Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2011

Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

A Look Back

While most of the country dribbles through the dog days of February with talk of seedings and bubbles (alive, alive-o), the Ivy League plays in search of their conference champion and its NCAA tournament representative. After their first meeting, it appeared the rest of the schedule would be a formality for Harvard and Princeton, as they both moved inexorably toward a March 5 date with destiny. But then….

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To A Title: After beating Harvard at home at the beginning of February, and extending their winning streak to five, Princeton could be forgiven if they were looking a month ahead to the rematch; a game where a win would all but guarantee an Ivy championship. And indeed, despite a couple of close calls along the way, the Tigers did win another five straight, allowing them to maintain their slim lead on the Crimson who, to their credit, kept pace. A trip to Providence did not seem to represent a particularly difficult hurdle. But then they let Brown do it to them. It was a game they never really threatened to win, leading only once briefly mid-way through the second half, before a 13-2 Bear run put the ribbon around a 75-65 win. It was the most points the defensive-minded Tigers had allowed since their early season Duke debacle. They were no better offensively as those Tigers not named Ian Hummer and Kareem Maddox shot a collective 8-32. The loss dropped them out of the league lead and needing an unlikely Crimson crumble to regain it. This past Saturday, they got what they needed.

Not exactly The Game, but anything pitting the Bulldogs against Harvard gets the juices flowing in New Haven and Cambridge. And it should have come as no surprise to see the Crimson stub their toe. After the Princeton loss, they needed two overtimes to beat Penn, had to dig out of two large halftime holes in both games against Brown, and eked out a three point win vs. Yale at home. The rematch at Lee Amphitheater saw Harvard cling to a slight lead most of the way. But the Elis hung tough and went ahead with 41 seconds remaining. Harvard had a couple of shots to win, including a Brandyn Curry missed layup at the buzzer, but fell 70-69 and out of first place. Harvard must now defeat Princeton next weekend and then hope for the Quakers to play spoiler. A playoff is a distinct possibility where fate could be decided by a flip of the coin to determine home court.

The Future is Now: Most basketball fans by now have heard of Kyrie Irivng of Duke and the ACC and Brandon Knight of Kentucky and the SEC. Both great freshman guards. But it is unlikely any league can boast of three backcourt newcomers that have made an immediate impact like Miles Cartwright, Sean McGonagall and Laurent Rivard have done in the Ivy League. Cartwright is perhaps the most electric with the most upside once he gets a bit stronger. He announced his presence in the season opener for Penn when he came off the bench to score 18 first half points against Davidson. He has started the last 17 games and seems unlikely to relinquish that spot. Rivard has had the most impact; thrown into the pressure cooker as Harvard’s sixth man as they search for their first ever Ivy crown. But the most versatile and most consistent has been McGonagill at Brown. He has started every game for the Bears and is third in scoring and rebounding while leading the team in assists. Amazingly, their stats are almost identical:

Player           Minutes      FG%        FT%      PPG

McGonagill       33           45%          83%      11.7

Rivard              25            43%          89%      11.2

Cartwright        34            43%          82%      11.6

Throw in Rivard’s two made threes per game, Cartwright’s defense (1.3 steals per game), and McGonagill’s four rebounds and five assists per game and you have three worthy candidates for Ivy Freshman of the Year.

Player of the Week: By his own standards, it is likely Zack Rosen of Penn would be the first to admit that it has been a disappointing year for him and for the team. After all he was the defending RTC Ivy Player of the Year and some of the more zealous Quaker faithful and alumni were quietly confident that this team could contend for an Ivy title. Well that is not going to happen and Rosen is unlikely to earn back-to-back trophies for his mantle. After a couple of down games, Rosen has responded and led Penn to three straight wins before losing to Cornell. Over the past two weekends, he has played 146 of a possible 160 minutes. He shot 48% from the field, 54% from long range, and 89% from the line. He grabbed 15 boards, averaged six assists and 16.5 points per game. And while he only scored eight against Yale, his last-second basket was the game-winner. So this week, we honor the 6’1 junior from the Garden State with a fitting bouquet of..you guessed it, roses. The Zack Attack lives!

