Fans of Columbia basketball may have been concerned by the omission of Patrick Tape, a 2019 honorable mention All-Ivy power forward, from Tuesday’s Road to Ivy Madness season preview. By Thursday afternoon, they would have their suspicions increased when Stadium’s Jeff Goodman tweeted that a source informed him that Tape would leave the program, graduate this spring and seek a graduate transfer next year.
Despite being in the team photograph, Tape’s name had been removed from the 2019-20 roster.
The calendar has not even turned to September and we have our first major development of the 2019-20 season. The Harvard Crimson broke the news that rising senior Katie Benzan, a three-time first team All-Ivy guard, has decided to step away from the program and end her Ancient Eight career.
“Katie has been a remarkable player in our program for three years,” head coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said in a statement emailed to the paper. “After much discussion with the coaching staff, she has decided to step away her senior year.”
I must admit that there were times over the last 10 years that I began to despair.
Penn basketball has always been an essential part of my sports spectating life, and yet, inexplicably,
there was the “crown jewel” of Penn Athletics in shambles. For those of us who had always witnessed greatness on the hardwood from the Red and Blue, the past decade has been nothing less than a gut-wrenching, surreal descent into irrelevance and thus humiliation.
Last week, Andrew Slater of 247 Sports reported that Yale rising senior Makai Mason will attend Baylor University in the fall of 2018 as a graduate transfer. The 2015-16 first-team All-Ivy guard missed all of last season due to a foot injury suffered in a preseason scrimmage against Boston University. Mason, who was recently named the Yale captain for the upcoming season, averaged 16.0 points, 3.8 assists, and 32.7 minutes of playing time per game in his sophomore campaign.
Mason declared for the 2016 NBA Draft, but withdrew his name a few days after the combine. Since he did not choose an agent, he returned to Yale and retained his last two years of eligibility. After his first-semester injury, Mason decided to continue his studies at Yale instead of taking a leave of absence, as opposed to Alex Rosenberg at Columbia or Siyani Chambers at Harvard. By staying in school, Mason will earn his degree in the spring of 2018 and retain one year of athletic eligibility. Since the Ivy League does not allow graduate students to participate, he is free to play his last season at any institution the following season. That freedom has been exercised over the last few years by Cornell’s Shonn Miller (Connecticut), Penn’s Tony Hicks (Louisville), Harvard’s Patrick Steeves (George Washington), Dartmouth’s Alex Mitola (George Washington) and Brown’s Rafael Maia (Pittsburgh). Recently, two graduating All-Ivy Princeton players, Hans Brase (Iowa State) and Henry Caruso (Santa Clara), have added their names to this ever-growing list.
This has been a crazy season for Ivy League basketball, all 16 weeks of it. From Harvard’s starting the season 14 hours away in Shanghai to Penn’s regular season-ending triumph over the Crimson Saturday night, this season has been full of surprises and unusual trends.
It comes in many forms. Caterpillar to chrysalis to beautiful butterfly: Whether it’s an insect, person, business, or athletic team, it is a necessary transformation for survival. No entity on the planet is exempt: evolve or perish.
This will be a curiously critical year for Quaker Basketball because it will show whether Steve Donahue, with his first true recruiting class, can be competitive in the increasingly upwardly mobile Ivy League. Evidence of institutional growth, something that consistently eluded Jerome Allen’s teams and consequently vexed and frustrated the Penn fan base, will soon be on full display as the season progresses. True, the Quakers will be a young squad (11 of the 19 players will be either freshmen or sophomores), but that should not significantly mask whether they will be able to take that next crucial step back toward Ivy hoops relevance. Of course, there will be growing pains but I, unlike the perpetually lugubrious Penn Basketball message boards, am unusually sanguine about this team.
1. Princeton (18-5, 9-1 Ivy)
The Tigers have it all on the table. Princeton’s toughest game remaining, according to KenPom, will be at Harvard next weekend, not hosting Columbia Friday night. But Princeton’s lowest win probability, which comes visiting the Crimson, is still 75 percent. To take advantage of a favorable schedule, Princeton must continue firing on all cylinders offensively, which means getting the most out of X-factor Amir Bell, whose effective field goal percentage has been solid ever since he dominated in the Ivy opener at the Palestra.
During Rex Ryan’s final season with the New York Jets in 2014, there was often so much chaos on the field I remember TV color analyst Cris Collingsworth lamenting that he often had “no idea what the Jets were doing.” For the past few years, I could say the same thing about the Quakers: the fouls, the turnovers, the fistfights, the lack of spirit and, of course, the confinement sentencings. After this weekend’s games, it appears Steve Donahue appears to have at least restored our dignity.
That escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast. The Tigers cleaned out Cornell from wire to wire, racing out to a 33-8 lead in the first 10:20 and never looking back. Princeton shot 50 percent from the floor, anchored as usual by Henry Caruso’s 13-point, seven-rebound, two-assist, two-steal performance, with 13 additional points from Amir Bell. Freshmen Devin Cannady and Myles Stephens combined for 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting off the bench, including 3-for-4 beyond the arc from Cannady.
The Ivy hoops fan base is a small and select group. Unlike other colleges (and I use the term extremely judiciously for most institutions located outside The Eight) there are few zealots. However, there are two who deserve a certain amount of praise. Thus I would like to dedicate this Power Poll to two of the stalwarts of our avocation, namely, Michael James (@Ivybball) and the Cornell Basketball Blog. They both add a certain dimension to the analysis of watching Ivy hoops and they couldn’t be more different. Their occasional domestic spats on social media are legendary — the cool, calculating number-cruncher versus the overly emotional and often fairly delusional Big Red fan. One, a haughty winner in the recent Ivy rooting sweepstakes and the other, a “we try harder” guy who still wishes beyond any reasonable hope that it was still 2009 and Jeff Foote was roaming the Ithaca post. In essence, these two play the Spock and McCoy respectively in Ivy hoops coverage to my omniscient, gallant, rational, and let’s be fair, womanizing, Kirk. With these two in mind, and six games into the 14-Game Tournament, here is my usual Penn-centric IHO power poll.