The Cornell men opened the 2018-2019 preseason with their annual Red & White scrimmage a week ago Friday, followed by an exhibition against their Division III neighbors from Ithaca College on Tuesday. The Red team, led by assistant coach Donovan Williams, came away with the 74-63 victory in the intrasquad matchup, and the Big Red defeated the Bombers, 98-61.
Picked for sixth in the 2017-2018 Ivy League preseason poll, the Cornell men’s team (12-16 overall, 6-8 Ivy) exceeded expectations to finish the season in fourth place and secure the team’s first ever appearance in the Ivy Tournament. After starting conference play with three straight losses by a total of 71 points, the Red and their second-year head coach Brian Earl regrouped. Over the next four weeks, they went on a 4-2 run, punctuated by a 22-point second half comeback in a 107-101 triple overtime win over Princeton, to get back into the thick of the race for the upper division. After losing a thrilling double overtime at Harvard on the penultimate night of the regular season, Cornell bounced back again to defeat Dartmouth and claim the Ivy’s fourth golden ticket.
In the semifinal against Harvard, the Big Red found themselves up seven with three minutes to go in the first half, but the Crimson closed the stanza on a 16-4 run. Without any answers in the second half, their season ended with a 74-55 defeat. With the return of Matt Morgan and Stone Gettings for their senior seasons, things looked up for the Cornell faithful. In May, however, Gettings changed all of that with a surprise announcement that he would forgo his senior season, graduate in December and become a graduate transfer for 2019-20. Despite the loss of their second-team All-Ivy forward, the Big Red look to jump over the .500 mark and make it back to Ivy Madness.
On Monday, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman tweeted that Cornell’s Matt Morgan would withdraw from the upcoming NBA Draft. That same day, Raphy Gendler of the Cornell Daily Sun reported that Morgan will return to the school and the team for his senior year. Noted Morgan in a text to the school paper, “It was in my best interest to come back and play one more year and finish out not only my athletic career but also my academic career. It was great going through the process again but I’m glad to officially be back and getting ready for another run with my team.”
Morgan had tested the NBA Draft waters for the first time in the spring of 2017. During that time, he received interest from the Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Washington Wizards. He took the information from that process and used it to have his strongest season at Cornell. Not only did he lead the Ivy League in scoring for the third straight season, but his career-best 22.5 points per game was the 11th highest in the nation. The Concord, N.C. shooting guard ended the 2017-2018 season with an active 51-game double-digit scoring streak, while being named a member of the All-Ivy first team and the Lou Henson All-America team. His 1,646 points are third on the Big Red’s all-time list, 17 points behind John Bajusz and 382 points behind Ryan Wittman’s record 2,028.
What a wild and crazy Ivy season the 2017-18 campaign turned out to be.
The Ivy League finished first among all 32 Division I conferences with a whopping 39.3 percent of conference games being decided by four points or less or in overtime, a record for any conference in the KenPom era dating back to 2001-02, per Kevin Whitaker of NYC Buckets.
Every Ivy squad played in at least one league game that went to overtime, and the extra periods helped define at least two squads’ seasons in-conference: Harvard went 3-0 in such contests en route to a shared Ivy League championship, while Princeton went 1-4 to seal its first finish outside the league’s top four in 10 years.
Ivies went 39-17 at home in conference play, tops in Division I a season after they went just 28-28, worst in Division I in 2017.
1. Penn (21-7, 11-1 Ivy)
Penn shot a blistering 76 percent from two-point range in claiming sole possession of first place in the Ivy League standings with a 74-71 win over Harvard Saturday night at the Palestra. Penn’s AJ Brodeur lured Chris Lewis out of the paint at times, and the Red and Blue attacked the basket when Lewis was on the bench. Brodeur had four assists and no turnovers, with senior guard Darnell Foreman notching five assists on senior night himself.
Penn has now shot a combined 40-for-60 (66.7 percent) from two-point range in two games versus a Harvard defense that characteristically values rim protection and ranks first in the league in defensive two-point percentage (48.1 percent). Not surprisingly, Penn ranks first in the conference in two-point percentage and assists per field goals made. Anyone who’s watched Penn ping pong passes in the paint knows that this team is capable of getting high-percentage shots even against a defense as stout as Harvard’s. That’s something to keep in mind should these squads meet at the Palestra again in the Ivy League Tournament championship game on Mar. 11.
This is part 1 of IHO’s 2017-18 Ivy League team-by-team season preview. Read part 2 here.
The rise of the Ivy League is projected to continue.
The Ancient Eight is slated by KenPom as the 13th-best conference in Division I this season, just seven years after it placed 26th. That’s a quantum leap, a product of the league’s bolstered recruiting in that time frame. The Ivy hoops status quo now consists of top-25 recruiting classes, Nike Skills Academy members and expectations of NCAA Tournament success.
There’s a three-way cluster between Harvard, Princeton and Yale projected to top the league. In the Ivy Preseason Media Poll, Yale received the most first-place votes (eight) but Harvard garnered the most points overall. Without a clear conference favorite, it’s quite likely that the regular season champion will not also be the conference tournament winner, with Bart Torvik’s Ivy Tourney Simulator tabbing Penn as the favorite in an Ivy tourney as a No. 4 seed.
Amid an 80-degree, summer-like Homecoming on Saturday, the Cornell men’s basketball team held its Red-White Scrimmage, unofficially beginning year two of the Brian Earl era. With a year of experience under Earl’s more disciplined system, as well as the coach’s bringing in his first recruiting class, the Big Red look like a more confident and balanced unit that should improve upon last season’s 8-21 record.
A number of Ivy Leaguers earned postseason award recognition. Penn’s Michelle Nwokedi was named to the ECAC first team, while Cornell’s Nia Marshall and Harvard’s Katie Benzan were named to the second team. Princeton’s Steven Cook was named to the NABC District 13 first team, while fellow Tigers Spencer Weisz and Devin Cannady, as well as Harvard’s Bryce Aiken, Brown’s Steven Spieth and Dartmouth’s Evan Boudreaux were selected for the second team. Aiken was also chosen for the ECAC second team. Cook was also named to the Allstate NABC Good Works team and CoSida Academic All-America. Weisz, the men’s Ivy League Player of the Year, was chosen an Honorable Mention All-America. Tigers’ coach Mitch Henderson was selected as the NABC District 13 Coach of the Year, as well as chosen as one of 20 finalists for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year.