The fourth year of the Mitch Henderson era opened on a high note in August when the Tigers’ skipper was declared one of the Top 10 Coaches Under 40 by Bleacher Report. Posting a winning percentage over .640 earns a lot of respect in the coaching fraternity. But Henderson’s 2013-14 mark of 21-9 fails to soothe the sting of an 8-6 Ivy mark, which left the Tigers in a third place tie. In an improving League Henderson may be hard-pressed to improve.
Princeton, as usual, is the conference wild card. No single star player. Several key components of last year’s CBI qualifying team gone, including T.J. Bray and Will Barrett. Few standout seniors. And today we reported that Denton Koon is out indefinitely with a MCL injury.
And yet, Princeton enjoys significant depth and a reliable frontcourt with 2013-14 Ivy Rookie of the Year Spencer Weisz and Hans Brase coming back. This doesn’t seem to be a very athletic roster, and I’m not as high on Princeton as others, especially now that Koon is out. But let’s start with the positives first. Even though Barrett made 111 treys as a junior and senior, his long-range production won’t be missed too much because, as you’ll read below, there are plenty of young guns on this team who can make up for that kind of sharpshooting.
The Tigers continued the Ivy League’s creditable showing in the 2014 post-season with a 56-55 victory over the Tulane Green Wave in the opener of the College Basketball Invitational in New Orleans. Princeton was in control of the contest throughout, although Tulane made a strong run at the end. The Green Wave clearly missed the services of leading scorer Louis Dabney, unable to take the court due to recent injury.
TJ Bray, mistakenly identified as “Ivy POY” by the Tulane play-by-play announcer, showed once again why he deserved consideration. Bray joined the Princeton 1000 Point Club with 12 for the game, to go with 9 assists. His 370 assists Red/Black, Even/ Odd, Low/High BetsVoit asettaa panoksen yhteen sarakkeista joka on poydan pitkalla sivulla. leave him just 11 shy of second place in the Tiger career record book. Hans Brase led the Tigers with 16 points.
After tallying up the ballots of six IHO writers, I am happy to unveil the 3rd Annual IvyHoopsOnline.com End of Season Awards.
IHO Player of the Year: Justin Sears, Yale
No player in the Ivy this year was more critical to his team’s success than Justin Sears. The Bulldogs’ sophomore star was one of the highest usage players in the league, and never shied away from putting Yale on his back. Sears ended up tying for the league scoring title, averaging 19.5 ppg during the 14-Game Tournament. The Eli forward also led the conference in rebounding with 7.9 boards per Ivy contest. On the defensive end, he was second in the league in blocks with 2.0 per game. A physical beast, Sears got to the line more than anyone in the Ancient Eight, save for Alex Rosenberg, fighting his way to the stripe for nearly 10 FT attempts per Ivy game. He connected on 76% of those, improving upon one of the few weaknesses in his freshman campaign.
He managed to score in double-figures in 13 of 14 Ivy games and put together four double-doubles, guiding Yale to a 2nd place finish. Even once it became clear that teams were focused on stopping him, Sears continued to score efficiently, finishing the season with 25 points per game in his last four contests on 34-53 FG (64%).
Also Considered: Alex Rosenberg, TJ Bray
The final Ivy weekend is in the books, and as always, what a ride it’s been this season. Let’s get to the weekend’s big winners.
Harvard: Well, it certainly didn’t always feel like a runaway season, but by the time all the dust settled on Saturday night, Harvard had won the league by a full four games, which is about what we thought might happen all the way back in November. While the Ivy gods were nice enough to tease us with a final weekend with title implications, Harvard put an end to all of that quickly, racing out to a 16-2 lead against Yale and never letting the Bulldogs get all the way back into it. It’s sort of a shame Yale couldn’t pull out a victory on Friday because we would have had some remarkable drama last night if the Bulldogs had pulled within one game.
The Crimson needed overtime in an old-fashioned barnburner to dispatch of pesky Brown on Senior Night for Sean McGonagill. The Bears’ star guard went out with a bang, tallying 26 points, 8 assists, and just one turnover, but it wasn’t enough to steal the victory.
Down the stretch, Siyani Chambers stepped up and knocked down a huge three to put Harvard up 87-85 with just one minute to play in regulation. Rookie of the Year candidate Leland King then battled in the paint and knocked down a short jumper to tie the game before Chambers’ fading baseline jumper was way off at the horn.
In overtime, it was a one-possession game until Brandyn Curry came up with a steal and Laurent Rivard, just like the night before, knocked down the backbreaking three pointer that sealed it up for the Crimson. The 98-93 final was the highest scoring game in the Ivy this season. The Crimson big men, Moundou-Missi and Casey, both finished with double-doubles as Brown had no answer for their size and strength when the ball got down low.
Harvard, at 26-4 and #51 in the RPI, appears to be looking at an 11 or 12 seed based on most bracketologists’ projections. That would put the Crimson in a relatively reasonable position to advance to the Sweet 16, facing no #1 or #2 seeds in the first two rounds.
After the Yale loss and the Columbia 2OT game, Harvard seemed like a squad bound to falter at least once more this season. The Crimson wasn’t playing like the infallible Ivy dream team that they had been hyped up to be. Ancient Eight fans from outside Cambridge felt the hopeful possibility that someone would be able to dethrone the defending champs.
But since then, Harvard has buckled down and blown out their last five opponents with margins of 23, 20, 12, 25, and 33. Those two widest margins came this weekend as Yale fell at Princeton, putting Harvard on the verge of its third straight solo title and a return to the Big Dance. On to the weekend’s big winners…
With two weekends remaining, a record five Ivy teams have a shot at reaching the postseason. Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown, and Princeton all look like they’ll finish the season with a winning overall record. I’ve done some initial research to see what kind of chance each team has at securing a bid to a March tournament based on the CBI and CIT teams selected in the past two years. Let’s break it down.
On January 25th, the chances that the Yale Bulldogs would win their next seven games were less than 1%. Of course, the Elis bucked the odds and rode the unlikely string of victories into a tie for first place heading into Sunday’s showdown with Columbia. But Yale’s good fortune crashed more violently than the NBC Sports Network video truck outside Levien as the boys of Morningside Heights methodically stifled Justin Sears and Co. And now, we are faced with the prospect of a final weekend with little drama if Yale can’t bounce back and pick up a win or two on the always-challenging southern road trip.
Still, all the credit goes to Harvard for storming into a loud, defiant Jadwin and tossing off the shackles of history in an impressive second half defensive effort that sealed the Crimson’s pivotal ninth win.
Let’s get to the rankings.
Princeton’s up-and-down season continued its enigmatic pattern with another split at home, beginning with a lackluster 67-57 win over Dartmouth, followed by an historic loss at the hands of the Harvard Crimson, 59-47.
Two teams gained ground in the standings this weekend with historic sweeps. Harvard opened up a one game lead on second-place Yale after bulldozing Penn at the Palestra and earning its first victory since 1989 at Jadwin. Meanwhile, Columbia swept an Ivy weekend for the first time in five years and moved into a tie for third, edging Brown on Friday and stopping Yale on national TV on Sunday. Let”s take a look at the weekend”s big winners.