Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.
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…
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.