Last year, the Quakers didn't record their first victory until January 6th and recorded only 6 wins in total (their best likely being a shocking upset of a ranked Cornell team). So far this season the much-improved Quakers are over .500 (4-3) and have a much rosier outlook under new head coach Jerome Allen.
Since Fran Dunphy left for Temple, the Quakers haven't been the same program that was a perennial contender for the Ivy title and a good challenge in the Big 5 round-robin. Under Coach Allen, the Quakers hope to begin offering a real challenge for the Ivy title again.
Starting guard Tyler Bernardini was lost for the season in their second game last year -- he is back this season and averaging 7.1 points per game (down from a sophomore high of 13.7ppg).
Of the three Quakers averaging more than 10 points per game, Jack Eggleston leads the way with 14.9ppg. The 6'8" senior forward also adds 7 rebounds per game. He is joined on the scoresheet most nights by junior point guard Zach Rosen, who averages 14.6 ppg and 5 assists per game in the early-going this season. Miles Cartwright, a 6'3" freshman guard rounds out the top-3 scorers with 11.5 ppg.
Senior center Andreas Schreiber was also injured early on last season, but has not returned to prominence on the team. He played only three minutes in Penn's most recent game and is averaging only 9.0 minutes overall. Though he is 6'9" tall, he has not been great on the boards -- an area where the Quakers need to improve.
The Quakers are 4-0 this season in games where they score at least 68 points. Villanova, on the other hand, averages 77.3 points per game.
Villanovans Isaiah Armwood and Maurice Sutton both sat out the St. Joes game. There is no word on either player's availability on Wednesday night, but Armwood may be more likely to come back from back spasms than Maurice Sutton, who was suffering from a left ankle sprain (VUhoops has consulted an expert in sports injuries who believes that both players could be available for Wednesday if their injuries were handled correctly and there were no setbacks).
Villanova's defense has taken a hit over the last few games -- dropping to 29th by Ken Pomeroy after the Holy War -- but the offense may be a bigger concern. Despite being ranked 16th in offensive efficiency by Pomeroy, the team has not been shooting lights out. While the 'Cats connected on 37.3% of their attempts from 3 last season, they are only shooting 29% this season. Even the overall FG% is down a few points to 43.8% from last season's 45.8%.
A lot of that has to do with shot selection. It appears that the 'Cats are taking too many contested shots early-on this season, and oftentimes early in the shot-clock. This Penn game will be a good opportunity to work on using more ball movement to find an open shot in the half-court.
Defensively, I'd like to see the 'Cats keep Zach Rosen on lock-down. Rosen is Penn's biggest 3-point threat (though Bernardini has attempted almost as many), and it will be a good opportunity to improve the three-point defense against a Penn team that will likely use deep shooting to try and upset the 'Cats.
The game will tip-off on Wednesday night from the legendary Palestra at 7:00pm. Television coverage will be provided by the Comcast Network.
Don't forget to get your votes in for Ed's Closest to the Pin contest.