Four Thoughts From Albuquerque…

Posted by AMurawa on March 17th, 2012

Looking back at Thursday’s games in the Albuquerque regional from a Friday night perspective, my thoughts turn more to Montana, Harvard, South Dakota State, and UNLV than the teams that advanced from those first round games. We will have plenty of time to enjoy Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Baylor, and Colorado on Saturday afternoon and evening, but for right now, let’s talk about the good things that these four teams, whose seasons ended on Friday, did on Thursday and throughout the year.

  1. After struggling through a non-conference schedule, everything came together for Montana in conference play, where they ripped off 15 wins in 16 games and then swept to the Big Sky’s automatic bid in relatively easy fashion. And on Thursday, for roughly 18 minutes, they gave Wisconsin a battle. They came out hot early, scored 18 points on the first 13 possession against a stingy Badger defense and had the numerous Grizzly fans who made the trip down to support their team dreaming of big things. There were forced turnovers, acrobatic finishes and lots of excitement created early for an undermanned team. However, once the Wisconsin defense locked down, the Grizzlies went cold and headed home early. Still, this is a program that has made three straight postseasons (including two NCAA bids) under head coach Wayne Tinkle and returns 66.3% of its scoring from this year, including talented backcourt combo Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar. And clearly, Tinkle’s got the community buying into the team and is well on the way to making Montana as much a basketball school as it is a football power.
  2. What can you say about this Harvard team? First NCAA Tournament appearance in more than 60 years, a sparkling 26-4 record and at least a piece of the regular season Ivy League title for two years running. Better still, this is a program that shows all the signs of being in it for the long haul. Head coach Tommy Amaker is building for the future here, not just taking advantage of a flash in the pan. And, perhaps best of all, this has been a truly entertaining team to watch. I saw them in person twice this season and came away feeling good about the Crimson on both occasions. Amaker loses big man Keith Wright and hyper-efficient guard Oliver McNally, but they return plenty of experienced players for a team that should be the favorite in the Ivy again next year. Sophomore Laurent Rivard is an absurdly entertaining and confident shot-maker who earned the respect of Vandy’s players and fans by knocking down three after ridiculous three in the face of excellent defense. Junior forward Kyle Casey may be a bit undersized, but he cleans the glass for Amaker and just seems to be around the ball to make plays on a regular basis. Junior point guard Brandyn Curry is one of the best assist men in the nation and a scrappy defensive playmaker, while freshman Wesley Saunders is an athletic ball of energy with loads of upside. Add in the fact that Amaker has made Harvard a legitimate destination for recruits and it appears that the Crimson are on the verge of being an every-year type of team.
  3. South Dakota State may have been the darling of the Albuquerque Thursday. Not only did the scrappy Jackrabbits battle a clearly athletically superior Baylor team tooth and nail for 40 minutes, but their fans, supporting a team from the state of South Dakota in the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever, were an asset to the entire atmosphere in The Pit. Just as Baylor’s team showed up expecting to advance to the next round on the basis of their talent alone, the Bear fans strolled in from the parking lot at a leisurely rate, not even filling up their section until SDSU had run out to an early 12 point lead. Meanwhile, Jackrabbit fans made their way into the arena as early as the possibly could (the doors weren’t opened for the second session until 30 minutes before tip-off), loaded up their section and then some, and were loud and supportive throughout the game. They had plenty to cheer for as junior guard Nate Wolters led an inspired effort against one of the biggest, most athletic squads in Division I. Even after they booted away that 12-point first-half lead in a flurry of first half turnovers and seemed destined for a blowout, the Jackrabbits, fans and team alike, responded strong in the second half and at least put a good scare into the Bears. While Wolters gets most of the press, guys like sophomore reserve wing Chad White (15 points, five threes in 30 minutes), senior forward Griffan Callahan (seven points, two steals in a full 40 minutes of action), sophomore forward Jordan Dykstra (five points, three boards), junior forward Tony Fiegen (two points, five boards, five assists) and sophomore guard Brayden Carlson (nine points, five assists) deserve at least a mention, with Callahan, Fiegen and Dykstra all deserving extra props for contending with, and generally containing, the imposing Baylor frontline. In the end, it was a 27-8 record on the year for the Jackrabbits, the best in the history of the school. And with everyone but Callahan expected to return next year, South Dakota State could again claim a spot on the national stage.
  4. Lastly, there’s UNLV, the most celebrated of the four losers on Thursday night. While Montana, Harvard and South Dakota State can all come away from their NCAA Tournament experience feeling okay about their seasons, for the Runnin’ Rebels, this is a disappointment, not solely because they were upended by a lower seed. This marks the fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament loss for the proud program and sends seniors Oscar Bellfield, Chace Stanback, and Brice Massamba off to graduation without a tournament win on their resume (fellow senior Kendall Wallace redshirted last season and was a small part of the 2008 team that beat Kent State in the first round). And, for the third consecutive year, this was a Rebel team that played its best basketball of the season in November and December and never improved as much as the other teams around them. And, perhaps most galling of all for a proud fanbase, the UNLV supporters were out-traveled and out-voiced throughout the game by Colorado fans, relative upstarts. Things need to change in Vegas next season. And the good news is, all the parts are there for the change to be made. Head coach Dave Rice will be heading into his second season as a head coach and should be able to build upon his experience this year. Mike Moser and Anthony Marshall, the first and third leading scorers on this team should return (provided Moser doesn’t do anything stupid and declare for the NBA Draft), along with plenty of other strong parts, including Division I transfers Bryce Jones and Khem Birch. Marshall will take over the leadership role for this team once and for all (a role he battled with Bellfield and Stanback over this year), and the team should be better for that. And, there is a buzz about the program that has been largely missing since the days of Jerry Tarkanian. In short, the future is bright in Las Vegas, even if the present is full of regrets over missed opportunities on Thursday.
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March Madness Comes Early for the Ivy League

