Ivy League Weekly Roundup: March 9

What Happened Last Week: The biggest Ivy League basketball weekend in quite some time. On Friday, Yale beat Harvard to claim its first Ivy championship in a decade. Saturday afternoon, word leaked that Penn will find a new coach after the season. And that night, Yale’s last-second loss at Dartmouth left the Bulldogs tied with Harvard atop the league and headed for a playoff.

Three Thoughts:

1. Per Ken Pomeroy’s win probability chart, Yale’s chances at Dartmouth peaked at somewhere around 99% in the final minute. When Connor Boehm missed a shot with 28 seconds remaining and the Big Green down by five, Yale could taste the NCAA tournament (and the hidden Ivy League trophy). A loose-ball foul on Armani Cotton seemed academic, leaving the visitors up three with the ball. But Javier Duren was tied up in the backcourt and Miles Wright dropped a wide-open three-pointer, setting up a wild finish.

Yale has been deadly in end-game situations this year, so it was no surprise when Duren drew two free throws with 2.3 seconds remaining. But he made only one — and it was the second one, leaving the clock stopped — allowing Dartmouth to throw a home-run pass that Justin Sears batted out of bounds.

From under the basket, the Big Green ran a beautiful baseline inbounds set to free Gabas Maldunas for a layup, sending Harvard’s gym into celebration and denying (or at least postponing) the Bulldogs’ first NCAA tournament since 1962.

2. Dartmouth’s thrilling victory had repercussions beyond Harvard and Yale — it gave the Big Green a 14-14 record for the season, making them eligible for their first postseason appearance since 1959. They wouldn’t have had a chance if not for another wild game on Friday night. Dartmouth trailed Brown 50-26 with 14 minutes to play, and their postseason hopes seemed dashed. (KenPom gave them roughly a 3% chance of winning at that point.) But the Big Green has gone on the league’s craziest runs all season — including 26-2 at Harvard and 18-4 at Columbia — and they flattened the Bears with another spurt.

Dartmouth scored 11 straight points in 66 seconds (including an oddly timed technical foul earned by Brown coach Mike Martin), then reeled off another 8-0 run shortly after. John Golden scored a season-high 12 points with timely plays, and Maldunas was a factor on both ends, blocking four shots. The Big Green’s biggest spark came from Malik Gill, whose contested three-pointer in the final minute put the hosts ahead for good. Brown went just 13-26 from the free-throw line in a losing effort.

Thanks to a thrilling weekend, Dartmouth finished the season with a five-game win streak, rising from 2-7 and the Ivy cellar to 7-7 and fourth place (its first top-half finish since 2009). Assuming the Big Green receive an invite to the CIT (or perhaps the CBI), it will be well deserved.

3. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported Saturday afternoon that Penn coach Jerome Allen will not return next season, which was surprising news only for its timing. Under Allen, the Quakers finished below .500 in three straight seasons for the first time ever, and this year’s seven-game losing streak was the longest in team history. Allen is a Penn icon who remains well-liked among players and the community, but the program needed a change.

Allen was told last Monday that he would not be allowed to return next year, per The Daily Pennsylvanian; Penn went on to snap its losing streak with a sweep of Columbia and Cornell last weekend. Maybe lame-duck head coaches are the new market inefficiency?

Weekly Awards:

Player of the Week: Maodo Lo, Columbia — It’s Monday, which means it must be time for another edition of Maodo Lo Shot Chart Theater. Lo scored a career-high 37 points in his season finale at Princeton, and unlike his 33 against Harvard last week, most of them came from outside (sometimes way outside). Lo drained 11 three-pointers at Princeton, setting an Ivy League single-game record. Usually, such a performance would get lead billing; on Saturday, it was maybe the fourth-biggest story in the Ivy League.


Rookie of the Week: Miles Wright, Dartmouth — The Big Green’s game-winning shot wouldn’t have happened if not for Wright’s three-pointer that tied the game 12 seconds earlier, which in turn was made possible by Wright’s hustle for a rebound and two free throws on the prior possession. Before the final minute, the rookie hounded Yale’s ballhandlers for five steals, keeping the hosts close while their offense was struggling.

