Reporter’s Notebook – Ivy League Tournament day one

Pictured is a photo of an Ivy Madness banner hanging on the outside of Jadwin Gym. (Photo by Rob Browne)

Ivy League Tournament V officially started on Thursday afternoon, with the four women’s teams taking part in press conferences and shootarounds for “Live from Ivy Madness.”

This year’s edition, the first-ever tournament to take place in a suburban setting, takes place at Jadwin Gymnasium on the campus of Princeton University.  While the campus is incredibly picturesque, and the athletic complex has a lot of beautiful modern buildings that fit in well with each other, the basketball arena continues to be its own unique entity.

The previous locations at Penn, Yale and Harvard had much more intimate environments, whether in the press conference room or the actual arena.  This year, everything feels much larger and more spacious.  I’m sure most people would see that as a positive, but I liked it more when the reporters and fans were closer to the coaches and players.

As usual, the Ivy League staff and their partners at ESPN are doing a great job getting everything organized.  The campus staff are also incredibly helpful.

I can’t explain why, but there seems to be a greater security presence inside the arena than past years.  There were several guards going through the media room and arena, even though there was an incredibly small crowd this afternoon.  Officials have also limited access to the stairwells and have rotating staff members operating the elevator for everyone.  Feels a bit odd that we aren’t allowed to press our own buttons, but I’m sure they have good reasons for doing this.

Some other observations from the day:

  • For those parking at the Stadium Parking Lot, be aware that it is a tight fit between the cars.  Fans attending the game should make sure they are wide awake so they can focus on getting into the spots without hitting another car or pedestrian.
  • It was great to see Jenn Hatfield of The Next, who I only get to see on Zoom during the weekly media sessions for Columbia coach Megan Griffith.  (Note to the other 15 coaches – please follow Griffith’s lead and have frequent meetings with the media.  It really helps us get to know the teams, coaches and staffs and effectively write about them.)
  • We all missed David Tannenwald of Harvard Magazine, but word is that his cousin, Jonathan Tannenwald of the Philadelphia Inquirer, will be in the house tomorrow morning.  The Hall of Famer and dean of women’s basketball writers, Mel Greenberg, is also here and filled with decades’ worth of incredible basketball stories.  I’m bound to get more of these gems tomorrow when I share a ride to Jadwin with him.  I also was introduced to a great writer at the Daily Princetonian, Isabel Rodrigues, who has covered the Princeton women’s team all year long.
  • Every time I see Princeton coach Carla Berube and her players, she gives off this incredibly calm vibe and her athletes are so poised speaking in front of the media.  This team knows who it is and approaches things in a very businesslike fashion.  They might have been rattled with the 0-2 league start, but you would never know it from their conversations.
  • It shouldn’t be a surprise that each of the coaches felt the league was one of the top conferences in the nation and deserved two bids. Berube feels that Princeton and Columbia need just one win each on Friday to earn spots in the NCAA field.
  • Penn coach Mike McLaughlin is glad that his team is back in the tournament, after missing out last year, especially for Kayla Padilla to have a chance to be in the spotlight.  The 2020 Rookie of the Year and three-time first team All-Ivy guard was a starter on a Quakers team that clinched a spot in 2020, but the tournament was canceled at the start of the pandemic. The league was shut down for her sophomore year and her team tied for fourth but lost the tiebreaker to Harvard in 2022.
  • Speaking of Padilla, she is one of three Asian-American players (Padilla, Princeton’s Kaitlyn Chen and Columbia’s Abbey Hsu) in the conference’s first team.  A couple of weeks ago, Jenn asked Griffith to name the strength of the Ivy League and the coach immediately said shooting guards, specifically Asian-American shooting guards.  This was incredibly meaningful to Griffith, who was named the 2021-22 Coach of the Year by the Asian Coaches Association.  This fact wasn’t lost on Padilla, who understands the importance of showing being a role model to young women who look like her, as well as letting national audiences see that Asian-Americans, who are not playing in large numbers across the NCAA basketball landscape, can succeed at the highest level of Division I.
  • With Padilla set to graduate in the spring and being in the transfer portal for next year, some high-major program is going to get an incredible athlete who is a top student and a very media savvy individual.
  • As someone born and raised in New Jersey, I was hoping to talk to Padilla about her appreciation of Bruce Springsteen.  I hold out hope that the Boss will make the trip to Jadwin for tomorrow afternoon’s game, since he has a couple days off between Thursday night’s show in Columbus, Ohio and Sunday’s event at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, since it’s only a half an hour from his home, but I have a funny feeling it’s not going to happen.
  • When asked if Hannah Pratt, who missed last Saturday’s game against Cornell, would be ready for Friday’s semifinal versus Harvard, Griffith gave a quick and positive response (“She is very ready”).
  • It was great hearing Griffith talk about the importance of her players and staff in her ability to be named Coach of the Year, similar to Cornell’s Brian Earl’s discussion after being named men’s Coach of the Year in 2022.
  • After being taken to overtime by Cornell last weekend, Griffith felt her team started Ivy Madness a week ahead of everyone else and also sent Big Red coach Dayna Smith a “thank you” note.
  • While a lot has been written about the talents of Kaitlyn Davis and Abbey Hsu, it should be noted that both have shown incredible growth dealing with the media.
  • Harvard coach Carrie Moore is the only coach of the eight head coaches this weekend who has not been named an Ivy League Coach of the Year.  After watching her team play this year and listening to her speak during the conference media days, it just seems like a matter of time before she joins that club.
  • Moore was a director of basketball operations (’10-’12) and assistant coach at Princeton under Courtney Banghart, as was Griffith.  Surprisingly, the two never worked there at the same time.
  • I was hoping that former Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith would show up to the Crimson’s press conference, since she has been on the bench many times this season. Unfortunately, the Ivy League’s all-time winningest coach and arguably its sharpest wit was not there.  Word is that she will be on the bench for Friday’s game.  She will have to compete with Columbia’s season-long bench guest, The Turkey (see page 11 of last week’s Game Notes from Columbia Athletics).
  • McKenzie Forbes knows how close Harvard came to knocking off top-seeded Princeton in last year’s semifinals, and the team has been using that as an inspiration since that time.
  • Knowing that Harvard gave up big third quarters in both losses to Columbia, Moore stressed how important it is to play well for the entire 40 minutes.  The one time they really did this was their upset of Princeton.
  • Four team media sessions and zero questions regarding the bombshell class-action lawsuit filed on Tuesday by former Brown men’s basketball player Tamenang Choh and present Brown women’s basketball player Grace Kirk alleging that the Ivy League’s collective practice of not offering athletic scholarships violates antitrust law.  I’m guessing there will questions about the lawsuit asked during the men’s media sessions.
  • Kudos to Derek Jones and Maren Walseth for excellent commentary over four hours of Live at Ivy Madness!  I highly recommend people watch the replay at ESPN+ to get their takes on each of the four teams and both of Friday’s games.
  • On a non-basketball related note, there are so many restaurants on Nassau Street and each one looked amazing.  Totally worth a trip to the tournament, if only to get some great food after the games.  I opted for a long-time favorite, Hoagie Haven.  I haven’t been there in almost 25 years, but the hoagies were as fantastic as ever.