Now’s the time of year that an Ivy League hoops slate would be revving up, and since there’s no Ivy hoops action to come this spring, here’s an IHO contributors’ roundtable pondering what might have happened in the 2020-21 Ivy season on the men’s and or women’s sides if there had been one instead of an exodus of much of the league’s top talent via the transfer portal. Behold the one-year Ivy hoops universes we created:
Harvard’s Bush heads west, Haskett goes south
Two of the first three Harvard seniors to enter the transfer portal have made their graduate school decisions in November.
Jadyn Bush will be heading out west to join the University of California, Berkeley, and Rio Haskett will suit up for Hampton University. There is still no reported decision from Danilo Djuricic.
With most regular seasons and championships for fall sports postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, college athletes and fans have been anxiously awaiting word on the winter sports schedule. They received good news on September 16, when the NCAA Division I Council, chaired by Penn athletic director Grace Calhoun, announced that the men’s and women’s basketball seasons could begin on November 25.
“The new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday provides the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the basketball season,” NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said to ESPN. “It is a grand compromise of sorts and a unified approach that focuses on the health and safety of student-athletes competing towards the 2021 Division I basketball championships.”
While basketball enthusiasts around the nation rejoiced with the news that meaningful games would soon be returning to the hardwood, fans of the Ancient Eight were left wondering if the league would move from its July 8 decision that teams could not participate in intercollegiate athletics competition prior to the end of the fall semester.
The short answer is no.
“There are no changes at this time,” responded Ivy League associate executive director, strategic communications & external relations Matt Panto to a request from Ivy Hoops Online. “The decision we have made is it (hold on competition) goes through the (end of the) fall term.”
After a six-game winning streak gave Harvard a fighting chance to seize the top seed in the Ivy League Tournament from arch-rival Yale, the Crimson men fell to Brown, 64-55, at home Friday night and locked themselves into a matchup with Princeton. The Bears, who are wrapping up an impressive season but failed to vault into the top tier of the league, completed a season sweep of Harvard on the strength of 20 points from Zach Hunsaker and a solid defensive effort. On Senior Night, Harvard was as usual led by Chris Lewis, who had 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting, but sorely missed the steady hand of injured guard Christian Juzang. The usually reliable Noah Kirkwood struggled from the floor, shooting only 4-for-13 with no assists, and freshman guard Idan Tretout was not able to pick up the backcourt slack after having been thrust into action.
ITHACA, N.Y. – Despite the absence of Christian Juzang due to injury, Harvard pulled out a 67-58 win over Cornell, putting the Crimson in sole possession of second place in the Ivy standings.
“They’re an impressive group,” Cornell coach Brian Earl said. “I won’t miss some of their seniors on their team. They’re grown men.”
The first half was super streaky, although relatively close. Harvard (20-7, 9-3 Ivy) opened up on a 6-0 run, followed by an 8-0 run from Bryan Knapp for the Big Red (6-19, 3-9).
“My teammates [are] looking for me,” Knapp said. “I had five, then Terrance [McBride] was like, ‘I’m getting you the ball,’ and he drove, kicked it to me.”
The Crimson kept pace with Yale and Princeton by winning against a pesky Columbia team in Manhattan Friday night. When stalwart point guard Christian Juzang went down with a serious-looking ankle injury, Rio Haskett rose to the occasion as the next man up and personally put Columbia away with a late-game scoring flurry. Mike Smith once again performed heroically, with 34 points against a stout Harvard defense, but the rest of his teammates failed to hold up their end of the bargain. Haskett was one of four Harvard players who scored in double figures, including a double-double from Justin Bassey and a 6-for-6 free throw performance from Chris Lewis. Harvard came very close to sharing the Ivy league lead with arch-rival Yale, but Penn’s late-game meltdown kept Harvard firmly in second place with Princeton.
Live by the opponent’s last-second free throw, die by the opponent’s last-second free throw.
Harvard concluded a wild four-game road stretch with a 72-71 loss when Brown’s Tamenang Choh finished an “and-one” in the waning seconds, a night after Yale’s Azar Swain failed to convert a similar opportunity. On the back of Choh’s heroics and a dominant performance from Brandon Anderson, the Bears (11-8, 4-2 Ivy) picked up a crucial home win against the rival Crimson (14-7, 3-3) and proved that they can play with the best of the Ivy. The Crimson go home disappointed after four straight tight contests with surviving optimism about their ceiling but with urgent questions about their ability to finish games. The thrilling conclusion lent some excitement to a game that was otherwise difficult to watch, thanks to overzealous refereeing and occasional difficulties with clock management.
HANOVER, N.H. – Animated is not a word normally used to describe Tommy Amaker, but there he was Saturday night at Leede Arena exhorting his team on, almost screaming, at least as much as Amaker is capable of such a thing.
The timing seemed strange. Just past the midway point of the second half, his Bryce Aiken-less Harvard team had just started to put some distance between itself and a pesky Dartmouth team that pushed the Crimson fairly hard the week before at Lavietes Pavilion and was only a four-point underdog (sports gambling recently became legal in the state of New Hampshire, for those who care). Harvard wasn’t playing its best game, but it weren’t playing poorly, either.
The Crimson entered the Ivy League Tournament semifinals as favorites over the fourth-seeded Big Red. This made sense. While Harvard arrived on a roll, Cornell needed a Yale overtime win against Princeton to even earn a trip to the Palestra. But after two hard-fought games in the regular season between these two teams and memories from last year’s tough Ivy Tournament semifinal lingering in Harvard’s mind, the game was far from a sure thing for either side.
Early on, both sides were jumpy and cold from the floor, especially Harvard. After the game, Tommy Amaker attributed this to nerves, but added that after a few shots went in, all that nervousness went away. He also noted the importance of Rio Haskett’s three-pointer late in the first half. In many ways, this shot, a Haskett wing three with 2:45 to play in the first half as the Crimson trailed by seven, was the turning point in the game.