by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

Look out for the ...Ivy League?

While we are not expecting the Ivies to end what will almost surely become a 36-year drought of missing the Final Four, the 2014-15 campaign nonetheless looks like it could feature the best collection of Ivy reps in many moons. The latest indicator came on Wednesday night in Lexington, when all-powerful, top-ranked Kentucky found itself down 11-0 before it knew what hit it, and was still behind President Obama's alma mater Columbia, 25-23, at halftime. Yes, the Wildcats would eventually gain control in the second half, and the Lions are still winless vs. SEC foes (against whom they are now 4-12 SU in their history) since the 1957-58 season, when they beat Auburn. But the UK margin of victory was only 10 points at 56-46. And the Wildcats were impressed.

"They came in, played well and hit shots. We had to fight from behind for the majority of the game," said UK's frosh star F Trey Lyles.

"You have got to give a lot of credit to Columbia," Cat HC John Calipari said. "They were not afraid. They played Michigan State (a season ago) the same way they played us ... and they knew they could do this. They did a great job of spreading us out."

What has gotten the attention of college hoops observers, however, is that Columbia's near-miss at Kentucky is not an isolated incident involving Ivy teams in the first month of this season. Yale recently shocked defending national champion UConn, 45-44, in Storrs. In a crosstown rivalry that has been slanted toward Big East Providence for many years, it was local Ivy rep Brown scoring a 77-67 stunner on Monday night at the Dunkin Donuts Center. Earlier, Cornell, considered an outsider in the league race, shocked George Mason in Fairfax, 68-60, and came within one point on the road at Big Ten Penn State.

And we have yet to even talk about Ivy preseason favorite Harvard, which has won Big Dance games each of the past two years for HC Tommy Amaker. The Crimson have started fast once again at 8-1, and have an interesting upcoming test vs. sixth-ranked and unbeaten Virginia in their next game on December 21. Or perennial contender Princeton, which appears to have another typically functional and capable edition.

Perhaps Yale's HC James Jones was prophetic when he predicted prior to the season that as many as five Ivy teams could get to 20 wins this term. It's still not the Big Ten or ACC, but there are a lot of leagues further down the D-I totem pole than the Ivy this season.

Although the Final Four drought has endured for nearly four decades, the Ivies have never really disappeared from the college hoop scene. Over the past four decades, one or two reps per season have usually been formidable. For much of that period of time, it was Princeton and/or Penn waging wars for league supremacy. The legendary HC Pete Carril had several memorable Tiger editions, including the 1975 NIT champions led by future NBA G (and longtime NBA assistant coach, now with the Clippers) Armond Hill.

Three years earlier, Carril's 1972 Princeton version had drawn Bob Knight's first Indiana team in an opening-round NIT clash (in the years when all of the NIT games were played at Madison Square Garden). In the excellent biography Knight, written by the legendary Bob Hammel, "The General" spoke of what happened in that game vs. the Tigers.

"When I went into coaching, there was a prevailing belief that play in the Big Ten was rough-"no harm, no foul"-and the East was a finesse area," said Knight. "Well, I had just spent a season in the Big Ten, and when we went back East to play in the NIT, Princeton manhandled us and won 68-60.

"Pete Carril (right) always did a great job with his players. He was an extraordinary teacher of basketball. And that day his team was far more physical than any team we played in the Big Ten.

"We got off to a good start against Princeton--we were ahead 12-4. There was a time-out, they added a third guard named Reggie Bird, and they just throttled us."

Of course, Carril's best Princeton teams would make noise for the next couple of decades, counting several Big Dance qualifiers. Including a Tiger squad that came as close as possible to scoring the first No. 16 seed vs. No. 1 seed upset in Big Dance history when his 1989 team fell by only 50-49 against John Thompson's Georgetown. Carril's 1996 edition, as a No. 13 seed, dumped defending national champion UCLA, 43-41.

