The Villanova Wildcats (4-2) are back in the Palestra for another Big 5 game. After a wire-to-wire win over La Salle on Sunday, the Wildcats return to the cathedral of college basketball on Wednesday night, but this time it’ll be a true road game.
They’ll face off against the Penn Quakers (3-6) for the first time since the 2019-20 season. Penn is coming off of back-to-back losses to Towson and Arkansas.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.
Penn is back!
The Quakers’ return to college basketball is underway. They didn’t get a season last year, as the Ivy League opted out of all college sports due to COVID-19, and there appears to be some rust, especially on the defensive end.
Penn ranks in the 200s for nearly every single team defensive category. It doesn’t force too many turnovers nor does it block shots, and for the most part, opponents have been able to do what they want on the scoring end.
With exception to a double-overtime loss to Utah State, the Quakers’ other losses were by a dozen or more points.
To their credit, they played well defensively against Lafayette and pulled together victories over Bucknell and Old Dominion.
Aside from rust, a lot of this turbulence may be attributed to the fact that there are plenty of new faces since that 2019-20 season, where they finished 16-11.
One main holdover is Jordan Dingle, who averaged more than 13 points per game as a freshman two seasons ago. This year, he leads the Quakers with 19.6 points per game. Penn primarily plays through him, and he’s capable of scoring from anywhere.
Lucas Monroe and Bryce Washington are other returnees and rotational pieces from two seasons ago. Michael Wang didn’t play in the 2019-20 season due to an injury, so he’s missed the last couple of years, but he was a thorn in Villanova’s side off the bench during the Quakers’ upset win over Villanova on Dec. 11, 2018, supplying 14 points and five boards.
As for some of the newer faces, keep an eye on Jonah Charles, the Quakers’ second-highest scorer at 10.7 points per game. Charles is the team’s three-point shooting threat, and he mostly camps around the perimeter. He’s shooting 38.6% from beyond the arc and has taken 70 of his 83 shots from long range. (4-for-13 from inside the arc)
Clark Slajchert is another leading scorer, averaging 9.7 points, and Max Martz is the team’s top rebounder. He’s averaging 6.3 points and 5.7 boards. Penn doesn’t have a lot of size, so Martz, at 6-foot-6, tries to add that presence on the glass.
Everybody likes a good comeback story. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree had a nice moment against La Salle. He surpassed all expectations that doctors, coaches, and frankly, anyone else had for him. Just as his career seemed to have come to an end in September, he felt good enough to get back onto the court, and while he only played a few minutes, he made the most of his time. Maybe he’ll get to see some more action against the Quakers.
On the other side, Penn’s Jelani Williams is also enjoying a comeback story of his own. Williams, who attended the Sidwell Friends School — the same high school that produced Josh Hart and Saddiq Bey — is relishing in his first college basketball season as a fifth-year senior.
Williams suffered three ACL injuries, once in his left knee and twice in his right, a unfortunate series that began midway through his senior season in high school in 2016. Both ACL tears in his right knee occurred while he was in college and he was sidelined for his first three years at Penn, then the COVID-19 pandemic delayed his debut.
He has started in all nine of the Quakers’ games so far, averaging 7.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.1 steals per game.
This upcoming game against Villanova will be his first Big 5 game.
Another Big 5 beatdown?
After a lopsided win over La Salle, can the ‘Cats do it again?
On paper, all signs point towards that direction, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a team who hadn’t played a full season since 2019-20 exceed all expectations (like Howard) or that the Quakers shock the ‘Cats (like in the 2018-19 season).
However, paranoia aside, the ‘Cats should be able to control the game on both sides of the court. Penn hasn’t been the best defensive team, so it might be another hot start offensively for the ‘Cats, combined with what should be another solid performance on the other end.
Ideally, the Wildcats’ flu situation improves or is relieved by now, and maybe it’ll be a good opportunity for the younger guys to get more minutes.
Maybe Cosby-Roundtree and Trey Patterson can get more live-game reps, or Caleb Daniels can continue to sling it from deep. (Daniels is shooting 8-of-14 from long range over the last two games.)
Perhaps it’s Nnanna Njoku or Jordan Longino time, if healthy.
Either way, bring on Round 2 of the Big 5!