What Happened Last Week: Amid off-court controversy, Yale swept Cornell and Columbia to finish at 13-1, earning its first NCAA tournament bid in 54 years. The Bulldogs won’t need a playoff, thanks to Patrick Steeves.
1. The story of Jack Montague’s departure, the team’s public show of support, and reactions on campus will continue to be told as Yale prepares for the NCAA tournament, because it highlights a complicated issue — sexual assault on college campuses — that is much bigger than basketball. I’m going to outsource the rest of this bullet to Ray’s post from this weekend, because he expressed most of my thoughts better than I’ve been able to.
2. It’s hard to fault Columbia’s defensive gameplan on Saturday: The Lions gave up some close-range baskets from offensive rebounds, but overall they forced Yale to take 33 of its 53 shots from at least 10 feet. But Yale posted an effective field goal percentage of 59% on those shots. Anthony Dallier broke out of a slump to make three of four three-pointers, while Makai Mason, Nick Victor and Khaliq Ghani added two apiece.
Entering Ivy play, the key battle seemed to be Yale’s powerful frontcourt against the outside shooting of its contenders. But in the Bulldogs’ three biggest wins of the season — Princeton, Columbia, and Columbia again — they shot lights-out from long range, and that’s why they’re dancing.
3. This was a disappointing weekend for Princeton. But it shouldn’t be a disappointing season. If they beat Penn on Tuesday, the Tigers will finish at 12-2 — which would have been good enough to win at least a share of the title in four of the last five seasons — with the efficiency margin and scoring metrics to match. They had a championship-caliber season, but Yale did too. Instead, Princeton will have to settle for being the best Ivy non-champion of the modern era. (And a likely NIT bid.)
Player of the Week: Makai Mason, Yale — In the final game of the 2015 season, with a trip to the NCAA tournament on the line, Mason played the game of his life — scoring a then-career-high 19 points off the bench — but it wasn’t enough to save the Bulldogs from a heartbreaking loss. A year later, Mason again starred in the same situation, and he made sure his team didn’t lose again. The sophomore scored 22 points against Columbia, burying the Lions in an avalanche of elbow jumpers they gave Mason willingly. He’s carried the Bulldogs more and more down the stretch (posting a usage rate of 29% in each of the last three games), and now he’ll get to show off in March Madness.
Rookie of the Week: Matt Morgan, Cornell — Morgan capped his rookie season with a 25-point performance, helping the Big Red snap a nine-game losing streak with a victory over Brown. That brought his final scoring average in Ivy play to 22.6 ppg. Not only is that an all-time record for Ivy rookies, but it’s the most for any player since Buck Jenkins averaged 22.8 for Columbia in 1993.
The Week Ahead: Only one game, as Princeton hosts Penn in the traditional finale on Tuesday. The Tigers might be playing to lock up an NIT spot, while the Quakers would secure a top-half finish with an upset. The real headliner comes at 5:30 pm, however, when the 12-1 Princeton women host 12-1 Penn with the Ivy title on the line. We will publish our Ivy League awards on Wednesday (as will, presumably, the league office, if you don’t trust our opinions), and some other season-ending goodies later in the week.
- Yale (13-1) — Look at that record again. Most of us expected 11 wins, or maybe even 10, to win the league this year. Instead, Yale went 13-1 in perhaps the strongest Ivy League ever. And aside from the overtime game against Dartmouth, and maybe a backdoor scare from Princeton, none of the other wins were all that close.
- Princeton (11-2) — Offense wasn’t the main problem against Harvard — Princeton scored 1.09 points per possession — but the Crimson made it work hard. Only nine of the Tigers’ 22 baskets were assisted, well below their season average. At Dartmouth the following day, they had 19 assists on 29 field goals, with much more of the traditional Princeton flow.
- Columbia (10-4) — When the Lions reinvented their defense to put much more pressure on Ivy opponents, no player was more critical than Maodo Lo. The senior tallied 36 steals in conference play, nearly twice as many as the next-best kleptomaniac (Malik Gill, 20). For the full season, his steal rate of 4.2% ranks 14th nationally, per KenPom.
- Harvard (6-8) — In the most thrilling race of the Ivy League season, Harvard avoided last place nationally in free throw accuracy. The Crimson shot 23-32 on the final weekend to end up at 59.6%, relegating Florida A&M to last place (58.9%). Patrick Steeves went a critical 6-6 against Princeton and Penn; four misses would have dropped Harvard into the basement.
- Penn (5-8) — A pair of losses this season ensured the Quakers will finish below .500 for the fourth straight year. The Quakers also had such a four-year run from 2008-11, but never before in program history have they been below .500 for five consecutive seasons — a mark Steve Donahue will not want to challenge next year.
- Dartmouth (4-10) — Connor Boehm defended the best opposing big men this season, but he will graduate (along with Brandon McDonnell and Tommy Carpenter). Will someone else fill his place (Cole Harrison?), or will Evan Boudreaux slide up to take on that task regularly?
- Brown (3-11) — I wrote a couple weeks ago that Brown was in danger of allowing more than 80 ppg in Ivy play, becoming the first team in a generation to do so. But the Bears tightened up down the stretch, holding two of their last three foes under 70 to finish at 78.4 ppg allowed. They actually edged Cornell (78.8) in that regard, though on a pace-adjusted basis, Brown finished in the basement (1.11 ppp).
- Cornell (3-11) — For the second straight year, Cornell finished last in the league in both offensive (20%) and defensive rebound rate (35%); the Big Red was at least four percentage points worse than the field in both categories. Bill Courtney’s status will be a top story to monitor in the coming days.