The Week Ahead: Harvard and Yale will meet at The Palestra on Saturday (time TBD), in the first Ivy League playoff in four years — and the first ever not involving either Penn or Princeton. Yale is ranked #75 in KenPom, while Harvard is #79, so this playoff shapes up to be just as exciting as the last one. The Bulldogs just won by 10 in Lavietes Pavilion, but a lot went right for them in that game, which won’t necessarily repeat itself this weekend.

We will reveal our Big Apple Buckets Ivy awards on Wednesday morning. The league’s official awards, though slightly less prestigious, will also be announced this week.

Power Rankings:

1. Harvard (11-3) — It’s remarkable how successful Harvard’s scoreboard-watching has been over the past few years. In 2012, the Crimson earned their first-ever NCAA bid when Princeton beat Penn in the season’s final game. In 2013, they entered the final weekend a game behind Princeton, winning the title outright only after the Tigers were swept at Yale and Brown. Harvard has deserved its success, but its past 4-5 years could have played out much differently.

2. Yale (11-3) — Makai Mason is likely Yale’s point guard of the future, but he was critical in the present on Saturday night. With Javier Duren limited by foul trouble and the Bulldogs’ role players scuffling, Mason came off the bench to score 19 points on 9-11 shooting.

3. Princeton (8-5) — Princeton was down 83-74 with two minutes remaining after Lo’s 11th three-pointer, but the Tigers scored the final 11 points to clinch their own postseason eligibility. They took advantage of two rare Lo misses and scored on four straight possessions, including two tough baskets through contact by Hans Brase. Both teams scored at least 1.32 points per possession in the shootout — and with most players returning, expect more of the same next year.

4. Dartmouth (7-7) — Harvard gave Gabas Maldunas and Dartmouth plenty of love on Saturday:


…while others directed their gratitude toward higher powers:

5. Columbia (5-9) — The Lions needed just one win this weekend to clinch postseason eligibility, which made a road sweep particularly disappointing. Before collapsing at Princeton, Columbia was upset at Penn, managing only six points in the first 19 minutes. Even after all that, Lo was this close to saving the Lions at the buzzer at Jadwin (and reaching 40 points):

Video via the Ivy League Digital Network
Video via the Ivy League Digital Network

6. Cornell (5-9) — The Big Red needed a road sweep to be eligible for the postseason; they got swept instead, though Shonn Miller averaged 24 points per game in the final weekend of his Ivy career. With Miller, Galal Cancer and Devin Cherry all set to graduate, the Big Red might be in trouble next season.

7. Brown (4-10) — Rafael Maia ended his career in style, posting double-doubles in each of his last two games, but it was a forgettable Ivy campaign for the rest of the Bears. They’ll always have the win at Providence — which will mark the second time in three seasons a last-place Ivy finisher beat an at-large NCAA tournament team.

8. Penn (4-9) — The Quakers doubled their Ivy win title last weekend, offering some hope for next year with most of their core returning. Penn had the second-worst offense in Ivy play, but no team scored more efficiently against Cornell than the Quakers did in either game (1.22 points per possession in Ithaca, 1.11 at home).

Agonizingly Close, Yale Can’t Finish Off Ivy, Now Faces Playoff

There is no separate place for press conferences at Dartmouth’s Leede Arena, so when Yale coach James Jones emerged from the locker room, he was immediately in front of the few cameras and reporters that made the trip to Hanover, N.H. on a Saturday night where there was plenty else going on in the sports world.

There was no ESPN as there was the night before in Boston, no Sports Illustrated, no New York Times. The crowd was announced at 1,237 and certainly made themselves heard at the end, but it was far from the raucous, oppressive charged atmosphere at Harvard’s Lavietes Gym that Yale had conquered 24 hours earlier.

