Ivy League Weekly Roundup: Dec. 14

What Happened Last Week: Yale lost to a pair of power-conference teams. The Monstars stole Princeton’s shooting ability for a night. Penn’s Big 5 comeback fell short. Columbia almost Columbia’d, until Luke Petrasek saved the day. Continue reading “Ivy League Weekly Roundup: Dec. 14”

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).

Cornell Beats Harvard For First Time Under Courtney; Ivy Tied

The scoreboard doesn’t lie, of course, but even when the numbers on the Cornell side started to get significantly greater than Harvard’s and the time began to dwindle, there was still little doubt that the Crimson being the Crimson, they would come back and win.

And sure enough, soon the run began. But on this night, it never finished. And Cornell did, with head coach Bill Courtney beating Tommy Amaker for the first time in 10 meetings and throwing the Ivy League race back into chaos with a 57-49 upset of the four-time defending Ivy champs at Newman Arena Friday night.

Continue reading “Cornell Beats Harvard For First Time Under Courtney; Ivy Tied”

Ivy League Weekly Roundup: Feb. 22

What Happened Last Week: The favorites held serve at the top of the Ivy League on Friday, but Saturday was more exciting. Columbia toppled Yale in New Haven, giving the Bulldogs their second Ivy loss. Meanwhile, Harvard survived a scare from Princeton to claim first place alone. Continue reading “Ivy League Weekly Roundup: Feb. 22”

Three Thoughts: Yale 62, Cornell 51 (Happy Birthday, Coach Jones!)

As much as we like numbers, they sometimes don’t tell the whole story or accurately predict a snapshot in time, i.e. a 40-minute basketball game over the course of a fairly long season.

Friday night, though, one look at the stat sheet – or more appropriately, the KenPom numbers – could have given you a pretty good idea of what was going to happen between Yale and Cornell. The Big Red entered with some stellar defensive numbers that worried the Bulldogs, 69th nationally in defensive efficiency, 34th in eFG%.

Continue reading “Three Thoughts: Yale 62, Cornell 51 (Happy Birthday, Coach Jones!)”

Ivy League Weekly Roundup: Jan. 12

What Happened Last Week: Princeton and Harvard opened Ivy League play with victories over their travel partners (see more below). Columbia and Yale dropped non-conference games to Stony Brook and NJIT, respectively. Cornell and Princeton dispatched midweek foes at home, and Brown’s offense sputtered in a 1-1 week. Continue reading “Ivy League Weekly Roundup: Jan. 12”

Ivy League Weekly Roundup: Dec. 29

What Happened Last Week: The Ivy League went 0-4 against major-conference competition, headlined by Columbia’s competitive loss to UConn and Harvard’s 56-46 defeat at Arizona State. But the Ancient Eight took care of everyone else, going 5-1 in its other games; Ivies have now won 10 of their last 13 games against mid-major opponents. Continue reading “Ivy League Weekly Roundup: Dec. 29”

Cornell, Siena Continue Along Opposite Paths

Cornell and Siena may both be mid-majors from upstate New York hoping to return to their heights of five years ago, but their 2014-15 seasons could hardly be more different. The Saints entered with high expectations, picked second in the MAAC after winning last year’s College Basketball Invitational, but they struggled to a 3-6 start; the Big Red, on the other hand, rebounded from a 2-26 campaign to win half of their first 10 games. Both narratives continued at the Times Union Center on Tuesday, as Cornell exploded after halftime to top the hosts 75-57.

Siena and Cornell decorated the Times Union Center court in Christmas colors.
Siena and Cornell decorated the Times Union Center court in Christmas colors.

The pace was fast from the beginning, as the Big Red showed a full-court press while Siena countered with its usual aggressive defense. But the scoreboard lagged behind, as the two sides combined to shoot 1-for-15 on threes before halftime. Neither team led by more than two possessions in the first period, which concluded with Cornell up 27-26 on 35 possessions.

Shortly after the break, Cornell broke open the game with hotter outside shooting. Shonn Miller hit his team’s first three, Robert Hatter drew a three-point shooting foul, and Devin Cherry sank a trey off Jojo Fallas’s one-touch pass to cap an 11-3 run. From there, it was a battle of attrition; both teams drew 28 free throws in Tuesday’s physical game, but the Big Red held Siena to 27% shooting in the second half while pulling away with acrobatic layups on the other end.

“We’re a work in progress, and we’re a team that’s getting better. It was good to see us in the second half come out and play like the team I think we’re capable of,” Cornell coach Bill Courtney said.

Miller, a senior on the short list of Ivy League Player of the Year candidates, paced the visitors with 26 points on 9-for-18 shooting. The 6’7” forward is at his best in the paint but can also score from outside, making a three-pointer and a pair of 15-footers in Tuesday’s second half. He added a season-high 15 rebounds, earning his third double-double of the season (though he would have three more if humans used a base-nine counting system).

Though his 16.2 ppg lead Cornell, Miller’s impact is felt just as strongly on the other side of the ball. He’s a defensive stat-stuffer, ranking in the top 100 nationally in defensive rebound rate while racking up blocks and steals, but also a strong one-on-one defender. Matched up with Rob Poole, Siena’s leading scorer and a natural guard, Miller held Poole to six points on 2-12 shooting.  “Shonn’s used to guarding post guys, or athletic frontcourt guys. So having to guard a shooter was a little different for him,” Courtney said. “I thought he did a terrific job of staying attached to [Poole] and not letting him get a whole bunch of open looks.”

After ranking second-to-last nationally in defensive efficiency last season, per KenPom.com, Cornell is roughly average on that end this year. Much of that success can be ascribed to Miller, who missed all of last year with a shoulder injury. But it also reflects the improvement of holdovers — such as Robert Hatter, who has become a pesky ball-hawk, and shotblocking center David Onuorah — and the return of Galal Cancer, who also sat out last season.

Playing on the court where he won three high school section championships at Christian Brothers Academy, Cancer battled foul trouble and 2-for-7 shooting on Tuesday, but he had two steals and four assists as one of Cornell’s most willing passers off the dribble. “It almost felt like I was back in high school again,” he said.

While Cornell has been boosted by returning players, Siena is struggling in the wake of its own recent injuries. After Imoh Silas tore his ACL before the season and Brett Bisping had toe surgery this month, forward Lavon Long sprained his ankle last week and missed the last two games. The Saints are now on a four-game losing streak, and the preseason optimism has faded.

“I was reading the paper, and I looked at the Indiana Pacers, and they were 8-19. They were in the conference finals last year, and they had a guy leave, and they had a guy get hurt. Now I haven’t seen a highlight with them this year. Maybe we’re the Indiana Pacers,” Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said. “Some guys have to pick it up when other guys are down. That’s why I mentioned the Pacers, because I don’t know who’s picking it up for them.”

The Saints’ injuries have particularly hit their frontcourt; only two scholarship forwards were available on Tuesday night. Without much size, Siena’s defense has suffered, allowing at least 1.08 points per possession in each of its last four losses.

With the rest of MAAC play around the corner — Siena hosts Bucknell Sunday before resuming its conference slate Jan. 2 — the Saints don’t have much time to find their footing. According to Patsos (who got a second-half technical for protesting a series of shooting fouls), that means they must move on from their poor injury luck instead of using it as an excuse. “We could come in last in the MAAC if we don’t change, in my opinion,” he said.