Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 14th, 2011

Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

A Look Back

A ho-hum two weeks to begin 2011 in the land of the Ancient Eight. Overall, the league went 11-8 and saw their Conference RPI drop to a more realistic #14. With non-league games dwindling to a precious few, it is unlikely that ranking will change much from now until March.  Still two weeks to go before the Ivies get into league play, and most of the members used the time to fatten up on inferior competition (i.e. Baruch, Lyndon St, Union). All except Penn and Harvard, who ventured into the SEC and ACC, respectively, for a couple of memorable games.

Pardon the Inter-Rupp-tion: A trip to the Bluegrass State to open the new year; a glimpse of Kentucky’s thoroughbreds — both human and equine; a national television appearance on ESPNU; and, a matchup of two storied programs, each in the top ten all-time in victories. All of that for the Penn Quakers to ring in 2011.

Except someone forgot to tell the Red and Blue that they were also supposed to be fodder for the #11 Wildcats, who were coming off a dismantling of neighboring rival Louisville. For the first 15 minutes, it was the Quakers who looked like the nationally ranked team. Riding the hot hand of Tyler Bernardini and the floor generalship of Zack Rosen, Penn opened up a 12-point lead which, left John Calipari screaming on the sidelines, wondering how Miles Cartwright had slipped through his recruiting fingers, and gave Jerome Allen flashback visions of his own great teams. It was then where things began to unravel, thanks in large part to some Kentucky defense and rebounding. A 14-1 Wildcat run to end the half gave Kentucky a lead they would never relinquish and finally allowed the 21,681 in the sea of blue to, if you’ll excuse the expression, e-Rupp-t.

The second half proved to be not much more than a scrimmage for Kentucky. They hit 12 of their first 13 shots en route to an 18-22 clip over the final 30 minutes. The rebounding numbers were even more lopsided, 36-15, in favor of the Wildcats, thanks to a workmanlike effort from Josh Harrelson. The only good news for the Quaker faithful was that the 86-62 final score meant that ,with apologies to Warner Wolf, if you had Penn and 25 you won!

Familiarity Breeds…: Three years ago, just days after Boston College had upset then #1 North Carolina, Harvard came in and beat the Eagles. A natural letdown was the explanation. Last year, despite protests from the Al Skinner and the BC players that things would be different, the result was the same. So this year, it should have come as no surprise when Harvard traveled across the Charles to Chestnut Hill and came away with a gutsy 78-69 victory. And to sweeten the (bean) pot, the congratulatory post-game handshake that Tommy Amaker received came from none other than old Cornell nemesis, Steve Donahue. And this against a BC team that had won eight out of nine and at 3-0 is currently atop the ACC leader board (that’s right, Dookies). The Crimson led just about every step of the way. BC cut an 11 point lead to five with two minutes remaining but could creep no closer. Amaker used only seven players with six getting significant minutes. The leading scorer for the Crimson…..

Player of the Week: Laurent Rivard, Harvard -Based on his name, he should either be a ski resort in the mountains of Quebec, a new Dior eau de toilette, or a left wing for Les Habitants. But freshman Laurent Rivard of Harvard (kind of rhymes) is instead this week’s RTC Ivy League Player of the Week. In the three Crimson victories, the 6’5 guard from Saint-Bruno, Quebec, averaged 16 points in 31 minutes per game. More importantly, it has become evident that he is the only one who is seeing significant minutes off Tommy Amaker’s shortened bench. So hissez le trophée Monsieur Rivard. You are well on your way to becoming the Ivy Sixth Man of the Year.

Power Rankings

With this being the last power poll before league play commences, it is time to separate the wheat from the chaff. To begin:

Prepping for March: It is difficult to separate or look beyond:

1. Harvard (11-3, 1-0)–the Crimson reclaim the top spot thanks to their 3-0 record which included the aforementioned victory over BC. The return of Kyle Casey and the rapid development of Laurent Rivard gives Harvard six players capable of scoring in double digits and who compare very favorably with the six from…

2. Princeton (11-4)—The Tigers relinquish #1 primarily because of inactivity (finals), with just a victory over Marist in the last two weeks. The quartet of Douglas Davis, Dan Mavraides, Ian Hummer, and Kareem Maddox can hold their own with any team this side of Cameron Indoor or Allen Fieldhouse. The head-to-head meetings with Harvard February 4 and March 5) should decide league supremacy.