Indeed, Princeton has often been the flagship Ivy program since we began to publish TGS in 1957. Prior to Carril, Butch Van Breda Kolff's Tiger teams were often in the national discussion. Again we'll leave it to Bob Knight, also from the biography Knight, written by the aformentioned Bob Hammel, to further describe the Princeton style.

"When Butch Van Breda Kolff (left) was there, Princeton was one of the best-coached teams I ever saw," said Knight. "Bill Bradley was playing then. Princeton's players were obviously smart, they played well defensively, and they were very good offensively. They played with keys--if the passer went inside, that was one thing; if he cut to the bucket, it was another thing. They didn't just run plays, they keyed off movement. Pete Carril, Van Breda Kolff's replacement, carried that same approach to incredible success in his own career at Princeton. I tried to incorporate that into what I wanted to do at Indiana, but almost exclusively built on reading the defense."

Knight's mention of Bill Bradley recalls one of only two Ivy teams to reach the Final Four in the TGS era. With "Dollar Bill" as the star, Princeton became the talk of the country as Van Breda Kolff's team stormed into the Final Four at Portland. Where, unfortunately for the Tigers, they ran into the one hurdle they couldn't overcome that season, Cazzie Russell-led Michigan. But those Van Breda Kolff Tigers were also the first Ivy team to reach a Final Four since 1944.

The Ivies had de-emphasized their football programs in the mid 50s, but could still field on occasional basketball power, which, thanks to Bradley, the Tigers became in 1964-65.

Bradley, a matchup nightmare as a 6'5 swingman with a vast array of shots who bypassed the Big Ten (where Purdue had seemed his likely college destination) and instead matriculated to the Ivies from the St. Louis area, had taken the entire East Coast by storm that season, too, as even normal Notre Dame "subway alums" in the New York area began to embrace Princeton and the Bradley storyline, packing the old Madison Square Garden for the annual Holiday Festival Tourney in late December to cheer the Tigers on against jazzy Cazzie and the highly-ranked Wolverines, who had reached the Final Four the previous spring, knocking off defending champion Loyola-Chicago along the way in the Mideast regional before losing to Jeff Mullins and Duke in the national semifinals in Kansas City.

Before the anticipated matchup vs. Michigan, Bradley and Princeton had to get past Syracuse in a first-round matchup. The Tigers had made the short ride to Manhattan still with the stigma of their supposedly weak Ivy League affiliation detracting from their notices. But it took Bradley only a few minutes vs. the 'Cuse to show that the Ivies could play as hard as they studied. Syracuse set up in a four-man box zone defense, with ace defender Sam Penceal assigned just to Bradley. Penceal literally clung to Bradley, clutching, grabbing, clawing. Suddenly, obviously furious, Bradley lashed back with an elbow that rocked the husky Penceal as hard as any elbow he had ever received on the Brooklyn playgrounds where he learned the game. The crowd gasped, then whooped in appreciation; the referee sent Penceal to the free-throw line. A minute later, Bradley finally broke away from Penceal and got the ball for the first time. Immediately, he sank a 20-foot jump shot. By the half he had 23 points, and eventually 36, and Princeton won 79-69 in this battle of orange-laced uniforms.

Bradley's aura grew even larger when scoring 41 in a narrow loss the next night to the Wolverines...even more so because he tallied all of those points before fouling out with 4:37 to play and his team, which was a 12-point underdog, actually ahead by 12 points! Without Bradley, however, the Tigers failed to hold on to their advantage and ended up an 80-78 loser. But by the time the Final Four had rolled around, Bradley had become a big storyline coast-to-coast.

Bradley was still about as close to a one-man show as any college player we ever recall. In the East Regionals at Maryland's Cole Field House, Bradley was mesmerizing. First, Princeton disposed of Press Maravich's ACC title winners from NC State by a 66-48 scoreline, but Bradley was at his best in the regional final vs. Joe Mullaney's fourth-ranked Providence side featuring future pros Jimmy Walker and Mike Riordan. Bradley was magnificent, making 14 of 20 shots, all 13 of his free throws, and scoring 41 points. Plus he added nine assists and ten rebounds. Final score: Princeton 109, Providence 69!

