Despite having ups and downs during its non-conference schedule, the Harvard men’s basketball team (18-14 overall, 12-2 Ivy) played consistently great defense (Adjusted Efficiency of 98.3; 55th in the nation). In conference action, the team was able to solidify its rotation, improve its outside shooting (three-point percentage increased from 30.0 to 42.2 percent), and weather a major injury to its leading player to win a share of the regular season title and claim the league’s top seed heading into the Ivy Tournament. A road game with co-champion Penn and an injury to the Ivy Player of the Year late in the second half may have been the only things keeping the Crimson from winning Ivy Madness. With a healthier 2018-19, Harvard will look to stay on top of the Ancient Eight and return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.
With a fourth place finish, an appearance in the inaugural Ivy Tournament, and a postseason win in the first round of the 2017 Women’s Basketball Invitational, things looked bright for the Brown women’s team heading into 2017-2018. The Bears, which did not lose a single member of the previous year’s squad, were picked fourth in the league’s preseason poll and there was talk among Ivy fans that this group could be the first since 2011-2012 to break the Harvard-Penn-Princeton stranglehold on the conference’s top three spots.
A 9-1 start, including Tournament titles at the University of Pacific and the Ocean State Tip-Off, added to the program’s confidence as it returned from finals to visit Boston University on December 22nd. Up 28 points with 3:22 remaining in the third quarter, starting three-guard Taylor Will came off the court with a knee injury and did not return to action for the rest of the year. While Brown defeated the Terriers, Howard University and Johnson & Wales to complete its non-conference scheduled with a program-best 12-1 record, the Bears aura of invincibility had been shattered.
Since Ivy Hoops Online is a site devoted to Ivy League basketball, it would not seem to be a place to write about Thursday’s tragic shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis. However, the location of the assault and the death of one of its employees, John McNamara, reaches close to home for many of the people that have written at IHO over the years.
Heading into the last weekend of conference play in each of the last two seasons, the Columbia men’s basketball team held the advantage for the final spot in the Ivy Tournament. Sweeps on the road by Brown and Yale in 2017, as well as losses to Dartmouth and Harvard this past March, kept the Lions away from the league’s postseason both years. Coach Jim Engles, heading into his third year as head coach in Morningside Heights, will look to change his team’s fortunes in 2018-2019 as Columbia seeks its first visit to Ivy Madness.
The Lions finished last season 8-19 with a 5-9 fifth place record in the Ivy League. In conference play, they were 5-2 at Levien Gymnasium, but winless away from home. The bright spots for Columbia were a 16 made three pointer performance against Cornell, a 83-76 win over eventual co-champion Harvard and a 25 point win over Princeton. The Lions averaged 76.4 points and 10 made threes a game overall, as well as 77.8 points and 9.4 made threes in the Ancient Eight. Their opponents, however, scored 77.2 points and 10 made threes overall, while conference foes put up 78.1 points and 10.9 made threes a game. Looking towards 2018-2019, Columbia will need to keep its offense intact, while improving its three point defense (38.4 percent in Division 1 games and 39.8 percent in Ivy League) if it wants to move into the league’s upper division.
In case you missed it, Yale women’s basketball assistant coach and Play BOLD co-founder Melissa D’Amico encapsulated the noble endeavor that is Play BOLD into a telling blog post last week.
A nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering communities by mobilizing people and resources on international missions to the most disadvantaged areas of the world, Play BOLD was the vehicle for Ivy women’s basketball players Alexandra Maund (Yale), McKenna Dale (Brown), Melissa Heath (Brown), Dominique Leonidas (Brown), and Eleah Parker (Penn) and 11 others to teach and learn in Eldoret, Kenya, where they taught hoops to underprivileged pupils on grass courts with no nets.
“I have learned that joy transcends material possessions, clean water and full stomachs,” Maund wrote.
Ivy Untold is a great website, and Ivy hoops fans should be aware of it.
In case you’ve missed it, Ivy Untold was launched by then-Cornell junior forward Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof last year as a platform for minority students. Since then, it has allowed minority Cornell students to tell their stories, from an African American field hockey player recounting her experience as “that black girl on the field” to a lacrosse player’s struggle with and comeback against anxiety.
It’s also worth noting that the site’s co-founder is Cornell senior guard Troy Whiteside, with former guard Kyle Brown also contributing site design.