Can Make Some Noise:

3. Columbia (9-5)–winners of six of their last seven, albeit against weak competition, the Lions look to be much improved under Kyle Smith. Led by Ivy scoring leader Noruwa Agho (16.4 PPG), Columbia next faces travel partner Cornell in home-and-home games that will go a long way in determining if the Lions are worthy of first division status.

4. Penn (5-7)—There are a lot of reasons to think the Quakers can make a run at the title. They have probably the most complete player in the league in Zack Rosen, (two rebounds and three assists short of an unheard of triple double before fouling out vs. LaSalle) a freshman comparable to Laurent Rivard in Miles Cartwright, and a veteran supporting cast. Furthermore, they have shown flashes of brilliance against nationally ranked opponents Kentucky and Villanova. But then there are games like those against Marist and Manhattan. The jury is still out.

5. Cornell (4-10)–What, you say? Make noise? A team tied with lowly Dartmouth for the cellar and a team that endured an eight game losing streak? Well, perhaps we ARE going too far back into their past performances. But it is hard to believe that a team which features veterans like Chris Wroblewski and Errick Peck who have known only success, won’t make some sort of an impact in the league race.

On The Outside Looking In:

6. Yale (7-7)–Perhaps an underrated and overlooked squad. Next to Penn, Yale played probably the most demanding non-conference schedule. The Elis did conquer BC and played Big East foe Providence tough. They will go as far as Greg Mangano and Austin Morgan take them.

7. Brown (6-7)—Games against their in-state rivals Rhode Island and Providence were the only two real tests the Bears have faced. And in each case, they didn’t pass, losing by 25 and 27 points, respectively. Peter Sullivan has been a bright spot averaging nearly 14 points and six rebounds per game.

8. Dartmouth (0-1, 4-10)–Wondering if Paul Cormier is having second thoughts about leaving the NBA for a return engagement in New Hampshire?  At least the relatives and friends of the players are happy, as there are ten members of the Big Green seeing double digit minutes.

A Look Ahead

Brown faces home-and-home travel partner Yale before going south for a Penn/Princeton weekend. The Bears could be staring at an 0-4 to open up. Columbia has the aforementioned battles with travel partner Cornell before heading to New England for Harvard and Dartmouth. Can they win three of those? Cornell has the opportunity to put their pre-conference disasters behind them as they have three winnable games before facing Harvard on the 29th. Would anyone be shocked to see the Big red atop the standings at 3-0 before that game?  Assuming they will not go 0-14, where will victories come for Dartmouth? Their first home weekend vs. Cornell and Columbia? Doubtful.

Harvard actually has an interesting game at GW before three soft league home games. It is expected that the Crimson will enter the Feburary 4 game against Princeton unblemished.  Penn must complete their rugged Big 5 schedule against old  friend Fran Dunphy and his Owls and then the St. Joseph’s Hawks. If they are not worn out from all the flapping, they should begin league play 2-0 with their softest home weekend.  A weird scheduling quirk has Princeton opening with five straight league home games. If they are perfect, the race may be over early. Yale needs to beat up on travel partner Brown before they too swing south for a trip to the Palestra and Jadwin Gym.

Note: Once league play begins, there will be games only on Friday and Saturday, for the most part. Therefore, this column will next appear in two weeks, on Monday the 31st, instead of Friday, allowing full coverage of the first big Ivy weekend.

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The Other 26: Week 7

Posted by KDoyle on January 4th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the college basketball season is nearly half over. It is not all bad though, with conference play beginning we are just another step closer to Championship Week, Selection Sunday, and, of course, the NCAA Tournament. During this time of the year, the Other 26 and BCS largely go their separate ways, only to be reunited just two months later on the biggest stage of them all. As it is every year, the non-conference is nothing more than a tease of what is to come later. What are five major things that we learned during the first half of the year?

  • The top three teams in the Mountain West (SDSU, UNLV, BYU) will all be a force in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Gonzaga and Butler are not as dominant as they have been in past years, but both seem poised to perform well in their conference play as they drastically improved in the latter half of the non-conference schedule.
  • Temple and Richmond can go toe-to-toe with the big boys. In one week, the Owls defeated Maryland and then Georgetown, and then just weeks later they were points away from beating Villanova. As for the Spiders, they have beaten four of five BCS teams they played against.
  • Don’t sleep on Conference USA. Although the league probably will receive only two bids—maybe three—Central Florida, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, UAB and UTEP are pretty darn good.
  • The Mountain West and Atlantic 10 will combine to have more teams in the NCAA Tournament than the ACC and SEC. Okay that is a bit of a reach, but don’t be surprised if this is close to happening. Right now, the only lock in the ACC is Duke, obviously. As for the SEC, it is only Vanderbilt and Kentucky. The MWC will almost certainly have SDSU, BYU, and UNLV, and the Atlantic 10 is a bit of a crapshoot at the top. Over the last three years, however, the A10 has sent three years to the Dance in each year—food for thought.

