Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by rtmsf on February 12th, 2010

Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

At Large….At Last?

Following the Sports Illustrated story profiling Tommy Amaker and Harvard hoops, and with Cornell breaking into the Top 25, the intro this week was going to be all about the suggestion that the Ivy League could possibly receive (gasp!) an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The last time that happened was, well, never.Then Coach Amaker’s team did what most of his teams (Seton Hall and Michigan) have done previously — crashed and burned at the most inopportune time. An 86-50 thrashing at the hands of the Big Red was followed by a detrimental loss to Princeton. So much for the at-large conversation, right? Wrong! Traditional one-bid mid-major conferences have a simple formula for getting a second team into the tournament: have the nationally known and ranked team get knocked off during the conference tournament – i.e. Butler (Horizon League), Gonzaga (West Coast Conference) even Siena (MAAC) – allowing the eventual conference tourney champ to get the bid. But wait, all you Ivy-savvy fans say, our conference doesn’t have a tournament. So RTC presents the formula to you: Princeton (undefeated in conference) splits with Cornell and both win the rest of their games (not impossible) forcing a playoff as both teams would finish conference play at 13-1. Princeton wins the playoff and gets the automatic bid and the Big Red gets an at-large, as ESPN shows the jubilation in Ithaca when Donahue and company see their name announced. This sets up an eventual rematch with Kansas at the Final Four. And to think the dream seemed so real.

The Gang(s) That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

Rick Pitino’s mantra has always been shoot the three, defend the three and I’ll see you at the Big Dance. It has worked for him at all four of his college coaching stops (BU, PC, Kentucky, and Louisville). The way the game is played these days, the emphasis on success from beyond the arc has never been greater even with the line being moved back. Let’s look at how the “three for the money theory” has played out during the first two full weekends of Ivy play. Over the course of those 16 games, the losing teams shot a combined 67-255 or 26% from 3-point range. Columbia and Dartmouth each had a 1-for-11 game vs. Harvard and Cornell respectively, while Penn shot an unparalleled 1-for-18 vs. Yale. The winners shot an aggregate 111-for-281 or 39.5%. Not surprisingly, Cornell led the way with an 11-for-27 clip vs. Dartmouth, 12-for-27 vs. Harvard, and 13-for-27 vs. Yale, proving they are a bunch of equal opportunity shooters. Broken down by game, the losers are averaging about 4-16 while the winners approximately 7-17, a difference of 9 points per game. Now, if only I had some eligibility left…..

One third of the way through the conference season, here is how RTC sees the Ivy League:

1. Cornell (6-0, 20-3): SRO in the locker room after games as Coach Steve Donahue has used an average of almost 16 players per game (19 vs. Dartmouth). Only Ivy coaches could remember that many names. The four victories have come by an average of more than 25 pts per game. After a tune-up at the Palestra against Penn tonight, the nationally ranked Big Red face Princeton on Saturday before a rematch with Harvard the following Friday – both on the road.

2. Princeton (4-0, 13-5): Their undefeated conference record has earned the Tigers the No. 2 spot in our bi-weekly power poll. More amazingly, the four victories have all come on the road – leaving only three games remaining away from home. Once again, defense has been the trademark with the Tigers allowing a mere 45 points per game in those wins. Jadwin Gym should be rocking this Valentine’s Eve (Ted officiating?) as Cornell comes calling.

3. Harvard (4-2, 15-5): Leapfrogged by Princeton thanks to a head-to head loss and the aforementioned disappointing performance vs. Cornell. We are guessing that they will be much better prepared for both rematches and at least one of the losses (most likely vs. Princeton) to be avenged. This team is too talented led by likely Ivy Player of the Year Jeremy Lin (17 points, four rebounds, and four assists per game) and the highly touted freshman class.

4. Yale (3-3, 9-14): One of two teams with a .500 record in conference completes the top half of the rankings. A home loss to Brown has been the only puzzling result and this Friday’s battle with traditional foe Harvard (a 29-29 tie perhaps?) should be the talk of New Haven. Alex Zampier’s 17.5 pts per game paces the Elis.