Power Rankings

1. Princeton (22-5, 10-1)—The Tigers breathe a sigh of relief as they come from behind to take the lead versus Columbia, scoreboard watch, and see Harvard go down in defeat. Princeton can celebrate if they beat the Crimson on Saturday and then not have to worry about a date with Penn that follows. The most veteran team still is experiencing shooting woes, however.

2. Harvard (21-5, 10-2)–Probably the most talented team has played in spurts over the last two weeks and that attitude finally came back to bite them. A win on Saturday most likely guarantees a playoff. An interesting scenario finds the Crimson at 43 in RPI rankings-ahead of tournament likely Missouri State (Missouri Valley champs), Florida State ( #3 in the ACC), Butler (atop the Horizon with Cleveland State), and Marquette (9-7 in the Big East). Could the unthinkable happen and the Ivies get two bids in the new and expanded NCAA Tournament?

3. Penn (12-13, 6-5)–Below .500 overall and trailing Yale by a half game in standings, but the Quakers rank above the Elis thanks to a head-to-head series sweep. A disappointing pair of losses to Cornell and two other overtime disappointments sealed their fate. One has to wonder if Fran Dunphy (or Steve Donahue) on the bench might have made a difference in those games and kept the Quakers in the mix.

4. Yale (7-5, 14-12)—Yale made Princeton fans ecstatic when they found a way to beat Harvard. Having lost five close games during the season, they will definitely be a contender next season as they lose no one of consequence. Player of the Year candidate Greg Mangano (averaging a double/double) should receive some national recognition.

5. Columbia (5-7, 14-12)–A promising start for first year coach Kyle Smith came grinding to a halt as the Lions have lost six of their last eight. Columbia has the opportunity to finish .500 if they get two home wins to conclude the season. Another team that returns its nucleus and must be in the 2011-2012 conversation.

6. Brown (4-8, 11-15)—The Bears have beaten Princeton, sustained a two-point loss at Penn, and have had Harvard on the ropes twice. I have a feeling coach Jesse Agel is a star in the making, as is his freshman point guard Sean McGonagall (see above). They will lose Peter Sullivan but return everyone else who  contributes.

7. Cornell (4-8, 8-18)–Four games ago, coach Bill Courtney started looking ahead and has played 14 players in three of their last four games and averaged 13 players in their last seven games. It has worked, as the Big Red is 4-3 over that span. Have to believe this prime recruiter will have Ithaca rocking soon.

8. Dartmouth (1-11, 5-21)–After beating Cornell, it looks as if Dartmouth will end the season on an 11 game losing streak. With the teams above them keeping most of their good players, it is difficult to imagine the Green escaping the cellar. Most promising is freshman guard Tommy Melville who has averaged in double figure over the last four games.

A Look Ahead

One weekend left to the Ivy season, so circle the date—Saturday, March 5. That is when Princeton travels to Cambridge to visit Harvard. A Princeton win sends the Tigers dancing; a Harvard win and all eyes then turn to the Palestra three days later as Penn tries to ruin the season of their archrivals. A playoff for league honors is not out of the question. Either way, as per usual, the one left standing will become the first official entrant into the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

Whatever happens, our next column will take a close look at the Ivy champ, how they eventually earned the crown, and dissect their matchup with their first round opponent, and if they realistically have a chance to duplicate Cornell’s run. We will also bestow our annual Bradley Awards in the form of the All-Ivy team, Coach of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, and of course, Player of the Year

And as an added bonus, as defending RTC NCAA Bracket Pool contest winner, and proud owner of the coveted red leather Hickory High letter jacket, I feel it is my duty and responsibility to offer you my analysis of this year’s tournament–including who may surprise and of course the team that will ultimately enjoy a shining moment. See you then!

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Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 14th, 2011

Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

Looking Back

It’s hard to believe there are only three weekends remaining in the Ivy season. The past fortnight saw some amazing comebacks (Harvard down 22 at the half vs. Brown at home; Penn rallying three consecutive games from double-figure deficits); difficulty on the road (unless the home team was Dartmouth); some outstanding individual performances (Greg Mangano, Keith Wright, Sean McGonagill, Ian Hummer); and the wheat separating itself from the chaff, beginning with….

