Ninety-five years after Penn opened up the Palestra with a win over Yale, this edition of the Red & Blue sought another reset Saturday against the team pegged to win the Ivy title in the conference preseason media poll.
Penn had suffered disappointing defeats at archrival Princeton and at home against Ivy bottom-dweller Columbia in two of its last three games, with leading scorer Jordan Dingle tallying in single digits in all three contests.
- Penn is still an Ivy League Tournament-caliber team
Dingle fought his way out of that funk quickly against Yale, registering Penn’s first four points of the game en route to tying his career scoring high with 31 points on 13-for-24 shooting – including 18 second-half points to cement the 76-68 win for the home team after it held a 35-23 halftime lead.
No team with Dingle and a top-150 adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom should be discounted in the Ivy Madness race. I’ve heard rumblings about Penn taking a step back from past seasons, and moving on without AJ Brodeur, Ryan Betley and Devon Goodman was always going to be tough. But Penn (7-12, 4-2 Ivy) beating Yale (8-9, 2-1) while shooting just 5-for-26 (19.2%) from beyond the arc and Max Martz benched for long stretches with foul trouble demonstrates that triple-happy Penn doesn’t necessarily need hot outside shooting to win big games down the Ivy stretch.
2. Yale needs another sharpshooter
Yale ranks last in the Ivy League in three-point shooting. Yes, Azar Swain is a lethal threat from outside, but no one stepped up to fill a void left by his cold spell Saturday. Swain shot just 3-for-13 and 1-for-6 from three-point range Saturday at the Palestra, where he is now 10-for-39 (25.6%) for his career against Penn. Yale went 3-for-19 from beyond the arc in Saturday’s loss, failing to take advantage of Penn’s own outside shooting struggles. The Bulldogs will likely need a strong shooting performance from someone other than Swain if they’re to win both the Ivy title and Ivy Madness.
3. Hooray for Ivy parity
Penn beating the Ivy projected to finish first place in the conference two weeks after losing to the team tabbed to finish last place (Yale) is just the latest sign of the exciting parity in Ivy men’s hoops this season. Six of the eight Ivies are ranked between 136th and 217nd in KenPom’s rankings, a relatively tight window for three quarters of a conference to fall in. Analytics expert and friend of Ivy Hoops Online Luke Benz noted on Twitter Sunday that the league has the smallest variance within the middle half of teams, with no outlier teams at the top of the conference. That means the league is anyone’s for the taking. The Ivy League has historically had among the highest close game percentages in the country (games decided by four points or fewer or in overtime), and hopefully that trend will hold up as this season’s conference scrum sorts itself out.