5. Penn (2-2, 3-15): The other team with a .500 record jumps two spots because as we know, it is the all-important loss column that counts. The ship appears to be somewhat righted thanks to the return to Ivy competition, the shortening of the bench by Jerome Allen, and the emergence of Dan Monckton as a complement to Zack Rosen. The junior has averaged over 11 pts over the last four games, including a controversial buzzer-beating tip-in vs. Brown.

6. Columbia (2-4, 8-12): Is Joe Jones headed for his fifth consecutive 7-7 Ivy season? To do so the Lions will have to overcome the injury bug that has plagued them, particularly to senior guard Patrick Foley, and an upcoming four-game road trip that includes stops at Princeton and Harvard. Columbia continues to be near the top of NCAA in 3-point shooting efficiency led by the marksmanship of Noruwa Agho (51.6%).

7. Brown (1-5, 7-16): The only thing keeping the Bears out of the cellar is Dartmouth. Five consecutive losses, albeit competitive ones, followed a promising conference- opening victory at Yale. Superman Matt Mullery leads the team in ppg (15.3), rebounds (6.0) assists (3.0), field goal percentage (55.3) and blocks (1.5).

8. Dartmouth (0-6, 4-16): After a close home loss to Harvard (in which they actually led in the second half) things have fallen apart for the Big Green. Their next four losses have been by an average of 16 points and their offense could not produce more than 51 points in any game. Coach Mark Graupe continues to look for a productive combination as no player is averaging more than 27 minutes or eight points per game. This Friday’s game vs. Brown could be the first of two basement battles.

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Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2010

Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

Seeds of Doubt?

Last time we suggested that a single digit tournament seed was a possibility for Cornell. While we feel that it would be deserved, the reality is that it may be a pipe dream. So, you may ask, with a perfect Ivy season looming, why not a #8 or a #9 seed come March? The numbers tell the story. As of Thursday, the Big Red has an RPI of 37 and a strength of schedule ranking of 129. And with 12 games remaining within a conference with an RPI rank of 19 out of 32, those numbers won’t improve, even if they go undefeated. So expect #11 or #12 seed and a first round match-up against maybe a Wake Forest or a Pittsburgh.

Green With Envy

With two mid-season coaching changes in the Ivy League, most of the attention has been on Jerome Allen at Penn. Given his stellar playing career and the high profile nature of the Quaker program, the focus is understandable. But playing second fiddle up in Hanover is Mark Graupe (pronounced GRAW-pee for those keeping score) at Dartmouth. This is his first Div.1 head coaching position after 21 years in the business that has included high school and JUCO stops in North Dakota and most recently as an assistant at Colorado State. While we at RTC wish Mark much success, we would also like to remind him that there are coaching positions throughout the U.S. where the temperatures rise above single digits during hoop season.

Ivy Futures – Buy or Sell

Thought it might be interesting to take a look at some budding stars in the conference, so we present the gems (so far) of the Class of 2013:

Taken as a projection the class of the Class may well be Errick Peck of Cornell (the rich get richer). Though limited in playing time given the quality and experience ahead of him, the 6’6 forward came to Ithaca with impressive credentials. The Indianapolis native not only played in the Indiana/Kentucky HS All-Star Games, but was named MVP of the first game with 16 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.

As a class, give kudos to Tommy Amaker at Harvard with four prize recruits that include starting guard Christian Webster, possible 6th man of the year Kyle Casey (nine points, five rebounds off the bench), Brandon Curry and Dee Giger. This may be the best recruiting class at Cambridge since the Class of 1975 — G.W. Bush and Bill Gates, who left early for some computer gig but was known for his (micro)soft hands.

Here is a closer look at Arne Duncan’s favorite conference as it enters its first full weekend of play:

