- While most of the nation’s attention was focused on Election Night coverage, seven of the 16 Ivy teams opened the 2018-19 season. When the evening was over, the four men’s and three women’s teams were victorious and there was no need for any recounts. After noting the highs and lows for the Penn men, below are summaries for the other six squads.
The Penn men opened up the ’18-’19 season on the road against George Mason on Tuesday night. In a gutsy second half performance, the Quakers came from behind to beat the Patriots, 72-71, for big win against a team that entered the contest ranked #116 by KenPom and #120 by Bart Torvik. Unfortunately, Ryan Betley, the Red & Blue’s leading scorer and a second team All-Ivy player in ’17-’18, was injured early in the game and appears to be lost for the season.
Around the five minute mark, Betley took an inbounds from Devon Goodman. As he was driving the baseline, his right leg went out from under him and he collapsed to the ground. After the Penn trainers spent several minutes with Betley, he was helped into the locker room without being able to put any pressure on his right leg. He later returned to the bench with a brace on his right leg.
Another college basketball season is upon us. So what can we expect from the Ancient Eight this season coming off a down year for the league overall?
With so much returning talent across the conference, anticipate higher quality of play from both the Ivies who make the conference tournament and those who don’t.
The Crimson missed their two highest-usage players on offense down the stretch of the Ivy League Tournament final versus Penn at the Palestra: Bryce Aiken, who suffered a knee injury and missed 18 of the final 22 games of the season, and Seth Towns, who suffered a knee injury with around eight minutes left and did not return. Of course, Penn edged out Harvard in the end, the Crimson coming up just short in the face of the Red and Blue’s home-court advantage even without the 2017-18 Ivy Player of the Year (Towns) and 2016-17 Rookie of the Year (Aiken).
Harvard would have likely punched a NCAA Tournament ticket if it had those two standouts in tow, and they’ll probably do the same if they have them in tow this season.
The Cornell men opened the 2018-2019 preseason with their annual Red & White scrimmage a week ago Friday, followed by an exhibition against their Division III neighbors from Ithaca College on Tuesday. The Red team, led by assistant coach Donovan Williams, came away with the 74-63 victory in the intrasquad matchup, and the Big Red defeated the Bombers, 98-61.
On Tuesday afternoon, Penn’s Dr. M. Grace Calhoun, director of athletics and recreation, held a press conference to announce that Penn Athletics secured a sponsorship with Macquarie Investment Management. The multi-faceted agreement is highlighted by the group’s presenting sponsorship of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as naming rights to the Palestra’s famed court.
Calhoun refused to disclose the length and value of the deal but noted the partnership is for several years and is the largest such agreement in the history of Penn Athletics.
Typically, a presenting sponsor attaches its name to a product. With respect to the “Cathedral of Basketball”, the hardwood will now permanently be known as “Macquarie Court at the Palestra.” Calhoun noted, iin response to questions from Jonathan Tannenwald of Philly.com and reporters form the Daily Pennsylvanian, that having a corporate name linked directly with the fabled arena was not an option. However, she did admit that the school’s famed football stadium, Franklin Field, and the Penn Relays could be considered for a deal in the future.
“She’s one of the best shooters in the country.”
This is how Kathy Delaney-Smith, who has been Harvard’s head coach since 1982, has described her star point guard in press conferences. While coaches understandably have a tendency to inflate their players, this is no exaggeration. Last season, Benzan launched 220 shots from downtown, sinking 45 percent of them. Her stroke was even more lethal in conference play, during which exactly 50 percent of her 102 threes found the net.
Benzan is symbolic of the trend that is transforming the game at all levels: in the Ivy League, in the WNBA, in the men’s leagues, and in high-school gyms, teams shoot the three-ball now more than ever. What was once perceived as a somewhat selfish play is now recognized as a staple of an effective offense.
In a major challenge to the Princeton women’s program, coach Courtney Banghart announced per the Trentonian during the team’s media day Thursday that Bella Alarie, the reigning Ivy Player of the Year, will miss the first part of the season due to a broken right arm sustained in an awkward fall during an early October practice. She also mentioned that Abby Meyers will have to take a year away from the team and the university due to a “misunderstanding” in her computer science class that violated university policy, the Trentonian noted.
In her sophomore season, the 6’4″ Alarie was in the league’s top ten for multiple categories, averaging 13.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.3 rebounds over 30 games. She shot 48.9 percent from the floor and 78.9 percent from the free throw line. Meyers did not start any games last year, but she averaged 17.4 minutes a game in 28 contests. In Ancient Eight action, the 6′ 0″ wing from Potomac, Md., was the team’s second leading scorer with 10.9 points per game, shooting 44.6 percent from the field, 40.7 percent from three and 87 percent from the charity stripe.
Editor’s note: Our George Clark (Toothless Tiger) recently caught up with Princeton coach Mitch Henderson, who thoughtfully weighed in on Princeton basketball’s 2018-19 outlook, comparing the 2016-17 Tigers who went 16-0 in league play with last year’s 5-9 Princeton squad, previewing the program’s promising sophomore class, reflecting on rookie Jaelin Llewellyn living up to the hype, looking for Princeton’s defense to improve despite losing 2018 Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Amir Bell, explaining why Princeton and Penn are playing back-to-back in January this year … and much more:
In past years, the Ivy League office organized a teleconference call for the men’s basketball coaches, a few days after the preseason media poll. At those events, the coaches would talk about their teams, as well as answer questions from the Ivy League moderator and a small number of reporters. In addition, Reggie Greenwood, the league’s Coordinator of Officials, would discuss any rule changes for the upcoming season. This year, the league decided to do away with the call in favor of having roundtable conversations with the men’s and women’s coaches.
The two 30-minute videos, which were shot in New Haven on Sept. 5 (women’s coaches) and Sept. 12 (men’s coaches), focused on the general improved state of Ivy recruiting, the difficulties in scheduling nonconference games as an improved mid-major conference, the unique challenges in playing back-to-back Ivy weekends, the importance of the Ivy Tournament for late-season competitiveness, and the significance of the league’s partnership with ESPN. What fans did not hear was anything related to the specific teams and players.
Last year’s season was a mixed bag for the Crimson. The team emerged from spotty non-conference play to dominate the Ancient Eight, going 12-2 and sharing the conference title with the Quakers. Of course, Penn would go on to defeat Harvard in the conference tournament and earn the most coveted prize: a trip to March Madness.
The Quakers undoubtedly benefited from playing the conference tourney on their home floor, a built-in advantage that executive director Robin Harris has decided is worth the trade-off of hosting the Ivy League Tournament at the largest and most historic venue that the conference has to offer. However, while Crimson fans might be apt to cry foul, there is reasonable evidence that Penn was indeed the best team in the Ivy League.