PHILADELPHIA - Let the Big Dance begin! For the second time in three seasons, the University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball team will begin the NCAA Tournament in College Park, Md. This time, it is the Quakers slotted as a No. 10 seed and set to take on No. 7 Washington on Saturday at 4 p.m. As part of the Lexington Regional, the Quakers and Huskies will joined by second-seeded Maryland and the No. 15 seed Iona in this section of the bracket.
Catching the Game
Saturday’s game will be nationally televised on ESPN2, and can also be seen on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN App. Live twitter updates will be available via @PennWBB. A complete recap, box score and highlights can be found at PennAthletics.com shortly after the conclusion of the game.
Scouting the Huskies
The Huskies enter the tournament as an at-large team out of the Pac-12 Conference. Washington finished fifth in the conference standings, standing at 22-10 overall and 11-7 in the conference. The Pac-12 receieved five bids into the NCAA Tournament, and finished the season with the highest RPI of any league in the country.
The Huskies are led by one of the most potent scorers in the country in junior guard Kelsey Plum. Plum begins the postseason as the third-leading scorer in the nation, averaging 26.2 points per contest. The second-team All-American is also slotted fifth in the NCAA in free-throw shooting percentage at 89.5 percent.
Penn and Washington have never met on the basketball court; ironically, the MEN’S teams met earlier this season in Seattle, on November 21.
Last Time Out
The Quakers went on the road and defeated Princeton, 62-60, to claim their second Ivy League title in the last three seasons. Penn put together four players in double figures, led by Anna Ross who poured in a team-high 18 points. Michelle Nwokedi (17), Kasey Chambers (11) and Lauren Whitlatch (11) were all key contributors on offense, while Sydney Stipanovich tallied five blocks and three steals. The victory also signified Penn’s first season sweep of the Tigers since 2004.
With a win, the Quakers will take on the winner of Maryland and Iona on Monday night for an opportunity to go to the Sweet 16.
Penn’s No. 10 seed in the Lexington Regional marks the highest in program history, and the third-highest in Ivy League history. Princeton owns the two highest seeds at No. 9 in both 2012 and 2013, and No. 8 last season.
In a scenario eerily similar to two years ago, the Quakers return to College Park, Md. for their NCAA Tournament appearance. Penn was given a No. 12 seed in 2014, and faced No. 5 Texas at the XFinity Center. In both 2014 and this year, the Quakers earned their NCAA bid after winning at Princeton in a winner-take-all final game of the regular season (80-64 in 2014; 62-60 this season).
Penn’s Tournament History
Prior to 2014, the Quakers had made two appearances in the Big Dance—in 2001 and 2004. Penn was given a No. 15 seed on both occasions, and pitted against the host institution each year. The Red and Blue fell to Texas Tech, 100-57, in the program’s first-ever tournament game on March 16, 2001. Three years later, the Quakers lost to second-seeded UConn by a score of 91-55 in what was essentially a home game for the Huskies in Bridgeport, Conn.
Last Time in College Park
Senior Brooklyn Juday and junior Sydney Stipanovich are the lone holdovers who saw action during Penn’s last NCAA Tournament appearance in 2014. While Juday only played just one minute, Stipanovich poured in 14 points in the Quakers’ 79-61 loss. Penn led by as many as 15 points in the first half, but couldn’t sustain the momentum against a powerful Texas squad.
Ivy League in the Tourney
The Ancient Eight has 24 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, dating back to 1983. Penn’s four berths are the fourth-highest in the league, but its three appearances since 2004 ranks second behind only Princeton. The Ivies have two NCAA Tournament wins in their history, one by the Tigers last season and the other, historically, by Harvard in 1998. (The Crimson were a 16 seed and beat No. 1 seed Stanford, to date the only win by a 16 over a 1 in either NCAA Tournament.)
For the first time in Ivy League history, the conference will have two teams in the NCAA Tournament this season. Princeton was given the conference’s first at-large berth since the league started getting an automatic berth in 1994. The Tigers were seeded 11th in the Sioux Falls Region, and will take on No. 6 seed West Virginia on Friday in Columbus, Ohio.
Success vs. Tourney Teams
The Quakers are a combined 4-0 against teams in this year’s Field of 64. Penn has a pair of wins over Princeton, to go along with non-conference victories over Colorado State—the Rams’ only loss in their 31-1 campaign—and Hawaii. Both CSU and Hawaii are both in the Bridgeport Regional, with the Rams an 11 seed and the Rainbow Wahine a 14 seed.
Against the Pac-12
Although Washington and Penn have never met, the Quakers do have some experience against teams currently in the Pac-12. Penn is 0-4 all-time versus the conference--dropping a pair of contests to Colorado, to go along with losses to California and Stanford. The Pac-12 has five teams in the NCAA Tournament this season.
A First-Round Penn Win Would
- Be the first NCAA Tournament triumph in program history
- Be the first win over Washington and the Pac-12
- Set up a matchup against the Maryland/Iona winner on Monday
- Give the Quakers a 25th victory this season, extending the program record for wins in a season
- Be the third NCAA Tournament win by an Ivy League school
Penn is coming off arguably the best season in school history. The Quakers racked up a school-record 24 wins and claimed their fourth Ivy League Championship. In addition, Penn piled up a program-record 11 non-conference victories and had win streaks of eight, seven and five games this season.
The Quakers cleaned up the Ivy League’s yearly awards earlier this month. Junior Sydney Stipanovich became the first player to ever win the Player of the Year AND Defensive Player of the Year in the same season, while Mike McLaughlin was named the Ivy League Coach of the Year. Stipanovich is also the first student-athlete in Ivy League history to win all three of the conference’s major awards, as she was chosen as the Rookie of the Year in 2014.
Sophomore Michelle Nwokedi joined Stipanovich as a first-team All-Ivy selection, while classmate Anna Ross earned honorable-mention recognition at the guard position. Stipanovich and Nwokedi have combined for 20 double-doubles this season, and ended the year ranked 1-2 in the Ivy League in rebounds per game and tied for tops in the conference in blocked shots per game.
Magic Number: 60
The statistic that may most indicate a Penn win or loss? 60 points. Penn has won 52 straight regular-season games when scoring more than 60 points. Since head coach Mike McLaughlin took over at Penn, the Quakers are 79-9 (.889) when they reach that number (52-1 over the last two seasons with only loss to Texas in NCAA Tournament, 79-61). In comparison, the Quakers are just 31-82 (.378) when they’ve scored less than 60 points under Coach McLaughlin. The trend continues defensively. Over the last six seasons, the Red and Blue are 21-55 (.276) when allowing more than 60 points. But when holding opponents under thatnumber, the Quakers hold a healthy winning record of 90-37 (.709).
Download: Washington Game Notes.pdf