We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Brown is next because Sean McGonagill was also Stanley Ipkiss once.
Sean McGonagill solidified his place as one of the truly great players in Brown (and indeed, Ivy) history on Feb. 4, 2011. But what made the No. 10 entry in our countdown such an outstanding moment actually happened two days before.
In practice Feb. 2, McGonagill had his face smashed while grappling for a loose ball with teammates Dockery Walker and Josh Biber. He was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery and his upper lip had to be reattached to his gums. The accident resulted in 30-plus stitches and a visit to the plastic surgeon.
McGonagill was told not to play for roughly four weeks.
The past five years have been incredible for the Ivy League. Two forever memorable Ivy playoff games, two NCAA Tournament wins, nine top 100 KenPom finishes and a clear uptick in athleticism throughout the conference.
But who have been the greatest players in the league in that timespan? A countdown, with the caveat that only players who played at least two seasons from 2010-15 were considered.
Several weeks ago, I was inspired by The Ancient Quaker’s epic power poll. If the AQ can create a ranking of the Ivy basketball teams so detached from Planet Earth that Penn would come in at No. 1, why couldn’t I do the same?
Behold, then: a totally scientific and rational power poll, with just three weekends left in the season.
I will follow the guideline established by the AQ from his power rankings: “I’ve decided to rank the teams as I see them which of course has nothing to do with reality.”
Yes, All-Everything Sean McGonagill is gone, and so is his ball distribution, three-point shooting, offensive potency from anywhere on the court and, well, everything! But the Bears will be better than last year because they’ll be more well-rounded in 2014-15 from inside out, the single-most underrated team in the Ivy League.
Princeton’s lost Ivy League season reached its mid-point this weekend with a tough battle at Brown on Friday, resulting in a rare road win, and an even tougher struggle at Yale, the next evening, resulting in a heartbreaking OT loss, 66-65. The Tigers’ record is a disappointing 2-5, better only than Dartmouth, where the Tigers also lost in overtime, and Cornell.
T.J. Bray hoisted the Tigers on his broad shoulders this week, scoring 46 points on the road, vaulting his name into the center of the POY discussion. In his head-to-head confrontation with Brown’s All-Ivy candidate, Sean McGonagill, Bray emerged the clear winner. His 26 points led all scorers, while McGonagill managed a respectable 16, but shot only 4-15 from the field.
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).
Last weekend’s Pizzitola Center reversal closed the book on yet another Yale-Brown split, the sixth in nine straight years of Bulldog-Bear back-to-back conference openers. The main man responsible for turning the previous week’s result around for the Bears: the unstoppable Sean McGonagill whose hot hand (29 points on 8-11 FG, 7-9 3PT) singlehandedly stopped a late Yale run and iced the game for Bruno. In what might have been their most complete effort of the year, the home team looked organized, prepared, and sharp– assisting on 19 of 27 field goals, including five impressive dimes from big man Rafael Maia.
The offense functioned exactly the way Brown fans had hoped it would entering this season with freshman Tavon Blackmon doing a solid job handling duties at the point (7 assists), while McGonagill was allowed to focus on pouring in shots from every corner of the floor. Dockery Walker provided an energetic spark off the bench with 10 points on 5-6 shooting, and Steve Spieth was all over the court with 9 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals.
In Coach Martin’s first season at the helm, the Bears overcame an unthinkable number of obstacles, playing at times with just seven healthy players, to finish top half for the first time since 2007-08. A dangerous and talented team when everyone was healthy (it was quite a rare occurrence), Brown seemed on the verge of something great in 2012-13. A thrilling final-minute comeback against crosstown rival Providence pushed the Bears to new heights as Tucker Halpern’s eighth three pointer splashed through the nylon in the final seconds, sending the Pizzatola Center into delirium and shock. They followed that up with a quality overtime victory over eventual MAAC champions, Niagara.
Once Ivy play came though, the short roster started to take its toll. Four of the Bears’ seven conference losses were in overtime or by one possession. Still, the players lifted one another up when someone had an off-night.
Against Columbia at the Pitz, Sean McGonagill, Stephen Albrecht, and Halpern combined to go 1-15 from the field for four total points, yet the Bears managed to eek out a win on the backs of Matt Sullivan (27 points, 5 steals) and Cedric Kuakumensah (19 points, 7 rebounds). Other nights, it was McGonagill carrying the load, like on Senior Night when the Bears pounded Princeton to clinch 4th place behind 24 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists from the sophomore point guard. Albrecht pitched in with 17 points and 5 rebounds despite a chronic back injury. It was perhaps the gutsiest .500 season in recent Ivy history.
The start of back-to-back Ivy weekends did not disappoint as we
were treated to some thrilling contests last night. Storylines abound at all levels of the league, so let”s just jump right in.
The biggest story of the weekend was Columbia crashing out of the title race after getting swept by the Ps, just like old times. The Lions put forth a valiant effort on national TV against Princeton, but couldn”t convert late and went down 72-66 at Jadwin, falling to 1-3 on the young season. Despite a career night from Maodo Lo (16 pts) and only three team turnovers, the Lions couldn”t stop a hot shooting Tigers squad. Princeton shot 51% from the field and a scorching 73% (8-11) from three. Hummer was just 2-8 from the field, but made his impact in other ways, getting to the stripe and knocking down 12-14, and dishing out seven assists to go with seven rebounds. TJ Bray had another great performance, hitting 6-10 including 3-3 from deep and committing zero turnovers. Brendon Connolly, who has seen his minutes dwindle as of late, knocked down a pretty running hooking shot to put the game away late. Princeton continues its perfect homestand and moves to 3-0. Brown and Yale visit Jadwin next weekend.
Ian Hummer– The Princeton star is a large favorite to win this award. The Tigers” offense is heavily dependent on his production and ability to slice through the lane. Hummer is probably the toughest guy to defend in the league because even if you can keep him from scoring, he”ll find his teammates for open looks, as he currently leads the league in assist rate, chalking up dimes on over 36% of his teammates” field goals when he”s in the game. If Princeton wins the league, it”s hard to see a scenario in which Hummer doesn”t win this award.
Stats: 2nd in PPG,
4th in APG, 4th in RPG, 9th in SPG, 6th in BPG. He”s scored in double figures in 13 of 15 games, and has had 25 in three games (high of 28 at Lafayette and at Elon).
Wesley Saunders- Harvard”s leader plays nearly 90% of his team”s minutes and is very efficient from the field. Saunders” ability to score and draw fouls is essentially unmatched in the league, and he”s even shooting 50% from deep right now (7-14). If Harvard wins the title and Hummer”s stats don”t blow everyone else out of the water, it”s probably Saunders” trophy to lose.
Stats: 1st in PPG, 5th in APG, 16th in RPG, 1st in SPG, 15th in BPG. Has scored in double figures in all 16 games, and has had a season-high 21 twice (vs. Vermont and vs. Rice).