Ancient Eight thoughts – Ivy Saturday men’s edition

Eight thoughts on the men’s side:

1. Penn’s defense finds its stride

Penn held Cornell to 18 points in the second half and 0.78 points per possession for the night, an inspired defensive performance marking the latest glimpse of how high Penn’s ceiling can be when the defense is fully locked in. Matt Morgan’s usage rate was lower than usual, and Penn did a good job zeroing in on the second-all-time leading scorer in Ivy history. Morgan and company actually had a decent outing from beyond the arc (8-for-22, 36.4 percent), but it didn’t matter because everything else was effectively taken away. The Big Red typically thrive at the foul line, but Penn’s characteristically disciplined defense (the Quakers rank best in the Ivy League in defensive free throw rate) didn’t feed into that. Instead, Penn preserved its outside shot at an Ivy League Tournament berth, a feat only as realistic as its defense is strong down the stretch.

2. Cornell’s scoring distribution takes a slide

The loss to Penn was a classic case of Morgan doing everything on offense and not getting enough help. Morgan accounted for a third of Cornell’s woeful 18 field goals himself and half of Cornell’s similarly underwhelming six assists. While Riley Voss came out of nowhere to bag a team-high 13 points the night before at Princeton, the Big Red didn’t get enough offensive firepower beyond Morgan this weekend, Then again, Cornell has generally more successful the higher Morgan’s usage rate is, so a little more hero ball from him might not be so bad.

3. Aiken on a crazy ride

After Bryce Aiken poured 28 points on Yale in Harvard’s win in New Haven, including a stunning, buzzer-beating fadeaway to clinch the 88-86 win, he is averaging 28.5 points in the past six games on 51-for-99 (51.5 percent) shooting from the field, He’s been KenPom’s game MVP in four of those contests, sinking game-tying or game-winning shots to close out regulation or overtime in three of them. Since returning from knee issues that kept him out of game action for 348 days, Aiken ranks first in the conference in fouls drawn per 40 minutes played and percentage of team’s shots taken. Harvard winning at its arch-rival and conference leader’s home floor without Crimson “glue guy” Justin Bassey on the second night of a back-to-back despite surrendering 1.18 points per possession is pretty remarkable, and Aiken led the way in making it happen. Of course, rookie Kale Catchings, making his first ever start, helped plenty with a career-high 16 points on 5-for-9 shooting in 31 minutes after playing only 29 minutes the entire season before Saturday night.

4. Yale can’t stem the rebounding tide

Harvard outrebounded Yale, 32-26, doubling the Elis up on offensive boards, eight to four, despite the Crimson going with a small-ball approach for the vast majority of the game. Not surprisingly, Harvard outscored Yale in second-chance points, 11-4. Harvard does rank third in the nation in allowed offensive rebounding percentage per KenPom, so there’s not necessarily any shame in that. But if these two teams meet one more time in the Ivy League Tournament, the game could come down to who nabs more offensive boards – something that Yale has long prided itself for doing under James Jones. Catchings had three offensive snares himself, and if he can do it, so can the Elis’ vaunted frontcourt.

5. Anderson’s resurgence for Brown was bona fide

Brandon Anderson’s minutes have been greatly limited since November as Brown coach Mike Martin has looked to other sources for the scoring and ball distributing that Anderson provided in large quantities as a sophomore last season. But he scored in double figures and played significant minutes in both of Brown’s wins this weekend and posted 21 points in 24 minutes in Brown’s pivotal 68-65 win at home over Dartmouth Saturday night. Anderson was back to his usual tricks, drawing fouls with aplomb and posting the second-highest offensive rating against Division I competition of his career. Brown’s offense and defense are coming together at the right time, and the Bears get Columbia and Cornell at home next weekend.

6. Dartmouth tried  

Dartmouth got outscored at the foul line 22-5, and its surprisingly league-worst defense has regressed from last season, offsetting its much greater offensive efficiency and reduced turnover rate. Dartmouth won the turnover battle in Providence but lost the war, and with two weekends still to play, a Big Green squad that looked ripe for an Ivy League Tournament run after blowing out Harvard in its conference opener is falling out of the Ivy Madness conversation.

7. Princeton can stay off the shooting schneid

The Tigers still control their own Ivy title destiny, since they’ll claim the title if they win out – even if KenPom gives them less than 50 percent odds of winning in three of their final four games. Princeton has struggled with its shot from beyond the arc all season, but its anemic 27.7 percent shooting clip, even after its 12-for-26 outing versus the Lions, is bound to creep up some more – the Tigers are still due for at least one more hot shooting night from long range. Will it come next weekend against two statistically susceptible three-point defenses in Dartmouth and Harvard?

8. Lions still have pride 

Apart from Columbia’s loss at Dartmouth after enduring a triple overtime loss at Harvard the night before, the Lions have been in every Ivy game down to the wire except for two double-digit losses to Princeton, a credit to a scrappy squad that doesn’t get much from the free-throw or three-point lines. Patrick Tape has been very underrated this season as a rim protector, rebounder and efficient scorer, collecting 29 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists, six blocks and four steals this weekend, helping contribute to frustrating outings for both Richmond Aririguzoh (two points, four fouls) and AJ Brodeur (5-for-14 from the field).

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