Brown Men's Basketball Team of 1985-86
Brown captured its first Ivy League Title in history and made its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 1985-86. The Bears went 16-11 overall and 10-4 in Ivy League play behind the efforts of Ivy League Player of the Year Jim Turner ’86.
Coming off a 9-18 season in 1984-85, Brown’s championship season began with the Bears losing four of their first five games. Head Coach Mike Cingiser’s team quickly turned things around though, as the team went on to win eight of its next ten games, including six straight, heading into the thick of its Ivy schedule. The Bears won their Ivy opener at home against Yale, 68-65, and went on to sweep Cornell and Columbia on the road for the first time since 1975. Mike Waitkus’ game-winning basket in Ithaca gave Cingiser his first win at Barton Hall. Despite a three-point loss to Yale in New Haven a week later, Brown was in control in the league, standing in first place.
Turner took over play in the final ten games of the season as he averaged over 26 points per game and shot 72% from the field. Brown won seven of those last ten games, including a thrilling 76-74 win over Dartmouth. Freshman Marcus Thompson scored the game winning basket on a slicing drive down the lane with four seconds left. The Bears then got past Penn, winning at the Palestra for the first time since 1959.
After losing to Princeton by one point, the Bears returned to Marvel Gym with a one-game lead over second place Cornell, but the Big Red pulled out a three-point win to gain a share of first place. In its last home weekend, Brown split with Princeton and Penn, dropping to second place in the Ivy standings as Cornell swept its weekend series.
In the last weekend of Ivy play, Penn downed Cornell and the Bears dispatched Harvard, 88-78, in Cambridge to tie things up once again in the standings with one game remaining. Dartmouth proved to be no contest for Brown the second time around as it cruised to an 82-51 win in Hanover. The Bears then anxiously awaited to hear a score from the Cornell-Princeton game. The Big Red fell to the Tigers by three points, giving Brown the Ivy Title outright.
As Brown prepared for its NCAA first round game against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, Sports Illustrated published a four-page spread titled, “Color of the Year in the Ivy: Brown.” Brown put together a memorable opening ten minutes against the Orangemen before they were able to break free. In the second half, Cingiser made sure all 15 of his players received some time on the NCAA court, an experience players dream of as children.