As IHO writer Rob Browne pointed out to me Sunday night, this was a topsy-turvy weekend for Ivy hoops. Comebacks came and went, winning and losing streaks were snapped and the race for the league tournament No. 4 seed got muddled:
Well, that ends that.
Penn’s season is officially over less than halfway through the Ivy schedule. Ironically, if not for the Ivy Tournament, the team probably would have been out after the first weekend. It has been quite a rugged six games through the Ancient Eight for the Quakers. The Ivy League is known for smart people, and it seems the Ivy coaches have effortlessly figured out how to neutralize the one-dimensional nature of the young Penn players. Thus what had begun in Philadelphia as a campaign of hope and promise has now ended in abject disappointment.
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.
“Hey AQ, where have you been?” The question has arisen this season from many emails and tweets. First, for those of you who have missed my pithy, yet pedantic,and occasionally puerile persiflage (800 Math, 790 Verbal), my apologies, and no, I have not retired. Instead, I have merely taken a step back to observe the rapid reshaping of the Ivy hoops landscape. Overall, this brief offseason has been arguably more tumultuous than the season itself. Yale captures the league outright for the first time in 54 years and then bags a tournament win over Baylor. Princeton does their “I got this. Oops, no I don’t!” routine in the NIT. Kyle Smith, after winning the CIT, triumphantly leaves Columbia (“Thank you and good night!”) as perhaps the torchbearer of a strange, new breed of Lions coach — a winning one. (I am hoping that they lose the secret formula for this perverse brand of eugenics, no doubt developed in some arcane lab on the Morningside Heights campus, before that institution actually gets used to victory.) Paul Cormier, after two straight ROYs, abruptly gets canned in Hanover which only proves that you can never go home again especially if that home is in New Hampshire, on the Dartmouth campus and you’re hired as its basketball coach. And Bill Courtney, well…even the muskrats at the bottom of the gorge could see that one coming.
So what about my beloved Quakers?
It was reported by CBS Sports last week that the Ivy League is close to creating an annual conference tournament that would be in place for the 2016-17 season, which is obviously big news since the Ivy League is the only Division I conference that still doesn’t have a conference tournament. Ivy presidents finally seem poised to go along with coaches’ wishes in setting up such a tournament, as it’s been reported that TV exposure is a motivating factor in securing a league tourney.
Eight of IHO’s writers weighed in on whether they support the creation of an annual conference tournament, and if so, where and when should it be held on a yearly basis, and how many teams should participate. Their in-depth responses after the jump:
This is the Ivy League.
It is not the ACC, nor is it the Big East, or even the WCC. This is the Ivy League, and consequently, the level of play is, let’s say, different than it is in other more visible college basketball leagues. Because the Ivy League does not give athletic scholarships, and because of the long history of exclusion that is entrenched in the DNA of the Ivy League, watching a rivalry game between Princeton and Penn is drastically different between watching one between Duke and North Carolina — though the intensity and passion from a fan’s perspective may be comparable. This would be more or less fine — you know, if you’re comfortable with divisions of large swaths of people based on a system of elitism — but every year come March, one of the Ancient Eight schools gets thrown into a bigger pond with bigger fish.
With the impending Harvard/Yale playoff on Saturday at the Palestra, we are bound to hear even more in the coming days about how the Ivy League is the one conference that stands alone in lacking a conference tournament. Proponents of the current system argue that it guarantees that the best team represents the league following the double-round robin, while proponents of a playoff argue that it will better position the league to get an elusive second team into the big dance (#2bidivy!) and allow teams to fight their way into the tournament despite not being one of the best.
The problems facing the implementation of a playoff are numerous, most notably the staunch opposition of many on the administrative side as well as fans who believe in the league’s tradition as the most virtuous of all virtues.