Checking In On… The Ivy LeaguePosted by Brian Goodman on February 17th, 2012
- Perfect No More: Heading into last weekend’s back-to-back, Harvard held a one-game lead and an undefeated mark in Ivy play. The trip to Penn and Princeton claimed the latter, but the Crimson survived with the former intact, as Harvard remains a game ahead of both Penn and Yale in the loss column and two games up on Princeton and Cornell. The Crimson got its most important win of the season on Friday night at The Palestra, as freshman Corbin Miller scored 17 points in just 18 minutes and Kyle Casey added 15 to hold off a pesky Quaker squad 56-50. Miller and Casey combined to shoot 11-19 from the field and 4-8 from three, while the remaining players from both squads connected at an anemic 28% clip. Casey and Miller continued their solid play the following night at Jadwin Gym against Princeton and even got some help from Brandyn Curry and Keith Wright, who combined for 31 points on 12-21 shooting. It was the defense that betrayed the Crimson against the Tigers though as Princeton shredded the Harvard defense with effective back door cuts and well-executed post isolation mismatches. The Crimson cut a 10-point Tigers lead to four with under a minute to go, but Princeton went 7-8 from the line to clinch a 70-62 victory. Harvard had been looking for its first win at Jadwin since 1989 and first road sweep of Penn and Princeton since 1985. Ivy teams have combined for just seven sweeps of the Quakers and Tigers on the road in league history.
- Collapse Of All Collapses: Don’t take a look at this Ken Pomeroy Win Probability chart if you are a Columbia fan, but otherwise prepare to be astonished. Just ten minutes away from having to turn its attention to the postseason’s smaller dances, Yale ripped off a 26-5 run to end the game, overcoming a 20-point deficit and keeping itself in the midst of the Ivy race. The Lions might have long been out of the title chase, but the loss was still incredibly damaging. With five teams from the Ivy League likely to finish above .500, the race for postseason slots will be incredibly competitive and Columbia’s profile is one of the weakest of that group. Getting swept by the other team with a weak profile (Yale) is probably the best way to ensure being the odd man out in the selection process.
RTC Ivy Award Favorites
- Player of the Year – Zack Rosen, Penn: He’s been the front-runner from start to finish. Rosen is second in points produced per game (a metric that includes all contributions to offense, not just points scored) and has an Adjusted Offensive Rating of 107 on 28% usage during league play. Watch Out For: Brian Barbour, Columbia; Greg Mangano, Yale; Ian Hummer, Princeton
- Defensive Player of the Year – Brandyn Curry, Harvard: He leads the league by a mile in Defensive Plus-Minus and has been great at generating steals and forcing five-second calls. Since its inception, the award has gone to forwards and centers, but this might be the first time that a guard takes home the hardware. Watch Out For: Greg Mangano, Yale; Ian Hummer, Princeton
- Rookie of the Year – J’Vonte Brooks, Dartmouth: This one has turned into a two-horse race for the title with Cornell’s Shonn Miller being very deserving as well. Brooks has given Ivy defenses fits as he has bullied his way to the free throw line early and often, posting a Free Throw Rate (free throw attempts divided by field goal attempts) of 94%. His turnover rate is alarmingly high, but on a team without many offensive creators, that’s a drawback that Dartmouth can easily accept. Watch Out For: Shonn Miller, Cornell
- Coach of the Year – Jerome Allen, Penn: It’s hard to argue with the statement that the Quakers have overachieved the most this season, though Kyle Smith and Columbia would have a case if the Lions hadn’t fallen so quickly in league play. Allen might be unfairly benefiting from Rosen’s unbelievable offensive performance, but he’s a win away from setting the high-water mark in victories since Penn last made the NCAA Tournament in 2007. Watch Out For: Kyle Smith, Columbia; Mitch Henderson, Princeton
Given that the Ivy League does not have a conference tournament, but rather hands out its automatic bid to the regular season champion, there is no second chance to save a season once a team falls out of the league race. With each Ivy Check-In during league play, this section breaks down which squads’ seasons came to a premature end, and which are sliding quickly into the danger zone.
Maybe Next Year:
Returning Members From Last Check-In:
- Dartmouth (0-8): No denying the Big Green has been in a ton of Ivy games, but at a certain point, just hanging around doesn’t quite cut it.
- Brown (1-7): The Bears have statistically been the worst team in league play thus far, as a comeback win over Dartmouth at home can’t overshadow its lack of competitiveness in most of its Ivy contests.
- Columbia (3-5): After playing well for three-straight games, the Yale loss is horribly deflating. Now the Lions will have to get lucky to even hit 7-7 in league play.
The Waiting Room:
Returning Members From Last Check-In:
- Cornell (5-3): The next four are all on the road and Saturday night’s meeting with Princeton will relegate one of those two teams to the “Maybe Next Year” group. For now, though, the Big Red stays alive thanks to the Tigers’ win over Harvard last weekend.
- Princeton (4-3): The Tigers have a three percent chance of winning out and will be favorites in six of their final seven games. Having survived the frontloaded schedule, Princeton is in great position to hang around in the race for a good while.
- Harvard (21-3, 7-1 Ivy)– With five of its seven road dates out of the way, the Crimson has a chance to seal its second Ivy title at home over the next two weekends and with help could wrap up its first NCAA bid since 1946. Harvard’s home winning streak might be at 25, but according to Pomeroy, three of the Crimson’s next four visitors would rank fourth, fifth, and eighth toughest during that span. For Harvard to get the home sweeps it needs, it will have to earn them.