The Other 26 Rankings

Tidbits from the Rankings

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 2nd, 2011

Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

A Look Back

The return from finals was not kind to most of the Ivy members. The league went an aggregate 8-12 against less than stellar competition, thus dropping the Ivy into a tie for 12th (with the MVC) in conference RPI. Lowlights abounded, including Brown becoming the first Ivy team to lose to Army, Harvard’s embarrassing no-show vs. then #4 Connecticut, and Penn traveling to snow-covered and picturesque Poughkeepsie to lose to those dastardly sly Red Foxes from Marist… the same Marist that lost to Holy Cross, effectively removing the Crusaders from the Reverse Survivor Pool. But the granddaddy of ineptitude belongs to Cornell. A more detailed description of their fall from grace below. Interestingly enough, Princeton, which doesn’t break for exams until mid-January, escaped the chaos, winning three of four. It was not all doom and gloom. We would be remiss if we did not mention Dartmouth breaking their 0-7 record in the state of Iowa (no statistical info available on their record in the other 49 states) with a victory over Missouri Valley foe Drake; a 67-59 win that was, indeed, a piece of cake. There is no truth to the rumor that the Big Green is now considering relocating to Des Moines.

The Boys From Itha-can’t

Everyone knew there would be growing pains for coach Bill Courtney in his first season at Cornell. After all, the Big Red graduated four key starters from their NCAA Sweet Sixteen team of 2009-2010. But with a returning core group that saw considerable action last year, led by Seniors Mark Coury and Max Groebe, juniors Andrew Ferry and Chris Wroblewski and sophomore Errick Peck, the future did not seem bleak. Add a solid recruiting class, and many thought that Cornell could compete with pre-season favorites Harvard and Princeton. And that the chances for a four-peat were possible and not a term limited to those in the School of Agriculture. Despite a 2-6, start the faithful were encouraged by the performance at then #15 Minnesota–a game that Cornell could/should have won. A soft schedule and lots of practice time between games would be just what Courtney needed to set his rotation and get the team back on track. Even the most pessimistic fans could not have envisioned the last two weeks. It began with a one-point loss at lowly Binghamton. Cornell was up 16 in the first half only to see the 3-8 Bearcats go on a 18-3 run and score the winning basket with 14 seconds to go. Okay–a bad loss to a bad team but the end of a five game road trip. Home cooking and a taste of Cayuga’s waters awaited. What followed was an 11-point loss to Bucknell, sending the 2600 in attendance home despondent. Nine days later, the end of the seven-game losing streak seemed like a good possibility as the Big Red faced New Hampshire in the opening round of the Richmond Marriott Tourney. However, despite four players in double figures, a see-saw second half saw the Wildcats emerge with a two point victory. The next night, however, saw a glimmer of hope. Shooting 64% from the field, including a sizzling 71% from beyond the arc, Cornell hung on to beat Wofford 86-80 despite almost squandering a 17-point second half lead.

Stats tell the story. Health and line-up changes too. Only five players have played in all 12 games and only one Adam Wire has started all of them. Twelve players are averaging more than eight minutes per game. As a team, Cornell has been outscored by an average of five points per game, outshot 44% to 38%, and outrebounded by an average of eight per game.

While the results so far have been disappointing, the rest of the season is not without hope, During this losing streak, Cornell has lost two games by five, two games by two, and  a game each by one and three. Only the loss at Syracuse was lopsided and understandable. Would the presence of Steve Donahue make a difference in some of those close defeats? Perhaps? Remember, this is Courtney’s maiden voyage sitting in that first seat.  Does he need time to grow into it? Possibly. There is still about a month to go before Ivy play begins in earnest. Supporters and Ivy fans in general hope that Thursday night’s victory is the spark that begins to turn things around so Cornell can make it a three and possibly four team race to the wire. But it is most assuredly a case of wait and C.

Player of the Week

Kareem Maddox becomes the second Princetonian (Ian Hummer) to win the coveted RTC POW trophy. In the four games the Tigers have played there was no holding this Tiger. Despite a foul-plagued, sub-par game vs. UCF,  The 6’8 Senior from Oak Park, Ca. has scored 61 points (15.2)  on 54% shooting  and has grabbed 17 rebounds. Maddox has averaged 31 minutes per game primarily coming off the bench. Clearly the favorite for Ivy Sixth Man of the Year. And kudos to his family, no doubt Lakers and Braves fans.

