Brown just missed out on an Ivy League Tournament berth for the second straight year this weekend, again getting edged out by Penn for the tourney’s No. 4 seed despite an impressive road sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth. And as coach Mike Martin indicated on Twitter after the loss, letdowns like this really sting.
2nite was 1 of the hardest post game talks I’ve ever had. We had just swept a tough r
oad trip + did it with grit, toughness, and togetherness- I was so proud of our team. But then we learned the news that it wasn’t enough. Hurting for our players – I’m lucky to be their coach.
— Mike Martin (@mmartinbrown) March 8, 2020
Brown’s loss in the de facto Ivy League Tournament play-in game at Penn in last year’s regular season finale made making the tournament a season-defining bar to clear. That the Bears failed to clear it in 2020 because they again failed to eliminate Penn from Ivy Madness contention when they had the chance last weekend, this time at home, might make this fifth-place finish even more painful than last year’s. It’s a loss for the Ivy League that seniors Brandon Anderson, Zach Hunsaker and Joshua Howard never got to play in its conference tournament.
But there’s still ample reason for Bruno to be excited.
The Bears’ 8-6 showing in Ivy play marked the program’s first winning conference record since 2008 and just the second since 2004, Martin’s senior year at Brown. Brown’s road sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth was its first since 2008 as well.
Remarkably, Brown’s 35 wins the last two seasons are the highest two-season win total in program history. And a year after the Bears set a single-season record for wins and won a postseason tournament game for the first time in school history, they have the option of pursuing postseason play again.
Brown rebounded well this season from losing glue guy Obi Okolie and electrifying scorer Desmond Cambridge, a sign that Martin’s program is becoming one that reloads rather than rebuilding. The Bears boasted the league’s top defense in Ivy play, no small feat and one that should pay off again next season as Tamenang Choh keeps hitting the defensive boards and Jaylan Gainey continues to establish himself further as one of the league’s top rim protectors.
Coming in fifth in the league hurts than it did pre-Ivy tourney, but the pain shouldn’t obscure the fact that this program is on the rise, indeed at a historical peak that could be topped in the near future if Bruno’s momentum continues.