For Cornell’s first-year head coach Brian Earl, the 2016-17 campaign was going to have challenges typical to many new Ivy League coaches. In addition to bringing some new staff and a different playing style, the coach was not able to recruit any of his own players. With only one first-year coming to East Hill in the fall, the team was similar to the one that went 10-18 overall and 3-11 in the conference last year.
While hundreds of thousands of people came to New York to protest Penn’s first-ever President of the United States on Saturday, the Cornell basketball team came to the Big Apple to challenge its own Ancient Eight foe. Depending on one’s political views, the results for the marchers was inconclusive. No matter which Ivy Leaguer one supported in the recent election, however, there was no disputing the Big Red’s victory in avenging their loss to Columbia one week earlier.
With the Columbia students back from winter break, Levien Gymnasium was packed and the crowd was ready for the Lions to move to 2-0 at the start of conference play. With Robert Hatter, Cornell’s second leading scorer and primary ball handler, on the sidelines with a knee injury, things looked good for Columbia. Even with the loss of another starter, the Big Red looked calm and relaxed as the team completed its warmups. The Lions, however, appeared more serious as game time approached.
After two weeks of league competition, Penn has lost its first three contests, including two at the Palestra. The most surprising was a loss to Brown, the eighth-place team in the league’s preseason poll, which was Bears’ first road conference win in almost two years. (Brown very nearly upset Yale Friday night in Providence, but that doesn’t change Penn’s current 0-3 hole in league play.)
Looking at where things stand, were Quakers fans viewing the team through Red and Blue-colored glasses as the Ivy League slate began?
With the first-ever Ivy League Postseason Tournament, the regular season has focused on which teams would make it into the top four. In the preseason and the first two months of the campaign, Princeton, Yale and Harvard appeared certain to get to the Palestra for the second week of March. The first two weekends of conference play has confirmed those ideas. For most of the nonconference season, Penn seemed to take control of that fourth spot. While losing to Princeton at Jadwin Gym on the opening night of the league schedule, the Quakers showed enough on the offensive and defensive sides to justify those predictions. However, the Quakers’ two home losses this weekend showed that their path to the Palestra is uncertain and opened the fourth spot for all five lower division squads. After Saturday’s action in Philadelphia and Ithaca, Brown and Columbia took strong steps towards claiming the last spot in the top tier.
Prior to the start of conference play, Penn coach Steve Donahue sat for an appearance on Penn Basketball Weekly. In the Penn-Princeton preview, the coach emphasized the main difference between the two teams in last year’s close contests was the fact that Princeton competed better. The Tigers made the necessary plays late, when the game was on the line. He felt that the Quakers had improved on that end, but Saturday’s result shows that Penn is just not at the Tigers’ level at this time.
As 2016 came to a close, Dartmouth faced off against its in-state rival, New Hampshire, for the 67th time. After a frenetic last minute of action, the Big Green came away with a 63-62 victory and their first home win in the series since 2004. More importantly, Dartmouth has now won three in a row, after losing its first nine contests of the season.
After completing finals, Cornell headed west to take part in the Las Vegas Invitational. After a week traveling from Wyoming to Los Angeles to Sin City, the Red left with a 1-3 record and a small amount of optimism heading into the last stretch of nonconference games.
With the continued absence of starting center David Onuorah and no reported return date, coach Brian Earl decided to replace forward Donovan Wright with guard Troy Whiteside. With the four-guard set, the team decided to focus on winning games by improving its offensive output.
On November 30, Cornell headed into its Finals Break by beating Northeastern, 80-77, for its first home and second overall win of the season. With the campaign set to resume on Saturday against 7-2 Wyoming, where do things stand for the 2-5 Big Red?
With the hiring of former Princeton player and associate coach Brian Earl, Cornell is moving away from the guard-oriented style that was favored by its previous coach. Since former coach Bill Courtney had only one recruit arriving at East Hill this fall, the new coach was going to have to work with the same team that was 10-18 overall and 3-11 in the Ivies last year.
Last year’s squad played at a fast tempo with pressure defense and one-on-one offense. This year’s team has attempted to slow down the pace on both sides of the ball while becoming a more balanced team that focuses on player and ball movement.
After Wednesday night’s 73-58 loss to Vermont, Dartmouth finds itself at 0-7, one of four winless Division I programs. While there were expected growing pains with the hiring of new coach David McLaughlin, few would have thought things would be as rough as it has been the first five weeks of the season.
The Green are in the bottom nationally for points scored (63.9), scoring margin (-13.2), assists (10.4), turnovers (15.9), steals (4.6), total rebounds (32.1), offensive rebounds (6.4), first half points (28.7), field goal attempts (52.7), field goals made (22.0), blocks (1.3) and blocks allowed (5.6).
After winning on the road against Central Connecticut this Saturday, Brown basketball finds itself as the only Ivy League team with a winning record (5-4) heading into the first week of December. The Bears’ 75-58 victory was its best road victory since back-to-back wins against Providence and Central Connecticut State in December 2014. With its yearly rematch with the Friars scheduled for this Tuesday, it is worth spending time reviewing the first month of the Brown season before looking to the future.