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.
- 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….
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.