Should you root for Harvard?

Don
Don”t you just love watching Harvard celebrate? Oh right, you probably don”t. (gocrimson.com)

With Harvard set to take on North Carolina Thursday in the Crimson’s fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance, Peter Andrews and I debate whether non-Harvard Ivy hoops fans should root for the Crimson to win their third straight opening NCAA tourney game.

MT: Look, I know you probably hate Harvard. And you have every reason to.

The cheating scandal that forced Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry to withdraw from the team in 2012-13 only to win another Ivy title the following year.

The loosening of academic standards for basketball players.

The sending of an assistant out on “unethical recruiting trips.”

The way Harvard teases Ivy fans every year by getting entangled in close games against underdog conference competition only to emerge victorious almost every time. (The Crimson have won five straight games this season decided by three points or fewer.)

But Harvard beating UNC wouldn’t be so bad.

Read moreShould you root for Harvard?

Steve Donahue is safe, and Penn won’t be sorry

Steve Donahue won three Ivy championships at Cornell. Few coaches share such a rich Ancient Eight pedigree. (Reuters)
Steve Donahue won three Ivy championships as head coach at Cornell from 2008 to 2010. Few coaches share such a rich Ancient Eight pedigree. (Reuters)

“You are better safe than sorry,” Penn Athletic Director Grace Calhoun said at her Tuesday press conference … in an alternate universe.

But that’s what most people are thinking: Steve Donahue was the safe hire. The safest of safe hires. For those people, Calhoun may as well have introduced him as he sat encased in bubble wrap.

But does safe mean it’s the wrong hire? If you think so, I’ll just refer you to the aphorism in my lede.

Read moreSteve Donahue is safe, and Penn won’t be sorry

IHO 2014-15 All-Ivy Awards

Ivy Hoops Online founder Ian Halpern, On the Vine host Peter Andrews and I combined to determine the 2014-15 All-IHO selections:

IHO PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Justin Sears, Yale (Jr., F – Plainfield, N.J.)

Sears snared IHO POY honors for his yeoman’s work in the Yale frontcourt, registering 14.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, pushing the Bulldogs just short of their first NCAA tournament berth in 53 years. Sears eclipsed 25 points in four Ivy contests and anchored a stout Yale defense all season long. (For the record, I voted for Wesley Saunders for POY based on his second-half heroics in the Ivy playoff game, but I was outvoted 2-1. It’s a good problem to have several legitimate POY candidates, though, that’s for sure.)

IHO ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Kyle Castlin, Columbia (Fr., G – Marietta, Ga.)

Castlin made an immediate impact in the Lions’ dynamic backcourt, posting 18 points in 30 minutes in just his second collegiate game and displaying levels of body control and offensive awareness that most players in this league never attain. He scored in double figures in 14 of 28 games and was one of the few constants in a Columbia offense that struggled to find options beyond Maodo Lo.

IHO DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Shonn Miller, Cornell (Sr., F – Euclid, Ohio)

Miller anchored Cornell’s gritty and physically large defense, posting 1.8 blocks and 1.3 steals per game while notching a 28 percent defensive rebound rate that was good for seventh in the country. Cornell doesn’t beat Harvard late in the season without Miller’s defensive chops, and it certainly doesn’t finish third in the league in scoring defense without him either.

Read moreIHO 2014-15 All-Ivy Awards

Wesley Saunders wins, but so does Javier Duren

Javier Duren transcended game results with his grounded, appreciative postgame outlook. (ivyleaguesports.com)
Javier Duren transcended game results with his grounded, appreciative postgame outlook. (ivyleaguesports.com)

Wesley Saunders made the right play.

Harvard gained possession with 33 seconds to go and the game tied at 51-51, an NCAA tournament berth on the line. Junior guard Siyani Chambers successfully handed the ball off to Saunders, who then went to work. He drove in the lane with 10 seconds left, and when the defense converged, he kicked the ball out to senior forward Steve Moundou-Missi, the Ivy League defensive player of the year. Moundou-Missi had went on an offensive run earlier in the contest, scoring six straight points, but the two points that he’ll remember most for the rest of his career are the ones that he notched after catching Saunders’ pass and draining a jumper from the top of the key.

Read moreWesley Saunders wins, but so does Javier Duren

The Palestra – Arena of dreams

Yale freshman guard Makai Mason looks on as Harvard celebrates a fourth straight NCAA tournament berth in front of a crowd of 5.256 at the Palestra. (AP)
Yale freshman guard Makai Mason looks on as Harvard celebrates a fourth straight NCAA tournament berth in front of a crowd of 5.256 at the Palestra. (AP)

If you play it, they will come.

For Saturday’s Ivy League playoff, the emotions ran the gamut from high to low, from hope to despair, from anxiety to exhilaration, as the Palestra played the role of backdrop to one final night of Ivy League theatre, regaining its role as the arena of Ancient Eight dreams.

Harvard-Yale was everything one could have asked for and more with the third game in the fierce rivals’ season series nearly needing overtime. Seriously, what could have been better? You take two evenly matched teams playing to the wire and feature them at by far the best arena in the entire conference.

All I ask is that we see this again.

