 28-2 run spanning halves.

Trailing by 10 midway through the second half, Harvard reeled off a 13-0 run to take a 58-55 lead, sparked by 3-point plays from Bassey and Juzang.

Once a staple of the NCAA Tournament, Penn went to the tourney seven times between 1999 and 2007 before falling on hard times, due in large part to the rise of Harvard.

Big picture
Harvard: Despite Sunday's result, the Crimson continue to be the class of the Ivies with Tommy Amaker at the helm, having won six Ivy League championships since 2011 with NCAA Tournament wins in 2013 and 2014.

Penn: The Quakers have made a speedy turnaround under third-year coach Steve Donahue. And with only two key players graduating and several underclassmen returning from injury, they should be poised to remain at the top of the Ivies next season and beyond.

Up next
Harvard receives an automatic berth in the NIT by virtue of its top seed in the Ivies.

Penn is headed to the NCAA Tournament.