Posted by mpatton on February 26th, 2012

Matt Patton is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Saturday’s Harvard-Penn game in Cambridge.

With just under two minutes and thirty seconds left to play in the biggest Ivy League matchup of the season, Zack Rosen cut Harvard‘s lead over Penn to one. The lead had gradually dwindled from nine points six and a half minutes earlier, despite four opportunities for the Crimson to push the lead to double digits. Forty seconds later Henry Brooks fouled out, sending Kyle Casey to the charity stripe where he re-upped Harvard’s lead to three. Rosen answered again. A missed three from Harvard senior co-captain Oliver McNally meant the Quakers possessed the ball with just under a minute left only down one.

Zack Rosen Scored Penn's Last 9 Points to Lead the Quakers over Harvard. (credit: Meghan Cadet / Daily Pennsylvanian)

This was Harvard’s year. The Crimson are the most deep, talented, and experienced team in the Ivy League. Talk to coach Tommy Amaker and he’ll praise the team’s “bench and balance” repeatedly. Prior to conference play, the only true slip-up for the Crimson was their loss at Fordham. Amaker’s team (which didn’t lose any players from last year’s team) blitzed the nonconference slate compared to its prospective challengers. Princeton started the season 1-5 before finally righting the ship; Yale fared slightly better, but against far worse competition; and Penn couldn’t crack .500. After drubbing Yale on the road 65-35, the Harvard hype grew to an all-time high.

After Fran Dougherty grabbed an offensive board, Penn coach Jerome Allen called a timeout. Everyone in sold out Laveites Pavilion knew where the ball was headed. Rosen owned the Quakers’ last seven points. This was his moment. The senior inbounded the ball, immediately stepping in and taking a handoff from Rob Belcore near halfcourt. Rosen proceeded to drive straight past Brandyn Curry, the Ivy League’s best on-ball defender, forcing Casey to send him to the line with 23 seconds left.

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Checking In On… the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 23rd, 2011

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

Reader’s Take


A Look Back

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

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

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

Power Rankings

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Night Line: Harvard’s Ability to Hang Tough With Connecticut Bodes Well For Future

Posted by EJacoby on December 9th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him @evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

Harvard may have lost its first game of the season on Thursday night by double figures, but there were plenty of positive signs that came out of their efforts at No. 9 Connecticut. Tommy Amaker’s team looked like it belonged on the floor against UConn, able to handle physical play and hit tough shots against the defending national champions. Few teams in the country are as physically dominant as UConn, and the Crimson will not play another team with that kind of athletic superiority unless or until they reach the NCAA Tournament. Based on how they competed against one of the top teams in the nation on an off-shooting, ineffective night, Harvard looks like a team that will in fact get that opportunity in March.

