PHILADELPHIA - It has been a long time coming, no doubt. However, most of the preseason events are over (or nearly done), and it is time for the true college basketball regular season to begin.
Penn vs. Siena
Monday, Nov. 21 * 7 p.m.
Radio: WXPN (88.5 FM) and www.pennathletics.com (Brian Seltzer, PBP; Vince Curran, analyst)
That is certainly the case at The Palestra, which opens up for the 2005-06 Penn men’s basketball season Monday night by welcoming a face from its past. Fran McCaffery, a 1982 Quaker grad who played on three Ivy League championship teams, returns to his old stomping grounds with a new team; he takes over at Siena after several years at UNC-Greensboro.
For Penn head coach Fran Dunphy, meanwhile, the season opens with high expectationsfamiliar territory for a man who has led the Quakers to nine Ivy League titles and eight NCAA Tournament appearances in the last 13 years. With four returning starters from last year’s squad that went 13-1 in the Ivy League, it comes as no surprise to see Penn atop the Ivy League’s preseason media poll and the pick to win the Ancient Eight by nearly every preseason publication.
However, Dunphy would be the first one to tell you that each season is its own unique entity. Already this year, the Quakers have gotten behind the eight-ball a bit. Mark Zoller, an honorable mention All-Ivy forward from a year ago, has been hampered by injuries during the preseason and is unlikely to play tonight. Same for David Whitehurst, who came on strong as a freshman last year and started five of the last six games. As a result, there will be players on the floor tonight who have not seen a lot of time previously in a Penn uniform. Fans just might need a program to follow this team, at least early on.
The good news for Dunphy and his program comes in the scheduleit is fast and furious, but it is also at home. The Quakers will play five games in the next 12 days, all of them in The Palestra, before finally embarking on a road trip. And what a trip it promises to beNo. 1 Duke and the famed Cameron Indoor Stadium.
First things first, though. Tonight, Siena. And as we begin Thanksgiving week, let us be thankful for the start of the college basketball season at The Palestra!
This season marks the first time in head coach Fran Dunphy’s 17-year tenure that Penn has opened the season with five home games. In fact, the last time it happened was 1982-83 (since then, the longest season-opening home stretch was three, in 1998-99). Prior to 1982-83, the last time the Quakers opened with five home games was 1944-45.
The Series with Siena
This marks just the second meeting betwen Penn and Siena in men’s basketball.
The first meeting took place last year, with Penn taking an 89-62 decision January 15 in Loudonville, N.Y.
Fran Dunphy is 1-0 all-time vs. Siena.
Penn is 10-9 all-time against the teams that currently make up the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), including 3-4 under Dunphy.
Canisius...0-1 (0-1 under Dunphy)
Penn is 7-9 in season openers under head coach Fran Dunphy, including three wins in the last four years. Of those 16 season openers, 10 have come at home (Penn is 5-5 in those contests).
If the Name Rings a Bell...
Siena head coach Fran McCaffery was a three-year letterwinner at Penn (1980-82), helping the Quakers win three-consecutive Ivy championships. He earned the McDonald Inspirational Player Award as a senior after he led the Quakers with 105 assists and 51 steals.
Following his stint as a player, McCaffery worked for a year as an assistant coach for the Quakers under Craig Littlepage.
Since then, McCafferyentering his first season at Sienahas carved out a nice niche for himself as a coach. He got his start at Lehigh in 1985, and in 1988 became the youngest coach to lead a team to the NCAA Tournament. He then moved to Notre Dame and was an assistant coach for 11 years under Digger Phelps and John MacLeod. During his time in South Bend, the Fighting Irish went to two NCAA Tournaments (1989, 1990) and played in the 1992 NIT championship game.
Most recently, McCaffery was head coach at UNC-Greensboro for six seasons, where he posted a 90-87 record. In McCaffery’s second season, he guided the Spartans to a 19-12 record and the 2001 SoCon Tournament Championship to earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The following year (2001-2002) McCaffery led the Spartans to their first 20-win season. It marked the first time the program claimed a share of the SoCon North Division title as well. After falling to eventual tournament champion Davidson in the conference tournament, the Spartans were awarded a berth into the 2002 NIT, where they lost to eventual champion Memphis.
Download: Siena Game Notes (for real).pdf