Checking in on the… Ivy LeaguePosted by rtmsf on January 2nd, 2009
Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.
In the latest installment of “An Ivy League team nearly beats a school from a major conference but ends up losing by a little and the big school either makes patronizing comments about how hard the Ivy League team tried or instead talks about their own lack of focus,” Yale took Alabama down to the wire before losing 66-63 on Sunday. Even though this dude started his game story by writing “Sometimes Yale has a good basketball team — that is not the case this year” (which is more just bad journalism than it is rude), you might consider this a moral victory for the Bulldogs, who came back from an 18-point second-half deficit, on the road. Yale senior forward Travis Pinick, who was named the league’s player of the week, had 17 points and 11 rebounds against the Tide. Two days later, however, Yale lost to Hampton to fall to 2-8, despite 17 points from Ross Morin and 15 from Alex Zampier.
Speaking of having only two wins, what’s going on with Penn? Here’s a small sampling of good news: the Quakers won their second game of the season, in a tournament consolation at Central Florida, against a team nicknamed the Fighting Camels (why not the Spitting Camels?) Now get your pen out for the not-so-good news. Two of the team’s more promising players (Darren Smith and Andreas Schreiber) are out for the season, a once-heralded recruit (Tommy McMahon) has left the program, head coach Glen Miller is doing more shuffling than a blackjack dealer and in the Associated Press’ write-up of Penn’s win over Campbell, they flip-flopped the first and last names of not one but two Quakers. I can sort of understand calling Cameron Lewis “Lewis Cameron” but calling Brennan Votel “Votel Brennan?” I mean, come on. You find me someone with the first name “Votel” and I’ll find you a college basketball program that hasn’t hit rock bottom. Going back to the injuries, I wish all the best to Smith and Schreiber, both of whom should be major contributors in 2009-10, but these setbacks are troubling. Smith, who had a promising freshman campaign, will now miss his second full season with a broken kneecap. Schreiber, to his credit, tried to come back from a shoulder injury but dislocated it again, leaving Penn with a major hole in the frontcourt. And as for McMahon, well, who really knows? From what I hear from people who cover the team, coach Glen Miller is tight-lipped about the injury status of his players – but I feel, at this point, Penn fans deserve some kind of “state of the program” address. There just seems to be so much uncertainty surrounding everything right now.
Meanwhile, Princeton, the league’s other storied program, is also stuck on two wins, like Penn. Most recently, the Tigers endured a bitter, one-point loss at Lafayette, missing a chance to win at the buzzer. But the Princeton program deserves a shout-out for its decision to name the floor of its home court, Jadwin Gymnasium, after legendary coach Pete Carril. Carril, who bears a striking resemblance to Yoda, is one of the game’s all-time great coaches. You can thank him for putting your kids to sleep with the slow, methodical “Princeton offense” and also for providing us with one of the great March Madness upsets. But before I get too gooey-gushy about the team I love to hate, I, a proud Penn alum, will throw in this jab from the Sports Guy’s most recent mailbag: “Don’t go to Princeton. I’m still waiting to meet my first Princeton grad that I might like. I am like 0-for-79. Princeton grads carry themselves like bad guys in a sports movie.” OK, I feel better now.
Which brings us to Cornell (7-6), the new elite team in the Ivy League. With reigning player of the year Louis Dale back from injury, the defending champs are starting to heat up. In a foray against Philadelphia Big 5 teams, the Red beat La Salle and narrowly lost to St. Joe’s. They then trounced a good Boston University team and headed off a scrappy Quinnipiac squad, as told very well by Cornell’s ace beat writer Brian DeLaney here. Opposing coaches are beginning to take notice as Tom Moore of Quinnipiac called Cornell “the elite program of the Ivy League,” Dennis Wolff of Boston University used words like “slapped,” “embarrassed” and “disintegrated” after his team got thumped in Ithaca and Phil Martelli of St. Joe’s remarked how tough Cornell can be offensively with the combination of star guard Dale, sharpshooter Ryan Wittman and 7-foot center Jeff Foote. Basically, these guys have all learned what Ivy coaches learned last year – and will soon be taught again.
The gap between Cornell and the rest of the league seems to be widening as evidenced by the Pomeroy ratings, which has Cornell at 121 and the nearest team – somehow, Penn – at 227. Brown (5-6) is next at 247, and Harvard, despite being 6-6, is at 270. Dartmouth (2-9), which is coming off a woeful 72-41 loss to UC Davis in which only one player, Alex Barnett, made a basket in the first half, is way down there at 331. And as a league, the Ivies are now ranked 27th, down two slots from the last post and below where they normally fall. Basically: there’s Cornell … and then there’s everyone else. But as always, we’ll see what happens when the league slate begins next weekend.