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.
On Saturday afternoon, the Dartmouth men rallied from a 16-point first-half deficit to defeat Albany on the road, 61-52. With the win, the team’s fourth in a row and its second victory over the Great Danes this season, the Big Green are 8-5. Not only are their eight wins the second most in the Ivy League this year, but they are the most wins in a single season of the Dave McLaughlin era.
Just over a year ago, the program was reeling with a surprise announcement that two time All-Ivy forward Evan Boudreaux would prematurely end his playing career at Dartmouth, as well as a season-ending injury to starting guard and second leading scorer Guilien Smith. Now, less than six weeks into the 2018-2019 campaign, the Green have risen from the ashes and look to be a force in the upcoming Ivy 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.
After Wednesday night’s 73-58 loss to Vermont, Dartmouth finds itself at 0-7, one of four winless Division I programs. While there were expected growing pains with the hiring of new coach David McLaughlin, few would have thought things would be as rough as it has been the first five weeks of the season.
The Green are in the bottom nationally for points scored (63.9), scoring margin (-13.2), assists (10.4), turnovers (15.9), steals (4.6), total rebounds (32.1), offensive rebounds (6.4), first half points (28.7), field goal attempts (52.7), field goals made (22.0), blocks (1.3) and blocks allowed (5.6).
What happened last year: (10-18, 4-10 Ivy): Dartmouth was expected to take a step back after notching its first postseason appearance since 1959 in 2015, particularly after Gabas Maldunas’ graduation and Alex Mitola’s transfer. And the Big Green did, via a five-game skid in late January and early February, followed back-to-back overtime losses at Brown and Yale. After the season, Dartmouth Athletic Director Harry Sheehy dismissed coach Paul Cormier, who was six years into his second stint in Hanover. Cormier had gone 54-116 (.318) overall and 23-61 (.274) in his second stint in Hanover. The Big Green had gradually improved during his tenure, but Sheehy told the Dartmouth in an outstanding piece by Alexander Agadjanian that he wanted to see greater player development and recruiting, prompting him to choose a different direction for the program.