Harvard Struggled Against UConn's Length, but Still Hung Tough in Storrs (AP/B. Child)

The Huskies have a far more athletic roster than the Crimson, and this showed throughout the game. Harvard’s leading scorer, Keith Wright, had no room to operate while being defended by Alex Oriakhi and, mainly, Andre Drummond, two of the top interior defenders in the nation. Wright converted just 3-10 field goals and finished with only nine points. He also did not get double-teamed upon receiving post entries, so there were no open shots for his teammates when he made post moves near the basket. Give Connecticut all the credit for executing its defensive game plan to shut down the Crimson’s number one option. Additionally, Harvard couldn’t knock down a high percentage of perimeter shots (7-21 from three) nor stop UConn from converting theirs (7-14). They also turned the ball over a couple of times more than their opponent. Again, credit goes to Jim Calhoun’s team full of long, athletic players for defending the perimeter at a high level.

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20 Questions: Will Harvard Finally Break Through to the NCAA Tournament?

Posted by rtmsf on October 19th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC and one of that conference’s microsite writers.

Question: Will Harvard Finally Break Through to the NCAA Tournament?

One word says it all: yes. Barring serious injury, there is no reason Harvard shouldn’t attend the Big Dance this season. But before we break down why the Crimson will get there, let’s look at where they come from.

Unlike most would have you believe, Harvard has in fact played in the NCAA Tournament before. It was the 1945-46 season, and conference schedules were a thing of the future. Ivy League opponents were few and far between, as head coach Floyd Stahl’s squad only faced Brown (twice) and Yale. In the end Harvard finished with a 19-3 overall record, but I would be remiss not to mention that three Crimson victories came against the not-so-mighty Chelsea Naval Hospital team. Harvard’s lone regular season loss came at the hands of Massachusetts rival Holy Cross. Unfortunately, the Crimson’s regular season success held no good omens for the postseason, as the Crimson fell quickly to Ohio State in the first round of the Tournament and followed that up with a regional consolation loss to NYU. Oklahoma A&M (now known as Oklahoma State) went on to win the 1946 championship, beating North Carolina 43-40 in the finals.

Harvard Was Only a Couple of Ticks Away Last Year (credit: Harvard Crimson)

The Crimson never made it back. Head coach Tommy Amaker inherited a program with one postseason appearance and no winning coaches since Edward Wachter left Cambridge in 1933. He inherited a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 2001-02 nor a winning conference season since 1996-97. To this point the athletic department was content with .500 Ivy League seasons every few years, mostly trying only to avoid embarrassment instead of actually compete.  But in 2007 after he was fired by Michigan, Harvard called up Amaker: “The Ivy League was appealing to him. He was drawn to Harvard’s tradition of excellence, to the New England area, to the opportunity to flourish in such a strong academic environment.” But the drawbacks I mentioned above–along with tough Ivy League restrictions–pushed the other side of the scale.

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Ivy League Playoff: A Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 12th, 2011

Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

This day seemed inevitable. From the first practice in October, these two schools were on a collision course; a date with destiny for the two most talented teams in the Ivy League. One with a storied tradition; one hoping to begin one. One looking to return to prominence; one looking to go where they had not before. One will be cutting down the nets; one will experience paradise lost. Princeton and Harvard–today at 4 PM at Lee Amphitheater on the campus of Yale and on your computer screen. Round three, the playoff. The chance to dance.

How They Got Here

They both entered their first meeting on February 4 at Princeton on hot streaks. Princeton had won 12 of 13 and Harvard had won eight in a row. The game did not disappoint. Though both struggled from the field, it was close most of the way. Ian Hummer sealed the deal for the Tigers late with two free throws en route to a 65-61 Princeton victory. The loss continued a streak of Crimson frustration at Jadwin–now winless in their last 22 trips.

The prevailing thought was that neither team was likely to stumble before their rematch a month later in Cambridge and it would be that game that would decide the title. Wrong… and right. First to fall was Princeton, shooting 38% from the field, 19% from three, and watching Brown make 25 of 27 free throws, a recipe that resulted in a ten-point defeat. Harvard, not being able to stand prosperity, followed suit a week later, blowing a late lead, and suffering an excruciating one point loss at Yale (an omen perhaps?). It set up a must-win for the Crimson on March 5 at home. They thrilled their home crowd as they began the second half with a 21-12 run that turned a one point half time lead into a 58-48 advantage. Princeton would never get close. The weekend ended with Harvard clinging to a half game lead, pending the outcome of Princeton/Penn at the Palestra.