- Princeton (13-10, 4-3) – The Tigers’ strange season continues to get increasingly weird. Princeton has notched two Top 50 Pomeroy wins and two more victories against teams on the edge of the Top 100 (Buffalo and Rutgers). It also has a four-point loss at #53 Drexel and a two-point loss at #54 North Carolina State. Then, there are the three losses to teams outside the Top 200. The result is a team that’s too high-variance to win the Ivy League, but one that no one wants to face in one of the smaller postseason tournaments.
- Penn (13-11, 5-2) – The loss to Harvard did a great deal of damage to the Quakers’ title hopes and the residual tailspin nearly left them with a stunning home loss to the Big Green. But Penn survived with a Rosen three-pointer from well beyond the three-point arc and maintains control of its own destiny after the Crimson suffered the loss at Princeton. The Quakers will be moderate to strong favorites in each of their next three and with three victories would set up a showdown with Harvard at Lavietes Pavilion with massive title implications on the line.
- Yale (16-6, 6-2) – That’s quite a gaudy record for a fourth-place team on an Ivy Power Ranking list. The Bulldogs have been quite the vegetarians this season though, racking up 11 wins against teams outside the Pomeroy Top 200 with no victories over Top 100 teams. If it can hold serve at home, beat Dartmouth at Leede and take one of three at Harvard, Penn and Princeton, it would hit 20 wins for only the second time in the modern era – quite the accomplishment regardless of the Strength of Schedule quibbles.
- Cornell (10-12, 5-3) – Chris Wrobleski, Johnathan Gray, and Shonn Miller have performed admirably during conference play and if non-conference star Drew Ferry hadn’t struggled so mightily over the first eight Ivy games, the Big Red might be in a better position that it already is. At 2-3, Cornell looked to be bordering upon extinction, but after digging out of a huge first-half hole against Yale and handling league cellar-dwellars Dartmouth and Brown, the Big Red has its first meaningful games on the horizon since Selection Sunday pairings were announced in 2010. As mentioned earlier, only seven Ivy teams have swept the Penn-Princeton road trip in league history, but if Cornell becomes number eight, its title hopes would remain very much alive.
- Columbia (14-10, 3-5) – The Lions have statistically performed fourth-best during league play, which shouldn’t be surprising given that aside from a blowout win over Brown, all of their games thus far have been decided by five points or fewer. Brian Barbour and Mark Cisco have been the best inside-out combination in the league over the first eight Ivy games. The Lions stalwart defense has regressed mightily in league play, and the inability to string together consistent stops has led Columbia to drop games which seemed well within its grasp.
- Dartmouth (4-20, 0-8) – Between the 20 solid minutes at Princeton and the entire game against Penn, the Big Green has clearly outperformed Brown recently. It would be just a matter of time for Dartmouth’s first Ivy win of the season if the end wasn’t so near, but the Big Green will get some great chances with four home games over the next two weekends.
- Brown (7-18, 1-7) – Next season can’t come soon enough for the Bears, which will get a nice infusion of talent from a combination of recruits and injured players. This year’s reality has been pretty bleak, though: Six of Brown’s eight Ivy games have been losses by nine points or more, and the Bears are very close to being the worst offensive and defensive team in Jesse Agel’s tenure.
A Look Ahead
- Friday, February 17 – Cornell at Penn – The Quakers easily handled the Big Red in Ithaca a month ago, but that was before the resurgence of key backcourt cogs Chris Wroblewski and Johnathan Gray. Whether that’s enough to make a Cornell team with a 1-10 road mark true competition for Penn at The Palestra remains to be seen, but the Big Red will have desperation on its side – the next loss likely spells the end of its season.
- Saturday, February 18 – Columbia at Penn – Brian Barbour’s three off a missed free throw clanged off the rim, keeping the Lions from pulling off a furious comeback against the Quakers in the two teams’ first meeting. Columbia needs a split from this trip or else an above-.500 Division I record might slip through its fingers. On the other hand, Penn needs to sweep to set up a showdown with Harvard the following weekend, so the Lions will need their best game to leave with a victory.
- Saturday, February 18 – Cornell at Princeton – The Big Red recorded the first mini-upset of the Ivy season, knocking off the Tigers in Ithaca in January. Both teams have been on a hot streak lately, but the early league losses have put each on the brink. With wins on Friday, these two teams would set up a veritable elimination game, as the fourth loss would end any realistic title hopes for either team.
- Saturday, February 18 – Yale at Harvard – After the embarrassing home loss to the Crimson earlier in the season, the Bulldogs have responded nicely, sweeping Penn and Princeton at home before splitting with Cornell and Columbia on the road. If each team wins on Friday night, Yale will have the chance to tie Harvard atop the Ivy League with a win on Saturday.
- Friday, February 24 – Princeton at Harvard – The scene could be quite the same as last year, just with more teams involved. If the Tigers survive the visits from Cornell and Columbia, they can go for the sweep of the Crimson and give their title hopes a real boost. Meanwhile, Harvard will be in the midst of a four-game homestand – all must wins for the Crimson and the pressure could be dialed up a notch if it suffered a loss the prior weekend.
- Saturday, February 25 – Penn at Harvard – The final thriller in what should be a riveting two weeks of action. The range of possible outcomes for the Crimson is anywhere from potential Ivy-title-clinching game to must-win to keep pace. All of the teams with a legitimate shot at the Ivy crown will roll through Boston over the next two weeks and if Harvard stumbles at all, the final weekend could be just as epic.