Most eyes are on the title race as the Ivy League race winds down. But this isn’t the Ancient Eight of a decade ago, and the champion shouldn’t be the only team going to the postseason.
There are four teams technically in the title race in the final full weekend of league play, and regardless of how it all plays out, all four have a good chance of playing beyond the first weekend in March.
That’s because of the recent addition of two new postseason tournaments to the ranks. The College Basketball Invitational had Princeton in its 2010 field, and the CollegeInsider.com event invited Harvard. Though neither invited an Ancient Eight school a year ago, Harvard went one better by reaching the NIT.
The Crimson is the best bet to reach the postseason this year. Harvard spent a good chunk of the season ranked in the top 25, and even if it doesn’t win the conference title, it’ll be an attractive candidate for any of the other three tournaments. It would be a major surprise if it wound up playing its final game of the season this Saturday at Cornell.
Similarly, Pennsylvania would be a nice get for either the CBI or the CollegeInsider.com event if it fails to earn the automatic NCAA tournament bid that goes to the league’s regular-season champion. Not only is Penn one of the marquee names among mid-majors, it has great fans who are thrilled that the team has emerged from its recent downward spiral, and officials will be dreaming of the crowds that might fill the Palestra if the Quakers host a game.
Yale coach James Jones is openly campaigning for a berth somewhere, assuming the Bulldogs long-shot Ivy League title hopes don’t pan out. His team was a candidate a year ago, but since that was unexpected, the players had already scattered for Spring Break. Don’t expect the team to make a similar mistake this year.
The Bulldogs would finish with 20 wins they it can earn a split at Princeton and Penn. It also boasts a unique talent in Greg Mangano, who is one of the favorites to be named the conference’s Player of the Year.
As for Princeton, the Tigers need a miracle to capture the league title, and at 16-11 entering the weekend they don’t have a gaudy record. Princeton would need a strong finish to reach the postseason, but it’s also a big name among non-BCS teams and would sell tickets wherever it goes.
The Ivy League is the conference that emphasizes academics, and Jeremy Lin aside, the vast majority of its graduates star in fields other than sports. But it also must be said that in 2011-12, there’s a realistic chance that half of its eight teams could play in the postseason, a mark many other leagues that place a greater emphasis on sports would kill for.
• Penn’s Zack Rosen won a pair of honors thanks to his strong back-to-back outings against Dartmouth and Harvard. He scored the team’s final 16 points in its 57-54 victory over the Big Green, and followed that up with the Quakers’ final nine points against the Crimson. All in all, he finished the weekend with 47 points to win Player of the Week honors in both the Ivy League and the Philadelphia Big 5.
• Saturday’s victory over Cornell was the 100th win in conference play for Yale coach James Jones. He’s just the fifth coach in conference history to reach triple digits in Ivy League games.
• It’ll be an emotional Senior Night in Ithaca on Saturday, as Cornell says goodbye to seniors Chris Wroblewski, Max Groebe, Drew Ferry and Anthony Gatlin. In particular, Wroblewski represents one of the last big ties to the three consecutive Ivy League titles under former coach Steve Donahue, and his departure means that none of the major contributors to those squads will remain on the roster next season.
• Dartmouth has dominated the Rookie of the Week honors this season. When John Golden earned his second such honor of the season last week, it marked the ninth time that a Big Green player has won or shared the award in 2011-12.
• Greg Mangano finished his home career at Yale much like he did every home game this season—with big numbers. Mangano had another double-double in the 71-40 victory over Cornell with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
• Brown junior G Matt Sullivan was named to the Academic All-American team last week. He becomes the seventh basketball player in school history to be so honored, but the third in the past three years. Matt Mullery was named to the squad in 2010, and Garrett Leffelman a year ago.
• Columbia coach Kyle Smith can’t be happy with how his Lions are finishing the season. His squad surrendered 94 points to a Brown squad that entered the day tied for last place in the Ivy League. It’s the most points Columbia has allowed all year.
• If Harvard winds up losing the Ivy League title to Penn, a lot of attention will be paid to the charge call on Kyle Casey when the teams met last Saturday. The whistle, with 5.7 seconds to play, nullified what would have been the go-ahead basket for the Crimson and would up clinching a 55-54 win for the Quakers.
• Princeton’s Patrick Saunders is a New Hampshire native, and he had one of his finest games on what was a de facto Senior Night for him at Dartmouth. The senior led the Tigers with 16 points in just 19 minutes in his final game in his home state.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Matchup To Watch: Yale at Pennsylvania, March 3—It’s Penn’s Senior Night. It could be Yale’s chance to draw even in the conference race. And it should be a great game between two teams likely to wind up in the postseason somewhere.
Key Games To Watch:
Brown at Pennsylvania
Penn has been living dangerously, finding itself in close games against the bottom of the league. Can the Bears trap a Quaker team that might be looking ahead?
Yale at Princeton
Princeton’s extremely faint Ivy League title hopes hinge on winning here—and in every other game.
Harvard at Columbia
The Crimson can’t afford to sulk over last week’s loss, as the Lions have both size and shooting ability.
Harvard at Cornell
Could Chris Wroblewski end his college career by ending Harvard’s NCAA tournament dreams?
Brown at Princeton
The Bears are down in the standings, but they can beat anyone on the rare nights when it all clicks for them.
Around The League
• Sean McGonagill flirted with a triple-double in the Bears’ victory over Columbia on Saturday. The sophomore point guard led all scorers with 28 points and also added eight rebounds and eight assists.
• Jean Harris came up big on his Senior Night. The lone fourth-year player on the roster finished with 17 points and made six of his nine shots from the floor.
• Dockery Walker showed a glimpse of the ability that coach Jesse Agel hopes to see more often next year. The sophomore forward dominated against Cornell, scoring a career-high 23 points and making 10 of his 11 shots.