The Clash of the Titans: On February 4, Harvard strode into Jadwin Gym for the Ivy version of Kansas vs. Texas. Both the Crimson and the Tigers were undefeated in conference and just about every pre-season prediction had one or the other as probable league champs. The likelihood was that this game, as well as the season-ending return match a month later would determine who would be dancing in March. It would be an upset if either team stumbled significantly before that.  Before Harvard could entertain any shining moments, they had to stop playing second banana and get the monkey off their back; the monkey in the form of a 21-game road losing streak to Princeton. Certainly the Crimson wanted to avoid any slip-ups this time.  Harvard out-shot the Tigers from the field, 44% to 39%, were basically even from the FT line and outrebounded Princeton 32-26. But as all baseball fans know, box scores don’t tell the story and in fact the Tigers prevailed 65-61 in round #1 of the Clash. Sixteen Harvard turnovers and frontcourt foul trouble more than likely contributed to the defeat. The Cambridge contingent already have endured their toughest trip while Princeton has yet to play their first league road game. It is up to both teams to navigate the rest of the schedule unscathed before their March 5 rematch.

Working Overtime: A four-game win streak, which included the seniors celebrating their first Big Five victory in four years and a 3-0 start out of the gate in the Ivy League, had the Penn faithful dreaming of another banner-hoisting in the Palestra. And with the opportunity to put a stamp on their credentials with back-to-back games against the Ivy elite–Harvard and Princeton–Quaker students and alums could be forgiven if they were clearing their mid-March schedule for NCAA first round travel plans. Seventy-two excruciating hours in February pretty much unpacked everyone’s bags.  Harvard entered the Palestra the night after a tough loss to Princeton dropping them into second place. Penn on the other hand had a bunch of well-rested starters-nobody saw more than 28 minutes of action-after a 31 point demolition of Dartmouth. However it was the more talented Crimson squad that took advantage of the shaky Quakers to open up what seemed to be an insurmountable 18 point second half lead. But Zack Rosen’s two free throws with 10 seconds left completed the improbable comeback and tied the game at 64. It sent the game into overtime and the 6283 in attendance dancing with glee (minus Brittney and Quinn). Rosen wasn’t finished with his heroics, as his jumper at the buzzer of OT #1 sent the game to an additional five minutes. This time however it was not to be. The Crimson rode the tide of Oliver McNally’s final basket to an 83-82 victory.  A rare mid-week game and a visit to travel partner Princeton was next on tap for Penn. Playing their first road game, the Quakers must have experienced déjà vu all over again as with eight minutes to go they found themselves down 13. However a 21-8 run sent the game into, you guessed it, overtime, and gave the Tiger faithful pause. Penn forged in front only to go scoreless the rest of the way, endure a Chris Webber-esque timeout-less moment, and watched the Tigers convert late from the line en route to a 62-59 defeat.  It gets worse, though.  A trip to Ithaca to face an unsettled Big Red squad seemed just what the doctor ordered to get Penn healthy. In a game of wild swings, Cornell led by 16, at 29-13, with 7:08 to go in the first half, before the Red and Blue countered with a run of their own to go up 52-43 with 8:41 left in the second and left the Quakers feeling their oats. But destiny being what it is, the game came down to the final seconds-make that the final second. Cornell missed on what they thought would be the last play of regulation only to see Conor Turley get fouled in the rebounding scramble with time still left on the clock. Clank. Into overtime for the third straight game. This time there were no heroics, no last second misses. The extra five minutes belonged to Cornell as they emerged with an 82-71 victory.  Three losses snatched from the jaws of victory. Three games where Penn had to dig themselves out of an early hole only to stick their nose in front–two of them on the road. Five points away from being undefeated and alone atop the Ivy standings. This Valentine’s Day, if you see a Penn coach or rabid fan, give them a hug. As for the players, they wont need your heart as they have plenty of that to go around.

