For the first time in history, both men’s and women’s Ivy League basketball teams have a tournament to play for, with the top four teams in each gender advancing to an Ivy League tournament at The Palestra, or UPenn’s “Cathedral of College Basketball.”
“[It’s] something that gives you an extra notch and want to play. Knowing that the top four still have a chance is big and knowing that just because you’re not first doesn’t mean you’re out,” said senior guard Robert Hatter, who hopes to get a crack at the inaugural tournament in his last season for Cornell.
Unlike Hatter, sophomore forward Stone Gettings has only one year of collegiate basketball to his name. But the six-foot-eight California native — in the midst of a breakout season, where he is ranked thirteenth in the league in points per game without starting a game last season — shares the sentiment with his teammate on the difference in emotions surrounding a season with something additional to play for in the postseason.
“As anybody who has played in the Ivy League before knows, if you get a few loses early on, it takes the wind out of your sails,” he said. “But now with the tournament you definitely don’t feel that way. You feel that you are still in it.”
At the current moment, Cornell’s men sit at .500 in Ivy play following a split weekend against Harvard and Dartmouth. The Red led the Crimson at the half, but the men from Cambridge came back and stole one from Cornell on the road. Against Dartmouth, Cornell handled its opponent in both halves, defeating the Green, 75-62, to keep Dartmouth winless in Ivy play.
Now, with two of the Ivy League’s most powerful offenses Brown and Yale looming this coming weekend, Cornell men’s basketball is at a pivotal moment in its season.
“We’re pretty confident coming into practice [this week],” Gettings said. “There’s good energy and a good level so far this week.”
For the second-worst scoring defense in the Ancient Eight, Cornell will take on some of the premier scoring talents in the league. Brown boasts the second-highest scorer in the league in Steven Spieth, trailing only Cornell’s sophomore guard Matt Morgan.
Yale posts a lineup with highly-capable athletes too. Three of the top 15 scorers in the league don a Bulldog jersey, and Yale’s 75.2 points per game is second in the league behind the Bears.
“We have to lock them and make sure they take the shots that we want them to take and not the shots that they want to take,” Hatter said.
On the other hand, Brown resides in the basement of the Ivy League when it comes to defensive capabilities, allowing a league-worst 77.3 points per game, but just .2 worse than the Red.
With that in mind, “the team is prepared to go handle business this weekend,” Hatter said with a smile.
But before the Red can even think about the Ivy tournament, weekends like this can serve as a litmus test as what this team is really made of against teams the Red will finish its season against. At that point, it could be a sink or swim situation for this Cornell squad.
“Especially this year … I don’t think there is a dominant Ivy League team,” Gettings said. “We feel like we can play with anybody.”