Read moreThe Palestra – Arena of dreams

Wesley Saunders makes all the right plays … again

Wesley Saunders took over in the most critical half of the 2015 Ivy slate, reeling off a 9-0 run early in the second stanza and dishing the game-winning assist to fellow senior Steve Moundou-Missi. (Getty)
Wesley Saunders took over in the most critical half of the 2015 Ivy slate, reeling off a 9-0 run early in the second stanza and dishing the game-winning assist to fellow senior Steve Moundou-Missi. (Getty)

For a Pennsylvanian, albeit one with steadfast Tiger loyalties, The Palestra has always been college basketball’s showcase arena. May it ever be!!! Yesterday’s Ivy League playoff adds another memorable chapter to The Cathedral’s legendary history.

The announced attendance of 5,266 was far less than a capacity crowd, evidently diminished by bad weather and long-distance travel hurdles. But one must remember that this was easily the largest crowd to see an Ivy League game in several seasons.

The pregame mood was festive, but somewhat apprehensive as everyone understood that they were about to witness another hard fought, hand-to-hand street-fight likely to come down to the final possession, what Yogi Berra famously described as  “a real cliff-dweller.” This game delivered, in spades.

Read moreWesley Saunders makes all the right plays … again

Harvard defeats Yale, 53-51, clinches fourth straight NCAA tourney berth

Four in a row.

The Harvard Crimson locked up their fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance with a 53-51 win over Yale at the Palestra in the league’s playoff game. The game-winning perimeter shot came from senior forward Steve Moundou-Missi, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. The assist, fittingly, came from senior guard Wesley Saunders, who posted 22 points, 18 of them in the second half. A floater off a drive from Yale senior guard Javier Duren rolled out as time expired, sealing the Crimson win.

Harvard led 46-37 with 6:22 left and went into conservative mode, dribbling possessions down and trying to hang onto the lead. Yale responded with a 12-2 run in the next 4:36, capped by a jumper from freshman guard Makai Mason, who was elbowed earlier in the half without a foul call being called, resulting in a gash on his head that rattled the Bulldogs in the early part of the half. Nevertheless, the Crimson were lifted not by that but by a 9-0 run from Saunders alone a quarter of the way through the second stanza.

Harvard also opened the game on an 8-0 run before Yale responded with a 14-3 run in the next 5:45, and the Elis led 27-23 at halftime. Ivy Player of the Year and Yale junior forward Justin Sears finished with 13 points, five rebounds and three steals, while Yale senior guard Javier Duren notched 12 points and six rebounds on 2-for-10 shooting.

In Harvard’s loss to Yale at Lavietes Pavilion last weekend, the Crimson shot just 1-for-13 from three-point range, losing by 10, 62-52. In Harvard’s win Saturday, it shot 5-for-14, collecting 12 more points from beyond the arc and winning by two.

Harvard’s opponent in the NCAA tournament will be determined Sunday. The Crimson have won their first game in the tournament in each of the past two seasons. Harvard and Yale were slated for the playoff game after finishing with identical 11-3 records in league play. The Crimson’s previous playoff game appearance was a 63-62 loss to Princeton at Yale’s Payne Whitney Gym in 2011, decided at the buzzer.

The Game 3.0

There are games ... and then there are Games. And then there
There are games … and then there are Games.
… And then there”s this Game.

The Game 2.0 was supposed to be for all the marbles. Yale defeated Harvard in that one, but the next night, Dartmouth stole the marbles back from the Bulldogs. The Big Green’s miracle win versus Yale last Saturday will give Harvard a second shot at Yale this weekend. You have questions about this game? Read on for the answers.

The matchups I wrote about prior to the Yale victory will certainly be important once again, but an eventful week has passed since that article, so let’s look at some unique keys to this game:

Read moreThe Game 3.0

Ivy League announces All-Ivy honors

Even with a playoff game between Harvard and Yale remaining, the Ivy League has released its 2014-15 All-Ivy selections as chosen by the league’s eight head coaches.

Yale junior forward Justin Sears was named Player of the Year, Dartmouth freshman guard Miles Wright was interestingly named Rookie of the Year and Harvard senior forward Steve Moundou-Missi was selected Defensive Player of the Year. Snagging the first ever Coach of the Year honor was Yale head coach James Jones.

All five first-team All-Ivy players were chosen unanimously to receive that honor, while the number of second-team All-Ivies ballooned to seven due to ties in voting. That second tier is rightly jumbled based on the high level of talent in the league this season. Wesley Saunders easily could have been POY, Kyle Castlin or Antonio Woods easily could have been Ivy ROY and Paul Cormier easily could have been Ivy COY. IHO will have its All-Ivy selections out following Saturday afternoon’s Harvard-Yale playoff. For now, enjoy matching up my four 2014-15 preseason predictions to reality (I got the first two right!) and reacting to the league’s selections:

Read moreIvy League announces All-Ivy honors

Yale defeats Harvard, clinches share of first Ivy title since 2002

Javier Duren notched a winning stat line: 22 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block at Harvard.(ivyleaguesports.com)
Javier Duren notched a winning stat line: 22 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block at Harvard.(ivyleaguesports.com)

Yale is a win away from history.

The Bulldogs clinched a share of their first Ivy title since 2002 Friday night by defeating Harvard at Lavietes Pavilion in Boston, 62-52. The win, fueled by senior guard Javier Duren’s 22 points and nine rebounds, gives Yale the chance to earn its first NCAA tournament berth since 1962 with a win at Dartmouth tomorrow night.

The Elis’ win at Harvard, which has represented the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament each of the past four seasons, played out in surprising fashion.

Read moreYale defeats Harvard, clinches share of first Ivy title since 2002