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Know! Your! Foe! - Penn.

Princeton returns from their annual multi-week exam break tomorrow night at Penn and in turn so does this site's Know! Your! Foe! series. Eager to discuss the Quakers with someone who sees them play on a regular basis, I exchanged emails with Jonathan Tannenwald from (pictured above with a special friend).

Our third-annual conversation can be found after the jump.

If you cover a team the Tigers will face down the line, let us know. We'd love to talk with you.

How much of a cornerstone / turning point game is this for both teams?

Well, if Princeton loses, that will be their second conference loss, and they’ll almost surely be out of the title race. So that’s plenty of urgency. If Penn loses, it won’t be the end of the world, but if they win it would be an enormous psychological boost. It would be the first win over Princeton since Zack Rosen and Tyler Bernardini were freshmen, and Jerome Allen’s first win over Princeton since becoming head coach.

It would also set up a quite dramatic weekend of Ivy play, as Penn’s next conference game is at Yale on Friday. Win that game, and the Bulldogs would have two conference losses as well.

That would leave a Saturday night game at Brown as Penn’s only hurdle to overcome ahead of a marquee showdown with Harvard on February 10 at the Palestra. It is not inconceivable that both the Quakers and Crimson could still be undefeated at that point. That would make for quite a showdown.

But it starts Monday with a game that needs only slightly more hype than usual. It may not be as big a deal as past Penn-Princeton games – if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s been a while since there’s been a really big one – but there’s plenty at stake.

That may be why the Penn student body has started to show signs recently of unshackling itself from the apathy towards basketball that has prevailed in recent years.

I’m sure your readers have noticed that attendance at the Palestra has fallen dramatically over the last few seasons, especially among students. Penn’s athletic department has tried a few ways to combat that, but none of their methods have worked all that well.

This season, though, they have taken a bit of a different tack. Apologies in advance to any of your readers who may be offended by this phrase, but I think it’s the right one to use: community organizing. And it has worked. I don’t know if Monday’s game will sell out, but it sounds like there’s going to be a much bigger student crowd than there has been in quite a while.

We have seen that happen in recent years at Yale, Cornell, Harvard and even Columbia. So it’s not just about Penn and Princeton anymore. That’s a good thing, and hopefully it will continue across the league.

I realize I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent, but I think the ways in which Ivy League basketball embraces its fans is a subject worth keeping in mind. Especially these days, with the quality of play across the conference as high as it’s ever been

I’ll stop now, because I know that the notion of sports building a sense of community on college campuses is not something that always goes over well within the… ah, I’d better not get myself in too much trouble.

How about we talk about the lack of nationally televised Ivy League men’s basketball games instead?

Oh, I see you have other questions. Perhaps I should answer those.

For the Quakers to succeed this season, their talented backcourt was going to require frontcourt help. Who has been adding assistance to the guards and how have they been doing so far?

The most significant frontcourt contributor has been freshman Henry Brooks. As he has completed his recovery from a torn ACL suffered during his senior year of high school, he has started to blossom into a genuine presence in the post. Although he hasn’t gotten major minutes in any particular game, his contributions at both ends of the floor have been noticeable.

Fran Dougherty and Mike Howlett have also helped occupy those areas which you would normally expect to be taken by the tallest people on the floor.

On the whole, though, the definition of “frontcourt” this season has included two guards who have been forced to play big, Rob Belcore and Tyler Bernardini. Both are decent rebounders – Bernardini is averaging 5.7 boards per game and Belcore is averaging 4.4. Between them and the aforementioned true forwards, there has been enough so far to get by.

At this juncture, what is senior guard Zack Rosen's legacy at Penn?

If Penn doesn’t win the Ivy League this season – which I think is a pretty likely scenario at this point – it’s entirely possible that Rosen will graduate as the best player program history to have never won an Ancient Eight title since the league’s inception.

There have only been two stretches in the Ivy League era in which a graduating class would have gone all four years without a conference title. The first was from the conference’s first season, 1956-57, through the 1964-65 season; and then from the 1987-88 season through the 1991-92 season.

During those times, Penn had a total of three first-team All-Ivy players who graduated without winning a championship: Dick Censits in 1958, Bob Mlkvy in 1960 and Hassan Duncombe in 1990.

