Our Ivy weekend roundup features a raucous rematch, some Red and Crimson splitting, a No. 4 stepping to the fore and late-game strategy deja vu.
After two weeks of league competition, Penn has lost its first three contests, including two at the Palestra. The most surprising was a loss to Brown, the eighth-place team in the league’s preseason poll, which was Bears’ first road conference win in almost two years. (Brown very nearly upset Yale Friday night in Providence, but that doesn’t change Penn’s current 0-3 hole in league play.)
Looking at where things stand, were Quakers fans viewing the team through Red and Blue-colored glasses as the Ivy League slate began?
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.
IHO breaks down the two games comprising Saturday evening’s Ivy conference play-opening slate:
Penn at Princeton, 7 p.m.
Last season: Princeton beat Penn twice by a combined three points, and the Ps’ last meeting at Jadwin Gym on March 12 put a scare into the Tigers, who were outscored 40-23 over the final 14:52 in a 72-71 victory over the Red and Blue. Princeton committed 16 turnovers, its highest amount in Ivy play last season, and then-freshman Penn guard Tyler Hamilton came out of nowhere to provide 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in 37 minutes, easily the best performance of his Penn career.
1. Yale (6-4)
Yale’s only game this past week was a 90-59 home romp over Central Connecticut State, but it was emblematic of the unexpected division of labor that’s carried Yale to arguably the top slot in the Ivy League standings. Sophomore guard Alex Copeland went 9-for-11 from two-point range to contribute 23 points along with four assists in 30 minutes, while freshman guard Miye Oni lit up Payne Whitney Gym with 7-for-8 shooting from three-point range en route to 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists in just 26 minutes.
Well, a Penn grad has finally ascended to the highest office in the land. Although most would argue that this is indeed our rightful place in the world order, our man in the White House is not quite what we, or anyone with a liberal arts education, expected. The Ivy hoops season is also a bit of a surprise (yawn), in that no one expected it to be this bad. There’s a frontrunner that keeps blowing late leads despite their aura of inevitability and too many blah contenders looking to get their act together by January.
For the first time in years, there appears to be no dominant team among the Eight. The favorites, HYP, have all had their early problems and the bottom half of the league is as bad, if not somewhat worse, than anticipated.
So without further ado, I give The AQ’s Special Post-Election Ivy Power Rankings. “It’s going to be yuge!!”
This one Ivy League season has been worthy of a shrug. The funk began when Yale junior guard and Ivy Player of the Year candidate Makai Mason was declared out for the season due to injury, and it deepened when it became obvious that Harvard coach Tommy Amaker had more tinkering than expected to do with his impact freshman-heavy roster. Preseason favorite Princeton, meanwhile, got clipped at Lehigh and is 0-3 against higher-ranked teams in KenPom. And league losses to Binghamton (Cornell), Army (Columbia), Longwood (Dartmouth), Navy (Penn) and Bryant (Yale) have suggested that the league has a lot of room for improvement. As a result, the Ivy League has fallen from 14th in KenPom’s preseason Division I conference rankings to 18th in just three weeks.
During Rex Ryan’s final season with the New York Jets in 2014, there was often so much chaos on the field I remember TV color analyst Cris Collingsworth lamenting that he often had “no idea what the Jets were doing.” For the past few years, I could say the same thing about the Quakers: the fouls, the turnovers, the fistfights, the lack of spirit and, of course, the confinement sentencings. After this weekend’s games, it appears Steve Donahue appears to have at least restored our dignity.
I love a man with a plan. The first few games of 2015 for the Penn Quakers have undoubtedly shown that first-year Penn coach Steve Donahue has a system. He is also doing his best to implement that system with young players that are not necessarily the best fit. The early results are therefore quite predictable: a few wins, a few competitive losses, a few bad losses and one game in which they were predictably “Cornelled.”™ (Cornelled: adv. A punishing, demoralizing and humiliating loss where a team surrenders 100 points or more.) So, despite their weak schedule, not a horrendous start for the Quakers.
PHILDADELPHIA – For the first time all season, Penn basketball has lost consecutive games.
The Red and Blue were thrown off from the opening tip by Navy, a squad which won its seventh consecutive game after an 0-2 start. The Quakers (4-3) got off to a slow start before staging a late comeback, only to be undone by a layup from Navy sophomore Shawn Anderson and some missed free throws by sophomore guard Antonio Woods in the final minute.
I’ll get to the comeback in a second, but the more notable part of this game was the beginning. This is the fourth straight game that Penn trailed at the half and the end of the first half exposed some weaknesses, particularly with the Quakers’ depth.
A turning point came when both Woods and senior center Darien Nelson-Henry each picked up two fouls, all within a two-minute span. The duo account for a lot of Penn’s offense, and it showed in their absence (they each subbed in for a few possessions later in the half, but were limited).