Ivy League Season Wrap-Up & Postseason Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2012

Michael James is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League. You can also find his musings on Twitter at@mrjames2006 and @ivybball.

Reader’s Take

 

A Look Back

In by far the toughest Ivy since the 1970s, Harvard delivered exactly as expected, slogging through the treacherous league slate with a 12-2 mark and a second Ivy title. What wasn’t expected was the company the Crimson would have at the top. The average expectation had no other Ivy teams eclipsing the 10-win plateau, but Penn paid no heed to those projections. After losing to Harvard 56-50 at home to fall two games off the pace, the Quakers ripped off an amazing stretch of seven straight wins to climb even in the loss column after the final Ivy back-to-back weekend. But tradition left Penn with work to do. Its second-most difficult game of the season still remained – the annual meeting with rival Princeton after the rest of the league’s regular seasons had already drawn to a close. The Tigers double-teamed Quaker star Zack Rosen all game, stifling the Penn offense, and executed efficiently on the other end, cruising to a 10-point victory and ending the Quakers’ title hopes.

It was a historic year for the league by a variety of metrics. The league has never posted a higher Pomeroy Rating in the efficiency era, has never had seven non-conference wins over Pomeroy Top 100 teams in a season, and has never had a higher ranked team in the Pomeroy era than Harvard at No. 37. It is also currently hanging on to the 13th spot in the Conference RPI rankings, which would eclipse the 2001-02 mark of 14th, and could have as many as four teams earn postseason bids. With so many pivotal seniors, it will be hard for the Ivies to avoid a collective step back, but with a solid incoming freshman class, don’t expect a return to the dark ages of 2008 and 2009.

Tommy Amaker and Harvard Paced An Outstanding Ivy League Campaign (AP)

Yale and Princeton each posted solid campaigns, flirting with the RPI Top 100 for most of the season and building postseason-worthy resumes – the former by its quantity of wins and the latter with its quality. Columbia had a great non-conference run followed by an incredibly unlucky Ivy campaign, while Cornell did just the opposite, stumbling a bit outside the league, before putting together a solid 7-7 mark in Ivy play. Brown and Dartmouth had forgettable seasons, but the Bears will return several players from injury and ineligibility while the Big Green will see its talented freshmen continue to grow and mature.

Conference Accolades

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Checking In On… the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 23rd, 2011

Michael James is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League. You can also find his musings on Twitter at @mrjames2006 and @ivybball.

Reader’s Take

 

A Look Back

  • Turnaround Experts: Unless your school’s name was Harvard, November wasn’t the best month. High expectations had been placed on a league that suffered relatively few key graduation losses and had vaulted into the teens in the conference rankings. As the calendar flipped to December, however, the Ivies had just two teams above .500 and the league’s overall record against Division I competition was a disappointing 21-28 with one of the nation’s worst strength of schedule ratings to boot. Led by Columbia’s and Yale’s 4-0 Division I mark in December thus far, the Ivy League has gone 20-14 this month and currently has six teams in Pomeroy’s Top 200. Even some of the losses have been impressive, which has buoyed the conference rating in the possession-based ranking systems. Pennsylvania played both Villanova and UCLA tough on the road before ultimately falling, and Princeton gave Drexel all it could handle in Philadelphia before losing by four. Meanwhile, Harvard has paced the league with a 10-1 mark, hanging around the Top 25 in almost every type of ranking and keeping the Ivies in the national spotlight.
  • Quality Wins:  With almost three-quarters of the non-conference season in the books, the Ivy League has racked up some wins that would make any one-bid conference jealous. Harvard has led the way with neutral-site victories over Florida State and Central Florida en route to the Battle 4 Atlantis title. The Crimson hasn’t been the only team taking down quality opponents, though. The Quakers have come close to a few major upsets – none closer than their overtime loss to Temple – but still have a win over Top 100 Robert Morris to their name. Princeton joined the party with wins over Buffalo and Rutgers and like Pennsylvania came close to a couple others. Finally, Cornell and Columbia have each knocked off some quality teams from the one-bid leagues – Lehigh and Manhattan, respectively. Depending on the rating system, the Ivies have registered as many as 21 of their 41 wins against the Top 200, including 10 in road or neutral settings, and the average ranking of the league’s wins is roughly 210. That profile makes the Ivy League the #13 conference in the country according to the Pomeroy Ratings. It also has this year’s edition of the league on pace to be the toughest top-to-bottom since the inception of the Academic Index Floor (a test-score and GPA based system for ranking the academic qualifications of potential admits) in the early 1980s.
  • Top Performers: With Harvard cracking the Top 25 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll again this week, you might expect to see a bunch of Crimson players in a section on the league’s top players. Harvard has been so balanced this year though that its highly efficient offensive players including forwards Kyle Casey and Keith Wright and guard Laurent Rivard haven’t been able to post the raw stats that would lead to recognition. Any discussion about Player of the Year to this point starts and ends with Pennsylvania guard Zack Rosen. He’s the only Ivy player to be on the floor for more than 90% of his team’s minutes, and his output has been historically strong with an offensive rating close to 130 and a usage rate of nearly 25%. His backcourt mate, Tyler Bernardini, has been having a stellar senior campaign as well with efficiency and usage rates that may not match Rosen’s but are still easily All-Ivy caliber. Princeton’s Ian Hummer has been carrying the Tigers this season, using 33% of his team’s possessions and establishing himself as the league’s second most productive player behind Rosen. Yale big man Greg Mangano has to be part of the POY discussion, though he’s had a little more support as guards Austin Morgan and Reggie Willhite, along with forward Jeremiah Kreisberg, have all played very well this season. Some other guys to watch as league play approaches are Columbia’s Brian Barbour, Brown’s Sean McGonagill and Cornell’s Drew Ferry, who has stabilized a Big Red team that has yet to get the usual high quality output from its star Chris Wroblewski to this point.

Greg Mangano Enters The Ivy POY Discussion With Averages of 17 Points And Nearly Nine Rebounds Per Game To Go Along With A Low Turnover Rate.