Rosen has already been named first-team All-Ivy twice. I realize it’s a blunt instrument by which to measure the accomplishments of a player, but I still think it’s a significant one.

I will leave the final judgment to Stu Suss, or to anyone who saw Centsis play in person. But Rosen is in some very rarified company.

How much progression has Miles Cartwright made from his freshman to sophomore years?

I’m not so sure he’s made any progression. Despite averaging the same number of minutes per game this season, his points and assists per game have both fallen: 11.8 to 10.7 and 2.9 to 1.6. Those are small margins, but they’ve been noticeable.

Having said that, Cartwright’s rebounds-per-game average has risen from 2.0 to 2.7, and his steals-per-game average has risen from 1.2 to 1.6. Most importantly, his speed of thought and speed of foot are still very much there. So while I’m not too worried about him, there hasn’t been a significant improvement from his freshman to sophomore seasons.

In addition to the above names, everyone reading this Q&A should also know Tyler Bernardini. Beyond these three, who is a player people should keep their eyes on that could play a critical role?

Rob Belcore, no question. He is the team’s best defender and a not-inconsequential scorer too. He gets himself in great positions to affect the game at both ends of the floor, even if his contributions don’t always show in raw numbers. To be facing Princeton at home for the final time in his career will mean as much to Belcore as any of the other seniors.

I know you want to fill in some blanks! Penn stays perfect in Ivy play and puts Princeton in a deep hole to climb out of if they want to contend for the Ivy title if...

… they play disciplined basketball and make shots. I’m sure that will surprise your readers, but the game against Saint Joseph’s last Saturday was a perfect example of why those two tenets matter.

The first half was the most disciplined half of basketball I’ve seen from the team in the entire Jerome Allen era. They averaged 1.405 points per possession on 17-for-28 shooting from the field, with 10 assists and five turnovers.

In the second half, though, Penn got very sloppy with the ball as St. Joe’s toughened up defensively. It’s why the Hawks cut a 22-point deficit to four with just under five minutes left. At that point, I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only person in the building who thought St. Joe’s was going to win the game.

The Tigers win at The Palestra for a fourth straight season if...

… they get Penn’s big men in foul trouble and disrupt the ball movement by Penn’s guards. Again, that’s no surprise, but everyone knows what Penn’s offense is capable of. The question is what Princeton’s offense will be capable of, in particular forwards such as Brendan Connolly, Ian Hummer and Mack Darrow.

Hummer in particular may be a matchup problem for Penn, with his ability to play inside and outside. It will be interesting to see whether Tyler Bernardini or Rob Belcore is assigned to him.

As someone with an appreciation for history, what do you make of this game being played on a Monday?

I understand that the game was moved from its traditional date in part because of Princeton’s exam schedule. I have no problem with that.

And since I said I wasn’t going to say anything about the lack of televised Ivy League basketball games this season, and the ways in which the league office could do something about that, I’ll just say I also wouldn’t mind if the game was moved to accommodate a national TV broadcast.

I know you've cut down on the Schuylkill 16 and Soft Pretzel Logic, but tell me about what you're up to and how people can follow your work.

Most of my work these days revolves around my real job. I’m the overnight editor of’s sports section. When I’m on the clock, I oversee all of our coverage of breaking news at night and print content from the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.

In addition to that, I write’s soccer blog, The Goalkeeper. Soccer has been my biggest sporting passion for many years, going back to before I really got into college basketball. It is a year-round sport now, not just during the spring-to-autumn MLS season.

Your readers might like to know that I’ve written profiles recently of two Princeton products: 1996 alum Jesse Marsch, the coach of the expansion Montréal Impact; and current senior Antoine Hoppenot, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Union earlier this month.

Amid all that, I try to not leave Soft Pretzel Logic alone too much, especially at this time of year. I still keep a close eye on Penn basketball, and do the best I can to follow the rest of the teams in Philadelphia too. This has not been a vintage year for the city’s teams, but having six teams in the region means there are always great stories to write.

Thanks so much, JT. Looking forward to seeing you (and a basketball game) tomorrow night at The Palestra!

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