Power Rankings

1. Princeton (10-4)–it was going to be a great story. A nine-game winning streak punctuated by a win over a Top 25 team. Both seemed poised to happen as the Tigers led #19 UCF by eight at halftime. Then along came Mr. Jordan. Not Michael, but his son Marcus, who scored 22 of his game-high 26 points to rally the Knights to a 68-62 victory. Despite that, Princeton, the preseason favorite in most publications, enjoys its first week in the penthouse.

2. Harvard (8-3)–Crimson relinquish top spot based on Tiger success and their own dreadful performance against UConn. Harvard shot 30% en route to a 29 point defeat led by Christian Webster’s 0-9. Only Keith Wright (18 points, 7 boards) showed up. Tommy Amaker’s squad gets well vs. Div.III MIT to ring in the New Year.

3. Columbia (7-4)–with last night’s 74-71 win at Maine after a 19 day layoff, the Lions have now won four straight and six out of their last seven. Junior guard Noruwa Agho leads the way averaging a bit better than 16 points per game and continues to jockey with Penn’s Zack Rosen at the top of the Ivy scoring race.

4. Penn (5-5)–poised to take over the # 3 spot after disposing of Delaware. But evidently a feast of Blue Hen did not sit well as the Quakers fell flat vs. Marist. Miles Cartwright, a 20-point scorer and starter against Delaware, remembered he was a freshman and scored only six on 2-11 shooting. At least Jerome Allen has settled on a consistent starting lineup that now includes Cartwright and inside beast Conor Turley.

5. Dartmouth (4-8)–by default, the Big Green moves out of the cellar as the only other Ivy team to actually win a game (the aforementioned 67-59 vs. Drake) during the this two-week span. Before all you Hanoverians go careening down the slopes in paroxysms of glee, that win was sandwiched between a 29 point loss to Iowa State in which Dartmouth could manage only 42 points and a 17 point loss at Bucknell.

6. Yale (5-6)–not much separates the Elis from their Providence neighbors (see below). Both were 0-2 this week and each has a winnable game on New Years Eve. Yale gets the nod based on actually taking a cross country road trip (can you say “Fawn Leibowitz?”) to get pounded by Stanford. Seems another basketball team from the Nutmeg State had trouble out in Palo Alto.

7. Brown (4-6)–the Bears sport losses to Army (88-86) and Central Connecticut St. (67-51). Their murderous schedule continues with a home game against Bryant to close out 2010.

8. Cornell (3-9)–their struggles have been chronicled above. One doubts they are truly the worst team in the league. Sophomore Errick Peck has been the lone bright spot scoring 68 points in the last four games. Here’s hoping the Big Red has some table games and a flat screen in the basement.

A Look Ahead

Most conferences dive into conference play after the first of the year. Not so the Ivy League. With the exception of isolated games against their travel partners, intra-league battles do not begin for another month. Brown has only two games–American and Lyndon(Johnson) St–before facing travel chum YaleColumbia faces Elon, Lafayette, and Union before a home and home date with Cornell, a game they could realistically enter at a lofty 10-4. Buffalo and Stony Brook represent an opportunity for the Big Red to get things straightened out before league play. Dartmouth puts their lofty #5 ranking on the line with a game against Ivy patsy Army before facing their travel partner, Harvard. The Crimson have a chance for a bit of redemption for their rocky Hartford horror show when they travel to Chestnut Hill to see old friend Steve Donahue and his improved BC Eagles. Penn begins 2011 with a televised game at #11 Kentucky followed by a Big Five showdown with La Salle. The good news is that the Quakers will be battle tested before beginning conference play. Princeton only has one game (Marist) in the next 23 days as their players hit the books instead of the court. With games ahead vs. Holy Cross and Baruch, Yale should be looking at a two-game winning streak. Boola-boola!

Auld Lang Syne

To all the fans and followers of the schools of the Ancient Eight, may your 2011 be filled with buzzer beaters, filled and raucous gyms, creative cheers, a nail-biting Ivy race, and of course many RTC-worthy games.  And to my loyal readers–and you know who you are–my sincere wishes for happy times with grandchildren, a return to a  healthy and vibrant life, a filled Citi Field, California/New York dreamin’, and brisk camper enrollment. Happy New Year, everyone!

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