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Know! Your! Foe! - Penn.

Good evening. Here's a special Penn edition of our Know! Your! Foe! series, wherein I exchange emails with Mr. Jonathan Tannenwald (pictured above with a special friend).

This is my second go-round talking about the Quakers with the night editor, founder of the Soft Pretzel Logic blog and Big 5 basketball expert.

You wrote that Saturday's Harvard/Penn double overtime game was the best Ivy League basketball contest you've ever witnessed. What made it so special?

Two things. First, it’s not all that often that Ivy League games go to one overtime, much less two overtimes. Second of all, it was a really even contest over the last 25 minutes or so. Penn came back, then Harvard went ahead, then Penn rallied in regulation and again in the first overtime. Penn went ahead for the first time all night in the second overtime, but Harvard really reached down and made one more big push to get the win.

When I made the assertion about it being the best Ivy League game I’ve seen, a few Penn fans countered with the Quakers’ 2005 comeback against Princeton at the Palestra. I replied that the Harvard game was a much more even contest, whereas that Princeton game was one-way traffic for each team. For most of the game, it was in Princeton’s direction, then it was all in Penn’s direction at the end.

There is a third factor that made the night memorable – the atmosphere was outstanding. It’s been a long time since the Palestra was that loud for a Penn game. It was even louder than the game against St. Joe’s a few weeks ago, which drew a bigger crowd.

Obviously it is a familiar thing for people who have been watching the Quakers for a while, and I’m sure Princeton fans have witnessed that kind of electricity too. But for the current generation of Penn students it was a new feeling. I’ve spoken with a number of them since Saturday and they all said it was the best game they’ve seen, and a night they will remember for a long time.

Perusing the numbers, it looks like Penn this season is shooting the ball well, but turns the basketball over too often as a team and can't grab any offensive rebounds. Is that a fair offensive capsule?

I think it is fair, especially with regard to the turnovers. That’s in part caused by the team’s relative youth, though Conor Turley’s hands are not the safest you’ll see in the paint. As for the offensive rebounds, I think that’s in part a function of the teams Penn has played. Five of their non-conference games have come against Philadelphia rivals, and they all have players who are taller and more athletic. Antonio Pena at Villanova, Lavoy Allen at Temple and C.J. Aiken at Saint Joseph’s are just a few examples.

Even in the Ivy League, there are guys like Keith Wright and Greg Mangano. Penn has some size in players such as Turley and Jack Eggleston, but not that much depth up front.

What can the Quakers do to improve their free throw defense (344th nationally, 75.3%)? Imagine that question followed by the sound of me ducking.

Perhaps they could schedule Memphis and Kentucky every year. Or they could join the SWAC, which has the worst four teams in the country at free throw shooting. Or they could build a giant indoor football stadium and set up the court to have a funky shooting backdrop.

To be honest, I don’t put too much stock in free throw percentage allowed. Perhaps home-court atmosphere can be a small factor, but on the whole I don’t pay much attention to it. Free throws are what they are.

In all seriousness, how difficult has it been for Penn to stop talented interior players? Teams are shooting 52.8% inside the arc against'm.

It’s certainly been difficult, but I would argue that it hasn’t been any less difficult than it has been for other teams around the country. Players like Pena, Allen and La Salle’s Aaric Murray have been effective against almost every team they’ve played when they’ve had the ball.

That might be the key: to do a better job of denying the entry pass. Other than that, I don’t have a great answer for you.

While I have seen him on my TV here and there, I haven't watched freshman guard Miles Cartwright in person yet. How good is he and how good could he be?

Here’s the best evidence I can give you. In the game against Harvard, which came on the Saturday of just his second ever Ivy League back-to-back weekend, Cartwright played 48 minutes. He scored 14 points and pulled down five rebounds. While Penn has yet to play a road weekend this season, that is a great sign of Cartwright’s maturity to me. He is already playing the point, with Rosen moving to shooting guard when both are on the floor together.

I think Cartwright is the front-runner for Ivy League Freshman of the Year, with Laurent Rivard in second and Sean McGonagill in third. Cartwright and Rivard were probably neck-and-neck before this past weekend, but Rivard got in foul trouble against Penn and was relatively quiet. So Cartwright is in front for now.

In this week's interview with Sydney Johnson, one thing we discussed was how Penn's performance has improved as Tyler Bernardini's health has improved. How close is he to the Ivy League Rookie of the Year he was before his myriad injuries?

I don’t think he is all the way back, because I don’t think his shot is there consistently yet. Bernardini is clearly on his way, and he is not lacking for confidence at this point, but he still has yet to start regularly shooting threes over defenders. Bernardini can be lights-out from the perimeter when open, but he struggled early in the game against Harvard in part because he didn’t get many good looks.

Penn jumbles up the Ivy standings and wins their 123rd game versus Princeton if...

... they take smart shots, play disciplined defense and keep the tempo down. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? One thing I think Princeton fans will notice when watching Penn is that the ball movement is starting to resemble Fran Dunphy’s motion offense again. Not all of the elements are there yet, especially a knock-down three-point shooter (see the Bernardini comment above), but the inside-out principles are there. We even saw Penn run an effective backdoor cut (gasp) against Harvard.

The Tigers hand the Quakers their second straight loss and fourth in a row versus the orange and black if...

... They play the kind of defense that got them voted as the preseason favorite to win the Ivy League. If Penn is forced into taking bad shots, they will be more likely to give the ball up. For as great a player as Zack Rosen is, sometimes he feels he has to do it all himself. That leads to poorly-selected shots.

Plug things. Your many things.

My real job is as night editor of’s sports page from Sunday to Wednesday. It is the reason why I will not be at Jadwin tonight, unfortunately. This will be the first time in eight years that I have not made the trip to Old Nassau. But I am planning to be at the Princeton-Harvard game in March, so I will see you and your legion of followers there.

In addition to my editing work, I write two blogs: Soft Pretzel Logic on college sports, and The Goalkeeper on soccer.

Each blog has its own Twitter feeds: @pretzel_logic and @thegoalkeeper, respectively.

Finally, I am a listener to WPRB’s 24-hour holiday music radio show. This past summer I got to visit the famous studio where the show is based, and even got to meet the host. He was sorting through a giant wall of CDs at the time, if I recall correctly.

That DJ doesn't sound half-bad. Thanks for your time, JT! Great stuff as always. I'll see you in Lavietes Pavilion.

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

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