It’s Thanksgiving, which means it’s time to take stock of what followers of each Ivy men’s team should be thankful for at this point of the season:
BROWN – Crashing the offensive boards: A season after the Bears ranked next to last in the Ivy League in offensive rebound percentage per KenPom, they rank 10th in the nation in that category, registering a critical 26 second-chance points in a 70-68 win over Quinnipiac. Tamenang Choh has snared four offensive rebounds in three of Brown’s six games.
COLUMBIA – Defensive improvement: The Lions currently rank fourth among Ivies in scoring defense, up from seventh in Ieague play last season. Columbia’s adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom ranks 134th nationwide, up 84 slots from a season ago. Columbia held Wake Forest to 0.82 points per possession. Since the Lions rank last in the league in scoring offense and field goal percentage, Gabe Stefanini remains sidelined due to injury and former rim protector Patrick Tapé permanently out of the picture, their fans should be thankful for what they’ve got: an interior defense that is getting results so far.
CORNELL – Boeheim in the zone: Cornell has lost six straight, but at least Jimmy Boeheim is blossoming into an All-Ivy first-team-caliber standout. Boeheim can score from anywhere on the floor while drawing fouls and crashing the boards at both ends of the floor with regularity, Boeheim ranks third in the conference in scoring, ninth in rebounding and eighth in minutes played, the focal point of an offense that has the second-best turnover margin in the conference. The Big Red are 0-3 in games decided by two points or less. Big Red folks should be thankful that the law of averages is on their side.
DARTMOUTH – Chris Knight carrying the load: Chris Knight leads the nation in percentage of possessions used and percentage of shots taken. Those possessions aren’t being wasted. Knight ranks in the Ivy League’s top 10 in field goal percentage, and he’s been key to the Big Green’s 5-1 start. Knight also ranks 52nd in the nation in block percentage and fourth in blocks in the Ivy League, so he’s once again proving to be a strong rim protector for a team trying to improve its interior defense from a season ago.
HARVARD – Justin Bassey’s performance vs. Texas A&M: Harvard’s 62-51 win over Texas A&M in the Orlando Invitational Thursday was a defensive slugfest in which both teams struggled to score inside and out, shooting a combined 33-for-104 (31.7%) from the field. But Justin Bassey, Harvard’s glue guy, came through with a team-high 16 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field in 29 minutes. Bassey was a perfect 4-for-4 from the foul line, and the Crimson made all 22 of their foul shots. Penn, Princeton and Yale have all struggled from the free throw line so far this season, giving Harvard a critical apparent advantage for now.
The Crimson will play No. 5 Maryland next in the invitational semifinals Friday at 11:30 a.m. EST on ESPN2.
This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for 4 different 3pt lines on the court. Way to pull out that W, @PennBasketball!
— Ryan (@HashTagOnions) November 29, 2019
Penn may owe its 68-67 win over UCF in the Wooden Legacy Thursday in part to there being four three-point arcs at Anaheim Arena, as a video review determined that a corner jumper drained by UCF guard Darin Green Jr. as time expired was a two-pointer and not a triple. But Penn should just be thankful that it managed to win a game in which it committed 22 turnovers, gave up 22 offensive rebounds, and allowed the Golden Knights to take a staggering 27 more shots (74 to Penn’s 47). AJ Brodeur was the star on offense, anchoring the Red & Blue with 23 points in 31 minutes despite foul trouble, while Devon Goodman and Ryan Betley made several big shots down the stretch en route to 19 and 14 points, respectively.
Penn plays Arizona in the next round of the tournament at 11:30 p.m. EST on ESPN2.
PRINCETON – Quite simply, Richmond Aririguzoh: Aririguzoh ranks fifth in the Ivy in rebounding and imposed his will with a 16-point, 18-rebound performance in a gut-wrenching loss to Arizona State. Our George “Toothless TIger” Clark called Aririguzoh “indispensable” in his recap of that game, an apt description. The Tigers, naturally, play at a slow, deliberate tempo that really allows Aririguzoh to bludgeon teams inside. Princeton may be 0-5, but with Aririguzoh leading the way, a top-half Ivy finish is still quite likely.
YALE – A defense built to win: We’ve gotten to see a lot of Yale so already. The Bulldogs have played a league-high eight games as of this writing, including five overtime periods. So there’s plenty of evidence on hand showing that Yale’s defense is a force to be reckoned with. Yale is sixth in the nation in defensive effective field goal percentage, 14th in three-point percentage allowed and 28th in two-point percentage allowed, per KenPomJim. Jordan Bruner and Paul Atkinson both rank in the Ivy’s top six in blocks, with Bruner tied with Choh atop the league, and Jalen Gabbidon has established himself as a strong perimeter defender. Defense travels, whether it’s to Oklahoma State or Penn State to hold them to 0.90 points per possession or less or Lavietes Pavilion for a potential Ivy League Tournament in March.