Continue reading “Agonizingly Close, Yale Can’t Finish Off Ivy, Now Faces Playoff”

Ivy League Weekly Roundup: Midseason Edition

What Happened Last Week: Harvard and Yale stayed atop the Ivy League at 7-1, 2.5 games ahead of the field. The Bulldogs swept a road trip to Penn and Princeton, while the Crimson edged Columbia on Siyani Chambers’ jumper and beat Cornell. Elsewhere, Dartmouth beat the Lions at home, while Penn was swept by big margins. Continue reading “Ivy League Weekly Roundup: Midseason Edition”

Dartmouth Shocks Harvard With Second-Half Comeback

With 13 minutes left in Saturday’s game at Lavietes Pavilion, it seemed the Crimson would follow their usual path to victory. After a gritty, low-scoring first half, the hosts had exploded out of halftime to take a 14-point lead over Dartmouth. Surely the hosts would close out the game with suffocating defense, just as they had against Northeastern, against Boston University, and against the Big Green two weeks earlier.

This time, Dartmouth turned the tables. Over the next 10 minutes, the visitors reeled off an astounding 26-2 run, holding on for a 70-61 victory and the first upset of this Ivy League season.

According to Ken Pomeroy’s win probability calculator, Harvard had about a 98% chance to win when it led 43-29 in the second half. Several factors caused the Big Green’s comeback, their first victory over Harvard in six years:

Harvard’s energy lapsed at key points. Wesley Saunders had smothered leading scorer Alex Mitola throughout the first half, but when Malik Gill fell to the floor on a drive early in Dartmouth’s run, Saunders paused, perhaps expecting a traveling violation. A two-pass sequence found Mitola on the right wing, where he swished a three-pointer over Saunders’ late closeout. Later in the half, after a turnover in the paint, Gabas Maldunas beat all five Crimson players down the court for an uncontested, game-tying layup.

“They were playing harder,” Saunders said. “They were scrapping and fighting the whole game. We came out with a lot of energy to start the second half, but we couldn’t sustain it throughout.”

The Crimson’s lineup issues, a recurring theme this season, struck again. Harvard played the unproven Matt Brown and Chris Egi together midway through the half, then removed sharpshooter Corbin Miller with its offense sputtering, and finally finished the game with a four-guard lineup that has struggled this year. Even in the right situations, players came up short — Miller missed three open treys, and the team went 0-4 from the free-throw line during Dartmouth’s run.

“We’ve gone into offensive droughts, and that has hurt us,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “But we had opportunities to convert in transition … we had chances to finish around the rim. We didn’t do enough of what we needed to do.”

Most importantly, Dartmouth made the right adjustments. After coming off the bench and playing just nine minutes in the first half, Malik Gill was on the floor for the game’s final 16 minutes, giving the Big Green a spark on both ends.

Gill used his speed to disrupt Harvard’s defense: He notched a game-high six assists, and drove through a zone for a layup and one that fouled out Steve Moundou-Missi and gave Dartmouth the lead for good.  And he also used his notoriously quick hands: Twice tasked with defending Saunders in the post, the 5’9” guard poked the ball away both times, leading to run-outs for the Big Green.

Those plays were part of a larger Dartmouth strategy to mix up defensive looks, holding Harvard to 39% shooting and 18 turnovers. “If you let them run what they want to do on a consistent basis, it’s tough. They’re too talented and too well-coached,” Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier said. “But if we can sometimes have a little scatterbug like Malik, whose hands are always going … it’s a lot tougher.”

Dartmouth scored only 10 points in the first 12 minutes, thanks largely to Harvard’s fearsome interior defense. The Big Green made only one of their first nine shots from the post or restricted area; they finished the first half 4-14 there, but they started drawing fouls in the paint.


However, the Big Green were perfect at the basket in their second-half run, getting clean looks in transition and from offensive rebounds. Meanwhile, they also heated up from outside, including two Miles Wright three-pointers that capped the 26-2 spurt.


“We were able to get some turnovers and score off those turnovers,” Cormier said. “We didn’t have to run our offense all night against their very solid, five-on-five defense. They’re very tough to score on five-on-five, but tonight we were able to create some situations off our defense.”