Player of the Week: As mentioned, there are plenty of deserving candidates. Over the last four games, Greg Mangano of Yale has averaged about 21 points-including 30 in their win over Dartmouth- and eight rebounds a game; Ian Hummer, 15 and eight; Keith Wright has led Harvard in scoring each of the last four ,averaging 19 and nine. But it is our wont to spread the wealth; to recognize as many different players as possible in a league that doesn’t get much national ink. So this week we head up to Providence and honor Sean McGonagill of Brown. The 6’1 freshman from Illinois, who has started since Day 1, began his run to glory with an amazing 39 point effort against Columbia; a total which tied the gym scoring record. Over the last four games, he as played 34 minutes a game, shot 53% from the field, 44% from beyond the arc, and 86% (18-21) from the stripe. In fact, his 7-7 performance from the line helped the Bears seal the deal against the Big Green.. Besides his scoring, McGonagill contributed 17 rebounds and 22 assists during Brown’s 2-2 stretch. Partnered with sophomore Tucker Halperin, the Bears look to have a solid one-two punch for the next three years. And McGonagill, along with fellow frosh backcourt stars Miles Cartwright of Penn and Laurent Rivard of Harvard, represent, for the Ivy League, a changing of the…guard.

Power Rankings

1. Princeton (7-0, 19-4)–Yes they are undefeated in conference play, (five of them at home) and winners of nine in a row and 17 out of 18- very impressive. A closer look however shows that they have had four close calls, winning games by 4, 4, 3, and 2. Poor shooting has been the problem. The Tigers will need more consistency if they hope to remain perfect before their rematch with…

2. Harvard (7-1, 18-4)–At times, it appears the Crimson feel they need only show up to win. Cases in point–squandering an 18 point lead vs. Penn; sputtering to a three point win vs. Yale; and the topper–finding themselves down 21 points at home at the half vs. Brown. The amazing comeback notwithstanding, coach Tommy Amaker needs to get his squad to focus and cut down on turnovers if they hope to catch Princeton.

3. Yale (5-3, 12-10)–A bit of surprise to find the Elis above .500 but it should be none if they stay. After all they have played their three toughest road games (Penn, Princeton, Harvard) and were competitive- close losses all. And they have probably the most dangerous inside/outside combination in the league in Austin Morgan and Greg Mangano. Look for Yale to have a say in the league outcome as they get those same three teams in New Haven.

4. Penn (3-4, 9-12)–Their travails have been chronicled above and one cannot argue that with a few breaks, the Quakers could be right up there. But looking at the glass half empty there have been road losses like the one at Columbia ( 3-9 overall away from home), the rebounding issues (destroyed by the Lions 34-18) and the bit of a step backward by their star, Zack Rosen. A year away?

5. Columbia (4-4, 13-9)–The future looked bright for the Lions as they began league play 2-0 and winners of eight of nine. Coach Kyle Smith was getting some local pub and in some circles their resurgence was being compared to that of fellow city resident, St.Johns. However, after an excusable loss to Harvard and a win vs. Dartmouth, there followed two damaging losses to Brown and Yale and a 30 point home drubbing vs. Princeton. Leading scorer Norwua Agho was virtually invisible the first two defeats.

6. Cornell (2-6, 6-16)–This is the same Cornell that this column buried earlier; and no, we are not buckling under the pressure from prominent alumni. They were one of the few teams not named Harvard and Princeton to get a road win. And might have had a three game win streak if not for Kareem Maddox’s jump shot with 10 seconds to play. Coach Bill Courtney continues to struggle with combinations and players will play 30 minutes one night and ten the next. But the worst of the growing pains may be over

7. Brown (2-6, 9-13)–Up and down but not without promise. They have a roster infused with youth (see McGonagill and Halperin) and coach Jesse Agel looks like he knows what he is doing by looking at the big picture. One wonders how much the meltdown vs. Harvard will affect the Bears going forward.

