Writing the Pine: Ivy League Postseason Basketball

Usually the end of March Madness brings with it nothing but a longing for more high intensity sports action that is only somewhat whetted by the start of spring baseball. This year things are different. This year Letterman retired. This year we, Hank and Fish, will rise like a phoenix (Jobin) from the ashes of The Dartmouth Sports section. We are bringing you raw, uncut, generally bad and poorly thought-out arguments on sports topics interesting to very few (perhaps only us, perhaps not even us). Welcome to Writing the Pine with Hank and Fish.

Stressed to impress, for our first topic we got to asking ourselves the tough questions. There are 32 conferences in Division I basketball. Each of these conferences receives one “automatic bid” into the postseason NCAA tournament. Thirty-one of these conferences award their “automatic bid” to the winner of a postseason single-elimination conference tournament. Only the Ivy League awards it differently, giving the “automatic bid” to the regular season champion, without holding a conference tournament at all. Supporters of the Ivy League system argue that the lack of a conference tournament allows student-athletes to focus on their work at an important juncture while also ensuring that only the best team from the conference is rewarded each year. Detractors make their case by claiming that a conference tournament would add excitement and uncertainty to a currently tedious close to the Ivy League season. We’ll argue; you decide.

Hank: The crowning of a national college basketball champion is not a methodical process in which good teams move deeper into the tournament as bad teams are sent home. In evaluating which team should get the chance to participate in the high stakes, single elimination NCAA basketball tournament, why should bids be given to teams solely based on their regular season play? Postseason success often requires a unique blend of skills that a regular season record cannot quite capture. In 2012, Western Kentucky University opened its season in the Sun Belt conference with 5 wins and 14 losses. WKU finished its regular season by winning 3 out of its 4 final games for a seventh seed in its conference tournament. They proceeded to win four straight games and deservedly claim the Sun Belt conference bid. WKU won its first four matchup and fell 64-57 in the first round to first seed Kansas University. In stellar postseason play, WKU earned the right to compete on college basketball’s biggest stage, bringing a new level of attention to the WKU men’s basketball program and to the university itself. As Dartmouth students, we have an even higher stake in this debate. Our men’s basketball program suffers from an apathetic student body and a team that may not see itself making the tournament before all current members have graduated. For Dartmouth, an Ivy league conference tournament would incite an interest in the student body and grant the men’s basketball team the hope for an NCAA bid a mere 3 wins away.

Fish: The key points to consider in this debate are what the Ivy League’s preferences should be. Should the Ivy League care more about the current excitement of the fans or should it try to ensure a great product on the floor for years to come? Should the Ivy League care about “giving every team a chance” or should its priority be in making sure that its representative can acquit itself respectably on a national stage? I’d argue that both these questions can be correctly answered with the second option. Without a conference tournament, the Ivy League makes sure that the best team in the conference is rewarded. The Ivy League will never face the embarrassment of the Big West conference which this season sent a 13-20 Cal Poly team to the tournament. Cal Poly made it to the second round where they failed to score even 40 points. Even on the off chance that one of these terrible regular season teams gets lucky, it is wiser to try and ensure that only your strongest team can battle basketball giants come March. By sending strong representatives to the NCAAs, the Ivy League raises the profile of the basketball conference as a whole. When possible recruits at home see Cornell or Harvard upsetting or competing with legendary basketball schools, they start to think of the Ivy League as a legitimate basketball conference. Better recruits will continue to come to the Ivy League and the profile of the conference will only get better and better. There is no reason to provide a team like this year’s Cornell squad the chance to win three straight games in a conference tournament and embarrass themselves against a number one seed. The 2-26 (1-13 Ivy) Big Red did not get a chance to compete for a spot in the NCAAs this March. Nor did they deserve one.