Harvard isn’t panicking yet. Two games into a 14-game season is too early for that; besides, new Ivy favorite Yale nearly lost at home to shorthanded Brown at the same time as the Crimson went down. “We’re not discouraged. We know there’s still a lot of season to go,” Saunders said.

But there is no conference tournament in the Ivy League, and four of the last five champions have had two or fewer losses. That likely won’t happen this year; as Saturday’s results showed, there are no dominant teams, and the rest of the league has improved considerably. With four straight road games ahead, however — including trips to Princeton and Yale — the Crimson’s path to a fifth straight title looks much more difficult.

Ivy League Weekly Roundup: Dec. 15

What Happened Last Week: Nearly half of the Ivy League’s nine games came against major-conference foes, and most of those were interesting: Brown upset Providence, Columbia scared No. 1 Kentucky, Princeton did the same to California, and Yale lost at Florida. (More on those games below.) The Ancient Eight was 3-2 in its other games, including wins by Harvard, Penn and Dartmouth.

Three Four Thoughts:

1. Don’t be surprised if Providence wants a break from scheduling cross-town rival Brown. After the Bears won at home in 2012 and were tied in the final minute last season, they upset the Friars again on Monday, 77-67. This was the Brown team that many of us expected to challenge for top three in the Ivy League, combining balanced scoring (boosted by 10-for-23 three-point shooting) with strong all-around defense.

Brown battled Providence from the 9:15 local tip, exchanging runs to end the first half all square. After Providence went on a 6-0 run to tie the game again at 44-all midway through the second half, it felt like the Friars would continue pull away — but Cedric Kuakumensah and Leland King banged back-to-back threes, and Providence never led again. Steven Spieth was terrific down the stretch, scoring on pivotal drives and securing all his free throws. After avoiding turnovers (their chief flaw this season) for most of the game, the Bears made things interesting with late giveaways and silly fouls, but they held on.

For perspective: UConn was an eight-point favorite in its supposedly “embarrassing” loss to Yale. Providence was favored by twice that (15.5 points) against the struggling Bears.

2. Double-digit defeats don’t get much better than Columbia’s 56-46 loss at Kentucky on Wednesday. The Lions opened with an 11-0 run and led for the first 26 minutes, ultimately finishing with the closest score of Kentucky’s 11 opponents to date (including Kansas, Texas and North Carolina). The top-ranked Wildcats took over with a 19-5 run in the second half — rebounding all nine of their missed field goals in that nine-minute stretch — but not before getting a serious scare from the Lions, much as then-No. 2 Michigan State did last year.

Columbia naturally plays at a slow pace and shoots a lot of three-pointers, but Kyle Smith and the Lions took those tactics to the extreme with a textbook high-variance gameplan. Against the nation’s best shot-blockers, the visitors took more than half of their shots from behind the arc, making a higher percentage of threes (10-for-23) than layups (6-for-15). On defense, Columbia was aggressive with rotations and help defense, challenging the Wildcats to beat them with patience and extra passes. Above all, the Lions kept the pace to a Joe Scott-like crawl, minimizing Kentucky’s ability to pull away; the game clocked in at 51 possessions, five fewer than the next-slowest Ivy contest this year.

After the game, ESPN2 ran a two-minute segment on the Ivy League, including a graphic of “Notable Ivy Wins.” This isn’t your older cousin’s Ancient Eight.

3. Princeton used a similar formula on Saturday at Cal, making eight first-half threes en route to a 37-28 lead. But the Tigers’ outside shooting dried up after halftime, as they made just two of 11 triples thereafter. That drought contributed to a nine-minute scoreless streak, in which Cal took its first and only lead with a 13-0 run; more than half the hosts’ points in that stretch came off turnovers, as Princeton gave the ball away with overeager passes on backdoor cuts and post entries. A power-conference victory could have been a defining statement for the Tigers, on the heels of a loss to St. Peter’s; instead, they fell to 3-8, with clear potential but still few victories.