8. Dartmouth (1-7, 5-17)–Too easy to knock the (not-so) Big Green, so we will focus on the positives. They will not go winless. They were competitive against Harvard and in their last two home games vs. Brown and Yale. And the home attendance figures are creeping towards four figures (982 at the Yale game). So now how does Paul Cormier convince any talent to come play in Hanover?

A Look Ahead

  • Princeton may face a stern test Friday at Yale before heading home to Jadwin where they are undefeated. Harvard must navigate around four road games before season ending home contests versus Penn and Princeton which could decide the Ivy title.
  • It’s “put up or shut up” time for Yale as they get the big boys at home.
  • Could we have a new player as we march toward March? Penn must repair their collective psyches and put the brakes on their four-game skid. Reveling in the role of spoiler may be their only motivation left.
  • Columbia may be back on track and it would not be out of the question to see them in a battle for third place.
  • The game this Friday at home vs. Harvard will go a long way in seeing how far Cornell has come back.
  • If the RTC Player of the Week award has not changed Sean McGonagill (wait -how can such a prestigious “trophy” not go to your head?), it will be interesting to see the progress he and his young teammates make at Brown. Dartmouth, unfortunately will have to wait until March 4 before attempting to break that elusive 1000-fan barrier.
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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 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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Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 4th, 2010

Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

The Week That Was

In the last 32 games played, there were no results that sent shock waves across the world of Ivy League hoops. Over the course of the past two weeks, the members of the Ancient Eight pretty much beat the teams they were supposed to beat and lost to the teams from the more powerful conferences. They amassed a collective 17-15 record and currently stand #15 in the conference RPI rankings. Not bad. At the top of the heap was my preseason pick Harvard, who went a perfect 4-0. On the other end of the spectrum was defending champ Cornell, which went winless in its four games.

College Boards

  • More and more we see the little guys from the mid-majors being able to compete with the schools from the BCS conferences. Butler and Gonzaga have pretty much become the gold standard for this over the past few years. Last year Saint Mary’s and, of course, Cornell joined the party. What allows these schools to compete? And in particular, with regard to the Ivy League, what separates the men from the boys; the pretenders from the contenders? It is the ability to rebound; to hold one’s own on the boards. A simple look back over the past two weeks illustrates this point.
  • On the negative side of the ledger, there have been some pretty ugly rebounding margins. Yale, in its three losses, was outrebounded by 12 against Quinnipiac, seven against Providence, and nine versus Illinois. Cornell had rebounding deficits of 15 against Seton Hall, a whopping 22 against St. Bonaventure, eight against BYU and 15 against Syracuse — all losses. But leading the way is the guard-rich Penn Quakers. Zach Rosen is a solid POY candidate and Miles Cartwright may turn out to be Freshman of the Year. But neither will matter if they cannot fix their inside game. In their three losses the Red and Blue were demolished off the boards by 11 versus Manhattan, 22 against Drexel, and 15 versus Pitt.
  • After absorbing those statistics, it is easy to see why Harvard and Princeton remain the clear-cut Ivy League favorites. They are the only two squads that hold an advantage over their opponents on the boards, and we are not talking SATs here. Princeton holds about a +3 rebounding advantage per game while Harvard is an impressive +4, considering they are doing it without Kyle Casey. Admittedly, the quality of the opponent has had a lot to do with the aforementioned deficits. And with about six weeks still to go before conference play begins, coaches have time to address the problem and tinker with lineups. The road to the league title is definitely paved with… glass.