  • Cousy Award Watch List: Over sixty players made the annual list of the top point guards and combo guards in the nation, including four from the Ivy League. Seniors Chris Wroblewski and Zack Rosen made the cut along with Columbia junior Brian Barbour and Harvard junior Brandyn Curry. The list of quality point/combo guards in the league hardly stops there. Brown sophomore Sean McGonagill was last year’s Ivy Rookie of the Year and is having a fine sophomore campaign. Princeton’s Douglas Davis has struggled a bit before having a monster game last night in a loss at Siena. Finally, Yale’s Austin Morgan has quietly put up First-Team All-Ivy numbers that rival any of the league’s four players that made the Cousy List.

Power Rankings

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 9th, 2011

Michael James is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League. You can also find his musings on Twitter at @mrjames2006 and @ivybball.

Reader’s Take

 

Looking Back

Defense Reigns Supreme:  A year after having five teams scoring more than one point per possession, the Ivies have struggled out of the gate this season with just one team over that mark. The league has compensated with defense and in a big way. While three teams are allowing more than one point per possession according to Ken Pomeroy, removing his preseason weighting reveals that only one (Brown) is above that line based on this season’s performance alone. Considering that from 2004-11, only seven Ivy teams total had allowed less than a point per possession, the defensive transformation this season has been nothing short of remarkable.

The league’s best defensive unit thus far has been preseason favorite Harvard. The Crimson’s potent offense hit the brakes in the Bahamas, but it more than compensated by suffocating opponents on the opposite end of the floor. Harvard scored just 14 points in the first half against Florida State, but that was good enough for a share of the lead. The Crimson continued the staunch defense in the second half, closing out a 46-41 win over the then-#22 Seminoles. It was the second-consecutive game where Harvard held its opponent to under 50 points, a streak which would continue in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game against Central Florida and through the next week at Vermont. Seattle finally broke the streak in a big way, putting up 70 on the Crimson, but on 70 possessions, it just barely the first time the Crimson had allowed an opponent to hit a point per possession this season.

Harvard isn’t the only Ivy shutting teams down on the defensive end of the court though. Princeton held a Top 100 Buffalo squad to just 0.76 points per trip in a 61-53 victory, and Cornell also held the Bulls to just 0.95 points per possession earlier in the year, but couldn’t score enough to avoid a nine-point defeat. Columbia has held its last four Division I opponents to 0.67, 0.93, 0.88 and 0.71 points per trip, and three of those four contests were road or neutral site games.

Poll Position: It’s not common to have a Top 25 section in an Ivy League Check In, but this week, the Crimson cracked the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll at #24 and the AP Poll at #25. It was the first time that an Ivy squad made either poll since 2010, when Cornell finished at #17 in the Coaches Poll, and the first time a league team made the AP Poll since 1998, when Princeton climbed as high as #8. Harvard’s entrance marks the first time in school history that it has been ranked in either poll, leaving Brown as the only Ivy team never to have made the cut.

Struggling and Absent Stars: If the Ivies want to hang on to a conference rating in the teens, they will have to do it without some injured stars and some other pivotal players who have slightly to drastically underperformed expectations thus far. Columbia senior guard Noruwa Agho, who made First Team All-Ivy last year, was lost for the season with a knee injury. Brown junior forward Tucker Halpern, who was Honorable Mention All-Ivy last season, has yet to play, and there are no indications that he will be back any time soon. Finally, Cornell junior forward Errick Peck, who was poised for a breakout campaign, has yet to hit the floor for the Big Red. To compound matters, some freshmen of whom big things were expected, including Penn forward Greg Louis and Bears center Rafael Maia, have lost the season due to injury and foreign transfer eligibility rules, respectively.

While the three remaining returnees from the First Team All-Ivy squad – Quakers guard Zack Rosen, Yale center Greg Mangano and Crimson center Keith Wright – have carried over their stellar play, the remainder of last year’s All-Ivy team has posted some mixed results. Big Red guard Chris Wroblewski has shot an anemic 32.0 eFG% from the field and Harvard guards Christian Webster and Brandyn Curry haven’t hit at much higher clips (37.0 and 38.3 eFG%, respectively), though Curry’s solid assist rates have kept his offensive rating afloat. All told, that’s three graduations, two extended injuries and three underperforming stars from last year’s 14-player All-Ivy roster. That the league has managed to exceed last season’s performance thus far is a testament to the strong freshman class and the quality of the Ivies’ depth.

Kyle Casey Is In The Middle Of The Buzz Surrounding Harvard. Will They Stay Ranked After Thursday's Loss To Connecticut?