Earlier this month, Ivy Untold ran “Play the Game Before the Game Plays You,” a piece penned by Abdur-Ra’oof in which he candidly details the challenges and frustrations of playing for one coach his freshman and sophomore years (Bill Courtney) and another his junior and senior years (Brian Earl) as well as finishing his career at Cornell by riding the bench. It’s an honest and much-needed reminder that these Ivy League student-athletes are people who juggle life-shaping hardships, disappointments and transitions before our very eyes as they compete (or don’t). far surpassing in importance our own fandom as supporters of our respective Ivies.
The Harvard women’s basketball team (18-11 overall, 10-4 Ivy) used a 12-0 record at the renovated Lavietes Pavilion, including a late season sweep of Penn and Princeton, to claim third place in the Ivy League. In addition to attending the Ivy Tournament for the second time, the Crimson completed the season with its 15th straight year in the league’s top three and its 14th postseason appearance.
Harvard was led by sophomore guard Katie Benzan, who was selected to the All-Ivy first team for the second time and was the only player chosen unanimously. Benzan was eighth in the conference with 13.5 points and fifth with 3.5 assists per game. Her 3.41 made threes per contest and three point shooting rate of 45.0 percent not only led the Ancient Eight, but were 12th and sixth in the nation, respectively. Jeannie Boehm, a sophomore forward, was named second-team All-Ivy after averaging 9.5 points (on 50.4 percent shooting), 7.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game.
On Monday, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman tweeted that Cornell’s Matt Morgan would withdraw from the upcoming NBA Draft. That same day, Raphy Gendler of the Cornell Daily Sun reported that Morgan will return to the school and the team for his senior year. Noted Morgan in a text to the school paper, “It was in my best interest to come back and play one more year and finish out not only my athletic career but also my academic career. It was great going through the process again but I’m glad to officially be back and getting ready for another run with my team.”
Morgan had tested the NBA Draft waters for the first time in the spring of 2017. During that time, he received interest from the Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Washington Wizards. He took the information from that process and used it to have his strongest season at Cornell. Not only did he lead the Ivy League in scoring for the third straight season, but his career-best 22.5 points per game was the 11th highest in the nation. The Concord, N.C. shooting guard ended the 2017-2018 season with an active 51-game double-digit scoring streak, while being named a member of the All-Ivy first team and the Lou Henson All-America team. His 1,646 points are third on the Big Red’s all-time list, 17 points behind John Bajusz and 382 points behind Ryan Wittman’s record 2,028.
The Ivy League Tournament is on the move.
The Ivy League announced Thursday that after being held the past two seasons at the Palestra on Penn’s campus, the 2019 Ivy League men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be held at Yale’s John J. Lee Amphitheater, Payne Whitney Gym on Sat., Mar. 16 and Sun., Mar. 17.
Saturday will feature two men’s semifinals at 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., and two women’s semifinals at 6 p.m. and approximately 30 minutes after the first women’s semifinal. The men’s championship is set for 12 p.m., Sunday with the women’s championship game to start at 4 p.m.
All six tournament matchups will be featured on ESPN networks.
The Ivy League noted that the site for the 2020 Ivy League Basketball Tournaments will be determined at a later date as the League continues to explore various options.
The Princeton women’s team finished the 2017-2018 season 24-6 overall and 12-2 in the Ivy League. They opened up conference play with a 70-55 victory at the Palestra over two-time defending champion Penn and never looked back on their way to the regular season title. They dominated Yale and Penn in the Ivy Tournament to claim the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, their seventh appearance in the last nine years. Their magical season ended in a first round loss to the University of Maryland, the nation’s #16 team.
The Tigers had the Ivy League Player of the Year in sophomore forward Bella Alarie, who averaged 13.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 2.3 assists per game. Alarie, the league’s Rookie of the Year and a first team All-Ivy member in 2016-2017, was joined on this year’s first team by senior forward Leslie Robinson. Robinson, who was selected to last year’s second team All-Ivy, finished the season averaging 10.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per contest.
Courtney Banghart was named the Ivy League Coach of the Year for the second time in her career and the first time since she led the school to an undefeated 30-0 regular season record in 2014-2015. The former two-time first team All-Ivy Dartmouth guard completed this year with her sixth regular season Ivy championship, eighth 20-plus win season and eighth 11-plus conference win season in her 11th year at Old Nassau.