The Ancient Eight is down to the Final Four. The Ivy League men’s basketball tournament is the newest and one of the most unique events of the chaotic week of basketball. With only half of the Ivy League’s eight iconic institutions qualifying, all 14 regular-season games hold an incredible amount of importance.
Just this year, on the last day of the season, Yale’s win over Brown clinched them the No. 1 seed, thus avoiding either Princeton or Penn, the other two top teams in the league. And Cornell took advantage of Brown’s loss, qualifying for the four-team tournament with their win over Columbia last Saturday.
THE FIELD IS SET.— The Ivy League (@IvyLeague) March 5, 2023
No. 1 @YaleMBasketball
No. 2 @PrincetonMBB
No. 3 @PennMBB
No. 4 @CUBigRedHoops
Purchase your tickets to next weekend's #IvyMadness presented by @TIAA in Princeton below. ⤵️
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All games at Jadwin Gym, Princeton, N.J. All times are listed as eastern
Semifinals (Saturday, March 11), ESPNU
Game 1: (4) Cornell vs. (1) Yale, 11:00 a.m.
Game 2: (3) Penn vs. (2) Princeton, 1:30 p.m.
Championship (Sunday, March 12), ESPN2
Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, noon
Yale (20-7, 10-4)
James Jones has yet another really strong team at Yale. It’s an all-around stout group that finds itself in the top 80 of both offense and defense. Star Matt Knowling will return to the court this weekend for the Bulldogs after missing three games.
Four players that played big minutes in last year’s Ivy League Championship win over Princeton take the court for Yale: Knowling, Bez Mbeng, Isaiah Kelly and EJ Jarvis.
Jarvis, in particular, has taken a huge step forward this year, becoming a super reliable inside scorer for the Bulldogs. He registered a 34-point performance in a win over Cornell.
Knowling didn’t play last weekend against Brown, but the Bulldogs still picked up the win behind Mbeng’s 27 points.
There are a lot of different scoring options on a given day for Yale. The Bulldogs are the top 3-point shooting team in the Ivy League.
After a rocky start to league play, losing three of its first four games, Yale won nine out of 10 to close out the season with the only loss coming by two points at the Palestra.
Princeton (19-8, 10-4)
Everything for Princeton revolves around the Geordie big man Tosan Evbuomwan. Just watch a Princeton possession, and you’ll see how he diagnoses the defense from the high post and the 3-point line, waiting for cutters and screeners. Evbuomwan probably handles the ball just as much if not more than any other big man in the country.
Outside of the big man, Keeshawn Kellman and Caden Pierce add size to the frontcourt, and Matt Allocco and Ryan Langborg are one of the biggest backcourts in the Ivy League. While there’s no seven-footer, everybody in the lineup is above 6-foot-4-inches, helping them feature the best 2-point defense in the Ivy League.
After falling behind by 19 against Penn last weekend, the Tigers came all the way back to force overtime and defeat the Quakerswith four players in double figures despite shooting 9-for-37 from deep. After Jordan Dingle had 21 points in the first half, Princeton held him to just seven for the rest of the game.
Penn (17-12, 9-5)
Penn led Princeton by 19 points last Saturday and was about to win its ninth game in a row but then it all crumbled. The hot shooting immediately cooled off, and the Quakers are now the only team in the top four heading into the tournament off a loss.
To make matters worse, Penn has to face Princeton again, who has defeated them on eight consecutive occasions. Trying to change that will be the Ivy League Player of the Year Jordan Dingle, who averaged 23.6 PPG this season. Dingle is a one-man scoring machine, who has carried the Quaker offense as some of his supporting cast has begun to fade throughout the season. Dingle is capable of hitting threes off the dribble, off the catch and creating offense at all three levels.
Aiding him, Nick Spinoso is one of the better passing big men in mid-major basketball. He can conduct offense from the high post. Clark Slajchert is one of those players who has faded over the course of the season, but his 31-point performance against Brown and 33-point performance against Colgate show his ceiling.
Additionally, the Quakers’ rotation features five other players who all play over 30% of the minutes and provide production in some way.
Cornell (17-10, 7-7)
Cornell is going to try to make whoever they play speed up to their tempo. They’re going to try to outscore their opponents. The Big Red maintains its pace by playing one of the nation’s deepest benches. Five difference players have attempted over 100 2-point field goals, and all of them have a 2-point field goal percentage above 52%. The team as a whole has the sixth-best 2-point percentage offense in the country.
Cornell’s shot-making is the best in the Ivy League, with the top eFG%. The Big Red also forces the most turnovers on defense, creating high-quality transition shots. Cornell runs in transition more often than 97% of teams in college basketball, and it is in the 81st percentile in spot-up efficiency.
Cornell also has the top assist rate in the Ivy League, with Chris Manon, Greg Dolan, Nazir Williams and Isaiah Gray all putting up an assist rate of 20 or higher.
The Big Red lost five of its last seven games, and in its game against Yale on Feb. 25, it was slowed down to just 66 possessions, well slower than they would prefer to go. In order for Cornell to beat Yale, they’ll need to dictate the tempo, as they did on Jan. 13.
Players to Watch
Matt Knowling, Yale (14.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG)
John Poulakidas, Yale (11.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG)
EJ Jarvis, Yale (11.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG)
Tosan Evbuomwan, Princeton (14.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 4.8 APG)
Ryan Langborg, Princeton (12.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG)
Matt Allocco, Princeton (11.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG)
Jordan Dingle, Penn (23.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG)
Clark Slajchert, Penn (13.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG)
Max Martz, Penn (11.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG)
Greg Dolan, Cornell (13.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.6 APG)
Nazir Williams, Cornell (13.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG)
Chris Manon, Cornell (11.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG)
With a healthy Knowling, I think it’s hard for anybody to take down Yale, and I don’t expect anybody to do so. While I wouldn’t be shocked, as every team in this conference tournament is very good.