Power Rankings

  1. Harvard (8-1) – It hasn’t been pretty at times, but the Crimson has taken care of business every time out, with the lone setback being Thursday night’s loss at Connecticut. The biggest difference between this year and last has been the depth provided by Tommy Amaker’s talented 2011 class. Forward Steve Moundou-Missi provides strong defense and good finishing skills around the rim, while swingman Wesley Saunders can shut down opposing perimeter players and is hard to defend on drives to the basket. The contributions from the rookies don’t end there, though. Forward Jonah Travis put up a 19-point, 10-rebound performance against Seattle and guard Corbin Miller has knocked down seven of his first 10 threes. Both went quiet against the Huskies, but expect more consistent performances once the competition falls back to its usual level.
  2. Yale (7-2) – The four-man unit of guards Austin Morgan and Reggie Willhite and big men Jeremiah Kreisberg and Greg Mangano has been as good as any top four in the league. Depth, however, is lacking. Coach James Jones has given 11 different guys at least 10 percent of team minutes thus far and has yet to find a group of rotation players that can help on the offensive end consistently. The Bulldogs have taken care of business during a weak stretch, winning each of its last five contests to head into the exam break at 7-2 on the year. With the brutal back-to-back Ivy schedule, it is imperative that Yale find some options off the bench if it hopes to join the conversation with Harvard at the top of the league.
  3. Pennsylvania (5-5) – Senior guard Zack Rosen has been all that’s stood between the Quakers and disaster this season, but it’s been enough to make Pennsylvania a bit of a surprise. The Quakers’ record isn’t all that impressive, but its worst loss is to Pomeroy Top 150 James Madison, and it has already posted a Top 100 win over Robert Morris. Having been a Big 5 punching bag lately, Pennsylvania took Temple to overtime and lost at Villanova by eight – strong showings in what will be a competitive race for the title of Best in Philly.
  4. Princeton (4-5) – The question isn’t whether there are championship pieces here; rather, the question is whether there are enough. Senior guard Doug Davis and junior forward Ian Hummer have combined to use over 50 percent of Princeton’s possessions at an offensive rating over 100 when they’re on the floor, but the offense has still stagnated, as the Tigers haven’t been able to come close to replacing the output of graduated stars Dan Mavraides and Kareem Maddox. Princeton has played the second-best defense in the league thus far, which has kept it oddly competitive at times, but it is only 3-2 in D-I games when it holds the opponent under a point per possession, meaning that no matter how good the Tigers are at generating stops, improvement on the offensive end is necessary to win games consistently.
  5. Cornell (3-4) – Exam time has rolled around in Ithaca, but the Big Red went into its break with a bang, knocking off a very good Lehigh team at Newman Arena. Things get a lot tougher after finals, though, with visits to BCS teams Illinois, Penn State and Maryland on the horizon along with road dates at Stony Brook and Bucknell. Senior guard Chris Wroblewski has struggled thus far, shooting relatively poorly and turning the ball over much more than last year. Freshman Shonn Miller got off to a hot start for the Big Red, but despite cooling off a bit, his defensive rebounding abilities have been invaluable for a team that struggled to control the paint last season.
  6. Columbia (6-4) – Coming off a solid showing at Connecticut to start off the season, the Lions led Furman for 30 minutes before being dealt a huge blow, as senior guard Noruwa Agho suffered a season-ending knee injury. Columbia dropped the game to the Paladins and a couple more, but has come on strong as of late. Stingy defense has led the Lions to four-straight wins over Division I competition. Junior guard Brian Barbour has picked up the slack in Agho’s absence, taking on a huge possession load and leading the Lions to road wins over Manhattan and Loyola Marymount.
  7. Dartmouth (2-5) – After having spent the last four years mired in the 300s, the Big Green has begun to take visible steps toward respectability. Freshman forward Gabas Maldunas has given Dartmouth a legitimate interior presence and the backcourt led by upperclassmen R.J. Griffin and David Rufful has played well at times. Sure there is only one Division I win at this point (at home against Bryant), but the Big Green only fell to a solid San Francisco by two points in the Great Alaska Shootout and lost at Rutgers by just six in the season opener. There’s still a long way to go, but Paul Cormier is bringing Division I talent back to Hanover, and that’s a start.
  8. Brown (4-7) – Some bad fortune has landed the Bears in the Ivy cellar, as Brown hasn’t had the services of Tucker Halpern and Rafael Maia for reasons discussed above. Last year’s Ivy Rookie of the Year Sean McGonagill, transfer Stephen Albrecht and swingman Matt Sullivan have combined to forge a decent starting backcourt, but with no depth and more questions than answers at the forward spots, the Bears have struggled to avoid getting blown out by the top half of Division I teams. The schedule has been and will continue to be light enough for Brown to post a respectable record, but that won’t fool anyone that makes SOS adjustments.

Looking Ahead

Finals loom for many of the league’s teams, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of December is without its fair share of interesting matchups and potential statement games.

  • 12/10 – Pennsylvania at UCLA (Fox Sports West) – The Bruins will be without Reeves Nelson, who was suspended by UCLA coach Ben Howland this week. The Quakers might have a loss of their own though, as sophomore guard Miles Cartwright missed Pennsylvania’s last outing against Delaware. Despite struggling a bit this season, the Bruins should be healthy favorites in this one. The Quakers can win if they keep a cold shooting UCLA team from finding its stroke, but the game will likely hinge on whether Zack Rosen can successfully carry the team on his back as he’s been doing all season.
  • 12/10 – Columbia vs. Long Island – It took the Lions a little time to find themselves after losing Noruwa Agho, but Columbia has been on a tear recently. The Blackbirds will be the best team the Lions have faced other than Connecticut thus far though, and Long Island’s potent offense will provide a great test for Columbia’s suddenly stifling defense. If the Lions get by the Blackbirds, it will be hard not to make the argument that this team is better off without Agho than with him.
  • 12/14 – Princeton at Rider – This is a game the Tigers should win, but it’s hard to argue that the league’s most high variance team to this point “should” do anything. Princeton loses by two at North Carolina State and returns home to dismantle Buffalo, but falls to Elon at home and Morehead State at a neutral site before knocking off Rutgers in a game which itself exhibited violent swings. For the Tigers to be taken seriously as a contender in the consistency endeavor that is the 14-Game Tournament, they need to be able to take care of non-Top 200 squads on the road.
  • 12/18 – Yale at Rhode Island – The oddsmakers would have this as a near coin flip at this point, but it’s a game that the Bulldogs need to prove they can win, since the bulk of the Ivy League will likely hover in the same range. Greg Mangano should have a field day with a Rams frontcourt defense that’s allowing opponents to shoot 56.7 percent from two. If Yale can keep Rhode Island off the offensive glass – the only real positive for the Rams this season – it should be able to leave Kingston with a victory.
  • 12/21 – Cornell at Penn St. (Big Ten Network) – It’s the second Big Ten matchup for the Big Red in three days (after a trip to Illinois on Dec. 19), but this one should be a fair deal easier than the showdown with the #22 Illini. The Nittany Lions, who would be a notably bad Power Six conference team if it weren’t for many others that were already the standard bearers, just fell to Lafayette this week. If Cornell can keep Penn State’s offense dormant, it will have a great chance to put a Big Ten scalp on the Ivy mantle.
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RTC Conference Primers: #16 – Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 20th, 2011

Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

Readers’ Take I

Geography is an important factor in many of the Ivy League pre-conference games. With that in mind, we ask you:

 

