On Friday nights from here on out, Ivy League basketball will take center stage. It got started last night, and that’s what the next six weeks will be like – the 14-game tournament, as they call it, since the Ivy League doesn’t have a tournament.
By now, each team has played their travel partner twice, save for Penn and Princeton, who still have one more meeting left. While it’s early yet, we now have our first full taste and a little more of a sense of each team.
Let’s start with the leaders. Yale went into Columbia, a team that has battled valiantly all season without Alex Rosenberg. Maodo Lo has been playing at an All-Ivy level for the Lions, but it was a Player of the Year candidate, Justin Sears, who had 28 points and eight rebounds to carry Yale to a 63-59 win. The Bulldogs are 3-0 in early Ivy League play as they head to Cornell tonight, with the Big Red having pushed Brown to 0-3 on Friday by scoring the last ten points in a 57-49 win.
Meanwhile, Harvard went into Princeton and beat the Tigers 75-72. Despite the Tigers’ struggles in non-league play, many rightly said you can’t dismiss them when talking about contenders. Mitch Henderson can coach, and he still has some good talent that can play to that system. But good Princeton teams protect don’t let others come into Jadwin Gymnasium and win, so this is a bad early sign. For the second year in a row, Princeton is in a bad place early in the season. Meanwhile, Harvard has looked like less of a league favorite during non-league play, but the Crimson and Yale look like the best contenders. Getting a big night from Corbin Miller (career-high 19 points) and Jonah Travis (14 and seven rebounds) certainly helps Harvard.
Lastly, we have two intriguing teams that both have good talent and both appear to be in an important year. Penn hosted Dartmouth and took home a 58-51 win, led by a career-high 18 points from Matt Howard. Penn has as much talent as just about any Ivy League team, so they are certainly capable of making a run from that standpoint. They held Dartmouth to 36 percent shooting on the night and now get Harvard at the Palestra on Saturday night.
The Pac-12 also had a couple of games, with Arizona shutting down Oregon State 57-34 in a rematch of a game they lost earlier in the month. This one wasn’t in doubt for much of the night, as no Beaver scored in double figures. In contrast, Oregon and Arizona State needed overtime in Tempe before the Ducks eked out a 68-67 win as Joseph Young persevered through a tough night to hit the game-winning jumper in the final minute.
One other game of note came in the MAC, where host Buffalo blew out Kent State 80-55 to tighten the race in the East Division a little. The Bulls, who are now just a game back of the division-leading Golden Flashes, had a 45-25 lead at the half and were never threatened in the second half.
St. John’s guard Rysheed Jordan is the latest athlete to have to apologize for something on social media. In a statement released by the school, the sophomore apologized for using a homophobic slur in a tweet earlier this week. “I apologize for the language I used on Twitter in a conversation with my friends,” he said in the statement. “It was insensitive and something I regret because I did not meant to hurt anyone.” Head coach Steve Lavin said this would be addressed internally. It serves as a reminder that while one may think of a Twitter exchange as merely a conversation with friends, it is public unless one’s tweets are protected, so everyone is privy to them.
As they get ready to take on Kansas, Kansas State gets ready without Nino Williams as they likely won’t have him for Saturday’s game. The senior forward hurt his left knee against West Virginia on Tuesday, playing just eight minutes in the game as a result. One of their starting forwards, he averages 11.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, so this would not be a small loss for the Wildcats. Fortunately, there is no structural damage, so he doesn’t figure to be out for an extended period of time.
Canisius sophomore Phil Valenti sustained what is being described as a right ankle joint injury in Friday night’s win over Quinnipiac. Valenti went up for a rebound early in the second half and was injured on the play. There is no word on when he might return, but he will be evaluated further this weekend. Canisius is 7-4 in MAAC play and hosts Marist on Sunday.
With 151 games on tap featuring Division I teams, it’s one of the busiest game days of the season. There’s plenty to check out:
- In the ACC, Louisville hosts North Carolina in what is certainly a big matchup, but it’s not the most anticipated game of the day. That one would be a little later as Virginia hosts Duke in the toughest test yet for the Cavaliers.
- The Atlantic 10 slate features cross-town rivals meeting as VCU hosts Richmond, then a key matchup among two teams chasing VCU as George Washington visits Rhode Island.
- Rivalry games take center stage in the Big 12 as Kansas hosts Kansas State early, then Oklahoma goes to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State in the evening. In mid-afternoon, Baylor hosts Texas, two teams whose Big 12 record – both are 3-4 – tells you how tough that conference is.
- A couple of key Big East games are on tap early as Providence visits a St. John’s team that beat them convincingly in Providence earlier this month, while Xavier visits Seton Hall, who could get Isaiah Whitehead back. A little later, Villanova visits DePaul, while Georgetown visits Creighton to try to bounce back from a home loss to Xavier.
- Wisconsin visits Iowa, a team that is trying to climb out of the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in the most noteworthy matchup there. CBS Sports reports that Iowa will have Aaron White, who has been battling a shoulder injury he sustained against Purdue and did not practice all week.
- The Mountain West has a couple of key games with Fresno State at Colorado State, then San Diego State hosting Utah State a little later.
- In a key SEC matchup, Arkansas visits Florida with a chance to move away from the middle of the pack a bit. The team that Florida just beat, Alabama, tries to bounce back from that tough loss with a tall order – a game at Kentucky.
- A few mid-majors have big matchups with first place on the line. In the Horizon League, Green Bay visits Cleveland State, while in the Missouri Valley, top 25 teams play each other for the first time since 1982 as Wichita State travels to Northern Iowa. In the Northeast Conference, Robert Morris hosts Bryant, and Bucknell hosts Colgate in a battle for the top of the tight Patriot League race. Late at night, Montana visits Sacramento State in the Big Sky.
- There’s also a noteworthy non-conference game mixed in as Memphis travels to Spokane to play Gonzaga.