While there were no head coaching changes in the Ivy League for the second straight year, there was plenty of action among the conference’s assistants and directors of basketball operations. Here are some of the highlights:
The Yale men’s basketball team finished 2016-17 third in the Ivy League regular season, but a semifinal upset of rival Harvard propelled them into a runner-up spot in the inaugural Ivy Tournament. With the expected return of 2015-16 first team All-Ivy point guard Makai Mason from a major foot injury, the Bulldogs were expected to be in the thick of last year’s race. While the team was chosen second to the Crimson by only three points in the preseason media poll, Yale actually had two more first-place votes. Unfortunately, Mason and forward Jordan Bruner both sustained injuries in the preseason that effectively kept them on the bench for the entirety of the 2017-18 campaign.
Despite those major blows and a 2-4 start to league play, coach James Jones was able to rally his Elis (16-15 overall, 9-5 Ivy) to a second consecutive third-place showing. While Yale defeated co-champion Penn by one point in New Haven on the regular season’s penultimate evening, the Quakers ended the Bulldogs season with a 80-57 victory at the Palestra in the Ivy Tournament semifinal. For 2018-19, Yale will add a class of five first-years to a squad that will return its entire starting lineup and Bruner (8.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 22.4 minutes per game in ’16-’17). Even if the team cannot stay healthy, their depth allows them to be a good bet to stay in the conference’s upper division for the 19th straight season. If the coach can get his squad to avoid the injury bug (maybe skip the scrimmage against brother Joe Jones’ Boston University, where Mason and Bruner were both injured in successive seasons), a regular season and postseason title should be within their grasp.
After losing eight players from the 2016-2017 season (13-17 overall, 4-10 Ivy), including first team All-Ivy Steven Spieth, four-year starting point guard Tavon Blackmon, and three-point specialist JR Hobbie, the Brown men’s basketball team was picked last in the 2017-18 Ivy League preseason media poll. With underclassmen filling out almost 64 percent of the roster and playing 74 percent of the team’s minutes, the Bears finished last year at 11-16 with a second straight 4-10 mark in the Ancient Eight. While the record was not impressive, Brown did take Providence to overtime, defeat Princeton on the road for the first time since 2010, and have a third place 4-4 record halfway through the conference schedule. After gaining a year of experience leading the program, the talented young core will attempt to move Brown beyond four straight seventh-place league finishes and make a push for a first-ever spot in the Ivy Tournament.
Coach David McLaughlin and his Dartmouth men’s basketball team were one day away from the start of the 2017-18 season when news broke that would drastically change their year. Star junior forward Evan Boudreaux, the 2015-16 Ivy Rookie of the Year and two time second team All-Ivy, announced that he was leaving the program so he could graduate early and retain his last two years of eligibility as a graduate transfer. If that wasn’t enough, the second leading scorer in 2016-17, junior guard Guilien Smith, was lost to a season-ending injury after the third game of the year. Less than two weeks into the season, the second-year head coach had to get his team to accept their adversity and find a way to build upon the previous year’s 7-20 overall and 4-10 Ivy records. After completing last season with another 7-20 record and an eighth-place 3-11 league finish, the coach and the team need to take a step forward in 2018-19.
Princeton Athletics announced the 2018-2019 schedules for its men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Men’s key nonconference games:
11/16/18 at Lehigh
Princeton (13-16 overall; 5-9 Ivy) will be looking to avenge last season’s 85-76 defeat at Jadwin when they travel to Bethlehem. The Mountain Hawks, which was 16-14 overall and 11-7 (tied for third) in the Patriot League, is predicted, by Bart Torvik, to be the No. 197 team in the nation and the top team in its conference in ’18-’19. Lehigh will look to second team All-Patriot senior guard Lance Tejada (14.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg and 2.0 apg) and junior forward Pat Andres (12.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg) to lead the way.
While missing out on the first Ivy Tournament in 2017, the Yale women’s team completed the season on a roll, winning four of its last five games, including victories against third place Harvard and league champion Penn. Entering her third year as head coach, Allison Guth hoped to use that momentum to catapult her Bulldogs into the conference’s upper division in 2018. On the strength of its senior stars, the tenacious Elis (19-13, 8-6 Ivy) earned the fourth spot in last season’s Ivy Madness, as well as an invitation to the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) Tournament.
