ITHACA – The Tigers’ annual January hiatus has given me cabin fever. Last night I jumped on I-81 north to head up to Cornell to see what Brian Earl’s club could do against the vaunted Harvard freshmen. I wanted a firsthand look at the Tigers’ opponent next Saturday in Cambridge.
IHO breaks down the two games comprising Saturday evening’s Ivy conference play-opening slate:
Penn at Princeton, 7 p.m.
Last season: Princeton beat Penn twice by a combined three points, and the Ps’ last meeting at Jadwin Gym on March 12 put a scare into the Tigers, who were outscored 40-23 over the final 14:52 in a 72-71 victory over the Red and Blue. Princeton committed 16 turnovers, its highest amount in Ivy play last season, and then-freshman Penn guard Tyler Hamilton came out of nowhere to provide 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in 37 minutes, easily the best performance of his Penn career.
The Crimson traveled to the Lone Star State to play its toughest opponent of the season in the Houston Cougars at Hofheinz Pavilion. Riding a three-game winning streak, the Crimson were hot. Harvard’s previous three wins over the Rams of Fordham, the Huskies of Northeastern, and the Eagles of Boston College were impressive; but this Cougar team was a whole different animal. While Houston didn’t come in boasting any signature wins, they were not to be taken lightly. According to KenPom, Houston possesses the nation’s 16th-ranked offense – and it’s not hard to see why. Houston is one of the 25 slowest teams in the country, while still averaging 83 points per game. With the inexperienced Crimson still trying to get its defense together, the matchup posed a unique challenge.
Eight games into the season, the Crimson sit at 4-4. Although this may not be the start everyone in Cambridge dreamed of when fate brought this team together, the Crimson are trending upward after winning three straight games heading into the exam break.
Harvard started the season by losing four consecutive winnable, Division I games. The team hung with Stanford in its opening night game in China, but it still didn’t feel like a great showing, even with Bryce Aiken scoring 21 points in his first collegiate game. After trouncing Fisher College, a non-NCAA team, the Crimson hit a low point in their season. Harvard was only three games in, but an 11-point loss to Holy Cross at home was not a good sign. With Zena Edosomwan only playing seven minutes, Siyani Chambers committing five turnovers (Harvard had 19 as a team), and freshman Bryce Aiken out with an injury, there didn’t seem to be much to take away from that game – besides what not to do. Seth Towns and Corey Johnson had solid games, but there were more question marks than answers. Would the heralded tandem down low of Zena Edosomwan and Chris Lewis play up to expectations? Or, more importantly, would the heralded tandem down low of Zena Edosomwan and Chris Lewis play? Would Bryce Aiken return soon? What was wrong with Siyani?
When Harvard lost six out of its first seven games against Division I opponents last season, you could hear them. When Harvard started out Ivy play 2-7, you could hear them. When Harvard finished the season 14-16 with a 6-8 record in the Ivy League, you could really hear them.
Maybe you even started hearing them last August when it was announced that Siyani Chambers had torn his ACL, and that he would miss the entire 2015-16 season. Or maybe they became audible on Jan. 18, 2015, when Harvard landed Chris Lewis, the first of seven recruits who, on paper, comprise the best recruiting class on paper in Ivy League history. Or maybe they started five years ago when current Harvard senior Zena Edosomwan became the first ever top-100 recruit to commit to an Ivy League school.
Next season, the Crimson will bring in a star-studded, highly-ranked and extremely potent seven-man class consisting of Chris Lewis, Bryce Aiken, Seth Towns, Christian Juzang, Robert Baker, Henry Welsh and Justin Bassey. With four of these players ranked in either Scout.com or ESPN’s Top 100 lists and the class as a whole ranked 11th nationally by ESPN, expectations are high for this group. Combine all the rankings and buzz surrounding this class with Harvard’s lack of success this season, and the perfect storm for this class’s grand entrance is all but brewed. Here’s a breakdown, one by one, of what to expect from this recruiting class next year and beyond:
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Cal men’s basketball assistant coach Yann Hufnagel was fired Monday following an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.
Hufnagel served as an assistant coach at Harvard under Tommy Amaker from 2009-10 through 2012-13, and graduated from Cornell in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Labor Relations.
University investigators concluded after a months-long probe that Hufnagel had reportedly violated UC Berkeley’s anti-sexual harassment policy, the Chronicle said, noting a release that stated, ““effective immediately, Hufnagel has been relieved of his duties pending the outcome of the termination process and will not be traveling with the team during its NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament run.”
Following our countdown of the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s men’s basketball history this summer, Ivy Hoops Online is delighted to continue celebrating the 60th anniversary of modern Ivy League basketball by honoring the top 60 players in Ivy hoops history (in no particular order). For the next entry in our Ivy 60 for 60 series, we focus on Wesley Saunders, one of the greatest players in Harvard basketball history…
The biggest drama Friday night at Yale may be halftime, when Yale will find out if Columbia was able to knock off Princeton at Jadwin. If not, the Elis will likely have to win out.
Yale will be playing its first repeat league game without Jack Montague, with the Elis having already played (and defeated) Harvard sans Montague less than two weeks ago. The experience of that will help. Montague, unfortunately is now out for the rest of the season after having withdrawn from the university.
The Elis beat Harvard, 67-55, at Lavietes Pavilion earlier this month. It was not that close.
It was penciled in in September as a huge game. One which would go a long way toward deciding the Ivy League Championship, again: Yale at Harvard. Then something went wrong and something else went very right.