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.
Some observations about an Ivy weekend that featured an unusually intense marquee matchup, an expected tossup game that played out as such and a consequential upset:
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.
1. Princeton (8-6, 1-0)
See Toothless Tiger’s recap for game details, but the team’s 61-52 win over Penn proved they’re a resilient bunch. It’s not easy to withstand a 26-5 run from your archrival, but the Tigers did just that in the second half, hanging on with team-wide superior composure and characteristically clutch play from Devin Cannady. It was Cannady who broke the 44-44 tie following Penn’s gangbusters run and played outstanding defense alongside Myles Stephens down the stretch. Princeton’s defense is more than good enough to carry it to the league’s top slot.
In his pregame analysis of the Penn-Princeton game last night at Jadwin Gym, IHO editor-in-chief Mike Tony opined that the key to a Tiger victory would be “winning the three-point game” and avoiding the late-game collapses that have plagued Princeton in the early going this season.
On its way to a gut-wrenching 61-52 win over the Quakers, the Tigers shot gaping holes through Mr. Tony’s argument. The victory was achieved on a night the Tigers shot an abysmal 3-for-19 (16 percent) from beyond the arc and despite the Quakers overcoming a 21-point second-half Tiger lead to draw even at 44, the only time the score was tied in the game.
This one defies rational analysis. The Tigers were outshot (40 to 35 percent) and were outscored by 12 on three-pointers. The 235th edition in this long-running rivalry is a memorable entry, if something less than an artistic success.
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.
1. Yale (6-5)
Yale played just one game in the two weeks since the last Ivy Power Rankings, but it was indicative of the kind of performance coach James Jones may extract from his youthful roster come Ivy play. Freshman forward Jordan Bruner enjoyed arguably his best game as an Eli in Yale’s 83-77 loss at Temple, registering a career-high 15 points in just 26 minutes to go along with eight rebounds and four blocks, the third time in his six games that he has collected four blocks. Senior center Sam Downey nabbed 17 rebounds, including nine on the offensive glass, in 33 minutes. Yale committed only 11 turnovers and shot 16-for-19 from the free throw line, suggesting the prototype of a team that thrives on efficiency, superior rebounding and stout perimeter defense. The Elis also lead the conference in three-point field goal percentage, and Yale enjoyed a 3-for-8 long-range performance from freshman forward Miye Oni at Temple to go along with five assists versus just one turnover (not bad for playing his 11th game at a high-major).
1. Yale (6-4)
Yale’s only game this past week was a 90-59 home romp over Central Connecticut State, but it was emblematic of the unexpected division of labor that’s carried Yale to arguably the top slot in the Ivy League standings. Sophomore guard Alex Copeland went 9-for-11 from two-point range to contribute 23 points along with four assists in 30 minutes, while freshman guard Miye Oni lit up Payne Whitney Gym with 7-for-8 shooting from three-point range en route to 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists in just 26 minutes.
Well, a Penn grad has finally ascended to the highest office in the land. Although most would argue that this is indeed our rightful place in the world order, our man in the White House is not quite what we, or anyone with a liberal arts education, expected. The Ivy hoops season is also a bit of a surprise (yawn), in that no one expected it to be this bad. There’s a frontrunner that keeps blowing late leads despite their aura of inevitability and too many blah contenders looking to get their act together by January.
For the first time in years, there appears to be no dominant team among the Eight. The favorites, HYP, have all had their early problems and the bottom half of the league is as bad, if not somewhat worse, than anticipated.
So without further ado, I give The AQ’s Special Post-Election Ivy Power Rankings. “It’s going to be yuge!!”
This one Ivy League season has been worthy of a shrug. The funk began when Yale junior guard and Ivy Player of the Year candidate Makai Mason was declared out for the season due to injury, and it deepened when it became obvious that Harvard coach Tommy Amaker had more tinkering than expected to do with his impact freshman-heavy roster. Preseason favorite Princeton, meanwhile, got clipped at Lehigh and is 0-3 against higher-ranked teams in KenPom. And league losses to Binghamton (Cornell), Army (Columbia), Longwood (Dartmouth), Navy (Penn) and Bryant (Yale) have suggested that the league has a lot of room for improvement. As a result, the Ivy League has fallen from 14th in KenPom’s preseason Division I conference rankings to 18th in just three weeks.