After an Ivy season with more twists and turns than this past season of Homeland, it was only fitting that the final back-to-back weekend would feature one last surprise at the top of the Ancient Eight ladder. Entering Friday, Princeton seemingly had one hand on the trophy, needing to win what was sure to be a hard-fought battle at The Church in New Haven, as well as at Brown, a team Princeton had completely stifled in its previous meeting at Jadwin. Harvard, on the other hand, with no margin for error, would be forced to contend with a Columbia squad eager to go out with one final win in its disappointing season, as well as depleted Cornell. Realistically, we seemed to be looking at a Princeton title or a playoff. Few could have predicted what went down.
- Harvard did what it has done all year and found a way to win. Once again, it wasn”t particularly pretty, but they made the plays they needed down the stretch. Against Columbia, Harvard led the Lions by 1 with just over 30 seconds left before Steve Moundou-Missi made a huge steal and flew in to slam the ball home to secure the W. On Saturday, Harvard led by 15 with 6 minutes to play, but a furious Big Red comeback almost made things interesting in the closing moments. The Crimson held strong though, keeping Cornell from scoring any FGs in the final 2:30, closing out a 65-56 victory. The win clinched a share of the Ivy title, and all eyes turned to Providence. Harvard”s players followed the score updates from Brown-Princeton, and got to enjoy a second round of celebrations when the final score came across the screen. The Crimson returns to the dance for the 2nd straight year, looking to improve upon its first round exit last season. Most bracket predictions have the Crimson as a 14 seed at this point, though it seems reasonable to expect Harvard to land anywhere between a 13 and a 15.
- It”s tough to explain, but Yale simply had Princeton“s number this season. The Bulldogs completed the shocking season sweep on Friday night, handing the Tigers a standings-altering defeat, 71-66. Credit to Yale for a sizzling performance on offense, but Princeton”s defense was absolutely nowhere to be found this weekend. The Bulldogs shot an incredible 60.5% from the field against the nation”s tallest team. They were 9-15 (60%) from deep and 16-20 (80%) from the stripe. The Tigers then went to Providence to face an angry Brown team that had lost to Penn in a controversial finish on Friday. The Bears came out hot and never relented, holding a 6 to 9 point advantage for almost the entire second half. With 3:35 left and entering desperation mode, Princeton started to foul. Brown, the Ivy”s worst free throw shooting team, seemed intent on giving this one away for awhile, missing 10 of 18 free throws in a span of 2:10, allowing the Tigers to get within 5. (Incredibly, the Bears shot a whopping 52 free throws in the game, making 32–a 61.5% rate.) Princeton couldn”t score down the stretch either though, missing shot after shot while Brown clanged away at the rim from the free throw line. Finally, after hitting their last 8 free throws, the Bears put the final nail in the coffin of Princeton”s Ivy title dreams. The Tigers inexplicably lacked a certain urgency in this game. Only Ian Hummer played with En del nat n kan till och med stata med upp till 500 spel for dig att testa och prova lyckan pa. the passion of a player who knows there”s a bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line, and the anticipated late-game run never materialized from the team that had looked so strong just eight nights earlier when it fought off Harvard”s rally at Jadwin. There”s no way around it: a remarkable fall for Princeton and an unfortunate ending to an incredible career for Ian Hummer. The Tigers will have to regroup for Penn on Tuesday and see if they can recover when the CBI or CIT comes calling next week.
- Yale“s weekend sweep gives the Bulldogs an impressive 3rd place finish in what looked to be a rebuilding year after the loss of Greg Mangano and Reggie Willhite. James Jones did some of his best work this season, leading a team of unproven players to a 13th consecutive top half finish and a sweep of Penn and Princeton for the first time ever. Though they lose guards Austin Morgan, Mike Grace, and Sam Martin, the Bulldogs have plenty of momentum going into next season thanks to the emergence of Justin Sears, Armani Cotton, and Matt Townsend, as well as the late-season burst from Brandon Sherrod and continued improvement of Javier Duren.
