As always at this time of the year, the Ivy League had a full slate on Friday night, and already another big matchup was on the books. And as also often happens, round one went to the home team, with a couple of frontcourt players leading the charge.
Yale brought an eight-game winning streak into a home date with Columbia, who had won six straight of their own. Both entered the night 4-0 in early Ivy League play, and this was expected before the season as most figured they would be two of the favorites. It was a matchup with strength against strength, with Lions guards Maodo Lo (21 points, six rebounds, seven steals) and Grant Mullins (13 points) having the best nights for them and the Bulldogs being led by Justin Sears (27 points, seven rebounds) and Brandon Sherrod (25 points, eight rebounds). More on the latter two in a moment.
In an 86-72 win, Yale shot 61.5 percent from the field, including 10-18 from behind the three-point line, while Columbia shot just 44 percent, including 9-31 from deep. Yale also had a 35-23 rebounding edge to help offset 17 turnovers, then sealed it late at the free throw line by making 14 of 16 in the final three minutes.
Sears continues to be the mainstay for this team, and he is in the process of capping off a terrific career in New Haven. He was widely believed to be a great pickup for this team given the potential he showed in high school, and he showed flashes of it early on. By his sophomore year, you saw reason to believe he was going to harness it.
Meanwhile, Sherrod is noteworthy as he set an NCAA record for consecutive field goals made within a season. He entered the game having made his last 25 shots, and made his first five on the night to reach 30. The previous record was 26 by Eastern Michigan’s James Thompson and Bowling Green’s Torian Oglesby. You may recall that the multi-talented Sherrod took last season off to spend time with the Yale Whiffenpoofs, the world’s oldest and best-known collegiate a cappella group, traveling across the country and the world with them. He has also sung in a Christian a cappella group at the school and was a drummer in his church choir.
The win gives Yale their ninth straight win, which is their longest streak in nearly 54 years. They are 14-5, and more and more look like the team to beat. They’ll still have to contend with Princeton, who took care of Harvard 83-62 at home on Friday night to go to 3-1, as well as Columbia, but they have wins over both and are playing the best basketball right now.
There’s plenty of basketball still to be played, but the Bulldogs are in position to finally give James Jones a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The dean of Ivy coaches by far, Jones has made them a consistent top-four team in the Ivy League during his tenure, and they have had some years where they contended. They have yet to get over the hump and into the NCAA Tournament.
In other noteworthy action on Friday night, Monmouth blew out Fairfield 91-67 to stay on top in the MAAC, holding off Iona as the Gaels handily won at Canisius by an 84-66 margin to stay within a game of the Hawks.
Louisville dominated the news cycle on Friday as the school took a drastic step of a postseason ban for the current season. It’s a move that is all the more striking because the investigation of allegations in a book by Katina Powell are a long way from being complete, to the point where you wonder why they would take away a chance at the NCAA Tournament from the current group. This is something Ted Sarandis and I touch on in our conversation on Friday.
Iowa State will take on Oklahoma State on Saturday without big man Jameel McKay. The reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year was suspended indefinitely by the team on Friday night, and he could miss more than just Saturday’s game. McKay averages 12 points, nine rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game for the Cyclones.
Elijah Minnie has left Robert Morris, according to a report in the Beaver County Times. It’s not a small blow, as the sophomore forward was second on the team in scoring and rebounding at 12 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, and also leads the team in blocked shots with nearly 1.9 per game. The Colonials have had a tough season to date, as they are 6-18 overall and 4-7 in Northeast Conference play heading into Saturday’s game against Bryant.
It’s another busy day, with games going seemingly at all hours.
- A good ACC matchup on tap is Virginia traveling to Pittsburgh, while NC State heads down the road to take on Duke and Notre Dame hosts North Carolina.
- Highlighting the Atlantic 10 slate is VCU hosting George Washington.
- In the Big 12, Texas hosts Texas Tech, Kansas State hosts Oklahoma and in the best one of them all, West Virginia hosts Baylor.
- The Big East has a showdown among its games as Villanova travels to Providence, while Georgetown travels to Seton Hall in a matchup of two teams with some NCAA Tournament work to do.
- Big Ten play is highlighted by Michigan hosting in-state rival Michigan State, as well as Purdue hosting Maryland.
- A key Mountain West game is on tap as San Diego State hosts New Mexico.
- The Northeast Conference has a big game among top teams as Wagner hosts Mount St. Mary’s.
- The Pac-12 includes a big rivalry game as California hosts Stanford, while Washington hosts Arizona.
- The SEC slate features Florida at Kentucky, Texas A&M hosting South Carolina and Vanderbilt at Ole Miss.
- A showdown is on tap in the Southland as Houston Baptist hosts Stephen F. Austin.
- The Summit League also has a big game on tap as South Dakota State hosts IUPUI.
- The last game of the night is a key game in the West Coast Conference as Pepperdine hosts Gonzaga.