Top Storylines

  • Travelin’ Elis: Optimism in New Haven? The Yankees are history, there are no Knicks, and the Giants and Jets have provided only disappointment so far. So it has to be about the upcoming Yale basketball season. And the fans have every reason to be hopeful thanks to their two stars who spent a good portion of the summer overseas. Jeremiah Kreisberg played for the Israeli U-20 team in the European Championships, and all he did was lead the team in scoring, averaging 12.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in about 30 minutes of action. The experience the 6’9” sophomore from California gained from international competition makes him the perfect complement to Greg Mangano. The returning RTC Ivy League POY played his way onto the US World University Games roster and in doing so became the first Ivy player to compete on the US team since Bill Bradley in 1965. (Can you say “Senator Mangano?”) While the team did not distinguish itself (a quarterfinal loss to Lithuania earned them a fifth place finish) Mangano got to show his skills playing alongside some of the heavyweights of the Big East. Also on the team were Tim Abromaitis, Ashton Gibbs and Scoop Jardine. Mangano averaged 3.2 points and 3.2 rebounds in almost 11 minutes of action, highlighted by an 8/8 performance against Mexico.
  • Early Exams: Granted, in a league where there is traditionally only one NCAA Tournament bid — Harvard’s merits last year not withstanding — wins and losses in non-conference games mean little. Yet, they do provide some early insight as to where the teams stand and an upset of a national power is cause for celebration. Overwhelming preseason favorite Harvard, along with the top two contenders, Yale and Penn, have early schedules that will prove to be either minefields or springboards. The Crimson play in the Battle for Atlantis over Thanksgiving and open with Utah. If all goes according to plan, they will face heavyweight Connecticut in the final. Should that happen, it will be a prelude to their traditional matchup with the Huskies in early December. Yale has an early date at Seton Hall but their acid test comes during a December road trip to Wake Forest and Florida. But the granddaddy of pre-conference schedules belongs to Penn. They will face Pitt and James Madison during the Hoop Group Philly Classic. That’s the appetizer for a main course that includes Big 5 contests against Temple and Villanova. And the dessert? End-of-year road trips to UCLA and Duke. It’s not a stretch to assume all of the above are tournament teams with Top 25 potential.

Predicted Order of Finish (predicted conference records in parenthesis)

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RTC Summer Update: Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 19th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Ivy League correspondent, Howard Hochman.

Reader’s Take

Introduction

It seems like only yesterday that Doug Davis was hitting his buzzer beating, fall-back, fall-down jumper that turned Harvard followers crimson. And not soon after, Brandon Knight’s last-second layup was a stake in the eye of the Tiger. But we must look forward and we can only hope the 2011-12 Ivy hoop season can provide the same excitement. This year, it appears seven of the Ancient Eight will be battling for second place. Harvard returns everyone, will be favored to go unbeaten in league play, and, in fact, each starter is capable of earning all league honors. But more on that later. First….

Summer News and Notes

  • Providence Coaching Change Trickles Into Ivy Ranks: We have yet to hear a good explanation why a title-winning Princeton coach and alum Sydney Johnson would leave that bucolic and secure setting for traditional basketball hotbed… Fairfield. Now granted, the MAAC is an underrated conference and departing coach Ed Cooley did not exactly leave the cupboard bare after a 25-win season. In my opinion, the move is lateral at best. But never fear, Princetonians, the apple does not fall far from the tree; the Pete Carrill coaching tree, that is. Mitch Henderson, another alum, and most recently Bill Carmody’s right hand man at Northwestern, was immediately signed on, so it would be wise to keep “three-pointer” and “back-door” in your vocabulary.
  • Ancient Eight Coaches Resist GMU Courtship: Speaking of coaches, when Jim Larranaga departed George Mason for the sunny climes and dollars at Miami, the school first looked north to the Ivy League for his replacement. Not surprisingly, Tommy Amaker chose to remain with his talent-laden bunch in Cambridge. What is surprising is that Bill Courtney turned Mason down. You might remember it was Courtney who was the recruiting architect of the Patriots’ Final Four team in 2006. Furthermore, the CAA is most assuredly a step up from the Ivy and enjoyed one of its finest seasons with VCU coming out of nowhere to make a Cinderella run to the Final Four. It makes one think Mr. Courtney likes what he sees on the roster and that the future may be brighter than most imagine at Cornell.
  • Life Outside Campus: Last season, Greg Mangano of Yale was named the RTC Ivy Player of the Year as a junior. After a season in which his double-double average led the Elis to a third-place finish, and after some discussion with his coach, James Jones, Mangano decided to declare for the NBA Draft but did not hire an agent. A few NBA teams showed interest, but fortunately for Yale fans, he listened to the whispers in his ear and withdrew his name and everyone exhaled at Pepe’s Pizza and Louis’ Lunch. As a reward for his outstanding season, Mangano was invited to try out for the World University Games Team, beginning July 31 in Colorado Springs. The Games themselves will take place next month in China, but it won’t be as big a culture shock as most would expect for Mangano. He averaged over 21 points per game during Yale’s recent ten-day swing through the country. Only 12 (out of the 22 high-profile invitees) will make the traveling squad. We will keep you posted.

Douglas Davis (20) was one cool customer for Princeton, sinking this heartbreaker to top the Crimson and nearly leading the Tigers to an NCAA Tournament upset over Kentucky (Associated Press/Jessica Hill)

Power Rankings

  1. Harvard: Just let the names Kyle Casey, Keith Wright, Brandyn Curry and Christian Webster roll off your tongue and you have the reasons why last year’s co-title holders should repeat with ease though the middle of the league has gotten stronger. An undefeated run through the league seems reasonable and with some out-of-conference success, a Top 25 ranking appears attainable. Kenyatta Smith, a rebounding machine a la Wes Unseld at 6’7″ and 260 pounds, leads a formidable recruiting class. Pencil in a meaningful Selection Sunday for the first time in Cambridge. Read the rest of this entry »
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Ivy League Wrap and Postseason Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 15th, 2011

Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

The Aftermath – Princeton 63, Harvard 62

On a day of hoops hysteria and afternoon delights dominated by buzzer-beaters, ESPN live-look ins, and replayed highlights, none were as hysterical or as replayed as Harvard/Princeton. By now, you know the result, have read the front page of your local sports section, and have seen the dagger Doug Davis shot through every Crimson heart. The agate will simply read Princeton 63, Harvard 62. But this game was so much more than that. It was about players on both sides performing brilliantly under pressure, with the stars on both teams shining brightly in a packed and raucous Lee Amphitheater; matching basket for basket down the stretch. Ian Hummer to the hoop for a Princeton one point lead with 37 seconds left matched by a driving lay-up 26 seconds later by Brandyn Curry- who was magnificent- to keep the see-saw moving, setting the stage for Davis. The game will not soon be forgotten. Princeton moves on and is one of those clichéd opponents that “nobody wants to see in the first round” but John Calipari and Kentucky will. The only thing that could have removed the sting for Harvard is an at-large berth that they truly deserved. Instead, the committee rewarded a lot of also-rans from power conferences that inflated their record by playing all the schools with directional names in their home state and on their home court. Tommy Amaker went out and did what the NCAA asks — play a representative pre-conference schedule on the road –George Mason, UConn, Michigan, dancers all. And in fact, Harvard had a better RPI than 14 of the at-large teams selected. A travesty, but then again those other teams have fans who travel and contribute and we all know money talks. So they will play in the NIT and unlike some of the other teams who get the same “honor,” Harvard will show up and play their hearts out. Like Saturday.