And it was the whole team that everyone was cheering. The Tigers shot a staggering 68.3% from the floor against Providence (while Bradley shot 70%) and 72.7% in the second half. In one stretch the Tigers went 12 minutes without missing a shot--14 straight from the floor and the free-throw line. By his presence, Bradley seemed to make all of that possible, because the opposition was forced to concentrate on him, but never before had his teammates been so skillful at capitalizing on that advantage.

Michigan, however, was the Kryptonite for that Princeton team, featuring the explosive Russell, like Bradley a 6'5 swingman with an extensive repertoire of shots, but the Wolverines were bigger and stronger than the Tigers, who would be their NCAA semifinal foe in a later rematch in Portland of the Holiday Festival classic at Madison Square Garden in December. Indeed, at times the Wolverines' offense would appear crude, without much structure or finesse, instead emphasizing brute power, with the main "bread and butter" play simply calling for Russell to slide off 6'7 Bill Buntin at the high post, move underneath, and look for a pass. If Cazzie couldn't shake his man, he'd usually break out for a quick little jumper behind a screen set by 6'7 F Oliver Darden. Otherwise, Dave Strack's Wolverines would either crash the glass with the springy Buntin (who was also a 20 ppg scorer) and Darden or rugged 6'5 Larry Tregoning, or cast off long bombs from the perimeter, many of those by the prolific Russell, who scored a whopping 25.7 ppg that season.

In the semifinals at Portland, Bradley, as was the case in the December meeting vs. the Wolverines at Madison Square Garden, found himself in foul trouble, and the Tigers could not compensate. Having problems controlling the bigger Wolverines off the glass, Princeton really got caught in the quicksand when Bradley picked up his fourth personal barely a minute into the second half. Van Breda Kolff was thus forced to employ an unfamiliar zone defense to protect Bradley, but Michigan was still able to navigate easily into the paint and score from close range. When Bradley, who scored 29 points, eventually fouled out with 5 minutes to play, Princeton's last chances were extinguished with him. Thanks to a lopsided 56-34 rebound edge, Michigan won handily, 93-76, qualifying for the title game against the Wichita-UCLA winner. Meanwhile, Bradley would score 58 points in the old "consolation game" for third place against Wichita State, setting an NCAA Tourney single-game scoring mark that stands to this day.

Princeton wasn't the only Ivy Final Four qualifier of the TGS era, however. Bob Weinhauer's Penn Quakers were the next, and most recent, Final Four Ivy rep during their wild ride in 1978-79 that, like Bill Bradley's Princeton, also ended against a Big Ten foe from Michigan, this time Magic Johnson's Michigan State, in the Final Four at Salt Lake City.

That Penn side, which this writer saw lose a double-OT game in the old Cabrillo Classic in San Diego vs. Lute Olson's Iowa just before New Year's, remains one of the most unlikely Final Four qualifiers in memory. Though some longtime Ivy followers have always had mixed emotions about that Quakers team...which, much like Tommy Amaker's current Harvard, didn't much resemble a traditional Ivy entry.

Thanks to a New York Times piece subsequent to the Final Four, some wondered if Penn had abandoned the core Ivy values--a healthy, well-rounded mixture of academics and athletics, with an added emphasis on the former. The Philly school, however, seemed to be emphasizing the latter...at least with its basketball team.

Criticism of the Quakers had actually been building since the late 1960s, when Penn adopted a special admissions policy in which 15 percent of each freshman class was to be set aside for students who normally would not have been accepted. One-third of those "special-admit" spots were to be utilized specifically for athletes.