- Brown will grab at least a share of 4th place after showing up on Senior Night and shocking the Tigers. Mike Martin”s Bears got to the .500 mark for the first time since “07-“08, Craig Robinson”s final year at the helm in Providence. Most amazingly, Brown finished the 14-game Ivy slate as the league”s best defensive team, yielding an average of just 98.9 points per 100 possessions, a truly remarkable turnaround from last season when the Bears were dead last at 111.1 points per 100 possessions. That in itself should be enough to get Martin some Coach of the Year nods, and that”s not even considering the mess Martin inherited with getting the job late in the summer and inheriting a team full of injured players. Two of Brown”s rookies were instrumental in leading the turnaround, with Cedric Kuakumensah and Rafael Maia leading a reinvigorated frontcourt. The two Bears went 1-2 in the league in rebounding this season, both averaging 7.5 rebounds per game (Maia with 210 on the season, Kuakumensah with 209 boards). The Bears also have tons of momentum heading into 2014, though they lose leading scorer Matt Sullivan, long distance sniper Steve Albrecht, and 6th man Tyler Ponticelli to graduation.
- Incredibly, Penn managed to split all 6 of their back-to-back Ivy weekends, beating Brown with a late comeback and a Cartwright-drawn foul on Friday and falling at Yale on Saturday. Miles Cartwright was on his game on Friday, dropping in 25 points at Brown. Penn became a dangerous team late this season, and will now earn a shot at a top half finish with a win over Princeton in Tuesday”s finale. Regardless of how that one ends up, the Quakers have found a new star in Tony Hicks, who had 16 in the defeat at Yale, and a quickly improving big man in Darien Nelson-Henry. Jerome Allen”s harshest Penn critics were already starting to call for his head after the losses started to pile up, but the Quakers” rapid improvement in recent weeks should stifle any such talk, especially after the Quakers fought through some brutal injury luck with Dougherty and Rennard going down for the season.
- It”s tough to judge this year”s Cornell team, and it will be interesting to see how the Ivy League treats Shonn Miller in terms of the sophomore”s season awards. Miller was the front runner for Defensive Player of the Year and was a virtual lock for 1st Team All-Ivy until he missed the final four games of the season. Cornell folded after Miller, Johnathan Gray, and Devin Cherry were unable to play, losing their final six games and finishing in a tie for 6th place at 5-9. This weekend started with an uninspiring loss at Dartmouth and finished with a spirited performance, albeit with a gimmicky gameplan at Harvard. Courtney”s troops used the full 35 seconds on pretty much every possession in the first half, wasting time at halfcourt as the shot clock dwindled. The (good) idea was to limit the number of possessions, increasing the chances that a less
talented team could upset a more talented team. It almost worked, as the Big Red were all tied up through about 16 minutes, but the talent disparity between the league champs and Cornell”s B Team was too great. The Big Red return a lot of talent next year, led of course, by Miller.
- Dartmouth swept its final Ivy weekend of the year, dominating Cornell on Friday and winning the battle to avoid last place with Columbia on Saturday, earning its first weekend sweep since February 22-23, 2009 at Penn and Princeton, of all places. Gabas Maldunas had a huge weekend with 28 points vs. Cornell and 16 vs. Columbia, while Alex Mitola had 15 points on Friday and 21 in the finale. Overall, the Big Green had an up and down year, falling apart for a stretch in the middle of the conference season, but rebounding to go 3-1 in the final two weeks and looking like a much-improved basketball team. The 5-9 finish gets Dartmouth out of the basement for the first time since that “08-09 season and into a tie for 6th. Even more encouraging is the fact that the Big Green are only going to get better for the foreseeable future with such a young team. Alex Mitola, Connor Boehm, Malik Gill and the rest of the this year”s freshmen showed that a new era may be beginning in Hanover. Another year of improvement for them along with the sophomore trio of Maldunas, Golden, and Brooks, and Dartmouth can continue to move on up the Ivy standings.
- A disappointing northern sweep was a fitting conclusion to a puzzling season for the Columbia Lions. The Lions, without Maodo Lo who was sidelined with an injury, managed to fumble away another close game at Harvard after leading 49-45 with just minutes remaining. Mark Cisco pulled down 11 rebounds, but he and Skylar Scrivano combined to go 1-10 from the field. On Saturday, Columbia coughed up a six-point halftime lead, falling to the young Green and taking sole possession of the Ivy basement. The two losses complete an unthinkable conference season for a team many considered a contender in January.