Last Week in the Ivy League: Princeton held serve at home, taking a two-win lead on the league. Yale split, thanks to “the dog and Oni show.” Columbia won on the road in a back-and-forth opener. Penn’s #PathToThePalestra is 0 miles, but it just got a whole lot longer.
1. Princeton is once again the Ivy League favorite. The Tigers are not prohibitive favorites, and I’m still not convinced that they’re better than Harvard or Yale. But they have two wins in hand over the rest of the league, including Saturday’s 66-58 head-to-head victory against Yale, which is enough of an edge to make them the top contender. Princeton played perhaps its best basketball of the season in Saturday’s first half — the hosts survived 1-15 three-point shooting (mostly open looks, many of which rattled in and out of the rim) to lead by two points, allowing them to pull away when shots fell after halftime. Seven road games remain, but the Tigers are rounding into form.
Yale shouldn’t feel bad at all about its split. Jadwin is the toughest place to play in the Ivy League, and senior point guard Anthony Dallier missed Saturday’s game with an illness. Even so, the Bulldogs were leading with three minutes remaining. As you may recall, they lost at Princeton last season, but they won every other game to claim the title.
2. It’s panic time for Penn. Brown’s 82-70 win at The Palestra on Saturday was the first race-shaking result of this Ivy season. After a few weeks of hype as a clear top-4 team, the Quakers are sitting at 0-3, with an uphill climb to reach the four-team tournament they’ll be hosting. It’s not an insurmountable hole — the last two fourth-place finishers lost five straight Ivy games at some point — but nor is it a shallow one: Penn probably has to go 7-4 down the stretch, or maybe 6-5, with more than half those games on the road. Different models give different figures, but they agree that Columbia is now favored for the #4-seed (after winning at Cornell), and that Brown also has a real chance.
Mike Martin’s squad matched up well against his former team: Brown forces opponents to outscore them, which isn’t this Penn team’s strong suit. The Bears were in peak form Saturday, raining jumpers early and relentlessly picking out matchups to attack from the perimeter. Steve Donahue messed with his usual lineups to try to adjust. Sometimes it worked, like the twin-big lineup with AJ Brodeur and Max Rothschild led the Quakers back within two points in the second half; other times it didn’t, like the set of bench wings that gave up a mini-run in the first half that put Penn behind for good.
3. How should games end? Earlier this season, Ken Pomeroy posted some fun research on how it became customary to run out the clock in uncompetitive games. Since then, we’ve seen a few violations of that etiquette, including when Jackson Donahue stole the ball from Anthony Dallier for a buzzer-beating layup in a 68-60 loss.
Separately, the NCAA announced this week that it will try to increase the usage of advanced metrics in March Madness selection. Since most of these metrics use margin of victory (rather than binary wins and losses, like the RPI), I wonder: If garbage-time points more directly affect NCAA tournament selection and seeding, will end-game etiquette change again?
If so (a big if), I suspect it will be viewed as a bad consequence. But is it really? I agree that it’s bad to encourage running up the score against a clearly mismatched team. (Fortunately, most formulas now place very little extra weight on blowouts above a reasonable threshold.) But the point of having basketball games is to play basketball. I don’t see why playing hard for 40 minutes rather than 39, even when the outcome is decided, is so bad.
Player of the Week: Luke Petrasek, Columbia — When at his best, Petrasek is perhaps the league’s biggest mismatch. The senior towers over most opponents at 6-10, but he’s also been a 40%+ outside shooter for two years, with the ball skills to drive from the perimeter. Hack him, and you’ve put the league’s second-best foul shooter at the line. The undersized Big Red had no answer for Petrasek, who dropped a career-high 31 points on just 17 shooting possessions, including a layup and one that put the Lions ahead for good.
Rookie of the Week: Miye Oni, Yale — Oni opened the weekend with a scoreless first half at Penn, perhaps shaking off the effects of a mid-week injury that kept him out of the starting lineup. But once he got going, he was in rare form, scoring 18 points in the final 20 minutes. Oni is fearless about shooting no matter how much space he has; he drew three jump-shooting fouls in a 10-minute span.
Play of the Week: Check out this two-man dance by Myles Stephens and Devin Cannady off the ball, which ultimately frees Stephens for a wide-open layup—and remember they can do this for another 2.5 years (video via ILDN):
The Week Ahead: The embers of non-conference play continue to flicker, as Harvard visits Bryant and Penn hosts St. Joseph’s. But the real fun comes this weekend, with three travel-partner matchups. Yale visits Brown on Friday night (ESPN3), before Dartmouth and Cornell try to avenge home losses at Harvard and Columbia, respectively.
- Princeton (3-0) — Welcome back, Amir Bell. After starting the first 62 games of his career, Bell was bumped from the lineup in December, amid a brutal non-conference slate in which he shot 27%. But he’s set a new season scoring high in each of his last three games, topped by a 17-point performance against the Bulldogs. His wild coast-to-coast layup broke a tie heading into halftime, and he scored six straight points down the stretch to put Yale away. Defense kept him in the rotation during his shooting slump, and he’s part of the reason Princeton has held Ivy opponents to 0.90 points per possession.
- Harvard (1-0) — Harvard’s only game this week was a rout of McGill. But as Ken Pomeroy discovered, it was the latest opportunity for McGill’s SID to show off his creativity.
- Yale (1-1) — As an underclassman, Noah Yates was a tight end for Yale’s football team. But he switched to basketball this season and got his most substantial D-I action this weekend. The junior was solid in a low-usage role, hitting a three-pointer at Penn, but Jordan Bruner will probably never forgive Yates for robbing him of this fast-break assist (video via ILDN):
- Columbia (1-0) — On Saturday, Petrasek became the fifth different Lion to score 30+ points in a game since 2010-11 (aka the Play Index Era); only Penn has had as many unique 30-point scorers in that time. Oddly, the Lions are only 4-4 in those games, while the rest of the league is 21-8.
- Penn (0-3) — After a rough weekend on the court, the Quakers got good news Sunday, when Jarrod Simmons reportedly committed to Penn. The power forward, a consensus three-star prospect and one of the top Ivy targets, was also strongly considering Princeton. He becomes the centerpiece of a very strong 2017 class, and could spend three years alongside AJ Brodeur in a terrifying frontcourt.
- Brown (1-1) — Mike Martin’s team wasn’t the only one with a big upset this weekend — a night earlier, the Brown women shocked Princeton 98-88, their first win at Jadwin in 14 years. Rookie Justine Gaziano scored 33 points, leading the Bears to their highest output ever in Ivy play.
- Cornell (0-1) — Robert Hatter left Saturday’s game early in the second half and did not return, favoring his right leg. Hatter has had a rough senior season, but he was on a roll before his injury: He turned a steal into a fast-break assist and hit two three-pointers shortly after halftime, and he made two free throws before hobbling off the court. The injury-ravaged Big Red can’t afford to lose anyone else.
- Dartmouth (0-1) — In non-basketball news, Dartmouth and Brown announced a football game at Fenway Park next season, part of a three-game series also involving Boston College and UMass. Friday nights in Boston can be frigid, but with enough layers it should be a fun experience.