Power Rankings

  1. Harvard (5-1) – Harvard takes over the top spot thanks to a five-game winning streak. The backcourt duo of Brandyn Curry (7.2 assists per game and leading the league)  and Christian Webster (16.5 ppg) are beginning to live up to the promise they showed as freshmen on a consistent basis. Add forward Keith Wright (16.0 PPG and 8 RPG), the returning Kyle Casey, and a useful freshman class, and you have a Crimson team that will leave the rest of the league red with envy.
  2. Princeton (4-3) – Truth be told, the Tigers are three points away from being an impressive 6-1. A collapse of presidential proportions led to a one-point defeat at James Madison, a game in which Princeton led by 13 at halftime. Playing their third game in three days, in what can only be described as an heretical loss, the Tigers fell by two to Presbyterian.
  3. Brown (3-3) – Rarefied air for the Bears. They get the nod here with a .500 record aided by a rather weak schedule. Leading the way are forwards Peter Sullivan and Tucker Halperin averaging 15.6 and 12.8 PPG, respectively.
  4. Columbia (3-4) – Despite the loss to Bucknell, the Lions seem vastly improved and are playing hard for new coach Kyle Smith. A solid backcourt, led by Noruwa Agho (17.3 PPG) and running mates sophomore Brian Barbour and  freshman Dyami Starks, give Columbia a nucleus on which to build.
  5. Penn (3-3) – the Quakers may find it difficult to escape the second division any time soon given the strength of their non-conference schedule. However, they continue to show flashes of brilliance led by junior Zach Rosen and freshman sensation Miles Cartwright. At Pittsburgh, in a game that featured Big East standouts Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker, it would not be an exaggeration to say Rosen was the best player on the court.
  6. Yale (3-3) – Another team at .500 and one that appears to be much-improved after their unlikely win at BC. The Elis boast four players averaging in double figures led by underclassmen Austin Morgan (16.8) and Greg Mangano (15.7 PPG/8.5 RPG). A blowout at then-#19 Illinois has been Yale’s only clunker.
  7. Cornell (2-5) – How the mighty have fallen as the Big Red are in the midst of a four-game losing streak. Their record should put them in the power poll basement but it’s difficult to rank them below their colleagues from Hanover. Coach Bill Courtney continues to struggle to find a blend, mixing returning contributors, 2009-10 bit players, and a talented freshman class. There are twelve players averaging more than eight minutes a game.
  8. Dartmouth (2-5) – Though they seem destined once again for the cellar, there is some cautious optimism in Hanover that the Big Green can improve on their 5-23 record from last year. In their last game, an 80-63 win vs. Colgate, Dartmouth had six players in double figures. The last time they had even as many as five was in November 2007.

Player of the Week

This week’s award goes to the fuel-efficient Ian Hummer of Princeton. In the last 5 games, the 6’7 sophomore from Virginia has averaged 16 points per game on 63% shooting from the field. Over the same span he has also grabbed a team-leading 38 rebounds (7.6 RPG). So congratulations, Ian! You have most certainly earned your stripes.

Looking Ahead

Sparse schedules over the next two weeks as the teams from the Ivy League begin their hoops hiatus for finals. Wondering how many other Conference Check-Ins will contain that phrase? Brown has a three game road-trip ending with the traditional tussle with cross-town rival Providence. Columbia appears capable of racking up three wins with home games vs. Stony Brook, Wagner, and Bryant.  Another loss appears on the horizon for Cornell, as they head to The Barn to face an angry bunch of Minnesota Golden Gophers, who come off a home loss to Virginia. Fortunately, the Big Red have 14 days to lick their Gopher wounds (where is Bill Murray when you need him?) before embarking on a more forgiving part of their schedule. Dartmouth has ten days off before Army marches in. Tommy Amaker brings his league-leading Harvard squad into Crisler Arena to face Michigan. It’s anyone’s guess as to what his reception will be as he returns to the scene of his not-so-successful stint with the Wolverines. Penn/Army highlights a twin bill at the Meadowlands on Saturday for a must-see! The second game is some meaningless contest between Duke and Butler. (and the Jeopardy! answer is… What would you find in Windsor Castle?). Princeton is the one team that plays on a relatively consistent basis. A home game vs. St. Joe’s precedes a very winnable four-game road trip. Three games in four days await Yale, beginning with a trip to scenic Burlington and a date with the Catamounts of Vermont. (a school for the few, the proud, the select).