NCAA Tournament Preview

Last year, Cornell won its first two tournament games and had become the darling of the country. They were a senior-laden team, dependent on scoring from beyond the arc. Next on tap were the Kentucky Wildcats and their team of NBA first rounders. But they were young. John Calipari had a week to prepare and allowed his team to hear the hype of the Brains vs. Brawn match up. And he convinced his team to play some aggressive D on the perimeter resulting in a Kentucky rout. The committee must have enjoyed last year, as Princeton draws Kentucky in the first round. Feline groovy.

The two teams had one common opponent, Penn, and neither lost. But in a game that kicked off the new year, Penn had the Wildcats on the ropes at Rupp for most of the first half before falling victim by 24. The difference was on the boards. Princeton will not be that overmatched inside thanks to Kareem Maddox and Ian Hummer who can definitely rebound with Josh Harrelson and Terrence Jones. The game may come down to how well the Tigers defend the three-point shooting trio of Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller. Furthermore, the Wildcats are not deep. Only six play double figure minutes. They are in trouble if either Jones or Knight gets into foul trouble. So here is the recipe: stay close early, play even off the boards, draw some fouls and stop transition. Can be done but a tall order. Let’s go out on a limb here. The Tigers do what Cornell couldn’t, ride the wave of Doug Davis’s heroics, win one for the Ancient Eight and come away with a 68-66 victory.

Final Power Rankings

1. Princeton (12-2, 25-6)–won the title in a playoff game for the ages as chronicled above-and deservingly so; had a spectacular season; a nice core returns, even though Maddox and Dan Mavraides’ graduation will be big shoes to fill. Look for the Tigers to give the Kentucky freshmen all they can handle.

2. Harvard (12-2, 23-6)–as Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe so eloquently put it, “Princeton won, but nobody lost”; heads held high in defeat and truly deserved a spot in the field of 68; will be unanimous pre-season choice for 2011-2012 title with everyone coming back and a top recruiting class. A pre-season top 25?

3. Yale (8-6, 15-13)–Coach Jones thinks they should be one of the favorites next season and he may be right. Mr. Inside/ Mr. Outside, Greg Mangano (see below) and Morgan a formidable duo.” The Game” next year may be on the court instead of the field.

4. Penn (7-7, 13-15)–Underachievers? Perhaps, but they are a fun team to watch and have found a gem in Cartwirght; need to develop an inside presence to compete with the Hummers, Manganos, and Wrights of the world.

5. Columbia (6-8, 15-13)–will return leading scorer Agho and running mate Barbour so immediate respectability; nice first year for Coach Smith, who will look to recapture some of his St.Marys recruiting magic

6. Cornell (6-8, 10-18)–ended the season on an uptick, winning their last three; Coach Bill Courtney developed a system of playing everybody; Chris Wroblewski will be last trace of Big Red dynasty; keep an eye on recruiting class.

7. Brown (4-10, 11-17)–bright spot is their youth, particularly do-it-all guard Sean McGonagill; I like Coach Agel a lot, but with so much of Ivy nucleus returning will be tough to see any noticeable improvement in standings though.

8. Dartmouth (1-13, 5-23)—I wonder how Coach Cormier can keep his kids motivated; no immediate escape from the cellar is imminent; freshman guard Melville looks like a keeper; attracting more fans to the games may be a realistic goal.

The Second Annual Bradley Awards

It is time to honor the best of the brightest…those players, and coach, from the Ivy League who have distinguished themselves during this 2010-2011 basketball season. And the good news is, just about every one of this year’s recipients will be returning next year.

Coach of the Year: Certainly newcomers Kyle Smith at Columbia and Bill Courtney at Cornell appear to be on the right track. And Brown looks they could contend in the near future under Jesse Agel. But this year’s choice came down to the men who lead the two pre-eminent programs–Sydney Johnson of Princeton and Tommy Amaker of Harvard. Both did outstanding jobs and indeed had their teams prepared for the game of the year. However 90% of the country chose Princeton as their preseason choice with their starting team returning intact and two seniors. Harvard, on the other hand, lost POY Jeremy Lin, had a much more inexperienced nucleus, yet ended up with the better record and better RPI. So the Bradley goes to..Tommy Amaker.

Freshman of the Year: As alluded to in our previous column this was perhaps the toughest choice. Miles Cartwright of Penn came out of the gate on fire and perhaps is a future star. Laurent Rivard of Harvard proved invaluable as a sixth man helping the Crimson to a share of the title. But the Bradley goes to Sean McGonagill of Brown. The 6’1 guard from Illinois started every game since his arrival on campus. And he earned the coveted trophy with his versatility. He led the team in minutes played (33.3 per game), assists (5.2 pg), and free throw shooting (82%). He was third on the team in scoring (11.8) and rebounding (4.4). I have a feeling this will not be the last of his Bradleys.

Sixth Man of the Year: This one is almost unfair. Princeton is so well-balanced that they can afford to bring a Player of the Year candidate and one their two most important seniors off the bench. None other than Kareem Maddox. The 6’8 Californian was perhaps their most valuable player but started only four games. Yet he averaged over 30 minutes. The rest of his stats were equally impressive; 13.7 ppg (second on the team and 8th in the league) on 57% shooting from the field; and 7.0 rebounds per game (4th in the league). What would the Bradleys be without a Princeton representative?

