Checking in on the… Ivy League

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2008

Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

Well, a good portion of the non-conference slate is over, and the Ivy League still doesn’t have a big signature win. But Cornell came pretty darn close to pulling off a huge early-season upset Wednesday when it led Syracuse at halftime and took the Orange right down to the wire at the Carrier Dome. Naturally, Syracuse players said it was a lazy effort on their parts while Cornell coach Steve Donahue praised his team’s effort. Fine, we get it. The only way an Ivy League team can even stay with a Big East team is by playing smart and outhustling the other team (backdoor cuts don’t hurt either). But the truth is, the defending Ivy champs have a very good team that may have a chance to make some national noise down the road. (Keep in mind, the Big Red played against ‘Cuse without their two best guards, Louis Dale and Adam Gore.

Speaking of Cornell (4-4), Ryan Wittman is making an early case to be the second straight Big Red player to win Ivy League Player of the Year. Louis Dale took home the honor last year but he’s been sidelined all season with a nagging hamstring injury (See above). But Wittman, a sweet-shooting swingman, has tried to make up for the void in the backcourt, dropping a career-high 33 points on Syracuse a few days after toasting Indiana for 28, also a career high at the time. The game against Indiana was interesting because his father, Timberwolves coach and former Hoosiers All-American Randy Wittman, was in attendance. And get this: Randy Wittman said he was rooting for his son to lose the game horribly. Just kidding. But the former Indiana star did say he “wasn’t necessarily rooting against Indiana.”  I smell a family therapy session coming.

Continuing with the way-too-early talk for Ivy League Player of the Year, Harvard’s Jeremy Lin is making a strong case for himself. The junior guard was named the league’s player of the week, mainly due to his 30-point outing against Holy Cross in the Crimson’s home opener. Could the California native who supposedly passed up Stanford and Cal to come to Harvard be the first Asian point guard in the NBA?  He’s certainly doing better than the Japanese-born K.J. Matsui, who is averaging just 7.4 points for Columbia (3-4). For the record, what other league has two Asians? Score one for the Ivies.

Lin couldn’t help Harvard enough on Wednesday, however, as city rival Boston University pounded the Crimson, 75-59, on the same day it was announced the school’s endowment plunged by $8 billion. Which one was worse? In another part of New England, Brown also couldn’t earn city bragging rights as the Bears got walloped by Providence in the 114th meeting between the schools.

Lin wasn’t the only player for Havard (3-2) to earn weekly honors. Keith Wright, one of the prized members of Tommy Amaker’s first recruiting class, was named the league’s rookie of the week by averaging 12.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game. In general, the league seems to have a bunch of high-quality scorers. In addition to Wittman and Lin, Alex Barnett is averaging over 20 points per game for Dartmouth (1-5), freshman guard Doug Davis is scoring 17.3 points per contest for Princeton (2-3), and Petter Sullivan and Matt Mullery are both in the league’s top 10 in scoring for Brown (3-4). On Tuesday, Barnett ‘lit up’ a strong Vermont team with 32 points on — get this — 6-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. Take that, Kyle McAlarney. Meanwhile on Tuesday, Davis’ 13 points against South Carolina couldn’t help Princeton avoid its worst ever loss at its home at Jadwin Gym, which may or may not be an airplane hangar.

Former Brown coach and First Brother-in-Law Craig Robinson is off to a rough start at Oregon State. Michelle Obama’s brother did get his first win recently, but that was only after losing his home opener to Yale, his former arch-rival at Brown. The Oregonian’s account of the story is detailed, but the newspaper’s headline writer clearly has his mind in the gutter when he wrote this: “Beavers get a late case of Poison Ivy League.” I mean, having the nickname Beavers has to be bad enough — no need to throw in a reference to a softcore cable porn. A quick totally superfluous non-college hoops update: a fourth Poison Ivy movie came out this year, but shockingly went straight to DVD. A more relevant update: Yale is now 2-4 on the season after returning to New Haven and beating Holy Cross.

With a bunch of new players on the floor and some old ones injured, Penn continues to look like a confused team. The Quakers (1-5) figure to get better once league play begins, but they’ve been hard to watch through the first six games. In their most recent loss, to Big 5 rival Villanova, the Quakers were obliterated on the glass and Penn coach Glen Miller has a good idea why. “They were just a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger and a little bit quicker,” he said. “But other than that,” he didn’t say later but should have, “things are good.” The Quakers could get a boost by the return of their big Swedish center Andreas Schreiber, but Schreiber admits he’ll probably be playing in pain the entire season. Hopefully for Penn fans like me, watching the team doesn’t continue to be painful. The team’s 23-day layoff following today’s game against Navy couldn’t come soon enough.

rtmsf (3954 Posts)

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