Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 31st, 2011

Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League

A Look Back

Let the Games Begin: For the teams in the power conferences, February is the time when jockeying for position begins. Regular season conference games are used for conference tournament and NCAA seeding purposes. But for the Ivy League, whose season got into high gear this past weekend, these games are precious, for this is a one-bid league with no conference tournament. Only the regular season champ will begin the Road to the Final Four in March.

Poll Position: Last year, Cornell, after some impressive non-conference performances, made an appearance in the Top 25. While an early season conference loss knocked them out, they continued to receive votes each week. And given their NCAA Tournament success, the votes proved to be warranted. Trying to follow in the footsteps of the Big Red, Harvard (15-3, 4-0) received a vote last week in the AP Top 25. What have they done to impress? An eight-game winning streak and opening up 4-0 in conference helps. But it is what they have accomplished outside the Ivy which has swayed the scribes. Their three losses have come at the hands of George Mason (17-5, 9-2, currently second in the CAA) in the opening game without Kyle Casey; Michigan, a young, improving Big Ten team and recent conqueror of MSU; and #5 UConn (17-3, 5-3 in the Big East). And all of those losses came on the road. The Crimson also own wins over Colorado, who themselves have beaten both Missouri and Kansas State in the Big 12; and BC (14-7, 4-3; 4th in the ACC). Can Harvard duplicate Cornell’s tournament run? Perhaps. But first they must find away to get past Princeton and win their first ever Ivy League crown.

Is the Bloom Off the Rose-n?: In 2010, RTC named Zack Rosen of Penn as the Ivy League Player of the Year. It was a somewhat controversial choice, as most gave the award to Jeremy Lin of Harvard. Either way, most observers thought Rosen would run away with the title this season. And he still may. After all, he is second in the league in scoring (15.3 points per game) and is shooting 45% from the field and close to 50% from beyond the arc, as Penn closes in on Harvard and Princeton. However, a closer look at the box score is in order. Penn has played five non-conference foes of note: Pittsburgh, Villanova, Kentucky, Drexel and Temple. Only against ‘Nova did Rosen perform up to par, scoring 20 points on 7-14 shooting. Against the other four combined,  he shot 9-25 (36%), including 6-14 from deep (42%) for a total of 37 points (9.1 per game). A disturbing trend? Maybe, but he was facing superior athletes than those he will see in conference games. But when Penn was going to the NCAA Tournament on a regular basis, guys like Onyekwe and Jabber would save their best performances for the biggest games and toughest competition. While it is definitely not yet time to pack the tack on Zack, the jury is still out.

Player of The Week: A difficult choice this time as there are some very worthy candidates, with the nicknames to match. There is Errick (Bushel and A) Peck who seems to be blossoming amidst the Cornell disaster; Jack (Scrambled) Eggleston who has become a stat sheet stuffer for the Quakers; Greg (“The Eater”) Mangano of Yale who leads the league in rebounding and is averaging a double/double. But this week, the rosters were combed to honor an unsung hero; a player who has emerged as a more than a capable running mate for Noruwa Agho at Columbia and is responsible for the Lions rise to first division status. And that is none other than Brian Barbour, who wins the award by a hair. In Columbia’s first four conference games (3-1) the 6’1 sophomore from California has averaged 19 points per game on 45% shooting. Over that span, he has also converted an astounding 27 of 29 free throw attempts. So rise from your chair, Mr. Barbour, and do an Argentine Tango while accepting the trophy.

Power Rankings

1. Harvard (15-3, 4-0)–An eight game winning streak; a six-man rotation that is as solid as they come; a mention in the AP Top 25; undefeated so far in conference. It is easy to see why they are # 1. This coming weekend will be a test and Friday at Princeton could be a game for the ages, and for the conference championship.

2. Princeton (14-4, 2-0)—It’s difficult to assess the Tigers as they have only played four games in a month and none of them versus tough competition. Their top six is equal to that of the Crimson and perhaps have the experience edge. Jadwin Gym should be rocking on Friday.