  1. Cornell (2-0, 16-3): Coming off two thrashings of travel partner Columbia by 21 and 26 points, the deep Big Red has eight players averaging at least 13 minutes. They’ll tune up at home vs. Dartmouth before entertaining likely conference runner-up Harvard in an early showdown.
  2. Harvard (2-0, 13-3): Two wins came at the expense of hapless travel partner Dartmouth, though most recent win was too close for comfort (62-58). Kyle Casey (see above) led the way with 19 pts off the bench, while conference player of the year candidate Jeremy Lin continues to impress.
  3. Princeton (0-0, 9-5): Because of late exam schedule, the Tigers and travel partner Penn are the only Ivy teams who have not played a conference game. They begin play with a four-game road trip and need to win at least three if they want to contend for a runner-up spot.
  4. Columbia (0-2, 6-10): The bad news: 0-2. The good news: the Lions are done with Cornell and thus have 12 winnable games left. They need a healthy return of point guard Patrick Foley to team with sharpshooter Noruwa Agho to have a chance, however.
  5. Brown (1-1, 7-12): The Bears split with travel partner Yale, each winning as the visiting team. They badly need the return of hobbled starters and leading scorers Peter Sullivan and Matt Mullery; the two forwards and only two double-figure scorers combine for more than 27 points and 9 rebounds per game.
  6. Yale (1-1, 7-12): It’s difficult to separate the Bulldogs and Bears, but the bottom of the league should begin to sort itself out this weekend when Penn heads to Yale and Brown. The Bulldogs continue to be led by All-Ivy lock and Player of the Year candidate Alex Zampier whose 18.6 ppg average is tops in the league.
  7. Penn (0-0), 1-13): Only tradition keeps the Quakers out of the bottom spot this week after a non-competitive, non-conference showing which concluded with a 85-64 drubbing at the hands of St. Joe’s — a Big 5 rival that had already lost to Cornell and Princeton. It will be interesting to see if conference play proves to be the panacea for Penn and emerging star Zack Rosen.
  8. Dartmouth (0-2, 4-12): The last two games — a win vs. St. Francis (N.Y.) and a near-miss (62-58) vs. conference heavyweight Harvard — may auger well for the Graupe era (see above) in Hanover. At least the Big Green appears to playing hard, which may be enough for them to escape the cellar this season.
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Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2009


Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.


  1. Cornell (6-2): The two-time defending champs have done a very nice job navigating a tricky non-conference schedule thus far.
  2. Harvard (6-1): Off to its best start in 25 years, the Crimson will look to keep the momentum going against some brutally tough teams.
  3. Columbia (3-3): Considering the Lions have already faced two Big East squads, a .500 record is nothing to scoff at.
  4. Princeton (2-4): Tigers have dropped four straight but should have better days on the horizon.
  5. Brown (4-5): Bears haven’t beaten anyone of note but have shown a lot of fight in a few of their losses.
  6. Penn (0-5): Injuries to key players and inconsistent play are again coming back to bite the Quakers.
  7. Yale (3-5): Bulldogs’ schedule hasn’t been as difficult as some of the other Ivy teams.
  8. Dartmouth (1-5): Big Green’s lone win has come against a poor Hartford team.

COOKED RICE: The story in the league right now has to be Harvard, which with its rout of Rice on Wednesday is off to its best start since 1984-85 (though in that season three of its first eight wins came against non-Division I opponents). Keep in mind, Harvard has never won an Ivy League title – and stealing the crown from Cornell this season will be a monumental task. But Tommy Amaker’s bunch may be, according to the Boston Herald, the best mid-major in New England, which sounds like a compliment.

SEEING RED: I’ll let Ithaca Journal ace reporter Brian DeLaney catch you up on Cornell because he knows more than me and he claims he can slap his hand against a backboard (debatable). One of his messages: Cornell is so loaded this season that it doesn’t even have to play well to win at lot of times. Sounds about right.

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Checking in on the… Ivy League

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2009

Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

Right now, the Ivy League is a mess. Somehow, heading into the final weekend of conference play, a Cornell team that is superior to any other in the league has yet to clinch its berth in the Big Dance (remember there’s no conference tournament in the Ivies). Somehow, Princeton – the same Princeton that started 2-8 with losses to mighty teams like Maine, Central Connecticut and Lafayette on its resume – controls its own destiny. And somehow, Yale and Dartmouth – yes, Dartmouth! – are still mathematically alive with two games to play.

Here’s the deal in simplest terms: If Cornell (9-3 league) takes care of business and beats Penn tonight and Princeton tomorrow night at home (where they are undefeated this season), then they win the league. They can also win the league if they beat Penn while Princeton loses at Columbia tonight.  But if Princeton (7-4) is able to sweep Columbia and Cornell this weekend, then the Tigers’ game Tuesday against Penn – the final game of the Ivy League season – could either make or break their chances of winning at least a share of the league title. (In the case of a tie at the top, there would be a one-game playoff between the co-champs with the NCAA berth on the line).

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