Under HC Dick Harter, and then Chuck Daly, then Weinhauer, Penn would emerge as an Ivy powerhouse for most of the '70s. At one point in the decade, the Quakers strung together six 20-win seasons and four Ivy championships. But the dominance and the types of players Penn was suddenly unearthing did not go unnoticed by the rest of the Ivies. The whispering started to become more noticeable when the Quakers brought in Tony Price (right) and Bobby Willis, both highly touted players from The Bronx, who would eventually form the nucleus of the 1978-79 team.

The NYT piece did acknowledge that the mean college board scores of the specially admitted Penn athletes were nearly the same as those for all of the special admit. And basketball might have been a byproduct of a school admission policy that had been, as the Times said, "stretched to admit the children of old graduates...or a promising oboe player."

But even at Penn, there was a vocal anti-athletics constituency. One such faculty committee issued a report recommending financial cutbacks in the athletic program and modifications of the special admissions procedure. Dr. Robert Lucid, then an English professor and member of the committee, minced no words in summarizing the fact-finding report. "We want to keep the Ivy ideals," said Lucid. "We don't want to be dealing in big-time sports."

Former Yale athletic director Frank Ryan was another vocal critic of Penn's policy. "We want to maintain that fair, competitive environment," Ryan said in the NYT story. "We want a chance to win when we play. They'll be getting kids we want, sure, but couldn't get because of our standards. So it affects us directly on the playing field.

"I would recommend that the league meet now and discuss a more balanced and uniform admissions policy."

In the NYT article, Martin Meyerson, Penn's president at the time, expressed disappointment. "I get the feeling we are going to be persecuted for being this good," he said. "They're going to look at this (the Final Four appearance) closely, and suggest that we admit athletes just to play basketball, which is not the case."

By the early '80s, Penn's critics had their wish, as the Ivy League adopted an across-the-board, minimum qualifying standard known as the academic index. Phased in over several years, it was a formula that combined a student's college board scores with his or her high school grades and other factors such as class rank. Almost without exception, students failing to qualify were not accepted. Eventually, those guidelines would be modified and relaxed, and the Penn-like "special admits" would become commonplace throughout the league (with Amaker and Harvard taking particular advantage in recent years.)

Penn's thrill ride in 1978-79 included not only that classic matchup vs. Iowa in San Diego but also a pair of overtime wins over Carril's Princeton during the regular season. The Quakers were experienced; key F Price, G Willis, C Matt White, and F Tim Smith, were all senior starters, and G James Salters (left) was a junior. Weinhauer's first five were not quite the "iron man five" of Ray Meyer's DePaul that also qualified for the Final Four (and would beat the Quakers 96-93 in the second-to-last Final Four consolation game in history), as G Ken Hall provided consistent spark off the bench, and due to White's recurring foul problems (he was disqualified on 15 different occasions that season!), reserve F Vincent Ross and frosh F Tom Leifsen would often be forced into action. For the most part, Weinhauer relied upon his starters, using the bench sparingly.

But it was balance, a legit go-to threat in Price (who scored a team-best 19 ppg), and senior-influenced poise that would carry the Quakers into March and to Salt Lake City, where their presence, as well as that of the legendary Meyer with his DePaul team, would capture the imagination of nation. As much so, in fact, as the presence of Larry Bird's unbeaten Indiana State and Magic Johnson's Michigan State, which, contrary to popular belief, were not the only major storylines at the 1979 Final Four.

Prior to the Final Four, Penn white-knuckled its way through the East Regional at a time when the NCAA Tourney consisted only of 40 teams. Which was an increase of eight teams over the 32-team field from 1975-78.

As the 9th seed (of 10) in the East, Penn would open vs. 8th seed Iona, coached by none other than Jim Valvano and featuring rugged then-soph frontliner Jeff Ruland, who would eventually advance to the NBA. The sub-regional site would be Raleigh and Reynolds Coliseum, where Valvano would soon move to take over the program at NC State. Ruland would force the foul-prone Matt White to the bench, requiring Weinhauer to call upon frosh Leifsen (1978-79 was the first Ivy season in which frosh were eligible for varsity play), who would make four clutch free throws in the final minutes as the Quakers, whose 41-29 halftime edge had been cut to one, would hold on for a 73-69 win behind Price's 27 points.

