Thanks to those who shared their thoughts on their hopes and expectations for the Big Green this season:
We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Dartmouth is next because Gabas Maldunas delivers.
Our No. 3 all-time Dartmouth moment just so happens to be the same as the No. 8 all-time Harvard moment.
Dartmouth went into its regular season finale on March 7, 2015 needing to defeat Yale to finish 14-14 and thus qualify for the College Invitational Tournament (CIT), for what would mark the program’s first postseason appearance since 1959.
We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Harvard is next because why not turn fat cells into lasers?
March 6’s bout between the Yale Bulldogs and the Harvard Crimson was the rubber match of the 2015 Ivy League season. People (like me!) called it “The Game 2.0.” Yale came into Crimson territory and left with a big win, one that seemed to ensure that the Bulldogs would go to the Big Dance for the first time in 53 years. All Yale needed to clinch sole possession of the Ivy League title was a win at Dartmouth the next night, or a Harvard loss to Brown. As for Harvard, there was only one way left for them to tie Yale for the Ivy title: Defeat Brown the following night and pray for the Big Green to shock the Bulldogs in Hanover.
The Crimson took care of business at Lavietes Pavilion, beating Brown 72-62 behind a strong second-half surge. As the Harvard-Brown game ended, a group of diehard Crimson fans in Lavietes turned their attention to the Dartmouth-Yale game, which Yale led by two with 10 minutes to go. The teams battled hard until, with 24 seconds remaining, Yale led by three and had possession of the ball. Then craziness ensued.
To relive the insane action of Saturday night in video form like never before, click here.
It was about 10:30 p.m. at Lavietes Pavilion on Friday night. Thirty minutes earlier, Yale had defeated Harvard, 62-52. The fans had long since left, most disappointed. Yale players, coaches and their families hugged and celebrated their Ivy title and likely trip to the NCAA Tournament. Their bliss, though hard to swallow for a Crimson onlooker, was well-deserved. The Bulldogs had done it. They had beaten Harvard to virtually assure an end to the Crimson’s reign of dominance in the Ivy League – or, at least, to postpone it for a year.
But Harvard senior Wesley Saunders wasn’t ready to concede the trophy just yet. When asked about his team’s chances of getting another opportunity to knock off Yale in a one-game playoff, he said, “Crazier things have happened.” I’m not sure what “crazy” things Saunders was referring to, but there’s no way they could have been more insane than what went down on Saturday night atop the Ivy League.
It’s hard to remember that Dartmouth exists sometimes, so consider this roster preview a reminder that the Big Green are still around. But who are they this year exactly?
Coach Paul Cormier alluded to the fact that this is a more experienced team than he has helmed in the past, and yet there are just two seniors on the entire roster. The presence of seven juniors makes up for that, though, namely co-captain Alex Mitola, who vastly improved his assist to turnover ratio as a sophomore and established himself as one of the most dangerous three-point shooters in the league. What’s most impressive is that Mitola kept improving in Ivy play even after 2012-13 All-Ivy second-teamer and fellow co-captain Gabas Maldunas tore his ACL shortly after Dartmouth entered its conference slate. And of course, Maldunas himself can be quite the beast, averaging 11.2 points and 8.5 boards per contest before his injury, which Cormier said at the teleconference had been just cleared for contact.
Please put your hand up if you had Dartmouth sweeping the weekend without Gabas Maldunas and Columbia dropping two at Yale and Brown. You in the back? No, you’re just scratching your head? Yeah, me too. It was that kind of weekend in the Ivy League. On to the weekend’s big winners…
Home Court Advantage: We know it’s hard to win on the road in the Ivy League, but wow. Home teams went 8-0 this weekend as all four New England teams swept their back-to-backs. Through 15 Ivy contests, only two away teams have come away victorious (Columbia at Cornell and Harvard at Dartmouth).