All-Ivy Team:

  • Noruwa Agho Columbia – 6’3 Jr. New City, NY–led the league in scoring at 16.8; fifth in assists at 4.3; contributed over four rebounds per game; started every game and played nearly 35 minutes per game
  • Zack Rosen Penn – 6’1  Jr. Colonia, NJ–led team in scoring (14.6, 4th in league), minutes played (36. 7, 1st in league), assists ( 5.5, 2nd in league) and steals (1.3, 6th in league); defending RTC Ivy Player of the Year as a sophomore hit numerous clutch game winning or tying shots.
  • Keith Wright Harvard – 6’8 Jr. Suffolk, Va–led team in scoring (14.9, 3rd in league), rebounding (8.5, 2nd in league) and in field goal percentage (58.8, 1st in league); started every game and combined with Kyle Casey to give Crimson tough inside duo.
  • Ian Hummer Princeton – 6’7 So. Vienna, Va–tough choice over  Jack Eggleston; yet it was Hummer’s all-around play and team success which ultimately gave him the nod ; 7th in league in scoring (13.9 led team), 6th in rebounding (6.7), 2nd in Fg % (55.7%) 4th in blocks (1.1); the Tigers’ go to guy
  • Greg Mangano Yale – 6’10 Jr. Orange, Ct.–only Ivy player to average a double/double (16.3 ppg, 10.0 rebounds per game); was within .5 of a point from leading the league in both scoring and rebounding; led league in blocks with three per game; second in the league in shots taken but still shot over 48%; with running mate Austin Morgan, forms perhaps best returning inside/outside threat. And thus…

Greg Mangano is recognized as the 2010-2011 Bradley Award winner as Ivy League Player of the Year.

Defending the Jacket

Last year, we scored a coup, not only winning the RTC Bracket Pool (and the Hickory High letter jacket), but dominating the other two in which we participated. This gives me the right and responsibility to offer my thoughts on this year’s tournament — offered with a caveat; winning is tough, repeating near impossible. I have identified four factors which lead to NCAA success — free throw shooting, rebounding margin, shooting the three and defending it. Last season, Duke was the only team to appear in the top 40 nationally in the four categories. Xavier and St. Mary’s were the only others to appear in three and thus were recommended as likely to outlive their seed. This year, the same analysis provided some eye-opening information.

The eye test, based on watching all season long, has left me with the conclusion that Ohio State is the best team. But OSU appears in only one of the categories- so bye bye Buckeyes. And in fact, this season, NO team ranks in the top 40 in all four categories. But there are three teams in three. Those are Kansas, Arizona, and Texas. And the latter two, unfortunately, are on a collision course for a second round matchup in the West bracket. Arizona has the better numbers. So the Cats advance, knock off Duke in the regional final and advance to play Kansas in the championship game. We will let you take it from there. Let the Madness begin.

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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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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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Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 18th, 2010

Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

A Look Back

Ivy Sedation: A quiet two weeks for the eight member schools as they all had light schedules to concentrate on finals. A total of 19 games were played in which the league compiled a 13-6 record. No big deal, you say. Well, maybe. But the league’s overall performance has catapulted them to a Top Ten national RPI ranking-for the first time in recent memory. Currently the Ivy League is ahead of the conferences of Butler (Horizon), Memphis (Conference USA), and Gonzaga (West Coast). And just ahead in striking distance are the conferences of Drexel (Colonial and recent road conqueror of Louisville) and Washington (Pac-10). Could it be that the RPI has found a kindred spirit in another three letter ranking system…the all-important GPA? Can you say “multiple bids?”

Ivy/Big Ten Challenge: In the era of preseason conference match-up challenges, don’t tell me you haven’t heard of this one? No, it wasn’t on any of the ESPN family of networks. It didn’t feature Dickie V, Jay, Len or Raff as analysts. And in fact, it wasn’t even a scheduled event. But if you tuned in to the Big Ten Network on Saturday December 4, you witnessed two white knucklers (in honor of the aircraft carrier of analysts, Al McGuire) between teams from the Ivy first division and two NCAA Tournament hopeful Big Ten teams. The Ivy reps–Harvard and Cornell–road warriors both–should have emerged victorious. Yet both went down to defeat at the hands of Michigan and then #15 Minnesota respectively. And the defeats can be summarized in four words: John Beilein and Tubby Smith. You may have heard of them. A brief recap:

  • Harvard-Michigan: The Wolverines get a raucous welcome as they return home after a three-game road trip that saw them lose close games to Syracuse and UTEP before downing Clemson in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Tommy Amaker did not get the same type of welcome for the return to his last coaching stop.  The Crimson dominated the first half (up seven) and into the early stages of the second (up 12) in a contest that saw the return to action of last year’s Ivy Freshman of the Year, Kyle Casey (scoreless in seven minutes of action).  A Stu Douglass-led 17-1 run puts Michigan up for good; a run in which Coach Amaker assumes his stoic arms crossed, emotionless posture. Swap coaches and Harvard wins going away. Keith Wright, and standout Laurent Rivard acquit themselves nobly in defeat.
  • Cornell-Minnesota: Few visiting teams win at The Barn. Not only do they have to contend with the talented Golden Gophers, but they must also survive the always-treacherous step up onto the court. A see-saw first half left Cornell trailing by one at the break. The second half was a contest between Errick (bushel and a ) Peck/Chris Wroblewski (both finishing with 16 points) and the refs. Cornell kept hoisting threes (14-33) and Minnesota kept marching to the line (26-44 from the stripe, compared to 10-14 for the Big Red). The success at the line proved crucial, as Cornell held Minnesota without a field goal during an 11-minute stretch. Minnesota was coming off its first non-conference home loss in over three years (Virginia). Guess Tubby and co. were not about to let it happen again.

The bottom line–two of the top four Ivy teams showed they can play with the Big Ten (OSU, MSU, and Illinois notwithstanding). On a neutral court, the results no doubt would have been different.

  • Player of the Week: Greg Mangano, Yale – Not an easy choice given the lack of action in the league, but Mangano gets the honors. The 6’10 junior, a local product from Orange, CT. led the Elis to wins in two of three games. The only blemish came in a tough four-point road loss to America East power Vermont. During the three game span, Mangano scored 15.3 PPG, shot 52% from the field and pulled down 31 rebounds (10.3 RPG). His presence has allowed Yale to join Harvard and Princeton as Ivy Windex forces. And Mangano’s stats speak for themselves as the junior from Yale locks down the coveted RTC hardware.

