Short of squaring off with a team of lacrosse playing robots armed with superhuman robot strength, Penn put together just about the toughest schedule it could.
There has been a lot of buzz about Pennsylvania over the fall, which is somewhat odd for a team that went just 3-10 a season ago. I wouldn't say that I'm necessarily on the Quakers' Quakewagon (that's a thing right?) right now, but in my decompression of Pennsylvania's 2012 season I wrote this as part of its forward planning:
It's kind of all the little things that need addressing for the Quakers. Four one-goal losses show how close Pennsylvania was to moving toward a .500 record and giving themselves entrance to the Ivy League Tournament. A little more execution in the offensive end -- especially targeting the bean -- and fewer turnovers can really change how the Quakers function. This isn't a team that totally fell off the map (despite the change in results); Mike Murphy just needs to see a little more cleanliness in performance and the Quakers could be a handful in 2013.
And that's the problem, right? Once again, the Quakers may need to survive itself throughout its campaign. Over the last two seasons Pennslyvania has played deadly schedules filled with strength, ranking ninth in 2011 and third in 2012, while also trying to develop and improve as a team. If the Quakers' 2013 opponents live up to their potential, it could be another year in which Pennsylvania tries to take care of the little things while having a sledgehammer thrust at their head.
To the breakdown!
February 22: Duke; February 26: St. Joseph's; March 2: @ Denver; March 5: @ Lehigh; March 9: v. Villanova
I'm not sure another team is going to see a 16-day stretch like Pennsylvania will to start its season. It's not just that the Quakers will play five games throughout that stretch; it's the opponents and locations that makes the opening portion of Pennsylvania's schedule so difficult:
- Putting Denver and Lehigh on your schedule is a form of self-punishment. Putting Denver and Lehigh on your schedule, back-to-back, in a three-day stretch, both on the road in early March is more than self-pushishment; it's taking your face and shoving it in a vat of acid. Having to fly out to Denver to play the Pioneers at altitude is going to be difficult, and then, on the following Tuesday, to have to fly back and play a Lehigh team that will be in everyone's top-10 is even harder.
- Here's the nice thing going for Pennsylvania: Duke is notorious for starting the season slow. Here's the bad thing about that: The Devils may be as good as they've been in a while. This is kind of like getting on a treadmill with the machine already set on 10 M.P.H. and just trying to keep up.
- Playing St. Joseph's and Villanova isn't impossible, but where those two teams fall on Pennsylvania's schedule makes those games worrisome: The Hawks are a sandwich game between Duke and Denver -- four days after the Devils and four days prior to the Pios -- and the Quakers will see the Wildcats at the end of this ridiculous stretch at PPL Park. Given the dates of these games, Pennsylvania could be either spent or unfocused, which could lead to some uneven results.
The Ivy League is the Ivy League is the Ivy League
March 16: Princeton; March 23: @ Cornell; March 30: Yale; April 6: @ Brown; April 13: @ Harvard; April 20: Dartmouth
The Quakers open conference play with the four teams that participated in the Ivy League Tournament and then draw a Harvard team that is full of young talent. Sounds like tons of fun! Don't forget to write!