• Andrew McCarthy enters the final weekend of the 2011-12 season with 41 blocked shots. That’s the fourth most in school history, and while he won’t catch Matt Mullery, who tops the list at 59, he’s just one blocked shot away from tying for third place. If he has a huge enough stat line, he could chase down the second-place mark of 48 blocks, also held by Mullery.
• Samer Ozeir scored his first career points in Columbia’s 94-78 loss to Brown. The freshman forward knocked down a 3-pointer, went 1-of-2 from the free-throw line, pulled down a rebound and blocked a shot in his five minutes.
• Junior F John Daniels missed last weekend’s games with a shoulder injury. It’s unclear whether he’ll be able to play in the final two games of the season.
• Columbia’s coaching staff changed its look for Friday’s game against Yale. The Lions wore blue bowties on the sidelines against the Bulldogs to help promote prostate cancer awareness.
• Alex Rosenberg is finishing the 2011-12 season in style. The freshman forward has scored in double figures in each of the last three games, including back-to-back 13-point games against Yale and Brown last weekend.
• Cornell has matched its Ivy League win total from a year ago thanks to its victory at Brown last weekend. It will need a split against Harvard and Dartmouth at home on the season’s final weekend to finish with a .500 record in the conference.
• Shonn Miller was in the same shooting drought as his teammates against Yale, but he contributed in other ways. The freshman forward pulled down eight rebounds, blocked three shots and came away with a pair of steals.
• Eitan Chemerinski was a force on the glass against Brown. Though he didn’t score against the Bears, he got six of his seven rebounds on the offensive end.
• Cornell had one of its worst offensive performances of the season in its loss to Yale. It finished the game 14-of-62 from the field (22.6 percent) and 4-of-22 from 3-point range (18.2 percent).
• On the Big Green’s Senior Night, it was a freshman who stole the show offensively. F John Golden finished the game with a career-best 21 points in the 85-61 loss to Princeton.
• Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier wasn’t happy with his team’s defense early in the second half against Princeton on Saturday. The Tigers began the second stanza by making 10 of their first 14 shots. Each basket was either a 3-pointer or a layup.
• When Dartmouth lost narrowly to Penn on Friday night, it held the Quakers’ bench scoreless. That was far from the case a night later. The Princeton reserves finished with 40 against the Big Green.
• Gabas Maldunas showed a new side of his game against Princeton. The freshman forward set a season and career high with five steals.
• Keith Wright’s looking to follow former teammate Jeremy Lin into the NBA, and the league apparently thinks he has a shot. He was one of 64 players to be invited to the Portsmouth Invitational, the annual showcase that takes place every April. It’s especially nice for Wright, who grew up in Suffolk, Va., half an hour away from where the event takes place
• Harvard picked a bad night to have one of its worst offensive games of the year. Its 54 points against Penn were its third-lowest total of the 2011-12 season, and it turned the ball over a season-high 20 times.
• The disappointing aspect of the loss to Penn on Saturday was how the team collapsed down the stretch. Harvard was up 49-40 late in the second half but got outscored 15-5 the rest of the way.
• When the Crimson lost to Princeton on the road earlier this season, Kyle Casey helped seal Harvard’s fate with his struggles at the free-throw line. He earned some redemption in the rematch, going 5-of-6 and making a critical pair with the team up one and 34 seconds to play in a game Princeton would ultimately win 67-64.
• Rob Belcore set a career high with four steals Friday night against Dartmouth. It didn’t take him long to reach those heights again, as he had four more in the next night’s victory over Harvard.
• Zack Rosen already has the Penn career record for assists. Now, he’s about to set the single-season mark as well. He enters the week with 156, six away from the top spot currently shared by David Klatsky and Ibrahim Jaaber.
• Thanks to a tough weekend, Tyler Bernardini is still just on the outside of Penn’s top 10 on the all-time career scoring list. But he’s getting closer. He enters the week with 1,439 career points. Bruce Lefkowitz is in 10th place with 1,443.
• Penn’s victory at Harvard ended a six-game losing streak to the Crimson. The Quakers have dominated the historical series, however, with 128 wins and 34 losses in the head-to-head series.
• When Douglas Davis took the court for the opening tip against Dartmouth on Saturday, he was playing in his 117th collegiate game. That sets the Princeton record of 116, held by current assistant coach Brian Earl.
• Princeton scorched the nets against Dartmouth, shooting 65.4 percent from the floor. It’s the best the team has shot since March 2005, when it knocked down 70.3 percent of its attempts against Harvard.
• The blowout victory over Dartmouth allowed Princeton coach Mitch Henderson to clear his bench. Among the beneficiaries was sophomore F Daniel Edwards. His four minutes exceeded his previous total in Ivy League play this season (three minutes, spread over three games), and he responded by knocking down his first career 3-pointer.
• Brian Fabrizius had the first basket of his college career when he knocked down a 3-pointer against Dartmouth. Perhaps it was the familiar surroundings; the freshman played a prep school year in New Hampshire before enrolling at Princeton.
• Reggie Willhite tied the Yale record for steals in a season with his four thefts against Cornell. The senior currently has 59 steals, sitting alongside former teammate Alex Zampier, and will graduate atop the record books with his first takeaway this weekend.
• Yale finished 11-1 at home, its best mark in more than a decade. If it can win one more game this season, this squad will also become just the sixth in school history with 20 wins.
• Brian Katz was the lone senior who didn’t score on his Senior Day. The guard had previously undergone surgery on both retinas, which ended his college career.
• Though he hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time this year, Rhett Anderson got one final moment to shine before the hometown fans. The backup forward played five minutes and got in the scorebook with a pair of free throws and a rebound.