Ivy Hoops Online’s writing staff voted on where all eight Ivy men’s and women’s basketball teams would end up for the 2019-20 season. Our projected order of finish for the men (and the women’s rankings here):
In the final game of the Brown Bears Tip-Off Classic, the Army Black Knights went ice-cold from the field and Brown benefited, winning, 86-66. Brown improved to 3-2 with the win, and Army dropped to 1-4. Brown won all three games it played in the tournament, beating UMass-Lowell on Friday, 82-74, and Sacred Heart on Saturday, 82-77.
A balanced attack for the Bears saw five scorers in double digits, those being Brandon Anderson who had 16 points (4-of-8), Desmond Cambridge’s 13 (5-of-12), 12 each from Zach Hunsaker (4-of-7) and Tamenang Choh (3-of-7), and Obi Okolie’s 10 points as well (2-of-6). Tamenang Choh hauled in 10 rebounds to complete the double-double, and Joshua Howard was just two points short of a double-double as he also had 10 rebounds. Brown controlled the backboard, outrebounding the Knights, 49-33.
Saturday’s What to Watch
A large number of important games on deck for this Saturday afternoon and evening. The Penn at Cornell and Princeton at Columbia women’s games do not look to be exciting, but the rest of the games do have strong implications on the Path(s) to the Palestra. So, skip the Olympics (or, at least DVR it so you can eventually watch the skating and hear the always informative commentary from Tara Lipinski & Johnny Weir) and get ready for another exciting day of Ivy hoops.
Now that we’re at the point of the season where the conference standings really start to loom large, the IHO Power Poll goes away and we drill down each of the Ivies by their order in their standings.
First, though, some observations about an unusually exciting Ivy slate of games so far. The Ivy League, per KenPom, ranks first among all 32 Division I conferences in close game percentage, or percentage of games decided by fewer than four points or in overtime, with 11 of 23 games falling in that category. The Ivy League ranked 20th in that category last season, 25th in 2016 and next-to-last in 2015, so hope you’re enjoying the uptick in close contests.
This season’s Ivy slate has been unusually kind to the home teams so far too. The Ivy League also ranks first in Division I in home win percentage, as 18 of 23 hosts have been victorious so far. Interestingly, the league ranked last in Division I last season, when home teams went just 28-28 in conference play. The Ancient Eight ranked 15th in home win percentage in 2016 and 26th in 2015, so this season’s frequency of success for home teams has been unusual too. Since Penn and Princeton are going to be hitting the road down the stretch, the league’s home-win percentage could go back down some by the time the season is over.
1. Penn (13-6, 3-0 Ivy)
After Penn let Temple slip away at the Palestra last weekend, it got Big 5 revenge Saturday with a 67-56 win over St. Joseph’s, displaying a stout defense that had Steve Donahue singing its praises after the game.
“The story of our team, and our season, is our defense,” Donahue said according to The Daily Pennsylvanian. “Playing two bigs, with the defensive numbers we have right now … we’re way different than last year, and way ahead.”
Record: 7-6 Overall and 0-0 Ivy (5-1 Home; 2-5 Away)
Rankings: KenPom #239, Bart Torvik #235, TeamRankings #246
Defensive Improvement and Guard Play
The Bears are again playing an up-tempo game (Top 60 nationally), putting up lots of points (78.2; 2nd in Ivy), and getting to the free throw line at an elite level (25.0 attempts/game, 19.3 made/game, 76.1 percent shooting, and 23.8 percent of total point production). However, this year’s team has been showing growth on the defensive side of the ball, most noticeably in holding opponents to 33.6 percent from three (minus-3.8 percent from ‘16-’17) and securing a 73.4 percent defensive rebounding rate (plus-2.1 percent from ‘16-’17). This effort has led to a 5.0 percent decline in opponent’s effective field goal shooting and a 7.8 point improvement in adjusted defensive efficiency.
1. Harvard (3-4)
The Crimson did something on Friday that Princeton couldn’t do last Saturday: beat St. Joseph’s. Sans Seth Towns and Corey Johnson due to food poisoning, Harvard raced out to a 23-9 lead in the first 10 minutes and got a boost from sophomore guard Bryce Aiken’s 8:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is impressive considering he had 13 turnovers in the first three games of the season (seven at Holy Cross). Sophomore frontcourt stalwart Robert Baker notched 14 points, 11 boards and three blocks against the Hawks in the Wooden Legacy Tournament. Harvard may have gotten blown out early versus St. Mary’s in the same tourney on Thursday, but Harvard’s 4-for-21 (19 percent) three-point shooting performance seems like an aberration.
Sunday night brought a 70-61 win for Cal State Fullerton over Harvard, a game in which the Titans attempted nearly three times as many free throws (30) as the Crimson (11). The Crimson’s interior defense got gouged at Titan Gym.
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.
Last season, the Brown men’s basketball team went 9-7 in nonconference action. The nine wins tied the program’s record for non-league victories with the 2001-02 and 2014-15 teams. The Bears’ 8-0 start at home was the best beginning since the 1934-35 squad. In league play, Brown appeared to get a boost of confidence from its nonconference schedule, dominating Penn and Cornell on the road and losing by one at home to Yale. With a 2-3 start in Ivy competition, the Bears were looking good for the fourth spot in the inaugural Ivy Tournament.
Unfortunately, Brown lost its next five matches, derailing its hopes for an upper division finish. Despite beating Dartmouth on the road to start the next to last weekend of the season, the loss to Harvard the following evening eliminated the Bears from postseason play. The team did bounce back in its penultimate game, beating Columbia by 20 and damaging the Lions’ hope for the league’s final four. A Senior Night loss to Cornell left the Bears with a 4-10 record (13-17 overall), tied for sixth in the Ancient Eight.