Reporter’s Notebook: Ivy Madness day four

The final remnants of the 2024 Ivy Tournament being packed away for another year (Photo: Rob Browne)

The final day of the 2024 Ivy League Tournament was an incredibly chaotic one, which started hours before the noon tipoff of the thrilling men’s championship and ended with a near-midnight zoom celebratory conference call with Columbia women’s basketball coach Megan Griffith.

For the second day in a row, the tournament provided its fair share of emotional highs and lows. There may still be people who haven’t taken to the thought of Ivy Madness, after eight years and six events, but it is an amazing weekend to celebrate the talented players and coaches and showcase this shouldn’t-be-under-the-radar conference to the nation.

I’m still in a bit of a stupor from the last few days, but I’ll try my best to recount scenes from a lengthy final day:

  • Another beautiful spring-like day in NYC and another day of relaxed vibes at Columbia University. For those who hear reports of daily threats on campuses, it is always important to see things for oneself and talk to people (students, faculty, staff) who spend every day there to learn about the positives and negatives, instead of relying on reports from people who aren’t there.

  • For the finals, the league upgraded IHO to courtside, so Richard Kent and I got to witness an incredible men’s final a few feet from the action, as well as Brown president Christina Paxson and Yale legend Miye Oni. 

  • We also had the upgrade for Saturday’s women’s final and were close enough to the action to get a Firstbeat performance monitor from Columbia’s Abbey Hsu after she found it on the sidelines during the third quarter. We left it on the table, so anyone missing their monitor should check with Columbia’s staff.

    If someone didn’t play up to their abilities on Saturday night, it might be due to the loss of their performance monitor. (Photo: Rob Browne)

  • While there was a concern that Levien Gymnasium would not be empty with the loss of Princeton on Saturday, the Yale and Brown fans scooped up any available tickets and the place was packed for a third straight day.

  • I can’t say how it played on television, but both fan bases were incredibly enthusiastic and loud. The noise from the crowd picked up considerably when Brown took its lead in the second half and was off the chart when Yale made its last-minute comeback.

  • The cheerleaders from all seven participating schools were excellent (and they weren’t as loud in the staging area as the bands). It is really hard to have to keep a smile on your face, when your team is down by an insurmountable margin late in the game or fans are booing you just because of the name of the school on your sweater. The Princeton team gets a special shout-out, since it kept its cool when a Columbia fan threw a souvenir tournament T-shirt back at them during the early part of Saturday’s women’s final.

  • When Matt Knowling sank the game winner at the buzzer to win the men’s championship, the Yale fans, including Mr. Oni, immediately stormed the court (and some climbed over the media table close to us and the announcers). Since the refs had to review the play, event security had to get people to move back and the fans thankfully respected the request.

  • Brown head coach Mike Martin arrived for the losing team’s press conference by himself. Sadly, only a small number of reporters arrived. For those present, Martin immediately praised Yale’s coach and team, and took the blame for his team’s late game collapse. The coach was as humble and gracious in defeat on Sunday, as he was in victory on Saturday. The Bears didn’t get the fairy tale ending, but their coach and players earned the respect of everyone who watched them in person or the broadcasts.

    With the return of the entire starting lineup and six of the team’s top eight players, as well as being the hosts at next year’s Ivy League Tournament, things are looking good for Bruno in 2024-25.

  • In the Yale championship press conference, coach Jones complimented the Brown team and staff, and was thrilled that the game winner came on an assisted basket. Good shot selection and selfless play (as well as strong defense and rebounding) have been a hallmark of the Yale team over the decades that Jones has been in charge, so it shouldn’t be surprised that he would favor that play over a hero-ball moment.

    Jones also commented on the value of the Ivy League Tournament. When he got to Yale over 20 years ago, his teams weren’t at the top and advocated for this event to give more teams a chance at conference glory. With three titles in six tournaments, he and his team now have one more than the Tigers.

    This year’s men’s tournament marks the fifth straight event where the No. 2 seed captured the championship. If there’s a message for the 2024-25 season, it is heavy is the head that wears the regular season crown.  For the women, where the No. 1 seed has always won, the motto is more likely that it’s good to be the Queen.

  • I was writing whenever there was a break in the action, so I wasn’t completely aware of the music being played, but it seemed like the same songs were played at the same point of each game. From my limited recall, I seem to remember some ABBA, Alicia Keys and Jay-Z. All great songs, but perhaps a little variety might help next year.

  • There were a number of Brown Athletics staff around this weekend studying the work of the league office and Columbia Athletics staff to help get ready for the 2025 Ivy Tournament at the Pizzitola Sports Center. While “The Pizz” is similar in size to Levien and much smaller than the Palestra, where the first two Ivy Tournaments in 2017 and 2018 were held, former Penn and current Brown athletic director Grace Calhoun’s familiarity overseeing the event should be a big benefit for the crew in Providence.

