Kobe Bryant’s impact on the game of basketball and the people who have a passion for it has been incalculable, and his sudden death at 41 following a helicopter crash that killed his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others near Los Angeles Sunday put into perspective just how much Bryant mattered to those who have been Ivy League hoopsters.
With only two weeks of the regular season left, the Quakers are in trouble. They need to win out, or at least get to 7-7, to even have a shot at the Ivy League Tournament. In December, when they were knocking off power-five opponents and capturing the Big 5 title, I never dreamed they’d ever be in this dubious position. But alas, they are.
So how did we get here? Perhaps it’s best if coach Steve Donahue tells you.
“There was a poise about us last year that was really one through 33 games,” Donahue said, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian. “This year, there have been moments of brilliance when this group plays really great that the other group probably didn’t have the chance to.”
Ah yes, “moments of brilliance.” Although I agree with Mr. Donahue, championships are built on consistency, not moments of brilliance.
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.
As Ivy Hoops coverage dwindles across the digital world like Princeton’s winning percentage, I have returned to the dismay of many and the delight of few for yet another year of Penn Basketball coverage for IHO. Therefore, I will now channel another Philly hero, Sylvester Stallone, and pick up exactly where the team left off last season.
Following an 0-6 start to Ivy play in 2017, the Penn men’s basketball team went 6-2 through the remainder of the conference schedule to claim the final spot in the inaugural Ivy Tournament. Despite having home court advantage and never trailing to undefeated Princeton during regulation, the Quakers could not find a way to close out the game and lost in the semifinals. Heading into 2017-2018, the expectations were that Penn, while not ready to challenge for the top of the conference, would build upon their immediate success and have a much more comfortable time at securing the four seed. The preseason media poll reflected this idea, with the Red & Blue being picked fourth with 88 points, 28 points behind third ranked Princeton and 31 points ahead of fifth place Columbia.
The Quakers entered the Ivy schedule at 9-5 with highlight wins on the road at Monmouth (in 4 OT) and Dayton. However, Penn’s 85-72 home loss to Toledo (KenPom #113) on December 29th was a troubling way to enter the January 9th conference opener against the Tigers. Penn put any concerns to rest, snapping an eight-game losing streak to Princeton on its way to a 7-0 start to the league schedule. Following a loss at Harvard, the Quakers won its next four, including a three point home win against the Crimson. A controversial last second 80-79 loss at Yale left Penn tied with Harvard going into the regular season finale. A 99-93 over Brown gave the Red & Blue (24-9 overall, 12-2 Ivy, 1-3 Big Five) a share of the Ivy title, its 26th overall championship and first since 2007.
Princeton Athletics announced the 2018-2019 schedules for its men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Men’s key nonconference games:
11/16/18 at Lehigh
Princeton (13-16 overall; 5-9 Ivy) will be looking to avenge last season’s 85-76 defeat at Jadwin when they travel to Bethlehem. The Mountain Hawks, which was 16-14 overall and 11-7 (tied for third) in the Patriot League, is predicted, by Bart Torvik, to be the No. 197 team in the nation and the top team in its conference in ’18-’19. Lehigh will look to second team All-Patriot senior guard Lance Tejada (14.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg and 2.0 apg) and junior forward Pat Andres (12.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg) to lead the way.
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.
Penn didn’t pull off the historic upset, but it turned in a memorable performance nevertheless.
No. 16 Penn led big in the first half and stayed within striking distance of No. 1 Kansas for around 34 minutes, but the Jayhawks pulled away late to score a 76-60 victory over Penn at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita.
My range of emotions on Sunday swung from unadulterated joy as I rushed the Palestra floor to celebrate Penn’s 68-65 win over Harvard to mouth-agape shock as I stood in the back of Houston Hall at Penn’s selection show watch party and saw the Quakers on the 16 line against Kansas.
As fellow IHO contributor Steven Tydings and I rode the bus home to New York, I started to think of a plan for the Quakers to do the impossible and topple a No. 1 seed for the first time in men’s NCAA Tournament history.
The basic points of that plan, some of which you’ve probably already heard, are below:
Penn will win if …
Penn basketball is back to the Big Dance.
The Red & Blue ended an 11-year absence from the NCAA Tournament by coming out on top in a see-saw Ivy League Tournament final at the Palestra Sunday, besting No. 1 Harvard, 68-65.
No. 2 Penn ended the game on a 13-7 run in the final 4:49, the decisive run in a game full of ups and downs for both teams. taking a 66-60 lead into the final minute before hanging on with two final Ryan Betley free throws with 11 seconds left that upped Penn’s lead to the final score. Two would-be game-tying three-point attempts from Justin Bassey and Christian Juzang missed the mark, and a partisan Penn crowd stormed the Palestra floor:
— The Ivy League (@IvyLeague) March 11, 2018
Penn had held a 48-35 lead with 14:06 to play and maintained a double-digit lead with under eight minutes left, but Bassey and Juzang willed Harvard back from the foul line and the three-point line, with Chris Lewis converting inside after a 3-for-10 shooting start.
Poor shooting helped put the Quakers in a 32-21 hole with just under three minutes to go in the first half.