Power Rankings

  1. Harvard (7-2) – Only losses have come at the hands of a couple of 8-2 teams (George Mason and Michigan). The return of Kyle Casey and the emergence of le frosh du Canada Laurent Rivard add to the Crimson depth. That depth and overall record keep them a notch above….
  2. Princeton (7-3) – The Tigers boast a five-game winning streak with the last of those being an OT win at Tulsa thanks to a dominating performance by Kareem Maddox (31 points and six boards). Princeton has eight solid players averaging over 11 minutes per game.
  3. Columbia (6-4) – Winning five out of their last six has vaulted the Lions into the first division, for the time being. Noruwa Agho paces the scoring with a 16.1 average.
  4. Penn (4-4) – If not for a career day from Corey Stokes, the Quakers would be riding a three-game win streak. As it is, that hard-fought loss to nationally ranked Big Five and Big East foe Villanova propels the Quakers, feeling their oats, to the first division.
  5. Yale (5-4) – The Bulldogs have won of four of five to boost them over the .500 mark. The inside/outside duo of Player of the Week Greg Mangano and guard Austin Morgan–both averaging over 15 points per game–may be unrivaled in the league. The M&M boys are becoming a sweet combination.
  6. Cornell (2-6) – So how can team with a five-game losing streak and the worst record in the league actually move up in the rankings? Simple: Couple a gritty, gutty Big Red showing at Minnesota with dreadful performances by Brown and Dartmouth.
  7. Brown (4-4) – A four-game road trip proved disastrous as the Bears ended it with a 27-point blowout at the hands of crosstown rival Providence; The Bears were outrebounded 44-26.
  8. Dartmouth (3-6) – Ronnie Dixon scores 21 as the Big Green defeat Army and show signs of life. Then, he goes and shoots 1-10 in a loss to Northeast Conference leader St. Francis.

Looking Ahead

  • Home cooking versus Ivy patsy Army may prove to be a panacea for road-weary Brown.
  • Beginning their break for finals, Columbia has only a road trip to Orono-the idyllic winter getaway–to face Maine before the New Year.
  • Cornell will have had two weeks to regroup before facing SUNY icon Binghamton, who in eight games have given up 120 points more than they have scored. Two more winnable games follow before 2011 is here.
  • For some reason, Dartmouth has chosen Iowa as their winter wonderland, traveling to the Hawkeye state for games against Iowa State and Drake.
  • Harvard comes off their finals hiatus with perhaps their toughest test of the year, a date with Kemba Walker and the UConn Huskies.
  • Penn ends the year with trips south (Delaware) and north (Marist) before ushering in the New Year with John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.
  • Princeton looks to extend their five-game winning streak at Wagner and Towson. It is likely that the Tigers will begin Ivy play at 12-3.
  • Next to Princeton/Duke, the SAT game of the year takes place in Palo Alto as Yale travels to face Stanford on the 28th.
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RTC Live: Cornell @ Seton Hall

Posted by rtmsf on November 14th, 2010

Game #9. We’re back in north Jersey to visit our friends at Seton Hall who need to put together a home win after a tough loss at Temple on Friday night.

Coming off of the best season in school history, Cornell rolled into Albany Friday night and knocked off the University of Albany 65-61 to open their 2011 campaign. The Big Red graduated three All-Ivy players, the squad’s fourth starter and lost Head Coach Steve Donahue (gone to Boston College coach the Eagles). Going into their opener against the Great Danes, career assistant-come-head-coach Bill Courtney also learned the lone returning starter from the 2010 team, junior guard Chris Wroblewski, would be DNP with a sprained ankle. Bad perhaps, but not hopeless, seniors Max Groebe and Aaron Osgood stepped up to lead Cornell to the win. Next stop on the the Big Red road tour is the Rock in Newark, New Jersey, home of the Pirates of Seton Hall University. The Hall, like Cornell, sports a new head coach, Kevin Willard, who also debuted on the road Friday night. Seton Hall traveled to Philadelphia for a game with #22 ranked Temple. But the City of Brotherly Love showed SHU no love at all as the Owls sent the Pirates packing 62-56. Led by Herb Pope, Jeff Robinson, Jeremy Hazell and junior guard Jordan Theodore, the Hall will try to get on the winning track as Cornell tries to run their streak to two. Join RTC Live at the Rock Sunday at noon, as Seton Hall hosts Cornell.

Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC Presents College Basketball’s Opening Weekend

Posted by nvr1983 on November 12th, 2010

After opening with four games apiece on Monday and Wednesday night, college basketball really starts to pick up this evening with 16 of the top 25 teams in action including Georgetown traveling to play a tough Old Dominion team. By Sunday night, 24 of the top 25 teams will have played with Missouri being the lone exception, as they do not play their first game until November 18th. Even though there are only a few games that I would deem particularly compelling in isolation it will be interesting to see how the new pieces on these teams work with the returning parts.

We will have more about each day’s game with our Set Your Tivo feature, but in addition to those games you can watch on TV, we will also be coming to you courtside from nine games on RTC Live this weekend. Check back throughout the weekend for more (somewhat) instant analysis and join us on RTC Live for action from across the nation.

Friday

  • Boston University at Northeastern, 7 PM – One of the early battles of Boston will occur in Matthews Arena as the Terriers come to play the Huskies, who will be significantly weaker this year after losing four of their top five scorers. Chaisson Allen and the Huskies will be tested against a promising Terrier team led by John Holland, the leading scorer in America East, who has support from a team that includes four transfers.
  • East Tennessee State at #10 Kentucky, 7 PM on Big Blue Sports and ESPN Full Court – This game will be interesting if only for the reaction of the Wildcats and their fans a day after learning that Enes Kanter, whom many said would be the key to their season, would never play in a Wildcat uniform. On the other sideline, the Buccaneers will be without Tommy Hubbard, their leading scorer and rebounder. Ok, technically Hubbard will be on the sideline, but you get my point…
  • Cornell at Albany, 7:30 PM – While the Great Danes should be improved with Tim Ambrose returning for his senior season, most of the college basketball world will be focused on the Big Red, who lost eight seniors, including Ryan Whitman, Louis Dale, and Jeff Foote along with their coach Steve Donahue, who headed to Boston College. New coach Bill Courtney will be relying on Chris Wroblewski as one of the few known elements of his team to help guide the Big Red in the early season while they try to establish a new identity.