That game was played as if the Quakers couldn’t wait for the season to end and, despite protestations to the contrary, that the Tigers were looking ahead. Penn quickly scored the first two baskets of the second half and Princeton found themselves in an eight point hole. Time out. An agitated Sydney Johnson reminded his team what was at stake. An 11-0 run opened up a lead they would never relinquish. When the horn sounded, Harvard and Princeton were deadlocked at 12-2 atop the Ivy League.

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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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Harvard Hoops: A Tradition of Futility

Posted by rtmsf on February 3rd, 2011

Matt Patton, a junior at Harvard University, is an RTC contributor.

Loving sports comes with ups and downs.  College sports especially come with the knowledge that no matter how good a player is, eligibility only lasts so long.  Some programs feel like they’re on perpetual highs, rarely enduring a bad season.  We plot winning streaks, consecutive NCAA bids, and even dynasties for these programs.  Then there are those less fortunate streaks: Northwestern’s historical absence from the NCAA tournament, Clemson’s perfect record of defeats in Chapel Hill, and Harvard’s empty space where years should represent Ivy League championships.

Harvard Hoops is On the Rise

For some fans these streaks produce incredible pain (Northwestern); for some they produce apathy (Clemson); and for others they scare them off altogether (Harvard).  Two years ago there was no such thing as a bandwagon Harvard fan.  The hiring of former Duke All-American Tommy Amaker infused a little life in the program.  But even in the winter of 2008-09, the games still felt like high school games.  There was little local interest and even less student interest.  I went to a game my freshman year with most of the student section to myself.  My interest had been piqued when the Crimson beat Boston College, who was just coming off a huge upset over #1 North Carolina (the eventual national champions).  The games were enjoyable, but most students were content to talk about the win over Boston College rather than make the short voyage to Lavietes Pavilion.  Harvard finished 6-8 in Ancient Eight play.

2009-10 introduced the first “bandwagon” fans with the Jeremy Lin show.  After a torrid start, Lin started getting attention from the national media, and students took note.  Harvard beat Boston College for the second year in a row, and suddenly the basketball team was one of the hottest on campus.  The student newspaper was abuzz with articles hinting at the possibility of winning the Ivy League for the first time in school history.  Lavietes was packed night in and night out.  Coach Amaker praised the student section’s tenacity, and the Princeton and Cornell home games had to lottery student tickets.  Unfortunately, Jeremy Lin couldn’t do it alone.  The team was stacked with young talent, but as most fans know, youth breeds inconsistency.  The Crimson finished 10-4 in Ivy League play (good for third in the conference) en route to the team’s first 20-win season ever.

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Checking in on the… Ivy League

Posted by rtmsf on November 21st, 2008


Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

Some early-season notes from the only league without scholarships or a conference tournament:

Cornell might be the class of the Ivy League, but Penn, a perennial power (save for last year), has been getting most of the early attention, thanks to a not-so-terrible loss to No. 1 North Carolina to open the season followed by a nationally televised game against Philadelphia rival Drexel during ESPN’s college hoops marathon.

Full disclosure: I’m a Penn graduate and a big college hoops fan, so I made it over to Drexel for the game dubbed as the “Battle of 33rd Street.” Amazingly, the 10 a.m. start time wasn’t even the weirdest part of the game. Or that Drexel had banners in the arena listing its flag football champions. Or that at one point Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell hollered “That’s terrible” at the refs about 23 times in succession (actually, anyone that’s seen Fast Eddie at a Penn game will tell you that’s not weird at all; the Penn grad takes his sports – and his yelling – seriously).

No, the weirdest part was probably that the game marked the first time Penn played at Drexel in a series that dates all the way back to the 1920-21 season (which you might say makes sense considering Penn’s home, the Palestra, is considered college basketball’s most historic gym). Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said the home court edge made a big difference and he was probably right as the Dragons held on for a 66-64 win in a game that featured too many fouls, too few made free throws and probably one too many “tell the professor I really am sick” jokes.

