NCAA

Penn at Cornell: Quakers look to capture back-to-back Ivy titles

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Penn at Cornell: Quakers look to capture back-to-back Ivy titles

Penn (6-3, 5-1 Ivy) at Cornell (4-5, 2-4 Ivy)
Schoellkopf Field, Ithaca, N.Y.
Saturday, Noon, Fox College Sports

For the Penn football team, it all comes down to this. After beating Harvard in dramatic fashion last week, the Quakers are one win away from capturing at least a share of their second straight Ivy League championship. Here’s a look at their final game of the 2016 season:

Scouting Penn
After allowing Harvard to come back and tie the game on a deep ball and trick-play two-point conversion in the final minutes of last week’s Ivy League showdown at Franklin Field, Penn responded with a drive for the ages to hand the Crimson their first Ivy League loss of the season and move into a three-way tie for first place in the conference. And to nobody’s surprise, it was the dynamic duo of quarterback Alek Torgersen and wide receiver Justin Watson that led the way and connected for the go-ahead touchdown that sent Penn to a 27-14 win over Harvard — the Quakers’ second straight year upsetting a nationally ranked Crimson team. Perhaps of equal importance was the performance of the defense as the unit scored two touchdowns, including one on the final play of the game to put a cherry on top of the win, and finished with six sacks, with three coming from defensive end Louis Vecchio, who also scored one of the TDs. Penn has now won six of its last seven after two straight losses to the start the year.

Scouting Cornell
The Big Red snapped a five-game losing streak with a dramatic 42-40 win over New York rival Columbia last week. A pair of sophomores led the way with Chris Walker rushing for 179 yards and three touchdowns and Dalton Banks completing 24 of 37 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns while running for a third. But while those two players rank second in the Ivies in rushing and passing, respectively, Cornell’s defense has struggled throughout the year, having allowed 459.1 yards per game, which ranks last in the Ivies and 110th out of 122 teams in the FCS. Still in rebuilding mode under fourth-year head coach David Archer, Cornell’s four wins on the season matched the victory total of the previous two years combined, and the Big Red also finished with a winning road record (3-2) for the first time since 1994. 

Series history
In what is the fifth-most played rivalry in college football, Penn holds a 71-46-5 lead heading into the 123rd all-time meeting. The Quakers are 13-12-1 at Schoellkopf Field but have won eight of their last nine, as well as four straight, up in Ithaca.

Storyline to watch
Although Penn had a win to remember against Harvard last week, it wasn’t because of its rushing game as running back Tre Solomon was bottled up to the tune of 26 yards on 12 carries. And as a team, the Quakers finished with a mere 21 yards while relying on their defense and passing attack to get the job done. They’ll want to correct that and focus on controlling the pace of the game and slowly moving the chains in freezing, unpleasant Ithaca. And they should be primed to do just that against a rushing defense that ranks last in the Ivies, allowing 188.8 yards per game.

What’s at stake?
With one game left in the 2016 season no matter what — Ivy teams are not allowed to go the FCS playoffs due to an archaic rule, and there are no league playoffs if teams finish tied — Penn, Harvard and Princeton are tied for first with 5-1 records. And they all have games against teams with losing records with Harvard playing rival Yale and Princeton facing Dartmouth. The most likely scenario is all three teams winning and sharing a piece of the Ivy League championship. That also means a loss for Penn would very likely end its quest for a title. Meanwhile, the Quakers still have a chance to claim the outright crown, but only if Harvard and Princeton are both upset. 

Prediction
In their final time playing together, Torgersen and Watson will shred Cornell’s leaky defense and lift the Quakers to a share of their record-tying 18th Ivy League championship and their first back-to-back crowns since 2009-10.

Penn 35, Cornell 14

Knicks will reportedly reach out to Jay Wright about coaching job

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Knicks will reportedly reach out to Jay Wright about coaching job

Fresh off a second national championship in three years, this was bound to happen. Jay Wright is a hot name. 

And according to the New York Daily News, the Knicks plan on reaching out to Wright about their vacant head coaching job. 

Just don’t expect Wright to be interested. 

The 56-year-old coach has been determined to build Villanova into a powerhouse since he took the head coaching gig way back in 2001 and he’s finally done that. On the surface, maybe some think that would be enough to make him want to take his coaching to the top league in the world. Not so fast. 

In a recent interview with The Athletic, Wright said pretty flatly that he’s staying at Villanova because he loves it there. 

“The NBA does intrigue me,” Wright said. “That challenge is appealing but it’s not worth giving up working with these guys. The whole thing is, to take a new challenge you have to give up what you have. I don’t want to give up what I have. Would I like to coach in the NBA? Yes. But I have to give this up in order to do that, and I don’t see that happening.”

In that interview, Wright talked about his time at Hofstra and quoted Jim Valvano, who once said, ‘Don’t mess with happy.’ That was true at Hofstra until the Villanova job came around, so maybe there’s a chance the Knicks could blow him away. It just doesn’t seem likely. 

The Knicks just fired head coach Jeff Hornacek after a 29-53 record in 2017. The Knicks haven’t had a winning record since 2012-13. 

The New York Daily News cites a source, who said the Knicks believe Wright would be a “perfect candidate for a rebuilding club.” The Knicks might be right, but don’t bet on them getting Wright. 

Jalen Brunson hires agent, declares for NBA draft

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Jalen Brunson hires agent, declares for NBA draft

Villanova is losing its second star player in two days. 

Guard Jalen Brunson has decided to hire an agent and enter the 2018 NBA Draft, he wrote in a letter to Nova Nation on ESPN. He will forego his senior season at Villanova after an incredible college career. 

This news comes a day after his teammate Mikal Bridges announced he will also head to the NBA draft.

“It is with great honor and privilege that I have called Villanova University my home for the past three years,” Brunson wrote in ESPN. “When I decided to commit to Coach Jay Wright and the basketball program, I was driven by three goals: getting my education, competing at the highest level and winning a national championship. While I pride myself on remaining disciplined and focused to achieve these goals, I have grown as a man and have established lifelong relationships with my teammates, classmates, members of the basketball staff, fellow student-athletes and the wonderful educators and administrators of this prestigious university.”

Brunson leaves Villanova as one of the greatest players in Wildcats history, helping lead Villanova to its second national championship in three years. 

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 18.9 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game this season. Brunson was named the Big East Player of the Year and was the Wooden Award and Naismith Award winner this season.