Not many gave Penn a chance in the second round vs. regional top seed North Carolina, which like the top six regional seeds had a bye in the first round. But Dean Smith's Tar Heels could not shake the Quakers, who finally forged a lead at the 10:19 mark of the second half. Clutch baskets by Price, who finished with 25 points, and a late FT by Salters allowed Penn to hold off a late Tar Heel charge to emerge a shock 72-71 winner. When Lou Carnesecca's St. John's would also upset Duke, it created a "Black Sunday" in Carolina and would suppress the crowd counts for the following week's regional down Tobacco Road in Greensboro.

Next up for Penn was Syracuse, with its third-year HC Jim Boeheim. Daring to run with the Orangemen (as Syracuse was called in those days), who scored a whopping 90 ppg that season, the Quakers would play what Weinhauer called the team's "best half of the season" when storming to a 50-37 lead at intermission. 'Cuse would make a second-half run, but the Quakers, who converted only one field goal in the final eight minutes, were still up to the task, nailing 22 of 26 FT attempts in the second half en route to an 84-76 win, with Price again leading the way with 20 points.

The Quakers were helped by a bizarre officiating error late in the second half. In the midst of an Orange rally that shaved a 17-point deficit to five, the refs didn't allow Penn to shoot what should have been a one-and-one free-throw opportunity. It was almost a minute later, when the Quakers were fouled again, that the officials realized their mistake and ruled it a "correctable error." Penn was thus awarded four foul shots, all of which were made to throttle the Syracuse comeback.

Asked after the game if he was e "embarrassed" at having lost to an Ivy League team, Boeheim gave the standard response regarding that season's Quakers. "I've said it before," said a young Boeheim. "Penn is not an Ivy League team. They are a Big 5 school from Philadelphia that plays good basketball."

Now, all that stood in the way of a Final Four appearance for the Quakers would be St. John's, a winner over Rutgers on the same card in which Penn topped Syracuse. But the invasion of the Yankee schools into the Carolinas did not excite the local fan base in Greensboro. After barely 9,000 had shown up for the pair Sweet 16 games, just over 7,000 would attend the regional final in a building with nearly 16,000 seats. Because the regional final was televised nationally, the Coliseum P.A. announcer made a request to the crowd for some noise, and what he got was the sound of one hand clapping. When the attendance of 7,216 was announced, the crowd booed itself.

At least the Redmen (as they were then called) had Carnesecca to liven the atmosphere. Ever the quipster, the coach was in good form prior to tipoff. Acknowledging that Penn had the usual Ivy league intelligence, Carnesecca would then add a classic Looie line. "They'd better be smart," said Carnesecca. "Someday they'll be controlling our country."

St. John's entered the Dance as an even longer shot than the Quakers, seeded 10th and last in the East, meaning the Redmen were one of the final teams to qualify for the Dance. St. John's had to win nine of its last 11 games to get a surprise bid, then at various times looked ready to expire in the Dance before struggling back to beat Temple, Duke and Rutgers in the regional prior to the Elite Eight matchup, and a ticket to the Final Four, vs. Penn.

There was not much space between these upstarts, who went back-and-forth all afternoon. Carnesecca was able to tempo the game in St. John's favor, slowing the pace, though Penn would still hold a 29-26 lead at the break. The Redmen, with Ron Plair scoring 21 points and C Wayne McKoy proving a force on the blocks, nosed ahead on a few occasions in the second half, but never again after a Tim Smith jumper put the Quakers up 55-54 with 5:44 to play. St. John's leveled the score at 62-62, but with 23 seconds to play fouled the cool and collected James Salters, who nailed a pair of free throws to put the Quakers up 64-62. The Johnnies took three shots at the Penn basket in the final seconds, including a good look by Plair, but none would fall. Penn would be on the way to the Final Four!