3. Columbia (12-6, 3-1)–Winners of nine of their last 11; an unlucky one-point loss to Elon and a loss at league elite Harvard are the only speed bumps for the Lions. Kyle Smith has to be the front-runner for Coach of the Year and Barbour and Agho clearly the top backcourt in a league full of quality guards.

4. Penn (8-8, 2-0)– The third of the league’s undefeated, the Quakers did what they had to do beating the bottom feeders at home, albeit in overtime over Brown. Two more home games followed by a five-game road trip should go a long way in determining where Penn’s landing will be. The good news is that they get Harvard on the rebound following their titanic clash against in New Jersey.

5. Yale (9-9, 2-2)–Two wins versus travel partner Brown followed by competitive losses in their toughest road trip against Princeton and Penn. Greg Mangano has been a beast, a POY candidate,  and with six home games in their next eight, the Bulldogs have a real chance for a top-four finish.

6. Brown (7-11, 0-4)–Two competitive losses versus travel partner Yale and an OT loss at Penn have contributed to their winless record. Sophomore forward Tucker Halperin is one of the bright spots in the league.

7. Dartmouth (5-13, 1-3)–Many thought the Big Green would go winless; the same people thought Cornell would be contenders. However, Friday’s game put an end to both parts of that speculation, as Dartmouth broke a five-game losing streak with a seven-point victory against the Big Red. Unfortunately, Paul Cormier may not get another conference win.

8. Cornell (4-14, 0-4)—I wonder how many that watched Ryan Wittman and company get to the Sweet 16 last year thought the descent would be so rapid. Peck, Ferry, and Wroblewski can play. But can Bill Courtney coach? He’ll have time, but his squad’s four victims? Wofford, Delaware, Stony Brook, and Albany. ‘Nuff said.

A Look Ahead

The loser of this Friday’s clash between league powerhouses Harvard and Princeton will have to wait a month (March 5) for a rematch. It is not unreasonable to assume a head-to head split and an early March playoff to determine league supremacy and a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Princeton experience vs. Harvard athleticism.  Tommy Amaker vs. Sydney Johnson. Hummer, Maddox, Davis, Mavraides vs. Wright, Casey, Curry, and Webster.  Catch it if you can.

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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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ATB: Wild Friday Night

Posted by rtmsf on February 13th, 2010

What Happened Tonight?  On a random Friday night in February when most people were watching the opening of the Winter Olympics and the epic fail of the cauldron-lighting, we very well may have had the wildest evening of the year in the 2009-10 college basketball season.  Normally, there’s no reason to even recap games from Friday nights throughout the year, but tonight we wouldn’t be doing our job if we weren’t here.  Could both the Game of the Year and the Upset of the Year have been tonight?  If you missed it, we’ll try to do our best to get you caught up…

Jermaine Dixon & Brad Wanamaker Are Giddy After Beating WVU

Game of the Year? #23 Pittsburgh 98, #4 West Virginia 95 (3OT). In a game that was reminiscent of the six-overtime epic from last year’s Big East Tournament, Pitt made a miraculous comeback to beat #4 West Virginia in triple-overtime, 98-95.  Thanks to three consecutive missed free throws by WVU on 1-and-1 opportunities, Pitt was able to cut the lead in regulation to three with 30 seconds left.  Nasir Robinson stole West Virginia’s pass, and after a missed out-of-bounds call by the referees, Ashton Gibbs sent the crowd into a frenzy with a three-pointer.  The Panthers carried their momentum to a five-point lead in the first overtime, and had a chance to ice the game with seven seconds left.  Gibbs then went to the free-throw line with the Panthers up by two, but missed the second free throw attempt and West Virginia’s Darryl Bryant took the ball and made a clutch three-pointer with three seconds left to force a second overtime.  WVU was forced to make another comeback when they were down by three points with 20 seconds left when Gary McGhee fouled Da’Sean Butler on a three point attempt.  After Butler made all three free throws, the fans at the Peterson Events Center became witness to a third overtime.  West Virginia had a one-point lead with less than a minute to go when Pitt’s Gilbert Brown sank a pair of free throws.  After two missed shots by WVU, the Panthers escaped with a three-point win.  With the victory, Pitt moved to a tie with the Mountaineers for third place in the Big East.  There was no RTC for the student section tonight, but with their third consecutive win, Pitt may have moved up to an overall four seed tonight.  As for the Mountaineers, they need to work on their free throw shooting before they meet Georgetown and Villanova at season’s end.  If you missed the game and highlights, we suggest you go here to watch the last six minutes of regulation plus the OTs.

