Let’s be honest with ourselves, the Ivy League is never going to win any Division I attendance titles. But what some of the homely and aging facilities in the Ancient Eight lack in size or amenities, they can make up for in old-school college basketball atmosphere, which anyone who has attended a big game at Lavietes Pavilion (home of this season’s Ivy League Tournament) or Lee Amphitheater can attest to after their ears take a couple of hours to adjust to normality.
Saturday afternoon’s 64-60 loss to Bryant at Leede Arena left a bitter taste on the lips of Dartmouth as it breaks for the holidays.
And rightfully so. The Big Green (7-6) have overachieved for much of the first two months of this campaign, and if they are going to contend to compete in the Ivy League Tournament for the first time, they should be able to handle an NEC team – particularly a banged up one – at home.
It doesn’t take a deep dive into the recent history of Dartmouth men’s basketball to see that finding positive material can be quite difficult, most prominently not having been to the NCAA Tournament since 1959, the longest active drought for any team that has actually appeared in the Big Dance.
So here is an incomplete list of accomplishments the Big Green has already gotten to after holding off Florida Gulf Coast 55-49 on an icy night in Hanover to move to 2-0 on the young 2019-20 season:
After three years without any head coaching changes, things changed in a big way at the end of April. Princeton’s Courtney Banghart left after 12 seasons and seven Ivy titles to rebuild the program at the University of North Carolina. The Tigers search lasted a month, ending with the hiring of former UConn guard and long-time Tufts head coach Carla Berube.
On the men’s side, the conference almost lost James Jones to St. John’s, but the Yale coach finished as the Red Storm’s runner-up. Weeks later, Jones signed an extension that will keep him in New Haven until the end of the 2025-2026 campaign. In May, Brown’s Mike Martin was reported to be at Holy Cross interviewing for the Crusaders job, but a probable extension kept him in Providence.
Several Ivy assistants made the jump to head coaching positions with Columbia’s (and former Harvard’s) Kenny Blakeney heading to Howard, Penn’s Bernadette Laukaitis returning to Holy Family, Brown’s Tyler Simms going to Clark, and Brown’s Sara Binkhorst moving to Wheaton.
In the off-season’s strangest coaching news, Dartmouth promoted assistant coach Pete Hutchins to associate head coach on March 19th, only to see him jump to an assistant coaching position at George Mason on May 2nd.
The complete list of changes, from 2018-2019 to 2019-2020, for all 16 Ivy teams are noted below.
The Harvard men arrived for their league-opening match with Dartmouth as a five-point favorite, according to KenPom. They also had former first team All-Ivy guard Bryce Aiken in uniform for the first time this season. Neither of those things mattered, in the end (and Aiken didn’t play anyway), as the Big Green used a sizzling 68 percent shooting performance to beat the Crimson, 81-63, for their first Ivy opening victory in 12 years.
The Dartmouth men’s basketball team welcomes Harvard on Saturday night for both programs’ Ivy tip-off. The Crimson have won the last four meetings and five of the last six, including both games in 2018. On Jan. 6, Harvard beat Dartmouth 61-51 at Lavietes Pavilion, while earning a 62-57 overtime victory at Leede Arena on Jan. 20.
The Big Green, picked eighth in the Ivy media preseason poll, finished the nonconference schedule at 9-7, already the most single season wins in coach David McLaughlin’s three-year tenure and the school’s best mark since going 8-4 in the 1996-97 campaign. The team is now ranked at No. 223 by KenPom, the program’s best since 2015, and look to defend their home court against the 2018 regular season co-champs and 2019 preseason Ivy favorites.
Now that we’re at the point of the season where the conference standings really start to loom large, the IHO Power Poll goes away and we drill down each of the Ivies by their order in their standings.
First, though, some observations about an unusually exciting Ivy slate of games so far. The Ivy League, per KenPom, ranks first among all 32 Division I conferences in close game percentage, or percentage of games decided by fewer than four points or in overtime, with 11 of 23 games falling in that category. The Ivy League ranked 20th in that category last season, 25th in 2016 and next-to-last in 2015, so hope you’re enjoying the uptick in close contests.
This season’s Ivy slate has been unusually kind to the home teams so far too. The Ivy League also ranks first in Division I in home win percentage, as 18 of 23 hosts have been victorious so far. Interestingly, the league ranked last in Division I last season, when home teams went just 28-28 in conference play. The Ancient Eight ranked 15th in home win percentage in 2016 and 26th in 2015, so this season’s frequency of success for home teams has been unusual too. Since Penn and Princeton are going to be hitting the road down the stretch, the league’s home-win percentage could go back down some by the time the season is over.
Going Inside Ivy Hoops with Jill Glessner and Brett Franklin this week are Cornell women’s basketball head coach Dayna Smith and Dartmouth men’s head coach David McLaughlin.
During Brett and Jill’s look at the Ivy men’s hoops scene, Jill praises the Brown men for overcoming the Inside Ivy Hoops jinx, the duo breaks down Harvard’s defensive prowess and offensive struggles, Jill explains why Harvard men should have beaten Dartmouth by double-digits, why Dartmouth is like the Philadelphia Eagles, why she’s going with Yale over Harvard and much more:
During Jill and Brett’s look at the Ivy women’s hoops scene, they note why this weekend is particularly pivotal for the #RoadToIvyMadness, Dominique Leonidas making a name for herself for Brown, Jill explains why she likes Columbia to avenge itself at Cornell, the duo the doubly uptempo matchup of Brown at Dartmouth, how Dartmouth’s guard play will fare against Yale and 2016-17 Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Tamara Simpson and much more:
1. Princeton (7-7)
The Tigers showed what they’re capable of by scoring the biggest nonconference upset among Ivies this season with a 103-93 toppling of USC in overtime. The Tigers blew a seven-point lead with 46 seconds to go in regulation but rallied in gritty fashion in the extra period, getting seven points from Amir Bell in overtime. Princeton got 30 points from Myles Stephens and 23 points from Devin Cannady, who played all 45 minutes. Stephens and Cannady posted nine rebounds each. But what was perhaps most encouraging about Princeton’s victory over USC was freshman Sebastian Much continuing to emerge with a 19-point, four-assist performance that he followed up with double-figure efforts in Princeton’s next two games against Middle Tennessee State and Akron in the Diamond Head Classic. The Tigers let themselves down at the free throw line in their 69-67 loss to MTSU, going just 14-for-23 (60.9 percent) there.
1. Harvard (3-4)
The Crimson did something on Friday that Princeton couldn’t do last Saturday: beat St. Joseph’s. Sans Seth Towns and Corey Johnson due to food poisoning, Harvard raced out to a 23-9 lead in the first 10 minutes and got a boost from sophomore guard Bryce Aiken’s 8:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is impressive considering he had 13 turnovers in the first three games of the season (seven at Holy Cross). Sophomore frontcourt stalwart Robert Baker notched 14 points, 11 boards and three blocks against the Hawks in the Wooden Legacy Tournament. Harvard may have gotten blown out early versus St. Mary’s in the same tourney on Thursday, but Harvard’s 4-for-21 (19 percent) three-point shooting performance seems like an aberration.
Sunday night brought a 70-61 win for Cal State Fullerton over Harvard, a game in which the Titans attempted nearly three times as many free throws (30) as the Crimson (11). The Crimson’s interior defense got gouged at Titan Gym.