Ivy League Weekly Roundup: Bears Scare, Dunks Galore

Inside this week: A cross-town rivalry heats up; two senior scorers reappear off the bench; and although three-pointers are getting old, #omgivydunx never will. 

1. Brown almost got Providence again. The Bears nearly pulled off the third upset in six years over their city rival, falling to Providence 77-72 in overtime. Brown was up by 12 points at halftime, thanks in part to crazy shots but also the Friars’ flummoxed offense. The former wore off in the second period, and the Bears managed just 14 points in the first 15 minutes.

After star point guard Kyron Cartwright entered the game for the first time (he had been sitting out while recovering from injury) and Providence took its first lead around the eight-minute mark, it seemed sure the hosts would coast to victory; it seemed even more so when they took a four-point lead and forced a turnover in the final minute. But a steal, a three-point foul, and a Tamenang Choh three-point play later, the Bears had forced overtime against a team with at-large NCAA tournament hopes.

One game alone doesn’t prove anything — as Brown demonstrated in 2014-15, when it upset the March Madness-bound Friars before finishing last in Ivy play. But combined with a convincing win over UMass Lowell on Saturday, it’s a good sign for the young Bears.

2. The three-point revolution has a downside.This tweet summarized a feeling I’ve had a lot this season:

Three-pointers are becoming a larger and larger part of basketball at all levels. The Ivy League has recently been at the forefront — last season, it was the first conference ever to take more than 40% of its shots from behind the arc, a trend that has only continued this fall. From a competitive standpoint, this evolution is a good thing: Three points are worth more than two, and improved shot selection has raised the league’s level.

But it is well-established that defenses have nearly no control over how well their opponents shoot three-pointers (though they certainly affect how many threes are taken). And even on offense, where long-range shooting is a skill, it’s a volatile one that can swing by dozens of percentage points per game — which can be worth 10 points or more when the number of attempts is high.

As a result, outcomes of individual games can feel so random. Columbia’s home loss to Quinnipiac was disappointing, but it doesn’t happen if the Bobcats, a mediocre shooting team for the season, don’t shoot 17-34 from distance. Harvard nearly lost at Fordham by shooting 1-for-19 from three-point range this week, until Seth Towns’ game-winner made it 2 -20; a week earlier, the Crimson had given Kentucky a scare in part because the Wildcats were just 2-14. At the major-conference level, Boston College upset No. 1 Duke behind 15-26 outside shooting. It’s hard to know how to feel about these results.

3. It was a great week for dunking. On Wednesday night, a full 20% of the Sportscenter Top 10 Plays were Ivy League dunks — an emphatic putback by Chris Lewis and a thunderous jam from Myles Stephens:

Patrick Tape got in on the action earlier this week, and don’t forget the Eddie Scott and Miye Oni jams from earlier this year. The Ivy League might not be performing its best overall this year, but it’s a golden age of dunking.

And-ones: Brown is adopting no-loan financial aid. Our takes on Columbia’s close losses to Quinnipiac, Stony Brook and Navy. Penn became the first Ivy team to ever beat Dayton in 14 tries. The Quaker women hosted No. 3 Notre Dame and didn’t get blown out. Steven Cook is starring in Estonia. Imagine if Mo Bamba were at Harvard?

Weekly Awards:

Player of the Week: Brandon Anderson, Brown — Anderson scored 19 points at Providence, then added an efficient 20 to lead the Bears to a convincing win over UMass Lowell. In typically Brown fashion, Anderson got more than half those points at the foul line, going 12-12 there (even without any intentional end-game fouling).

Rookie of the Week: Chris Knight, Dartmouth — Knight scored 13 points apiece in Dartmouth’s two games this week, showing solid midrange touch against Maine and blocking three shots against Sacred Heart. The rookie has been playing about 20 minutes per game off the bench, but as one of the Big Green’s most dynamic players on both ends of the floor, he should be starting before long.

Play of the Week: Down the stretch at Providence, this massive Desmond Cambridge block from behind, and the ensuing layup, turned a likely two-possession game into a tie:

The Week Ahead: With most schools squarely in the middle of finals period, there are only six games this week. But the three best ones all come Tuesday night: Yale visits one MAAC contender in Iona, Princeton hosts another in Monmouth, and Columbia visits Boston College.

Power Rankings:

  1. Harvard — Justin Bassey and Robert Baker, two of Harvard’s core rotation players, missed the Fordham game. Their injuries are reportedly minor, which is good news for a Harvard team whose replacements struggled.
  2. Yale — Yale was surprisingly competitive at St. Bonaventure without Miye Oni, leading into the second half and holding the Bonnies to 1.01 points per possession. The Bulldogs blocked seven shots, led by two from center Paul Atkinson, who has cut down on his foul trouble since the season’s early days.
  3. Penn — After barely playing in November, Sam Jones re-emerged off the bench with 27 total points in three Penn wins this week, capped by 15 at Dayton. Jones has yet to score a point off anything but a three-pointer this season, but his shooting adds a different dimension to the Quakers’ offense, and he should play more as matchups allow.
  4. Princeton — The Tigers, normally one of the nation’s top defensive rebounding teams, allowed George Washington to get back more than half its missed shots in a 71-60 loss Wednesday. The leader with six offensive rebounds was none other than Patrick Steeves, a sixth-year transfer whose performance two years ago cost Princeton a share of the Ivy title.
  5. Columbia — Navy’s second-half outburst was particularly disappointing because the Lions’ defense matched up perfectly on paper: Columbia (uniquely among Ivy teams) gives up an above-average share of three-point attempts, which Navy doesn’t like to take; the Midshipmen instead get points off fouls, which the Lions rarely give. Credit the Midshipmen for adjusting and finding ways to score in the paint, but it’s not a good sign for Columbia’s ability to get stops going forward.
  6. Cornell — The Big Red’s next five games are all winnable, featuring no opponents currently in KenPom’s top 200. It will be a good test for Cornell’s hopes of sneaking into the top half of the Ivy League.
  7. Brown — Transition defense has been a trouble spot for the Bears in recent years, but they turned that around at Providence, destroying the Friars on the break (especially in the first half) in a way that’s rare for a mid-major playing a Big East team.
  8. Dartmouth — Taylor Johnson was the Big Green’s unlikely hero this week, scoring 20 and 29 points against Sacred Heart and Maine. The senior’s role has varied throughout his career — he fell out of the starting lineup early last season and only rejoined it a few weeks ago. He still struggles with turnovers (13 in his last three games), but he’s consistently been an effective scorer in multiple ways.

3 thoughts on “Ivy League Weekly Roundup: Bears Scare, Dunks Galore

  1. The Pine

    Harvard first in a “power” ranking? I could see Yale or even Penn (who is probably the most deserving as they are the most consistent against a weak schedule. Maybe you were thinking about recruiting only.

    This has no credibility

    1. Kevin Whitaker Post author

      The power rankings are meant to be forward-looking, namely “who is most likely to win the Ivy League”?

      Penn and Yale have absolutely played better so far this year. Harvard is still my pick as the best team going forward, in part because I expect its shooting to improve and in part because Penn and Yale haven’t been amazing either. But it’s absolutely up for debate between those three right now, and I might be holding onto my priors too strongly.

      1. The Pine

        Honest answer I suppose. Still the love affair with Princeton ( who looks rudderless) and Harvard ( who looks lost) will have to end sometime.

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