Two Conference Unbeatens Go Down…

Penn Fans RTC Against Cornell (photo credit: Ed Hille)

  • Pennsylvania 79, #22 Cornell 64.  In his recap of this game, ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb called this the upset of the year in college basketball.  His reasons: Cornell has all five starters back (including four seniors) from last year and are the two-time defending Ivy league champions; they were undefeated in conference play up until tonight and had beaten all of their Ivy opponents by an average of 25 points.  Penn, on the other hand, had their coach fired earlier this year and had only won four games all year.  KenPom ranks Penn 308th… out of 347 D1 teams.  Mr. Gottlieb makes a good case.  After Penn took a single-point lead into halftime, sure, a few eyebrows were raised.  It was the 15-0 Quaker run to start the second half that turned heads.  After that run, the closest the Big Red got was five.  That tends to happen when you play the kind of defense that allows your opponent to shoot 56.3% from the field, including 52.4% from behind the three-point arc.  Jack Eggleston and Zack Rosen had the nights of their lives, shooting a combined 14-24 and 7-10 from three-point range, posting 24 and 22 points, respectively.  A couple of weeks ago Cornell was the feel-good story of the year, enjoying that shiny new ranking and the head-tilted awwwws of the college hoops world, as well as an assumed Ivy League title and NCAA Tournament bid.  Now, it’s all in danger.  The ranking’s gone, come Monday.  Their tournament lives will be determined by their next two games, both on the road — tomorrow at now-first-place Princeton and next Friday at Harvard, the latter rather pissed and looking to avenge the 36-point pasting they took from the Big Red on January 30th.  That one could very well determine the whole thing.  The Pennsylvania supporters pulled an admirable RTC after this one, and we could hardly blame them.  Man, we’re going to have to all chip in for (Back Door Cuts contributor) Dave Zeitlin’s electro-shock therapy as a result of this, aren’t we?

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Set Your Tivo: 11.16.09

Posted by nvr1983 on November 15th, 2009

tivo

After a relatively slow opening week things begin to start picking up this week so I’ll be going back to the daily version of SYT to avoid writing a 5,000 word post. RTC will be doing our “world famous” RTC Live from multiple major games this week so it’s definitely worth checking out. That feature has become so popular that our correspondent at the Davidson-Butler game noticed that another writer in the row in front of him on Saturday was following the simultaneous Creighton-Dayton game on RTC Live. Anyways, there are two games on the slate for tonight and coincidentally we will be covering both of them. Some of you may think this is even more shameless self-promotion (and it is to a certain extent), but as always if you think another game should be mentioned or if I make a careless mistake let me know in the comment section.

Miami (OH) at #5 Kentucky at 7 PM on Big Blue Sports, Fox Sports South, and ESPN360.com: Unfortunately, Wally Szczerbiak will not be in action although we hear that he has some free time now. Fortunately, John Stevens will be there with RTC Live though as well as some guy named John Wall that you may have heard some people talking about the past few months. Quite frankly the RedHawks, fresh off an 11-point loss to mighty Towson to open the season shouldn’t be much of a hurdle for the Wildcats, but this game is worth watching to see how the young Wildcats function in a regular season game with Wall playing alongside Eric Bledsoe in the backcourt. Coming into the season it was widely expected that Bledsoe would serve as a backup to Wall, but in the first game of the season it was Bledsoe not Wall (serving the 2nd game of his split suspension for a suspected infraction relating to his time in AAU) who stole the show. It will be interesting to see how those two play with Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins. Scoring shouldn’t be a problem given the prodigious talents of those four players, but the thing to look for if you are wondering if this Wildcat team can win a NCAA title is their defensive effort. Although we doubt you will see “Rick Pitino at Kentucky” level defense out of these young Wildcats don’t be surprised if their effort is much better after their first game (minus Wall) left John Calipari wanting more defensively out of his team. If they heed Calipari’s advice and turn up the defensive intensity, it could be a very long night for the RedHawks.

