Now’s the time of year that an Ivy League hoops slate would be revving up, and since there’s no Ivy hoops action to come this spring, here’s an IHO contributors’ roundtable pondering what might have happened in the 2020-21 Ivy season on the men’s and or women’s sides if there had been one instead of an exodus of much of the league’s top talent via the transfer portal. Behold the one-year Ivy hoops universes we created:
2020-21 without COVID
Regular Season: 1. Yale 2. Harvard 3. Princeton 4. Penn 5. Brown 6. Cornell 7. Dartmouth 8. Columbia
Ivy Tournament Semis: #1 Yale vs #4 Penn; #2 Harvard vs #3 Princeton
Ivy Tournament Finals: #1 Yale vs #2 Harvard
Ivy Tournament Champs: #1 Yale
POY: Paul Atkinson (Yale)
First Team: Paul Atkinson (Yale), Noah Kirkwood (Harvard), Tamanang Choh (Brown), Jaelin Llewellyn (Princeton), Azar Swain (Yale), Brendan Barry (Dartmouth)
Second Team: Jalen Gabbidon (Yale), Chris Ledlum (Harvard), Jimmy Boeheim (Cornell), Ryan Schwieger (Princeton), Gabe Stefanini (Columbia), Jordan Dingle (Penn)
ROY: Justice Ajogbor (Harvard)
2021 with COVID (Bubble at Cornell)
Harvard, Princeton and Yale would not field teams
Regular Season: 1. Penn 2. Brown 3. Cornell 4. Dartmouth 5. Columbia
Ivy Playoff – First Round: #4 Dartmouth vs #5 Columbia
Semifinal: #1 Penn vs #4 Dartmouth, #2 Brown vs #4 Cornell
Final: #1 Penn vs #4 Cornell
Ivy Tournament Champ: #1 Penn
2020-21 without COVID
Regular Season: #1 Princeton 2. Penn 3. Harvard 4. Yale 5. Columbia 6. Cornell 7. Dartmouth 8. Brown
Ivy Tournament Semifinals: #1 Princeton vs #4 Yale; #2 Penn vs #3 Harvard
Ivy Tournament Finals: #1 Princeton vs #2 Penn
Ivy Champions: #1 Princeton
POY: Carlie Littlefield (Princeton)
First Team: Carlie Littlefield (Princeton), Eleah Parker (Penn), Camilla Emsbo (Yale), Kayla Padilla (Penn), Abbey Hsu (Columbia),
Second Team: Jadyn Bush (Harvard), Sienna Durr (Columbia), Ellie Mitchell (Princeton), Lola Mullaney (Harvard), Ellen Margaret Andrews (Yale)
ROY: Harmoni Turner (Harvard)
2021 with COVID (Bubble at Cornell)
Harvard, Princeton and Yale would not play
Regular Season: 1. Penn 2. Columbia 3. Cornell 4. Dartmouth 5. Brown
Ivy Playoff – First Round: #4 Dartmouth vs #5 Brown
Semifinal: #1 Penn vs #4 Dartmouth, #2 Columbia vs #3 Cornell
Final: #1 Penn vs #2 Columbia
Ivy Champions: #1 Penn
I’d like to think of a 2020-21 season without COVID-19. I think this would be the year coach Mike Martin and his Brown men’s basketball team earns a spot in Ivy Madness. I love Penn, my alma mater, but I think the Quakers would struggle trying to find their new leader after losing AJ Brodeur to graduation. On the women’s side, I think Princeton would be just fine after losing Bella Alarie to graduation, but the Tigers wouldn’t dominate as they did last year. I predict that last year’s first-year phenoms, Jordan Dingle and Chris Ledlum, would be first-team or second-team All-Ivy players. I predict Paul Atkinson would be the Player of the Year. Would he be joined by a co-Player of the Year? Would Yale dominate men’s hoops? So many questions. So much time to daydream about the various scenarios in a 2020-21 Ivy hoops season without COVID-19.