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    Checking in on… the Ivy League

    Posted by Brian Goodman on November 19th, 2010


    Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

    Overview

    The members of the Ancient Eight began their rather elongated non-conference schedule with a number of goals in mind. The four new coaches—Kyle Smith at Columbia, Paul Cormier at Dartmouth, Bill Courtney at Cornell, and Jerome Allen at Penn–hoped to get off to good starts. The four contenders for the Ivy title, Princeton, Harvard, Penn, and Cornell, wanted to reinforce their superiority early. And the league as a whole is looking to build on Cornell’s NCAA Tournament success and send a national message that the Ivy was indeed becoming a perennial, competitive mid-major. Through Wednesday, and an overall record of 7-11, the early returns can be accurately labeled as…

    The Good

    In an interesting twist, Yale beat former Cornell coach Steve Donahue and his Boston College squad at Chestnut Hill for an impressive early-season victory Thursday. The other notables include a promising debut for Cornell’s Courtney and Columbia’s Smith with wins over America East neighbor Albany and Maryland-Eastern Shore, respectively; a win at Fordham for the Brown Bears; league favorite Princeton opening with a win versus intra-state rival Rutgers, and top it off, Penn’s home opening win (and Jerome Allen’s first without the interim tag) against brand-name Davidson (more on that to come). More good news is that the conference moved up a few spots and is listed 17th in the latest RPI rankings.

    The Bad

    Dartmouth gives every indication that, they will continue to be the league doormat; Yale, with an impressive recruiting class, begins 0-2. Harvard, my pick to hoist the trophy, was not competitive in a loss to George Mason.

    The Ugly

    Doubly humiliated on national TV–no way to win friends and influence…voters. First the Big Red travels to the Garden State and becomes fodder for young Kevin Willard’s Seton Hall team, losing by 24 in a game that was over midway through the first half. But that was a nail-biter compared to what happened on Sunday at Cameron Indoor. Princeton, who most feel will win the Ivy title with their returning veterans, was thrashed by Duke 97-60, and it wasn’t even that close. Honorable mention in this category goes to the Penn Quakers who, after building a 12 point lead, went scoreless the final 7:48 of the game at Manhattan while being outscored 17-0 en route to a 59-54 loss.

    Ghosts of Guards Past

    The collective gasp heard from the announced crowd of 5,300 at the Palestra Saturday night was in response to the whistle indicating the second foul on Zack Rosen three minutes into the game. To the rescue came Miles Cartwright, a mere wisp of a guard from California. Now, informed sources had whispered that what was about to transpire should not have come as a surprise. These same sources had seen Cartwright outplay the aforementioned Rosen at the traditional Penn pre-season Red and Blue game. Yet even they had to be amazed at the 18-point first half output, keeping Penn in the game and ultimately earning Cartwright Ivy Rookie of the Week honors. But it wasn‘t just his point total, it was a combination of court awareness, defense, quickness, penetration, outside shooting, and even his physical presence that evoked memories of Ibby Jaaber. In second-half time limited by severe leg cramps, Cartwright did seem a bit lost sharing the court with Rosen. It will be up to Jerome Allen, who appeared to step up his game as bench tactician, to figure out a way for both of his point guards to get minutes and coexist productively.