Pennsylvania at #6 Villanova at 7 PM: It looks like this game will not be on television, but RTC has all the coverage you need with yet another installment of RTC Live. As for the game itself, this rivalry (both teams are part of Philadelphia’s famous “Big 5″) hasn’t quite lived up to expectations in recent years. Since the Quakers last beat the Wildcats with Ugonna Onyekwe, Koko Archibong, and Andrew Toole in both 2001 and 2002 the two programs have gone in opposite directions. Penn is no longer even a contender to win the Ivy League title (it is Cornell‘s to lose this year) while Villanova is coming off a Final Four trip highlighted by one of the best NCAA Tournament games ever and is expected to contend for another Final Four trip this season. The story here is obviously the Wildcats and how they will continue to develop without Dante Cunningham controlling the paint. The Wildcats are loaded in the backcourt with Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, and Corey Stokes leading the way, but will need to develop an inside game if they want to replicate the success of last season or even the 2006-07 team that featured Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry, and Allan Ray. While I don’t think this year’s backcourt is as good as it was in 2006-07, they do have an impressive set of newcomers –f reshmen McDonald’s All-Americans Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns and another McDonald’s All-American in Duke transfer Taylor King – who might enough to push them over the top. The real key to Villanova’s success this year may be how Antonio Pena and freshman Mouphtaou Yarou, who just started playing basketball in 2004, develop as threats on the inside. Normally, I wouldn’t give Penn a chance in this game, but it is rivalry game and Penn looked better than expected (remember this is a relative thing) in a loss at Penn State and Villanova looked a bit shaky in the 1st half against Farleigh Dickinson on Friday night so you never know. Regardless, Penn’s Tyler Bernardini and Jack Eggleston will have their hands full against a Jay Wright-led team that is deeper and more talented than Glen Miller‘s crew.

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Checking in on the… Ivy League

Posted by rtmsf on January 16th, 2009

David Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

Let’s see … what to report from the Ivy League from the last two weeks. Hmm. Cornell beat a team by 54 points. That’s fun – even though they did it to Division III Ursinus. What else? What else? Oh! Yale and Columbia both added to the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s record 50-game Division I losing streak. Good for them. And … I think that’s about– oh wait, I almost forgot! Harvard had probably its greatest win in school history while providing the Ivy League with its best moment in quite some time. That’s probably the big story of the week, right?

NBC Sports)
Amaker and Harvard Celebrate the Win Over BC (photo credit: NBC Sports)

When Harvard (9-6) pulled off that shocker over Boston College last week, however, it seemed like there were two overriding sentiments: One was that since B.C. had just beaten then-No. 1 North Carolina, then Harvard should be the new No. 1 team in the land. And two, how ’bout that Tommy Amaker, huh? While I agree that Harvard is the best team there ever was or ever will be, I am hesitant to heap all of the praise entirely on Amaker. Instead, I would like to take a moment to praise former coach Frank Sullivan, a very good man who had little success at Harvard but whose lasting legacy might be leaving the program with Jeremy Lin. Granted, Amaker has brought in a very talented freshmen class, and has probably instilled a newfound belief into his players, but Lin is simply playing at another level right now. Against Boston College, the junior guard scored a game-high 27 points while dishing out eight assists. Here are some highlights of Lin schooling the Eagles.