Hank: Well said, Fish. I really appreciate the time and effort that you clearly devoted into preparing your argument. However, I disrespectfully disagree. The whole point of college basketball, the whole reason anyone watches it is that every game is entirely unpredictable. The NCAA realizes this, and the frustratingly erratic results have spawned a massive bracket industry (Hey Buffet, Fish and I are still coming for that billion). A round robin schedule, whether or not it succeeds in anointing the “best team,” deprives Ivy League schools of a chance at an exciting postseason basketball atmosphere. The low student attendance at Dartmouth basketball games is primarily due to the fact that the games seem to lack meaning. Ever since “Linsanity,” the Harvard basketball program has catapulted itself into an echelon of its own in regards to Ivy League basketball. Dartmouth students lack the belief that the Big Green can outperform Harvard over the course of a regular season. If we aren’t going to experience the ultimate goal of televised March Madness glory, why come to games and watch our team compete without a sense of immediate purpose? This lack of a progression from regular season to postseason does not only affect the student body, but also the Big Green basketball players. In a sport in which veteran leadership can be so pivotal to a team’s success (Hey Mercer), the Dartmouth men’s basketball team suffers from a terrible player retention rate which is already hindered by the Ivy League’s policy of not having athletic scholarships. The institution of an Ivy League conference tournament has the potential to impact positive change at Ivy League schools with middling basketball programs like Dartmouth’s. Starting with building student and athlete hope, the result of a conference tournament could be more widespread basketball legitimization in the Ivy League. Let’s turn this campus into Dunk City.

Fish: Well said, Hank. I really appreciate the time and effort that you clearly devoted into preparing your argument. However, I think you’re dead wrong. First of all, “the whole reason anyone watches” college basketball is not because it is “entirely unpredictable.” If that were the case, watching a random number generator draw numbers out of a hat would be as popular as March Madness. Sure, part of March Madness’ appeal comes from the potential for upsets, but that is only true to a certain extent. The weakest six conference tournament champions (normally the teams that got luckiest in their tournaments when failing in the regular season) are seeded sixteenth in the NCAA tournament. In the history of the NCAA tournament, a sixteenth seed has never defeated a first seed. This year’s Dartmouth team would have undoubtedly been seeded sixteenth if they had won a hypothetical Ivy League tournament this year. If they had gotten blown out by a team like Florida in the first round, I don’t think that would have driven any more interest in the school. I think you make a few other misguided points as well. For example, the regular season games may seem meaningless now, but if we instituted a conference tournament, the games actually would be meaningless. The entire Ivy League regular season would only establish postseason seeding for an all-important conference tournament. Student interest would probably increase for that last tournament, but there would be no reason to pay attention to any regular season games. Finally, I think you misidentify the ingredient that can lead to better basketball success, even in a basketball wasteland like the Ivy League. The ingredient that leads to great success is not a great player (like Jeremy Lin), but a great coach like Harvard’s Tommy Amaker. If Dartmouth was willing to devote more resources to finding an impressive young basketball coach (perhaps University of Washington assistant coach Raphael Chillious?), they would exponentially increase their chances of becoming the best team in the Ivy League and fairly earning a spot in the NCAA tournament. (Think I got too serious at the end, I may have earned our readers’ respect, but I feel I’ve lost their love….)

Hank: Man, I am sweaty at my keyboard. Ah, Raphael Chillious, the final nail in my coffin. Readers, tune in next week for the next installment of “Writing” the Pine; Phil Hanlon, email us for advice on how to spend that $100 million.


Beilein joins men’s basketball coaching staff

The Big Green men’s basketball team finished last season with an overall record of 5-23, going 1-13 in the Ivy League.

Zach Ingbretsen / The Dartmouth Senior Staff


Patrick Beilein, current graduate manager at University of Michigan, was hired by newly-instated head coach, Paul Cormier, as an assistant coach for the men’s basketball team. Beilein leaves Michigan after two years of working alongside his father and Wolverine head coach, John Beilein.  “I wanted him to go out and experience other coaches and learn from other coaches,” John Beilein told Annarbor.com. “Patrick wanted to get on the floor.”Graduating in 2006 from West Virginia University, Beilein played for four years for the Mountaineers and finished his career with 1,001 points. Opting to continue playing after graduation, Beilein got a taste of professional basketball after a one-year stint with UCD Marian in Ireland from 2007-2008 before settling to work under his father at Michigan. The assistant coaching position at Dartmouth is Patrick Beilein’s first coaching stint. He will join Cormier in his first season coaching the Big Green after a subpar 2009-2010 campaign that saw former head coach Terry Dunn step down mid-season.