The Quakers' Cinderella ride would end in Salt Lake City when Magic Johnson, Greg Kelser and Michigan State cruised to a 101-67 romp, but the Quakers had been playing with house money ever since the Dance commenced. And, as the decades have passed, the fact that Penn made it all of the way to the Final Four might be a more enduring storyline than what Magic or Bird accomplished that March...no matter what Seth Davis and others might have to say.


Now, a quick update on the current Ivy reps and how they are progressing in the new 2013-15 campaign. Straight-up and pointspread records are thru December 10.

BROWN (SUR 5-6, PSR 2-3)...Mike Martin's Bears made it to the CIT last season and return four starters from that team, though the one who departed, G Sean McGonagill, was the team's leading scorer at 17.4 ppg. An emerging force is 6'7 soph F Leland King (left), an Inglewood, CA product scoring at 16 ppg, while another soph, Dallas product 6-6 SG Steven Spieth, adds 10 ppg. The Bruins have a nice mix of athleticism and brute force, the latter exhibited by rugged frontliners 6'8 Cedric Kuakumensah and 6'9 Rafael Maia, both 235-lb. brutes. A problem in the early going has been an inverted assist-TO ratio (11-17), though soph PG Tavon Blackmon played one of his better games of the season with an 11-point, 7-assist effort in the Monday win over Providence. Blackmon's progress is likely to be a key for Brown's hopes of making it back to a postseason event in March.

COLUMBIA (5-3 SU, 1-0 PSR)...The Lions did not enter the season completely under the radar, having advanced to the third round of the CIT last spring. All five starters return for HC Kyle Smith, whose team hasn't been shooting the ball as well yet as a year ago when canning 39% of its triples (thus far it's only 32% beyond the arc), but the tempo-conscious Lions are allowing only 50.8 ppg, ranking fourth nationally, as Kentucky discovered on Wednesday. Columbia is lengthy in the backcourt, with a lot of 6'3 and 6'4-types covering a lot of ground on the perimeter, and HC Smith has a legit big in 6'11 sr. Corey Ostrowski (9 ppg and 8 rpg). If there is a concern for Smith it is that he will be without 6'7 F Alex Rosenberg (16 ppg a year ago) for the season due to a foot injury, which has put a bit more scoring burden upon jr. G Madao Lo, who at 16.8 ppg is the only double-digit scorer through the first eight games.

CORNELL (5-4 SU, PSR 4-1)...The consensus pick to finish last in the league after last year's 2-26 SU mark, the Big Red has been much improved for 5th-year HC Bill Courtney, who served on Jim Larranaga's staff at George Mason. The opening win over Mason set a much brighter tone in Ithaca, especially with 6'7 F Shonn Miller, Courtney's best player who missed last season with a shoulder injury, healthy again and scoring a team-best 14 ppg. Miller is one of four DD scorers for Courtney, including soph G Robert "Mad" Hatter (13 ppg) and a scoring PG in 6'3 sr. Devin Cherry (10.2 ppg). Cornell has improved defensively with the return of Miller, and the Big Red has a 3-game SU win streak heading into its next game on Dec. 21 vs. Radford.

DARTMOUTH (SUR 3-4, PSR 0-2)...We haven't seen a lot of the Big Green, but do know that key 6'9 Lithuanian sr. C Gabas Maldunas has returned to active duty from the torn ACL he suffered last January. He's one of four returning starters from HC Paul Cormier, now beginning his 12th season in Hanover. One of the Ivy's better point guards, jr. Alex Mitola (15 ppg), came into his own in the second half of last season. Mitola, only 5'11, and 5'9 jr. Malik Gill cause some matchup issues for Cormier vs. bigger backcourts, but Gill is a Muggsy Bogues-like disruptor on the stop end, so Cormier is not hesitant to go with the smaller backcourt. Some regional reps believe this is the best chance for Laura Ingraham's alma mater to get above .500 since the 1998-99 season.