1999. It’s been fifteen years since Dartmouth finished Ivy League play with more wins than losses. Under head coach Dave Faucher, last millenium’s final incarnation of the Big Green went 10-4 to finish three games back of a title and in a respectable third place. In the decade and a half since then, the Big Green have finished at 7-7 twice but have not reached the promised land of a winning record. With Ivy teams four through seven currently separated by less than 40 teams in the Pomeroy rankings, some have suggested that the boys of Hanover may have a shot to improve on last year’s 5-9 finish and break the 15-year streak of futility.
Looking at their results so far this year though, you may be inclined to think this is the same old Dartmouth of years past. In their seven wins, the Big Green have yet to beat a team in the top 85% of Division I, racking up victories over five sub-300 squads and two D-III outfits. But credit Dartmouth- the team has not fallen into the common trap of playing down to the competition; the young troops have gone out and beaten all seven of those weak teams by double-digits. Against its strongest opponents, Dartmouth has stayed competitive on the road, taking Illinois to the wire in Champaign behind a barrage of late-game three-pointers and playing Harvard even for a half in Allston.
In 2012-13: 9-19, 5-9, T-6th place, No Postseason
A Look Back
Breakthrough years usually consist of more than a 5-9 record and second-to-last finish in the conference, but last season represented a quantum leap for a squad that had gone 3-39 in Ivy League play since 2009. Dartmouth went three years between Ivy League road wins in that span and a trip to Leede Arena was usually viewed as a reward for enduring Harvard the previous night on the northern road trip.
Things were different in 2012-13. If not for a last-minute meltdown, the Big Green would have beaten eventual champ Harvard on the road in January. And even after that overtime loss, Dartmouth held its own, playing every team close at least once en route to five wins in the conference.
The task now facing Paul Cormier as he enters the fourth year of his second stint in Hanover is to better that record once again and finish .500 or higher in the Ancient Eight. He’ll attempt to do that with most of last year’s team intact. Center Matt LaBove, the sole graduating senior, averaged just four minutes per game. The only significant loss is junior forward Jvonte Brooks, the team’s leading scorer two years ago who chose instead to play for the Big Green football team. Brooks and Cormier did not get along, and a thumb injury only made it more difficult for Brooks to see the court. Ultimately Brooks played just two minutes over the final eight Ivy League contests, during which Dartmouth went 3-5. Though Brooks could help this year’s team, the Big Green still managed all right without him last year.
One of the youngest teams in the country last year, Dartmouth was led by forward Gabas Maldunas, who became the first Dartmouth player to earn All-Ivy honors since 2009 (Second Team). Guards Tyler Melville and Alex Mitola both shot better than 39% from beyond the arc last season, and freshman forward Connor Boehm proved a decent scoring option in the post alongside Maldunas, though the two struggled to find success at the same time. Melville in particular flourished after Cormier inserted him into the starting lineup on Feb. 2 and his 9-of-11, 23 point performance almost keyed an upset at Princeton on March 2.
2012-13 was a year of fits and starts for the Big Green, as the team endured a five-game midseason losing streak before winning three of its last four to avoid its fourth consecutive last-place finish. Consistency will be the key this season if a young Dartmouth team is to take the next step.
On most teams, when all but two players on the squad are freshmen or sophomores, there’s not usually a great sense of urgency. But make no mistake – there will be a sense of urgency in Hanover when Ivy League play begins on Saturday against Harvard. For the past three years, Dartmouth has stumbled to a five-win season, going 1-13 in the conference each year. And with a 3-10 record and one more non-conference game yet (a winnable January 17 tilt against D-III Colby-Sawyer), a fourth consecutive five-win season is looking like a distinct possibility.
Through five games, Dartmouth is about where most observers pegged them to be record-wise. For the first time since 2004, the Big Green won its home opener, defeating Maine 67-54 on Nov. 10 before suffering a three-game losing streak, including a pair of double-digit losses to New Hampshire and Bucknell. The UNH loss was particularly demoralizing as Dartmouth shot just 16-of-60 (27%) from the floor while allowing 44 free throws at home on Nov. 13. While that loss was the low point of the young season, the last two games have hinted at the potential — both good and bad — that Dartmouth could bring to the table come Ivy League play.