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.1974736&w=425&h=350&fv=videoId%3D6552638001%26amp%3BplayerId%3D271552990%26amp%3BviewerSecureGatewayURL%3Dhttps%3A%2F%2Fconsole.brightcove.com%2Fservices%2Famfgateway%26amp%3BservicesURL%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fservices.brightcove.com%2Fservices%26amp%3BcdnURL%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fadmin.brightcove.com%26amp%3Bdomain%3Dembed%26amp%3BautoStart%3Dfalse%26amp%3B]

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2008-09 Season Primers: #25 – Ivy

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2008

Marty Leon is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot and Ivy Leagues.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Cornell  (20 – 9)  (12-2)
  2. Penn   (19-9)   (10-4)
  3. Harvard   (12-16)   (8-6)
  4. Brown   (13-15)   (7-7)
  5. Yale   (13-16)   (7-7)
  6. Dartmouth   (14-13)   (6-8)
  7. Princeton   (13-14)    (4-10)
  8. Columbia   (6-22)   (2-12)

What You Need to Know (WYN2K).  In the conference of the true student-athlete, Cornell looks to be the heavy favorite after a 14-0 league record last season.  They posess a huge home court advantage, playing their  games in snowy Ithaca and return the league’s player of the year in Louis DalePenn will be nipping at their heels trying to regain their championship form,  while Harvard, with the best freshmen crop in the league, looks to be third best.  Beyond that, a logjam ensues where anyone can beat anyone on a given night.  Dartmouth has a possible player of the year in Alex Barnett and Zach Rosen out of Penn should be the best rookie. 

Predicted Champion.  Cornell (#15 NCAA) should come away with the title, as they have all the pieces to the puzzle.  Besides Dale, Ryan Whitman is one of the country’s best 3-point shooters, and 7 footer Jeff Forte provides huge frontcourt presence.  Cornell will be a #15 seed at best, as they were pounded by Stanford 77-53 in the NCAA tournament last year.  Here’s a video of their clinching game against Harvard last year.

Others Considered.  Penn could challenge Cornell as they provide three super sophomores.  Tyler Bernardini returns after a rookie of the year season, while forward Jack Eggleston and point guard Harrison Gaines are back.  Though very talented,  this team will need to rely too much on youth to go the distance.  Harvard falls in the same boat, as Coach Amaker has recruited the Ivy League version of the “fab five.”  We can’t count out Yale and Brown who are also capable of beating these three teams.

Important Games.

  • Penn @ Harvard  (1/31/09)
  • Cornell @ Penn  (2/7/09)
  • Penn @ Cornell  (3/6/09)

RPI Boosters.

  • Penn @ UNC  (11/15/08)
  • Villanova @ Penn (12/2/08)
  • Cornell @ Syracuse  (12/3/08)
  • Cornell @ Minnesota (12/6/08)
  • Cornell @ St. Joseph’s (12/22/08)
  • Harvard @ Boston College (1/7/09)
  • Temple @ Penn (1/14/09)

Neat-O Stats.

1.  Intensity –  Every league game is crucial with no conference tourney to fall back on. 
2.  Scholarships – None given in this league.  All need based financial aid.  Coaches still successfully recruit nationwide.
3.  Family Feud – Yale coach James Jones and Columbia coach Joe Jones are brothers.
4.  Roots – Hall of Fame coaches Al McGuire of Marquette and Dave Gavitt of Providence began their coaching careers at Dartmouth.
5.  Vermont Connection – Brown coach Jesse Agel and assistants TJ Sorrentine and Kyle Cieplicki were all part of the Vermont team that shocked Syracuse in the 2005 NCAA tournament.

65 Team Era.  Since 1985, the Ivy has gone 3-24 (.111) in the NCAA Tournament, with all three of the wins coming within five seasons of each other (1994 – Penn; 1996 & 1998 – Princeton).  The Ivy is now on an ten-year drought without a win in the NCAAs, and eight of those losses have been by double-digits.  Ouch.

Final Thoughts.  If you want to see the purest college basketball, the Ivy League is one of the few places left where true scholar-athletes are on the floor.  On a rare occasion, the league winner makes a decent showing in the NCAA Tournament, but that won’t be the case this season.  No team is athletic enough to compete with the big boys in March.  The real story out of the Ivy this year is second year coach Tommy Amaker’s troubles at Harvard.  After being vindicated of improper recruiting charges, the NY Times ran an article questioning Amaker’s coaching methods after he dismissed several players for no other reason than he passed over them.  The question is, “Is Amaker trying to bring big-time coaching philosophies to a school where winning isn’t the number one priority?”

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