WEEKLY BREAKDOWN: Big Green Basketball



Doug Gonzalez / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Why there isn’t more chatter about Dartmouth’s Brittney Smith ’11 as the women’s Ivy League Basketball Player of the Year is beyond me. Not only is Smith averaging a double-double on the season with 12.4 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game, she also notched her fifth and sixth double-doubles of the season this past weekend en route to being named Ivy League Co-Player of the Week.
Smith helped demolish Cornell with a Dwight Howard-like effort, scoring 22 points, while pulling down 12 rebounds. She also contributed four steals and three blocks. As if that weren’t enough, Smith contributed 18 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and two steals in the tough 72-59 loss to Columbia on Saturday.
In other women’s Ivy League basketball news, Harvard had a solid weekend, posting two encouraging victories against Columbia and Cornell. Aided by Co-Player of the Week Emma Markley, the Crimson was able to secure a victory in its home Ivy League opener against the Lions on Friday and fend off the Big Red on Saturday to continue its undefeated season at home. Markley’s weekly honor was well deserved, as she averaged 14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks in the two wins. 
On the flip side, the men’s Ancient Eight basketball teams didn’t play very well — at all. Most of the weekend’s game featured blowouts, highlighted by Cornell’s thrashing of Dartmouth and Harvard on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The Big Green was only able to shoot a measly 27.6 percent from the field, which was easily a season-low, while the Big Red was firing on all cylinders, as it made 11 shots from behind the arc.
The 37 points scored by Dartmouth were the fewest posted by the team since late 2006 when it was destroyed by a No. 5 Kansas University squad, 83-32. However, in Dartmouth’s defense, Cornell just entered the national rankings and sits at the No. 25 position. The Big Red is the first Ivy League team to crack the top 25 since Princeton achieved the same feat in the 1997-1998 season, when it finished eighth in the final AP poll.

Basketball Star McGuire ’44 dies



Courtesy Of Hoophall.Com

For­mer mem­ber of the Big Green men’s bas­ket­ball team, Richard J. “Dick” McGuire ’44, and mem­ber of the Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame passed away today at the age of 84.

McGuire spent most of his col­le­giate ca­reer with St. John’s Uni­ver­sity in New York but played five games with the Big Green as part of a Navy train­ing pro­gram.

Fol­low­ing his ca­reer with the New York Knicks, “Tricky Dick” has his num­ber 15 re­tired in the rafters at Madi­son Square Gar­den, the Knicks’ home. In his 11 sea­sons in the NBA he was an all-star seven times. He still ranks third on the Knicks all-time as­sists list, 2,950.

He was in­ducted in the Nai­smith Memo­r­ial Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame in 1993.

After play­ing in the NBA as a guard, McGuire re­tired and went into coach­ing for the Knicks. At the time of his death, he was a con­sul­tant with the Knicks or­ga­ni­za­tion and liv­ing on Long Is­land.

McGuire is sur­vived by his wife, Teri, four chil­dren and seven grand­chil­dren.

