"We're inconsistent, and that bothers me at this point," said Dunphy, who guided Penn to six Ivy League titles during 12 previous seasons at the school. "We need to get better if we are going back to the NCAA tournament."
Having lost all-Ivy League guards Michael Jordan and Matt Langel, it was expected that the Quakers would have to endure a transition period. The leadership and other intangibles that the departed backcourt duo provided are missed more than the 27 points per game they combined to score last season.
Though this year's Penn team has all the ingredients necessary to win a third straight league crown, the rest of the Ivy League considers the Quakers more vulnerable than they were the last couple of seasons.
With Penn perceived as a team still searching for its identity, and with Princeton down after losing its two best players to major league baseball and UCLA, the feeling is there is more parity in the Ivy League than there has been in several seasons.
Penn and Princeton have shared the last 12 league championships.
"I think there will be teams coming in here thinking they can beat us at home," Dunphy acknowledged. "As evidenced by the early-season nonconference records, the race is going to be wide open with any number of teams that can come out victorious. Anybody can beat us at any time."
Though Penn lost its first eight games for the first time in school history, the Quakers' current record is somewhat misleading.
Their loss to Drexel easily was the Quakers' worst performance of the season - though Drexel had something to do with that - and it came after Penn won its first game of the season at Florida International last Sunday.
The Quakers' other losses came against North Carolina State (77-64), Fordham (81-78), Davidson (84-81 in overtime), Penn State (84-74), La Salle (61-59), Maryland (87-81), Seton Hall (80-78) and Temple (74-60).
Penn's biggest problem is finding out who will provide help off the bench.
"We are still searching for a rotation we can all be comfortable with," Dunphy said. "Any good team can go seven, eight, nine, deep. That's what we'd like. We need some scoring punch off the bench."
The Quakers' starting five are solid, and their frontcourt of 6-11 center Geoff Owens (10.4 ppg., 5.0 rpg.), 6-8 forward Ugonna Onyekwe (15.7, 9.0), and 6-8 forward Koko Archibong (11.2, 4.6) is the best in the Ivy League and the envy of many a Division I program.
In the backcourt, 6-1 Lamar Plummer has returned, after leaving the team early last season, to lead the Quakers in scoring at 16.8 points per game. Point guard David Klatsky has been steady with 8.1 points per game to go with 4.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists.
Plummer and Klatsky, who are hitting more than 43 percent of their three-point attempts and trying to set the tone for Penn, might have to play a lot of minutes if a few of the Quakers reserves don't emerge as viable options for Dunphy.
Duane King, a 6-5 guard from Louisville who sat out the first seven games of the season because of a foot injury, could be one of the answers when he gets acclimated. Also looking to impress the coach are 6-0 freshman Charlie Copp, 6-6 freshman Jeff Schiffner, and 6-7 junior Dan Solomito. Sophomore guard Harold Bailey recently left the team for personal reasons.
In the frontcourt, Penn can spell its starters with 6-8 senior Josh Sanger, 6-8 senior Jon Tross, 6-10 freshman Adam Chubb, and 6-9 sophomore Andrew Coates.
Penn enters its first Ivy League outing having only played twice since the Dec. 13 loss to Seton Hall at the Meadowlands. Dunphy hopes the Quakers get in a groove as the games begin coming one after the other.
Tomorrow, Penn will host Cornell (4-8, 0-0), which is coached by Steve Donahue, who left the Quakers in September after 10 seasons as Dunphy's assistant.
"We're at a point where we'll have a lot of games in a short period of time," Dunphy said. "We'll see how we do against two teams that are coming in thinking Penn is ripe to be beaten."
Kevin Tatum's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org