  • There was a a lot of good food and a great variety of meals for the staff, media and students working behind the scenes. Between wolfing down food, sitting for long hours at a stretch and missing the majority of four beautiful days in NYC, I’m sure the weekend sped up my aging process by a few months.

  • The women’s all-tournament team included:
    Kaitlyn Chen – Princeton (Most Outstanding Player)
    Madison St. Rose – Princeton
    Abbey Hsu – Columbia
    Harmoni Turner – Harvard
    Mataya Gayle – Penn

    My votes went to:
    Chen – Princeton (Most Outstanding Player)
    Hsu – Columbia
    Ellie Mitchell – Princeton
    Turner – Harvard
    Gayle – Penn

  • The men’s all-tournament team included:
    Danny Wolf – Yale (Most Outstanding Player)
    Kino Lilly Jr. – Brown
    John Poulakidas – Yale
    Dalen Davis – Princeton
    Chris Manon – Cornell

    My votes went to:
    Wolf – Yale (Most Outstanding Player)
    Lilly Jr. – Brown
    Poulakidas – Yale
    Kalu Anya – Brown
    Dalen Davis – Princeton

  • As I was departing, I noticed that the jerseys had been removed from the mannequins in the courtside display case, but I could not find out where they went. Perhaps they were taken back to the league offices in Princeton.

    These mannequins were so kind to the Ivy Madness fans, they were willing to give the jerseys off of their backs (Photo: Rob Browne)


  • When I left Levien around 5 p.m. on Sunday, the word around the gym was that Yale would be a No. 13 seed on the men’s side, the Tigers would be a No. 9 seed in the Women’s bracket and Columbia would be a probable No. 1 in the WBIT with a home game on Thursday, since the team was expected by among the first four left out of the main draw.

    The Lions were expected to watch the NCAA selection show but were resigned to missing the main draw.

    Of course, that was not to be as the ESPN announcers called out Columbia for a No. 12 seed in the Portland 3 Region and an unexpected celebration began!

  • The Princeton women had their enthusiastic and laugh-filled moment for ESPN and the national basketball audience, when the Tigers were chosen as a No. 9 seed and will head to Iowa City to take on No. 8 West Virginia.

  • The Yale men were chosen for the No. 13 seed in the east and will face No. 4 Auburn in the opening round. The Bulldogs will have to face another Tigers team, with this one having former Penn Player of the Year and assistant coach Ira Bowman on Bruce Pearl’s bench and beating the Quakers by 20 in early January.

  • The Princeton and Cornell men made the NIT with the Tigers a No. 2 seed hosting UNLV and the Big Red heading to No. 2 Ohio State. 

  • The Harvard and Penn women were not invited to the WBIT or the WNIT. Listening to the latter part of Harvard coach Carrie Moore’s postgame presser on Friday evening, the WNIT was not an option for any of the teams.

  • To answer questions about the surprise NCAA bid, the Lions staff got a zoom call ready for 11 p.m. on Sunday evening for the coach to answer questions.

    The weekly Columbia media sessions typically involve three reporters (Jenn Hatfield from The Next, Richard and me from IHO) and two reporters (Lance Medow and Maren Walseth), but Sunday late night call had close to 30 people. Great to see the program get the recognition it deserves.

  • In Griffith’s plea for the NCAA selection committee to grow the game by giving the Lions and mid-majors a chance, she called out the SEC as a league that gets too many bids.  When I asked her in the evening call if that could be blackboard material for Vanderbilt, a member of SEC, she agreed. “Yeah, I’m sure it is,” she responded in a light-hearted manner.

    It didn’t take too long for Vanderbilt coach Shea Ralph to respond to the speech, with the coach telling The Tennessean, “I know what’s been said, I’m paying attention to everything that’s going on and I know my team,” Ralph said. ” . . . When you’ve been in the SEC Conference for a few years, I think you understand — I think that could be an NCAA conference from top to bottom. Every team in our conference has big wins. And it seems, has beaten teams that are going to the tournament and so for me, I feel like that’s been a huge asset in terms of our development in terms of our somewhat quick turnaround. . . . We’re in the best conference in the country.”

  • Best of luck to all five teams moving onto their respective tournaments from everyone here at IHO.

  • After eight teams, six games, 20 press conferences, thousands of written words and a treasure trove of great memories, I sadly have to go back to the real world.

    Thanks, so much, to all the people at the Ivy League office and Columbia Athletics, as well as the support staff and security services, for another amazing weekend of Ancient Eight hoops.   It’s unbelievable to see how much work goes into this event and everyone went above and beyond to make sure it was a great weekend for the student-athletes. Special thanks go to Robin Harris, Matt Panto, Zachary Sterrett and JJ Klein from the Ivy League and Mike Kowalsky, Kyle Mattracion and Steve Merrill from Columbia.

    Only 351 days until we can do it again in Providence.

2 thoughts on “Reporter’s Notebook: Ivy Madness day four”

  1. Thanks, Steve!!

    After reading all your great summaries and analysis (as well as those from the many others wonderful writers at IHO), I’d be happy to settle for the “quantity over quality” award.

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