Saturday

  • North Florida at #5 Pittsburgh, 4 PM on The Big East Network and ESPN Full Court - We aren’t expecting this to be a particularly competitive game, but it will be worth following to see the co-favorites in the Big East (along with Villanova and Syracuse). The Panthers have one of the best backcourts in America with Ashton GibbsBrad Wanamaker, and Gilbert Brown, but the success of the team could well depend on the interior play of Gary McGhee, who has been quiet so far this season.
  • Harvard at George Mason, 4 PM – Jeremy Lin is gone, but Tommy Amaker returns with a solid squad–led by Kyle Casey and Keith Wright–that is good enough to win the school’s first Ivy League title. [Ed. Note: The Crimson are the only historic Division 1 program to have never won a league championship. And the answer is no, we do not count schools that joined recently in the discussion.] They will have their hands full, however, as they travel down to Fairfax, Virginia to take on Jim Larranaga‘s squad that is led by Cam Long and Ryan Pearson and could very easily end up winning the CAA.
  • #23 San Diego State at Long Beach State, 7 PM – This game should be all about the Aztecs who return all five starters from a team that challenged Tennessee in a close game in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament last March. The Aztecs, who are led by sophomore sensation Kawhi Leonard, should challenge BYU for the Mountain West title this season, but Steve Fisher has higher aspirations for what’s certainly a Sweet 16-level team. Look for Casper White to make his mark for the 49ers, but the Aztecs should win this one fairly easily.
  • Weber State at Utah State, 9:05 PM – An early season Bracket Buster match-up that might be the most interesting game of the weekend. The Wildcats will have the best player on the court in Damian Lillard, projected as a potential first round pick in 2012, but they will have to travel to Logan to take on a Aggie team that returns four of five starters but will really miss Jared Quayle as they have to break in a new point guard against Lillard.

Sunday

  • Cornell at Seton Hall, Noon on The Big East Network and ESPN Full Court – Their second game of the weekend should be significantly more challenging for the Big Red as they travel to play a Pirate team that has a new coach in Kevin Willard and returns two stars in Jeremy Hazell and Herb Pope. We know what to expect from Hazell (shooting, lots of shooting), but we aren’t sure what to expect from Pope who underwent cardiac surgery in the off-season to repair a congenital abnormality. Pope looked pretty good in some exhibition games, but we expect it will be a while before he gets back to the level where he was last year. A year ago, the Pirates won a tight game over the Big Red on the road. Don’t expect this year to be as close.
  • Princeton at #1 Duke, 5 PM on ESPNU – That’s right. We will be courtside for the opening game of Duke’s title defense. Nothing against the Tigers, but this should be one of those 40-50 point blowouts. Still, we will be interested to see how Kyrie Irving and Seth Curry fit into an already loaded perimeter attack for the Blue Devils that features Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.
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… and Four Teams Down

Posted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

Every year teams come out of nowhere and burst into the top 25, while sports writers run to their keyboards to type the requisite “Where Did Team X Come From” story. I mean how many people saw Cornell coming last year? Who said last October that Butler would go on to lose the national championship game by just a couple of inches?  Conversely, there are teams that look great on paper in the preseason but fail to live up to the hype once the season starts. Think North Carolina last season. Why did the Tar Heels begin the year in the top 10 again?  Allow us to sort through the mess and pull out this year’s Cornells and North Carolinas for you. Missouri fans, get ready to be excited. West Virginia fans, start thinking of things to say in your hate mail.

On Monday we took a look at four teams that will be up this season.  Today we’ll examine four teams that will be down as compared to where they were last year.

#1) West Virginia

There's a Lot of Pressure on Kevin Jones to Produce This Year

No Devin Ebanks. No Da’Sean Butler. All kinds of problems for the Mountaineers, who are the only team from last year’s Final Four to begin the season outside of the AP top 25. Bob Huggins’ squad lost a lot of what made last year’s team so tough to handle with the depatures of Ebanks and Butler. The 2009-10 Mountaineers got by on their ability to suffocate opponents with their brutally physical play combined with Butler’s brilliance on the offensive end. Now much of the responsibility falls to forward Kevin Jones, who averaged 13.5 points per game as West Virginia’s third option. Can Jones step up his game this year when defenses single him out as the guy they have to stop? If Jones struggles, then the Mountaineers will have a hard time duplicating even some of the success they enjoyed last year.

Reports coming from preseason practices aren’t too encouraging. Huggins recently told the Charleston Gazette that freshmen Kevin Noreen and Noah Cottrill “look lost” at practice. And that was after Cottrill sparked rumors when he was introduced but didn’t participate in West Virginia’s Midnight Madness. There also was the case of Casey Mitchell, who was suspended for a violation of team rules but is now back with the team. These aren’t the kinds of stories that equate to success in the regular season. This year might be one to forget in Morgantown.

#2) Cornell

Such is the Life of a Mid-Major -- Seasons Like Last Year Come Around Once in Generation

The Big Red was the last year’s feel good story, upsetting Temple and Wisconsin en route to an unprecedented run to the Sweet 16. And what was the reward for America’s favorite brainiacs turned basketball stars? A return to obscurity.

Cornell lost its X&Os wizard in Steve Donahue when he opted for the greener pastures of the ACC, taking the head coaching gig at Boston College. The Big Red lost all-time leading scorer and 2010 Ivy League Player of the Year (Ryan Wittman), the sparkplug and catalyst of its NCAA Tournament run (Louis Dale) and six other seniors from last year’s squad.  That would be a lot of attrition for even a team like Duke to endure, and there’s no doubt Cornell and new coach Bill Courtney are headed for a big step backward this season.

The Big Red was predicted to finish third in the Ivy League, which would require a number of players to step up fill the voids left by the likes of Wittman and Dale. Cornell needs big seasons from proven players like point guard Chris Wroblewski and forwards Adam Wire and Mark Coury. Then the Big Red will need some of its unknown pieces (one if its four freshman or maybe junior transfer Anthony Gatlin) to emerge if Courtney & Co. hope to compete for a fourth straight league title.

#3) Purdue

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