After strong wins in the first two rounds of the WBI, Yale defeated South Alabama in the semifinals, coming back from an 11 point deficit with two minutes remaining in regulation. A 54-50 victory at Central Arkansas gave the Bulldogs its record setting 19th win and the WBI championship, the first postseason title of any kind for an Ivy League women’s program. Coach Guth will need to find a way to replace the production and leadership from its recently graduated class, if the Elis want to get back to the postseason and secure home court advantage in the third Ivy Tournament.
In Coach Megan Griffith’s first year at her alma mater, the Lions went 13-14 and its 10-3 non-conference record was an all-time best. Columbia faced a more challenging non-conference schedule in 2017-2018, but hoped to use it to build upon the 3-11 league record in 2016-2017. As the season began, the Light Blue & White had major losses that deprived them of a significant amount of their experience, front court depth, and three point shooting. While the coach was left with one of the Ivy League’s all-time offensive talents, the inexperience of the rest of the roster made for a disappointing 8-21 (2-12 Ivy) season. A spot in the Ivy Tournament may be too much to expect in 2018-2019, but the coach will bring in a large class of newcomers to help the young returnees move the program in the right direction.
The Lions lose Camille Zimmerman, Paige Tippet, and Jillian Borreson to graduation. They will also be without the play of seniors Josie Little and Sarah Elston, who, according to Columbia Athletics, have both medically retired. Zimmerman averaged 19.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, finishing the season with her second straight selection to the All-Ivy first team. She finished her career with 1,973 points, fourth in Ivy history, as well as Columbia’s all-time leader in points, rebounds (940), field goals made (728), field goals attempted (1,707), free throw percentage (82.6), games played (113) and games started (112). Zimmerman joined the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx as a free agent, but was released at the end of the preseason. She recently signed a professional contract to play for Kouvottaret in Finland.
Harvard Athletics announced the schedules for its men’s and women’s basketball teams last Thursday.
Men’s key non-conference games:
11/9/18 vs Northeastern
The Huskies (23-10, 14-4 CAA in ’17-’18) were co-champions of the CAA last year, and lost the title game to the College of Charleston. One of its 23 wins came against Harvard, 77-61, at Matthews Arena last November. The team returns senior forward Vasa Pusica (first-team All-CAA and runner-up for Player of the Year), junior guard Shawn Occeus (Defensive Player of the Year), junior guard Bolden Brace (Sixth Man of the Year), and sophomore forward Tomas Murphy (All-Rookie team).
Picked for sixth in the 2017-2018 Ivy League preseason poll, the Cornell men’s team (12-16 overall, 6-8 Ivy) exceeded expectations to finish the season in fourth place and secure the team’s first ever appearance in the Ivy Tournament. After starting conference play with three straight losses by a total of 71 points, the Red and their second-year head coach Brian Earl regrouped. Over the next four weeks, they went on a 4-2 run, punctuated by a 22-point second half comeback in a 107-101 triple overtime win over Princeton, to get back into the thick of the race for the upper division. After losing a thrilling double overtime at Harvard on the penultimate night of the regular season, Cornell bounced back again to defeat Dartmouth and claim the Ivy’s fourth golden ticket.
In the semifinal against Harvard, the Big Red found themselves up seven with three minutes to go in the first half, but the Crimson closed the stanza on a 16-4 run. Without any answers in the second half, their season ended with a 74-55 defeat. With the return of Matt Morgan and Stone Gettings for their senior seasons, things looked up for the Cornell faithful. In May, however, Gettings changed all of that with a surprise announcement that he would forgo his senior season, graduate in December and become a graduate transfer for 2019-20. Despite the loss of their second-team All-Ivy forward, the Big Red look to jump over the .500 mark and make it back to Ivy Madness.
On Friday afternoon, the Providence Journal reported that Brown women’s basketball head coach Sarah Behn was charged with domestic assault following an incident with her husband that occurred at a home in Foxboro, Mass. last weekend. The coach’s spouse, Timothy McGahan, accused his wife of pushing him over a wooden chair, causing him to fall to the floor, the Journal noted, adding that when he stood back up, she then allegedly pinned him against a wall.