Brilliant sunshine and spring-like temperatures filled the air. Street vendors were ubiquitous on the Philly streets adjacent to 33rd Street. It was Ivy tourney time. On the men’s side, Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Brown were still standing. Television trucks were ready to roll.
Yale had a brilliant season. The Elis finished the Ivy campaign with a perfect 14-0 record. Mission accomplished for James Jones’s crew. No foe came within five points of the Elis and Yale had recorded a home upset win over high-flying Alabama, led by former Eli Jordan Bruner.
Harvard only had two blemishes. Two losses to Yale, which included the only regular season loss at JLA since 2016.
Princeton exceeded expectations at 8-4. Brown finished at 6-8, but won the tiebreaker with Penn, who also finished at 6-8. A truly disappointing season for the Quakers and their faithful.
Harvard and Princeton opened the festivities at 11 a.m. The Palestra was 80% filled. Much Orange and Black in the crowd. Harvard had beaten the Tigers by eight in Cambridge and by one at Jadwin, on a Ryan Schwieger buzzer-beater.
Princeton jumped out to a 10-2 lead. Harvard narrowed the deficit to 35-33 at the half on 6-8 shooting by Noah Kirkwood. The second half was surprising carnage. Princeton was 7-9 from 3 and at one point held an 18 point lead at 70-52. The Tigers coasted to an 80-70 win and a berth in the final. Much disappointment in Cambridge as the Crimson had underperformed with outstanding talent.
Yale secured a three-peat with Brown. Paul Atkinson, consensus Ivy POY had 21 points and Yale won 85-68.
Yale was an eight-point favorite over Princeton in the Sunday final. Azar Swain had tweaked his ankle in the Saturday win and was questionable for the final. He did not start. But he did see minutes. The stands were almost filled to capacity.
Sophomore guard Ryan Langborg did his best Steph Curry imitation in the first half and the Tigers went into the locker room with a surprising 40-35 lead. Yale was cold from the field and was missing Swain and his leadership.
Jones and his staff adjusted and came out with a pressing and trapping defense. Princeton committed 8 turnovers in the first 15 minutes of the second half and Yale grabbed a 60-57 lead. Princeton knotted it at 65. Yale then went on an 8-0 run, fueled by hot August Mahoney shooting from the outside. The Elis secured an 82-77 win and a third straight Ivy title and an NCAA bid. They characteristically outrebounded the Tigers, 40-33. Jones used an eight-man rotation.
Joe Lunardi had Yale, at 21-8, with a 12 seed in the East. Yale would be a difficult foe for any 5 seed. Ivy faithful were talking about a Yale dynasty. Harvard was considered to be very much in the mix for an NIT bid.
All-Ivy tourney team
Paul Atkinson, Yale
August Mahoney, Yale
Noah Kirkwood, Harvard
Rio Haskett, Harvard
Ryan Schwieger, Princeton
Honorable mentions: Matt Cotton, Ryan Langborg, Tamenang Choh
On the men’s side, I believe it would’ve really been a six-team race for four spots in Ivy Madness. Dartmouth and Columbia would’ve been on the outside looking in, as both teams lost too many players to the transfer portal to be competitive enough to make the Ivy League Tournament. Yale, in my opinion, would’ve been a heavy favorite to go to the big dance, with Brown, Princeton, Harvard, Penn and Cornell being very competitive teams posing major upset threats for the automatic bid. Yale’s Paul Atkinson likely would defend league Player of the Year status, while Penn’s Max Martz would have been a strong candidate for Most Improved Player of the Year.
On the women’s side, Harvard, Princeton, Penn and Yale likely would’ve been the runaway candidates for the four Ivy Madness teams. The other four teams, Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth and Brown, would all be on the outside looking in but still posing a major upset threat. Princeton, as usual, would’ve been the favorite to make the big dance, but the other three top-half teams would actually have a legitimate shot to beat the Tigers. With no Bella Alarie, Princeton’s league perfection would have come to an end and will come to an end once Ivy basketball returns. Princeton’s Carlie Littlefield would have won Player of the Year honors, with Cornell’s Shannon Mulroy winning the Most Improved Player of the Year honors.