There were some positives for Penn – such as former-spare-parts-turned-valuable-seniors Brennan Votel and Kevin Egee combining for 35 points. And the Quakers fought back from a big hole and had a chance to tie it in the final seconds. But it should be obvious from those who watched the game that this young Penn team, which starts three sophomores and a freshman, needs to make significant improvements if it hopes to unseat Cornell as Ivy champs.

One more quick note on Penn: Of all the things in college basketball that are easy to predict, a freshman point guard from the Ivy League struggling in his first college game against the No. 1 team in the country probably falls somewhere between Dickie V gyrating and Digger Phelps gratuitously holding a highlighter to his tie. And sure enough, Penn freshman point guard Zack Rosen had a rough debut, getting shut out by the Tar Heels in 28 minutes. But Quaker fans should take heart that the heralded recruit who passed up schools such as Rutgers, Iowa State, Seton Hall, Virginia Tech and Gonzaga to come to Penn will only get better. Much better.

Cornell posted a nice win over Loyola Md. in the consolation of the NIT Tip-off (The NIT has consolations?) but the AP didn’t seem to notice as not one Cornell player, basket, spurt, play, band member, coach or fan was even mentioned. But I guess that’s what happens when the opposing coach goes to sit in the stands for part of the game.

The Big Red lost their first NIT game to St. John’s, but some early speed bumps should be expected as the team is currently without sharpshooter Adam Gore (ACL) and point guard Louis Dale (hamstring), the reigning Ivy Player of the Year. Dale may be back soon, but Gore is out until at least January, which might make the road to a repeat a little trickier.

–I heard something weird happened during Princeton’s first game, so I checked the student newspaper’s account of the game. And yes, the rumors are true! Princeton has a “flashy” point guard. At first, his flashiness “puzzled” the fans who were used to the “Princeton basketball of old – constant motion, backdoor screens and layups, defeating opponents by wearing them down and catching them off the guard.” But soon, they grew to appreciate the new “modern and conventional” style of basketball. Could this be the end of backdoor cuts as we know it? Don’t they realize that’s how they beat UCLA in one of the all-time great tourney upsets?  What’s next to go – set shots?? I’m not sure if a world without Princeton backdoor cuts is a world I want to live in. (By the way, the Tigers lost their first two games, but already appear to be far better than the 07-08 team that was one of the worst offensive teams in the country.)

–I thought the departure of Barack Obama’s brother-in-law Craig Robinson would hurt Brown on the recruiting front, and it very well might. But the Bears gave rookie head coach Jessie Agel a good win when they knocked off Patriot League power Holy Cross, less than a week after narrowly losing to a Rhode Island team that almost took out Duke. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama’s brother had a rough debut at Oregon State, losing to Howard, 47-45. Interestingly enough, Howard is coached by longtime Penn assistant Gil Jackson, so this game had a lot of league connections (probably why the two teams combined for less than 100 points). Perhaps even more interesting, the AP reports “a couple dozen” fans “swarmed” the court after the game. Hope they had good security there.

–From Seton Hill to Michigan, Tommy Amaker has always been known as a good recruiter, if not the smartest game coach. But Amaker’s first recruiting class at Harvard has drawn allegations of unethical behavior, some of which came to light when the Crimson’s prized recruit, Frank Ben-Eze, ended up enrolling at Davidson after committing to Harvard because of scrutiny over diminished academic standards. Still, Amaker’s first class looks mighty good. With three newcomers starting (Oliver McNally, Max Kenyi, Keith Wright), the Crimson opened the season with an 80-69 win over New Hampshire on Wednesday . If these guys can pass poly sci, Harvard may be set up for a run at the program’s first Ivy title.

–Andy Katz may think Yale can win the Ivy League, but the Bulldogs followed a fairly impressive 8-point loss to Stanford with a not-so-impressive 31-point loss to Vermont. (Yes, non-conference losses can be impressive if you’re in the Ivy League.) Yale should still be in the top half of the league, but first it needs to find a way to replace the shooting touch of the graduated Eric Flato.

Dartmouth joins Penn, Princeton and Yale with an 0-2 record, losing to Army and Providence to start the year. But the Big Green’s best player Alex Barnett already has 46 points in those two games.

–Finally, rounding out the Ancient Eight, Columbia is 1-1 after beating New York City rival Fordham and losing to the Big East’s Seton Hall. My favorite player, K.J. Matsui, the first native Japanese player to play Division I basketball, is off to a slow start to his senior year, shooting just 2-of-16 from the field.

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