HARVARD (SUR 8-1, PSR 3-2)...Still the acknowledged favorite in the loop despite losing a key trio (Gs Brandyn Curry & Laurent Rivard and PF Kyle Casey) from last year's 27-5 team that won a fourth straight Ivy crown and beat Cincinnati in the Big Dance after scoring another NCAA upset over New Mexico the previous year. Still around from those recent powerhouses, however, are 6'5 swingman Wesley Saunders (last year's Ivy MVP when scoring 14.2 ppg) and jr. PG Siyani Chambers (left, with Amaker), two very key cogs for HC Tommy Amaker the past two seasons. Harvard is still shooting nearly 48% from the floor and an outstanding 77% from the charity stripe. Seniors Steve Moundou-Missi and Kenyatta Smith are angry frontline components, and Amaker is also not afraid to use his deep bench, though it appears from the early going as if Saunders (lone DD scorer at 20.1 ppg) might be carrying a bit too much of the offensive burden.

PENN (SUR 3-5, PSR 2-1)...Here is one Ivy situation that is having a bit of trouble, as former Quaker star and now HC Jerome Allen is on the hot seat after just one winning record in his first five seasons in charge. Penn is hoping that three wins on the trot (after opening 0-5) might signify a turning of the corner, but the schedule also provided a few softer spots to get well (Navy, Binghamton, Marist). Note that Big Five dates vs. La Salle, Villanova, and St. Joe's are still to come, as is a trip to SEC Vanderbilt. Allen has a decent 1-2 outside-inside scoring punch with jr. G Tony Hicks (15 ppg) and 6'11 jr. C Darien Nelson-Henry (10.4 ppg), but could use promising frosh F Mike Auger to return soon from a foot injury after an encouraging start in November. Soph Jamal Lewis, who was expected to take over PG duties, has missed all of the season thus far due to illness. Unless Allen gets his full complement of players by the time league play commences in January, his chances of surviving into 2015-16 (especially after last year's 8-20 mark) could be problematic.

PRINCETON (SUR 3-7, PSR 2-4)...As usual, the Tigers have had a fairly tough early slate, but their 3-7 SU mark is still rather disappointing. Pushed favored UTEP and San Diego in the recent Wooden Legacy Tourney in California, though a recent loss to Fairleigh-Dickinson has Tiger backers a bit anxious with HC Mitch Henderson, who still employs the old Princeton motion offense that dates to the Van Breda Kolff and Carril years but this season is minus prolific G T.J. Bray, who led the Tigers in scoring the past few years and tallied an Ivy-best 18 ppg a season ago. Soph F Spencer Weisz (14.9 ppg; 47% triples) was the Ivy Rookie of the Year last season and has taken on much of Bray's scoring duties, but the Tigers are missing the contributions of graduated 6-10 F Will Barrett, and have left 6'8 jr. Hans Brase to handle too much of the rebounding load. The Tigers have thus been subpar on the boards, which its storied motion offense has yet to overcome on a consistent basis.

YALE (SUR 8-3, PSR 4-2)...We'll give the Eli a mulligan for their 85-47 loss at angry Florida on Monday, coming three days after Yale's rousing win at UConn. But last year's CIT finalist returns all five starters for 16th-year HC James Jones, led by 6'8 F Justin Sears (14.8 ppg) & 6'4 G Javier Duren (right; 13.4 ppg). What Jones would probably like to see is a bit more consistency beyond the arc (Yale only 31.7% triples thus far), which could theoretically open more opportunities for punishing frontliners Matt Townsend and Sears to get better looks on the blocks. But either Duren or Sears could make a run at Ivy MVP honors, and the Eli believe they could be Big Dance-bound for the first time since 1962. A late November win over a tough field (including Southern Illinois and Kent State) at the Kent State Tourney was further confirmation that Yale is prepared to better last year's 19-14 mark.

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