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The Morning Dish – Saturday, February 10, 2018

February 10, 2018 The Morning Dish No Comments

As the Friday-Saturday rush of Ivy League play is now in full force, the race always seems to take shape quickly. This time around, there is one really good story that continued on Friday night, although it almost didn’t.

It’s a story of a good coach who has found a home in the league once again.

Steve Donahue had a great run at Cornell, especially in his final three seasons. The Big Red won three straight league titles, and after the last one, they reached the Sweet 16 in the 2010 NCAA Tournament by beating Temple and Wisconsin, before bowing out to Kentucky. It was one of the great stories of the year, and it was the best way to cap off that run with the incredible senior group the Big Red had. It was also a great story to follow all along.

Donahue then succeeded Al Skinner as the head coach at Boston College after that, and that tenure ended badly. It started with some promise, but in a key year with the core group of players he and his staff had assembled, the Eagles went 8-24, and a new athletic director had come to Chestnut Hill. He was let go, then did TV work for a year before coming back to the Ivy League at Penn, where he was once an assistant.

At the time he took over, Penn was not what the Quakers had been over the decades. Long a dominant program a long with Princeton, the Tigers had fallen on hard times since late in Glen Miller’s tenure there, and really had never been the same since Fran Dunphy headed a little north to succeed John Chaney at Temple.

One thing we all knew about Donahue is that he can coach. He and his staff didn’t assemble great talent at BC, though not for lack of trying. They have been criticized for that, but their effort couldn’t be doubted to anyone who saw them out looking for talent. Back in the Ivy League, he also has great respect for the league, having consistently expressed that both before and during the big three-year run at Cornell.

Now in his third year, Donahue has righted the ship in relatively short order. They went 5-9 in the league in his first year, improved to 6-8 last year and gave Princeton all they could handle in the semifinals of the league tournament. After rallying, then hanging on to beat Dartmouth 64-61 in Hanover on Friday night, the Quakers have already matched last season’s win total, but without a loss – they are the last team in the league without a loss.

The Quakers are about to get a big test, as they go to Harvard on Saturday for a showdown that was anticipated before the weekend. Harvard took care of Princeton 66-51 on Friday night to hold up their end of the bargain. The Tigers, thought to be contenders before the season, are now 3-4, a record identical to the four teams who competed in the other two games on the evening.

In other words, it looks like it will come down to Harvard and Penn. Saturday afternoon will be round one. And if nothing else, you can sure Donahue and his staff will have the Quakers ready.

 

Side Dishes

Rhode Island looks more and more like they have a legitimate chance to go undefeated in the Atlantic 10. The Rams handled second-place Davidson 72-59 on Friday night, which puts them four games up on everyone else as the Wildcats had been three games back coming into the night. The biggest challenge left for URI, who has won 15 straight, appears to be when they still go to Davidson to finish the regular season.

Indiana blew out Minnesota 80-56 in Bloomington, and it was a case of two teams going in different directions although it hasn’t been a great year for either. The Hoosiers get back to .500 in Big Ten play with a 7-7 mark after a four-game losing streak dropped them below there. Minnesota, meanwhile, has lost seven in a row and 10 of 11, and a season that began with a good deal of promise has careened out of control with four games to play before the Big Ten Tournament.

Staying in the Big Ten, Saturday’s matchup of Nebraska hosting Rutgers will feature a big response to an unfortunate incident on campus. Videos involving a white nationalist student at the school have surfaced and taken over the conversation on the campus of late. In response, the team will wear warm-up T-shirts that say “Hate will never win.” and a video made by the players will play in the arena.

Georgia Tech has launched their own investigation into allegations of sexual assault against head coach Josh Pastner, following from news of a lawsuit filed by Jennifer Pendley on Thursday. Pendley and boyfriend Ron Bell were sued by Pastner last month for defamation, as Pastner has had a long-term relationship with Bell going back to his days as an assistant coach at Arizona. From what is known, it appears Georgia Tech is trying to get out in front of this story given the nature of the allegations.

Saturday is a big day as part of Autism Speaks Coaches Powering Forward, which Towson head coach Pat Skerry and USF assistant Tom Herrion started several years ago. Many coaches will wear the blue Autism Speaks puzzle piece, and we invite you to learn more about the event, about autism and Autism Speaks here.

 

Tonight’s Menu

There are plenty of games on the slate worth checking out, including a few showdowns.

  • In the ACC, North Carolina heads down the road to NC State, while Miami travels to Boston College (2 p.m.) Later, arch rivals meet as Virginia puts their undefeated ACC mark on the line at home against Virginia Tech (6:15 p.m.)
  • Big East play begins with Villanova trying to bounce back from a loss on Wednesday night and in their first meeting against Butler, this time hosting the Bulldogs (noon), while Marquette tries to keep their momentum going at St. John’s (noon). Then Xavier goes to Creighton (2:30 p.m.), Seton Hall tries to bounce back at Georgetown and Providence hosts DePaul (both at 4 p.m.)
  • Big 12 play starts with West Virginia trying to remain on a roll as they host Oklahoma State (noon), then Kansas goes to Baylor, Iowa State hosts an Oklahoma team trying to bounce back, Texas tries to bounce back at TCU (all at 2 p.m.) and Kansas State hosts Texas Tech (8 p.m.)
  • A showdown is on tap in the Big South as UNC Asheville hosts Radford (2 p.m.)
  • In the Big Ten, two teams that have a lot of work to do for the NCAA Tournament meet to get started as Maryland hosts Northwestern (noon), then another showdown is on tap as Michigan State hosts Purdue (4 p.m.) Later, Ohio State tries to keep their momentum going as they host Iowa (6 p.m.)
  • First place is on the line in Ivy League play as Penn visits Harvard (4 p.m.)
  • In the Mountain West, Nevada tries to bounce back from Thursday night’s loss to UNLV as they host San Diego State (8 p.m.), while Boise State heads to Utah State (9 p.m.)
  • In the Pac-12, Arizona State hosts UCLA in a battle of big Thursday night winners (7 p.m.), then Arizona hosts USC in a battle of the two best teams in the conference for most of the season (10:15 p.m.)
  • SEC play begins with South Carolina really needing a win as they host Florida (noon), then a matchup of two 6-5 teams as Missouri hosts Mississippi State (2 p.m.) and Auburn tries to bounce back on the road at a Georgia team desperate to get a quality win and get back on track (3:30 p.m.) Later, Alabama hosts Tennessee (6 p.m.), then Texas A&M tries to build off Wednesday night’s win at Auburn as they host Kentucky (8:15 p.m.)
  • The WAC has their top two teams matching up as New Mexico State puts their undefeated mark on the line against Grand Canyon (9 p.m.)
  • The game of the night is the West Coast Conference showdown in Moraga as Saint Mary’s hosts Gonzaga (10 p.m.)

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