    Power Rankings

    1. Princeton (1-1): The Duke debacle and their 27 turnovers notwithstanding, the Tigers remain the league favorite and clearly the most talented. POY candidate Dan Mavraides had 42 points in the two games and Ian Hummer chipped in with 31. Throw in guard Doug Davis and that is a trio that will be difficult for any Ivy opponent to defend.
    2. Harvard (1-1): For those optimists, the disappointing showing at George Mason can be tempered by the strong performance of Keith Wright (22 and 16) and the fact that the Crimson is still without the services of last year’s Ivy Freshman of the Year, Kyle Casey, who, barring any setback, is due back at the end of this month. The ship appeared to be righted as Harvard followed up with an impressive victory over Patriot foe Holy Cross with four starters in double figures and sophomore stud guard Brandyn Curry’s 12 assists.
    3. Cornell (2-1): The bad loss to the Pirates was sandwiched around workmanlike victories against Albany and Delaware, proving the Big Red can handle canines and fowl alike. The one common thread was the liberal use of the bench by new coach Bill Courtney. An average of 13 players saw daylight in the three games in an attempt to try to find a clicking  rotation as Cornell looks for an Ivy four-peat.
    4. Penn (1-1): The Quakers would have moved up to the top spot in the first poll based on their win over traditional mid-major power Davidson. Patrons leaving the Palestra were giddy with visions of a Quaker return to prominence. The celebration came to a screeching halt on Wednesday with an embarrassing loss to a weak and undermanned Manhattan team. Miles Cartwright, not the first freshman to feel the rigors of the road, went scoreless in 14 minutes of action.
    5. Brown (1-1): No matter that A-10 opponent Fordham came into the Bears’ opening game with a D1 leading 21-game losing streak. Brown got the win, led by Pat Sullivan’s 17 points. A-25 point waxing at the hands of in-state rival URI made the euphoria in Providence short-lived.
    6. Columbia (1-2): After splitting their first two games, the Lions seemed poised to take over the city as they led St. John’s by four at halftime. However, the Red Storm started running away in the second half to cruise past the Lions. Nevertheless, Coach Smith, Noruwa Agho (61 points in three games) and company look like they are headed in the right direction. A winning record is seemingly within reach.
    7. Yale (0-2): Wondering if James Jones is thinking he should have joined his brother at Chestnut Hill? A defeat at the hands of cross-town Quinnipiac was followed by a gut-wrenching defeat at Providence. Tied with about four minutes to go, the Bulldogs missed numerous chances to take the lead and PC sealed the deal at the line. The bright spot in the two games was the play of junior forward Greg Mangano with 31 points. Adding to Eli woes is the defection of key cog and captain Michael Sands who left the team indefinitely for personal reasons.
    8. Dartmouth (0-2): After a 35-point defeat at Providence, the Big Green returned home to face in-state foe New Hampshire. A 59% first half shooting clip and 15 went for naught as UNH scored with a second on the clock to send a small but raucous crowd home disappointed.

    Player of the Week

    It’s difficult to separate the performances of Keith Wright (Harvard) and Jack Eggleston (Penn) in their teams’ first two games, so we have co-winners. Wright was absolutely dominant. The 6’8 junior from Virginia scored 40 points on 15-20 (75%) shooting from the floor and 10-12 (83%) from the line. In addition, he grabbed 22 rebounds. Not to be outdone, the 6’8 Eggelston put up similar numbers. In his two games, he shot 12-15 (80%) from the floor including 5-7 (71%) from beyond the arc. He was perfect from the line (8-8) and grabbed 11 rebounds in each contest. So to Wright and Eggleston a laurel, and hearty welcome as the inaugural RTC Ivy Players of the Week.

    A Look Ahead

    Brown looks to have five soft games on the horizon, albeit three on the road, before a December 6 date with intra-city rival Providence. Kyle Smith at Columbia can win supporters quickly thanks to a relatively easy non-conference schedule. It is quite possible the Lions could be 11-3 before their January 5 meeting with Cornell. The Big Red, after three tough but winnable games, face a daunting road trip that takes them to NIT quarterfinalist Boston University, #10 Syracuse, and then to The Barn to face Tubby Smith and his Golden Gophers of Minnesota. For Dartmouth and returning coach Paul Cormier, the chances for victories may be few and far between. The best immediate hope is November 27 vs. Colgate. Tommy Amaker appears to have backed off the scheduling throttle at Harvard. Only two tough games loom, December 4 when Amaker makes his not-so-triumphant return to Ann Arbor to face the Wolverines, and a January 5 date at BC and familiar face Steve Donahue. Penn, for all the improvement and return health, is still likely to bite a lot of bullets before conference play. They usher in the New Year with a trip to Kentucky sandwiched between games versus ranked Big 5 opponents Villanova and Temple. Of more immediate concern is a Turkey Weekend trip to #5 Pittsburgh. Princeton has a week to lick their wounds and then it’s off to face the Dukes of JMU, but then it’s clear sailing. It is possible that the Tigers could be 13-2 before kicking off conference play. And finally Yale has dates at BC and #13 Illinois before a string of 10 rather nondescript games.

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