Date March 12, 2024
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With a stake in March Madness on the line, Brown men’s basketball team jumps into Ivy tournament

With the Bears heading to New York City to take on Princeton, Head Coach Mike Martin reflected on the 2023-24 season and what’s motivating the team as it heads into the Ivy Madness tournament for the first time.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — The 2023–24 NCAA Division I men’s basketball regular season may have ended, but things are heating up for Brown.

The Bears have secured their first-ever spot in the Ivy Madness tournament, which Columbia University will host in New York City from March 15-17. Since its founding in 2017, only five Ivy Madness tournaments have taken place to determine the Ivy League champion, as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted its cancellation in 2020 and 2021. The tournament welcomes the top four regular season finishers, and in three of those years, Brown just missed out — tying for fourth place, only to lose the tiebreaker.

This year, in the tournament’s sixth iteration, Brown secured its berth through an 89-67 victory over Dartmouth College. The Bears’ season has seen ups and downs, and their record is not dominant — they are 12-17 overall and 8-6 in Ivy League play — but the defeat of Dartmouth marked one in a string of six successive wins that Head Coach Mike Martin hopes will usher the team into successful postseason play.

Brown will face top-seeded Princeton University in an Ivy Madness semifinal on Saturday, March 16, at 11 a.m. The stakes are high — whichever team among the four participants wins the tournament championship on Sunday, March 17, automatically clinches a spot in NCAA March Madness, one of the biggest annual sporting events nationwide.

In this Q&A, Martin — a Brown Class of 2004 alumnus who studied economics and played for the Bears himself — reflects on the 2023-24 season and what’s motivating the team as the players prepare for the madness that is collegiate playoff basketball in March.

Q: What in particular makes this year’s team special?

They’ve stayed together, and they’ve stuck with it. They’re a very resilient group, they’re a very confident group, and they’ve continued to believe in themselves and in our process and in our plan, even when the results weren’t there. They’ve really learned and grown through the experiences they’ve had together, and we want to keep this hot streak going.

Q: How would you sum up this season?

This year has had its share of challenges. But I think anytime you go through shared adversity with a group, you’re going to grow from it. And now we’ve won our last six games and have totally flipped our record in the Ivy League and beat a couple of the top teams in the league over the last few weeks. It’s been a season filled with lots of different experiences — some highs, some lows — but we want to stay true to who we are and stick with our process and our preparation as we move into postseason play.

Q: Can you share a bit about your coaching philosophy and how you implement that at Brown?

I believe in building a program through individual improvement and development, which not only makes the team better, but cultivates solid, strong relationships from player-to-player and coach-to-player. Any success we have is because of the people, the relationships and the culture that we’ve built here at Brown — it’s a program built on continuity and stability. The same players who you see as first-years become sophomores, then juniors and seniors, and they keep growing and improving. That’s very different from the trend in college basketball, with transfers and players leaving and going to different schools after one or two years — we’re kind of the opposite of that.

Q: What are some of your favorite off-the-court moments with this year’s team?

I think just the daily interactions we have. Our players are always in our building — [the Pizzitola Sports Center] is like a second home for them on campus. I see them come in on their own because they want to be here, whether it be an extra shooting session, an extra film session or an extra weightlifting session, and they want to be here. That’s a big part of what our culture’s been built on.

We’ve also has some amazing trips. In the last 12 months of the program, we took a 10-day trip to France, we had a Thanksgiving tournament in the Bahamas, and we played a game in front of a lot of our Southern California alumni and fans against USC, which was a homecoming game for two of our players from San Diego and Los Angeles. Those were really good times together. And then every time we go into Ivy League competition against some of our peers and we get to have those post-win celebrations in the locker room. Those are moments you remember for a long time.

Q: Does your team have a specific strategy or mindset heading into Ivy Madness?

We’ll approach it like any other competition — like all the other games we’ve played to this point, which is 29 regular-season games. We believe very much in our process and preparation, and I think a lot of our confidence comes from that.