Another week full of Ivy news, with none bigger than Courtney Banghart’s move from Princeton to North Carolina. The former Big Green All-Ivy guard and Tigers head coach signed a five-year contract to take over a Tar Heels program that needs a new start. Per Jeff Gravely of WRAL in Raleigh, Banghart’s contract starts at $650,000 in 2019-2020 and increases to $730,000 in 2024-2025. Athletic and academic bonuses are included that can increase the yearly salary by $10,000 to $470,000.
As Ivy Hoops coverage dwindles across the digital world like Princeton’s winning percentage, I have returned to the dismay of many and the delight of few for yet another year of Penn Basketball coverage for IHO. Therefore, I will now channel another Philly hero, Sylvester Stallone, and pick up exactly where the team left off last season.
The leaves remain unnaturally green, the air temperature dips into the upper 70s and the Quaker football team uncharacteristically turns Franklin Field into a house of horrors. All of this can only mean one thing: the upcoming Ivy hoops season cannot be far behind. (And, of course, the Earth is going to burn like a cinder in space.) And once again it is I, The AQ, bringing you another year of outstanding Penn basketball coverage as I faithfully have for IHO since 1947.
One impressive Ivy winning streak continued this weekend, while another very consequentially ended.
Princeton upped its consecutive win total to 15, effectively clinching the No. 1 seed in the inaugural Ivy League Tournament, to be played March 11 and March 12 at the Palestra. The last four Tiger victories have been by double digits, and Princeton’s defense is shutting down opponent after opponent.
Penn, though, couldn’t escape the Empire State unscathed, suffering a crucial 70-67 defeat at Columbia that snapped both the Red and Blue’s five-game winning streak and the Lions’ five-game losing skid, keeping Columbia very much in the race for the inaugural Ivy League Tournament’s No. 4 seed.
But that race isn’t what most Ivy supporters thought it was as recently as this past weekend. On Sunday morning, in response to a question from Mike James (@ivybball), the Ivy League confirmed that second tiebreaker for the No. 4 seed doesn’t just take into account the No. 4 candidates’ records versus tournament qualifiers from No. 1 through No. 3, which is how most Ivy observers interpreted the tiebreaker (which can be read at the #IvyMadness site here). Instead, the tiebreaker would be the highest Ivy that one No. 4 candidate beat that other didn’t, even if that tiebreak goes as low as Brown or Cornell.
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.
What happened last year (11-17, 5-9): Last year, Penn fans got pretty much all they could expect from the Quakers in Steve Donahue’s first year as head coach of the Quakers. Penn got off to a 4-1 nonconference start and even climbed to 5-5 in league play before dropping the last four games of the season.
Two white-knuckle losses to Princeton (including blowing a 97.6 percent win probability after leading 64-55 with 3:02 left in the first matchup at the Palestra), perhaps even more than Penn’s conference wins, provided a glimpse of what the Quakers could be more consistently under Donahue going forward:
It comes in many forms. Caterpillar to chrysalis to beautiful butterfly: Whether it’s an insect, person, business, or athletic team, it is a necessary transformation for survival. No entity on the planet is exempt: evolve or perish.
This will be a curiously critical year for Quaker Basketball because it will show whether Steve Donahue, with his first true recruiting class, can be competitive in the increasingly upwardly mobile Ivy League. Evidence of institutional growth, something that consistently eluded Jerome Allen’s teams and consequently vexed and frustrated the Penn fan base, will soon be on full display as the season progresses. True, the Quakers will be a young squad (11 of the 19 players will be either freshmen or sophomores), but that should not significantly mask whether they will be able to take that next crucial step back toward Ivy hoops relevance. Of course, there will be growing pains but I, unlike the perpetually lugubrious Penn Basketball message boards, am unusually sanguine about this team.
“Hey AQ, where have you been?” The question has arisen this season from many emails and tweets. First, for those of you who have missed my pithy, yet pedantic,and occasionally puerile persiflage (800 Math, 790 Verbal), my apologies, and no, I have not retired. Instead, I have merely taken a step back to observe the rapid reshaping of the Ivy hoops landscape. Overall, this brief offseason has been arguably more tumultuous than the season itself. Yale captures the league outright for the first time in 54 years and then bags a tournament win over Baylor. Princeton does their “I got this. Oops, no I don’t!” routine in the NIT. Kyle Smith, after winning the CIT, triumphantly leaves Columbia (“Thank you and good night!”) as perhaps the torchbearer of a strange, new breed of Lions coach — a winning one. (I am hoping that they lose the secret formula for this perverse brand of eugenics, no doubt developed in some arcane lab on the Morningside Heights campus, before that institution actually gets used to victory.) Paul Cormier, after two straight ROYs, abruptly gets canned in Hanover which only proves that you can never go home again especially if that home is in New Hampshire, on the Dartmouth campus and you’re hired as its basketball coach. And Bill Courtney, well…even the muskrats at the bottom of the gorge could see that one coming.
So what about my beloved Quakers?
Penn 62, Princeton 60 (Women)
Where to begin? With another storybook ending for the Quakers on Princeton’s home floor, and some delightful deja vu for coach Mike McLaughlin’s Red and Blue.
Two years after upsetting Princeton in stunning fashion with an outright Ivy League championship on the line at Jadwin Gym, 80-64, the Quakers toppled the Tigers again in the same scenario, clinching their second Ivy title in three seasons as Jadwin guests. Penn’s win followed another two-point victory over Princeton this season, a 50-48 overtime triumph at the Palestra.
As most of you well know, to stroll the outer corridors of The Palestra is to take a nostalgic journey across decades of college basketball memories. Teams, players, coaches, writers, broadcasters and Big Moments are proudly displayed. One particularly prominent plaque chronicles the win-loss record of Penn against its fellow competitor in The Rivalry. Yesterday, prior to the outbreak of hostilities for the 233rd time, the record was Penn 124-Princeton 108. The Tigers 109th win was one of the most memorable in the great series. May I still be here when we take the lead!