Tournament expansion unlikely to benefit Ivy League, Cornell coach says

The Dartmouth

The NCAA and its broad­cast­ers have been meet­ing to dis­cuss a po­ten­tial ex­pan­sion of the NCAA men’s bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment from 65 to 96 teams, ac­cord­ing to the Sports Busi­ness Jour­nal. The move would ef­fec­tively in­cor­po­rate the cur­rent Na­tional In­vi­ta­tional Tour­na­ment into the NCAA tour­na­ment, and could re­sult in an ad­di­tional Ivy League team play­ing in March Mad­ness.
Under the plan, the top 32 seeds in the tour­na­ment would re­ceive byes, and the 64 ad­di­tional teams would play an extra game be­fore the field is trimmed from 96 to 64.
This may be good news to peren­nial also-rans in the ACC or Big 10. Even a die-hard sports fan would be hard pressed to name the win­ner of the NIT this year (Penn State).
But even with 96 teams in the tour­na­ment, it is un­likely that the Ivy League would re­ceive a sec­ond tour­na­ment bid. The move is being pushed by power con­fer­ence schools that face strong sched­ules but often miss out on tour­na­ment bids, Cor­nell men’s bas­ket­ball head coach Steve Don­ahue said in an in­ter­view with The Dart­mouth.
Don­ahue, whose squad has cap­tured the Ivy League’s au­to­matic bid the past two years, is not a fan of the pro­posal.
“My ini­tial re­ac­tion, not know­ing all the things that they’re talk­ing about is that I don’t like the idea,” Don­ahue said. “I think that we’re going to end up wa­ter­ing down the prod­uct. I think there’s great in­trigue [in the tour­na­ment] right now, and my ini­tial re­ac­tion would be let’s not mess with some­thing like that.”
The extra bids would prob­a­bly not help smaller schools such as Dart­mouth, Don­ahue said.
“That isn’t why they’re doing this,” Don­ahue said. “This is being ini­ti­ated by the higher con­fer­ences. I don’t think that’s why they’re doing it, trust me on that one.”
Over­all, the change could serve to di­lute the qual­ity of the field and the reg­u­lar sea­son, de­valu­ing the cov­eted 34 at-large spots awarded on Se­lec­tion Sun­day. Con­sider that, in last year’s tour­na­ment, Michi­gan, Mary­land and Ari­zona all re­ceived at-large bids with 13 losses.
Col­lege bas­ket­ball teams, un­like col­lege foot­ball teams, are given plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to prove that they be­long through pre-sea­son tour­na­ments, an ex­panded non-con­fer­ence sched­ule and con­fer­ence tour­na­ments. If a team is left out, it is often be­cause it is sim­ply not good enough to com­pete for the na­tional cham­pi­onship.
The NCAA tour­na­ment’s last major ex­pan­sion came in 1985, jump­ing from 53 to 64 teams. The play-in game was added in 2001.

Ivy Awards: Week of Nov. 30

The Dartmouth

After an­other week of bas­ket­ball ac­tion, the Ivy League re­leased its weekly hoops awards on Mon­day.

On the men’s side, Player of the Week hon­ors were shared by two play­ers for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive week. The league hon­ored Co­lum­bia sopho­more guard Noruwa Agho (New City, N.Y.), who posted back-to-back 20-plus point games this week. Agho, who is shoot­ing 61.5 per­cent from the field and 73.3 per­cent from three-point range, cur­rently leads the na­tion in three-point field goal per­cent­age.

Agho shared this week’s honor with Cor­nell se­nior Ryan Wittman (Eden Prairie, Minn.). Wittman av­er­aged 17.3 points, 4.3 re­bounds, 1.5 as­sists and 1.3 steals as the Big Red went 3-1 over the week­end at the Leg­ends Clas­sic tour­na­ment – good enough to gain him tour­na­ment most valu­able player. Wittman’s week­end ef­forts also helped him grab a new Ivy League record for ca­reer three-point­ers, at 288.

Rookie of the Week went to Brown fresh­man guard Matt Sul­li­van (Wil­mette, Ill.), who is av­er­ag­ing 10.3 points per game for the Bears. This week, he scored 12 points against Bryant Uni­ver­sity, and then fol­lowed that ef­fort by con­tribut­ing 11 points and dish­ing out a ca­reer-best seven as­sists against Uni­ver­sity of the Sci­ences.

In women’s bas­ket­ball, Player of the Week hon­ors went to Har­vard ju­nior for­ward Emma Markley (York­town Heights, N.Y.). Markley av­er­aged 17.7 points, 5.0 re­bounds and 3.7 blocks per game last week at the Omni Hotel Clas­sic, and was named to the all-tour­na­ment team. In the title game against the Uni­ver­sity of Col­orado, she con­tributed 24 points on 10-of-15 shoot­ing from the field with seven re­bounds, four blocks and a steal.

For the third straight week, Rookie of the Week went to Prince­ton fresh­man guard Niveen Rasheed (Danville, Calif.). Rasheed recorded her first ca­reer dou­ble-dou­ble in the Tigers’ 28-point win over Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia-Irvine, scor­ing 17 points and grab­bing 10 re­bounds. Against UCLA, she led the team with eight re­bounds and also scored 14 points for the Tigers.