4. Nothing went right for Yale in its 85-47 loss at Florida on Monday. In a dramatic departure from their game at UConn, the Bulldogs failed to protect the rim and allowed a 50% offensive rebound rate; meanwhile, they shot just 34 percent from the floor. But on the Gators’ hottest shooting night of the season (10-for-19 from three), even a perfect game from Yale might not have been enough.

One Chart:


Data via Hoop-Math.com

NCAA shot location data isn’t perfect — in particular, the distinction between “layup” and “jumper” is subjective and prone to bias — but it’s useful as a directional guide. Just as they did last year, Princeton and Columbia are taking nearly half of their shots from three-point range, along with very few two-point jumpers. Meanwhile, Harvard (45%) and Penn (42%) are the league leaders in shots at the rim. One-third of Brown and Dartmouth’s shots have been two-point jumpers, while Yale and Cornell are also near that mark.

Weekly Awards:

Player of the Week: Gabas Maldunas, Dartmouth — After playing his way back into shape from last year’s ACL injury, Maldunas appears to be back in form as Dartmouth’s go-to player. The senior posted double-doubles in both games this weekend, going for 13 points and 10 rebounds (plus five blocks) at UMass Lowell before adding 27 and 10 at Jacksonville State.

Rookie of the Week: Sam Jones, Penn — Jones became the latest Penn freshman to step up, knocking down five of six three-pointers en route to a game-high 19 points against Marist. After a slow opening game, Jones has made 14 of his last 25 treys, flashing a solid assist rate as well.

Looking Ahead: The schedule remains light, featuring only eight games as most Ivies finish exams. The headliner comes on Sunday, when Harvard visits 9-0 Virginia, which is ranked No. 6 in the AP poll and No. 3 in KenPom. The other top contenders face interesting mid-major tests, with Yale visiting Vermont and Columbia hosting Hofstra.

Power Rankings:

  1. Harvard — What would the Harvard narrative be like if one more shot had fallen against Holy Cross? The Crimson could be 8-0 and still nationally ranked heading into Sunday’s game at Virginia, which would be a much bigger deal on the national landscape. One shot would be a tiny change in Harvard’s 500-possession body of work, and yet it would have had enormous implications. (Side note: Harvard was particularly unlucky that Agunwa Okolie missed that game, one of the few times Harvard has needed to play four guards.)
  2. Yale — The Bulldogs’ upset last week inspired a final exam question in a UConn probability course, which just happened to be taught by a Yale alumnus. Hopefully, no basketball players took the class.
  3. Columbia — Cory Osetkowski had a few nice-looking possessions at Kentucky: He shot 3-for-4 with six rebounds and two assists against the nation’s most intimidating frontcourt, adding three assists.
  4. Cornell — The Big Red was idle this week, returning to action at Radford on Sunday. In the meantime, enjoy Cornell hockey fans trying to throw a 10-foot teddy bear onto the rink.
  5. Princeton — Of Princeton’s current rotation players, only Clay Wilson, a low-usage shooter off the bench, is a senior; starting forward Hans Brase is a junior, and the remainder are underclassmen. Even if the Tigers’ fortunes don’t turn around this year, they’ll be a factor in the league going forward.
  6. Brown — There may not be a Rhode Island college basketball tournament, but the Bears are doing their best to play one anyway, facing all three Ocean State foes this month. After beating Bryant and Providence, Brown can complete the sweep at Rhode Island on the 31st.
  7. Penn — The Quakers have won three straight games, but they probably can’t count on future opponents shooting 21%, as Marist did on Tuesday.
  8. Dartmouth — The Big Green’s last five games have come against teams ranked below 250 in KenPom, and they are 2-3 in that stretch. Maldunas had a strong week and Dartmouth looked good at UMass Lowell, but it’s been a rough start overall.

Big Apple Buckets Ivy League Individual Awards

It’s been a busy preseason for the Ivy League. The defending champion made Ivy history with a national ranking, while injuries and roster movements have shaken up the rest of the conference. With the roster shuffling (hopefully) done for now, it’s time to unveil our Big Apple Buckets preseason individual honors.

Continue reading “Big Apple Buckets Ivy League Individual Awards”