Ivy League Tournament: Men’s press conference highlights

NEW YORK – The second day of the Ivy League Tournament brought the four men’s teams to Levien Gymnasium on the campus of Columbia University.

Below are highlights of the press conferences and links to the videos:

Princeton was represented by coach Mitch Henderson (Coach of the Year), sophomore forward Caden Pierce (Player of the Year; unanimous First-Team All-Ivy), senior guard Matt Allocco and senior forward Zach Martini.

The Tigers come in as the undisputed regular season champs, and coach Mitch Henderson has a confidence that was not apparent at last year’s Ivy League Tournament when Princeton was a No. 2 seed. While the Orange & Black lost many key pieces from the 2023 Sweet 16 team, they still have a lot of athletic and leadership experience with Pierce and Allocco. In addition, the team got a huge boost from sophomore guard Xaivian Lee. The 6-foot-3 Canadian went from 4.8 points, 0.9 assists and 13.4 minutes per game in 2022-23 to 17.7 points, 3.7 assists and 31.2 minutes per contest, grabbing a unanimous First Team All-Ivy spot and the attention of NBA scouts.

While Princeton may be a bubble team, if it doesn’t secure the automatic bid, Henderson knows his team is one of the top programs in the country and deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament.

I think first is understanding that it’s emotional. We have a group that’s been through a lot together. We understand it’s basketball at the end of the day and we should have some fun playing the game. Brown is a terrific rebounding team, and we need to be ready for that. I also think it is important that we take care of the ball, and I trust that we will. We’ve been preparing for this all season, and we will be ready. – Mitch Henderson


Princeton looks to be the first top seed to win the Ivy Tournament since 2017 (Photo: Rob Browne)

Brown was represented by coach Mike Martin, junior guard Kino Lilly Jr. (First Team All-Ivy) and junior forward Nana Owusu-Anane (Second Team All-Ivy).

The Bears have tied for fourth on four separate occasions in the Ivy League Tournament era, and this year’s team finally got over the hump. Things weren’t looking promising for Bruno when the team started league play with a 2-6 record and had four road games in the remaining six contests, including matchups at Cornell and Yale. Needing a jump-start, Martin moved sophomore guard Alexander Lesburt, Jr. and junior guard Lyndel Erold into the starting lineup. Lesburt added an offensive threat that helped take pressure off of Lilly and Erold helped Owusu-Anane and sophomore forward Kalu Anya on the defensive end. When senior guard Kimo Ferrari’s back healed up enough for him to get more court time and start raining threes, the new-look Bears ended the season on a six-game win streak, allowed the team to clinch its first-ever Ivy Madness slot with a week to spare and arrive to the tournament as the hottest four seed since the 2017 Penn Quakers.

“It’s hard to narrow down to one challenge because they (Princeton) do so much, so well. As good as they are offensively, they’ve been really good defensively in league play and in our two games, we’ve struggled to score against them. I think a lot of it starts with their firepower offensively. You have to defend the three-point line, you have to defend without fouling and you can’t give them easy ones. They’re going to make enough tough shots if you have breakdowns and you give them the easy ones, whether those are layups of threes.” – Mike Martin  

Brown, making its inaugural Ivy Tournament appearance, looks to win its seventh in a row (Photo: Rob Browne)

Yale was represented by coach James Jones, senior forward Matt Knowling (Honorable Mention All-Ivy) and senior guard August Mahoney.

Entering the season, Jones felt that this could be his most talented Yale team in his 20-plus year career. While he still feels that his starting five are arguably the best he’s ever had, he noted that there has been a lack of consistency. For the coach and the program, the process remains the same, rebound, defend, share the ball and take smart shots. The offense is anchored by two All-Ivy front court players in Knowling and sophomore Danny Wolf (unanimous First-Team All-Ivy), while Mahoney and junior guard John Poulakidas combined for 132 triples. On the defensive side, the big men are joined by two-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year Bez Mbeng, who also earned a Second Team All-Ivy selection.

Coming in as the No. 2 seed seems to have taken some of the pressure of the team, when compared to their top spot at Princeton last season. If that is true, the Bulldogs can resemble the team that had a 10-game winning streak between the end of December and mid-February instead of the one that finished the regular season at 3-and-3.

“I think that we have a really talented team. If you look at the metrics, our team is metrically the best offensive and best defensive teams in the league by KenPom, you know percentage points tied with Princeton. So, I feel really good about us. I like our group of guys and I would suspect that the other three coaches that are going to come up here and talk to you guys are going to say the same thing. They feel really good about their teams and that’s why we play the games to see what it’s going to look like when they’re done.” – James Jones

Yale aims to make it three-for-three when playing as the two seed (Photo: Rob Browne)


Cornell was represented by head coach Brian Earl, senior guard Chris Manon (unanimous First-Team All-Ivy), senior guard Isaiah Gray and senior forward Sean Hansen.

2024 marks the fourth-ever appearance at the Ivy League Tournament for the Big Red and the third time since Earl instituted his up-tempo offense. While the team hasn’t made it out of the opening round in the first three events, this year could be different. The coach and his players don’t feel any added pressure to make it out of the semifinal round, but they do believe they have more experience as a group and not having to sweat out a bid on the final day of the season gives them a big boost heading into Saturday.

Cornell has the most prolific offense in the Ancient Eight, and its effective field goal shooting is sixth in the land. The team is the best in the country from inside the arc and top ten, nationally, in three-point attempts. While the defensive numbers are basically average across the board, that isn’t a problem. As the coach noted in the Ivy League Media Day back in the fall, the Big Red’s high-powered offense allows them the luxury of only needing a few late stops to take control of a game.

In two close contests with the Bulldogs, a noticeable item was the free throw shooting. In the Cornell loss, Yale had 16 more attempts and 13 more made free throws. However, in the Big Red’s victory, the team had nine more made free throws and only one more attempt. If Cornell can find a way to keep Yale off the line, they may just be able to make it to Sunday and take advantage of having the deepest roster in the conference.

“I know we’ve been playing at a certain tempo and pace, and I think we’d like it to be where we have it now. That doesn’t mean Yale can’t play that way too, so I don’t know if there’s one thing to control teams like Yale, Princeton or Brown. Occasionally, when you play other teams, you can say well that guy is the one that we’re not going to guard, and that doesn’t happen with them. So, we’ll be out there trying some things, but I think what we’re trying to control is if you’re in the game, you’re playing hard, and you’re doing what we’re asking, we’re all in this together.” – Brian Earl

In its fourth Ivy Madness appearance, the Big Red seek their first tournament final appearance. (Photo: Rob Browne)