Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2011

Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

A Look Back

While most of the country dribbles through the dog days of February with talk of seedings and bubbles (alive, alive-o), the Ivy League plays in search of their conference champion and its NCAA tournament representative. After their first meeting, it appeared the rest of the schedule would be a formality for Harvard and Princeton, as they both moved inexorably toward a March 5 date with destiny. But then….

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To A Title: After beating Harvard at home at the beginning of February, and extending their winning streak to five, Princeton could be forgiven if they were looking a month ahead to the rematch; a game where a win would all but guarantee an Ivy championship. And indeed, despite a couple of close calls along the way, the Tigers did win another five straight, allowing them to maintain their slim lead on the Crimson who, to their credit, kept pace. A trip to Providence did not seem to represent a particularly difficult hurdle. But then they let Brown do it to them. It was a game they never really threatened to win, leading only once briefly mid-way through the second half, before a 13-2 Bear run put the ribbon around a 75-65 win. It was the most points the defensive-minded Tigers had allowed since their early season Duke debacle. They were no better offensively as those Tigers not named Ian Hummer and Kareem Maddox shot a collective 8-32. The loss dropped them out of the league lead and needing an unlikely Crimson crumble to regain it. This past Saturday, they got what they needed.

Not exactly The Game, but anything pitting the Bulldogs against Harvard gets the juices flowing in New Haven and Cambridge. And it should have come as no surprise to see the Crimson stub their toe. After the Princeton loss, they needed two overtimes to beat Penn, had to dig out of two large halftime holes in both games against Brown, and eked out a three point win vs. Yale at home. The rematch at Lee Amphitheater saw Harvard cling to a slight lead most of the way. But the Elis hung tough and went ahead with 41 seconds remaining. Harvard had a couple of shots to win, including a Brandyn Curry missed layup at the buzzer, but fell 70-69 and out of first place. Harvard must now defeat Princeton next weekend and then hope for the Quakers to play spoiler. A playoff is a distinct possibility where fate could be decided by a flip of the coin to determine home court.

The Future is Now: Most basketball fans by now have heard of Kyrie Irivng of Duke and the ACC and Brandon Knight of Kentucky and the SEC. Both great freshman guards. But it is unlikely any league can boast of three backcourt newcomers that have made an immediate impact like Miles Cartwright, Sean McGonagall and Laurent Rivard have done in the Ivy League. Cartwright is perhaps the most electric with the most upside once he gets a bit stronger. He announced his presence in the season opener for Penn when he came off the bench to score 18 first half points against Davidson. He has started the last 17 games and seems unlikely to relinquish that spot. Rivard has had the most impact; thrown into the pressure cooker as Harvard’s sixth man as they search for their first ever Ivy crown. But the most versatile and most consistent has been McGonagill at Brown. He has started every game for the Bears and is third in scoring and rebounding while leading the team in assists. Amazingly, their stats are almost identical:

Player           Minutes      FG%        FT%      PPG

McGonagill       33           45%          83%      11.7

Rivard              25            43%          89%      11.2

Cartwright        34            43%          82%      11.6

Throw in Rivard’s two made threes per game, Cartwright’s defense (1.3 steals per game), and McGonagill’s four rebounds and five assists per game and you have three worthy candidates for Ivy Freshman of the Year.

Player of the Week: By his own standards, it is likely Zack Rosen of Penn would be the first to admit that it has been a disappointing year for him and for the team. After all he was the defending RTC Ivy Player of the Year and some of the more zealous Quaker faithful and alumni were quietly confident that this team could contend for an Ivy title. Well that is not going to happen and Rosen is unlikely to earn back-to-back trophies for his mantle. After a couple of down games, Rosen has responded and led Penn to three straight wins before losing to Cornell. Over the past two weekends, he has played 146 of a possible 160 minutes. He shot 48% from the field, 54% from long range, and 89% from the line. He grabbed 15 boards, averaged six assists and 16.5 points per game. And while he only scored eight against Yale, his last-second basket was the game-winner. So this week, we honor the 6’1 junior from the Garden State with a fitting bouquet guessed it, roses. The Zack Attack lives!

Power Rankings

1. Princeton (22-5, 10-1)—The Tigers breathe a sigh of relief as they come from behind to take the lead versus Columbia, scoreboard watch, and see Harvard go down in defeat. Princeton can celebrate if they beat the Crimson on Saturday and then not have to worry about a date with Penn that follows. The most veteran team still is experiencing shooting woes, however.

2. Harvard (21-5, 10-2)–Probably the most talented team has played in spurts over the last two weeks and that attitude finally came back to bite them. A win on Saturday most likely guarantees a playoff. An interesting scenario finds the Crimson at 43 in RPI rankings-ahead of tournament likely Missouri State (Missouri Valley champs), Florida State ( #3 in the ACC), Butler (atop the Horizon with Cleveland State), and Marquette (9-7 in the Big East). Could the unthinkable happen and the Ivies get two bids in the new and expanded NCAA Tournament?

3. Penn (12-13, 6-5)–Below .500 overall and trailing Yale by a half game in standings, but the Quakers rank above the Elis thanks to a head-to-head series sweep. A disappointing pair of losses to Cornell and two other overtime disappointments sealed their fate. One has to wonder if Fran Dunphy (or Steve Donahue) on the bench might have made a difference in those games and kept the Quakers in the mix.

4. Yale (7-5, 14-12)—Yale made Princeton fans ecstatic when they found a way to beat Harvard. Having lost five close games during the season, they will definitely be a contender next season as they lose no one of consequence. Player of the Year candidate Greg Mangano (averaging a double/double) should receive some national recognition.

5. Columbia (5-7, 14-12)–A promising start for first year coach Kyle Smith came grinding to a halt as the Lions have lost six of their last eight. Columbia has the opportunity to finish .500 if they get two home wins to conclude the season. Another team that returns its nucleus and must be in the 2011-2012 conversation.

6. Brown (4-8, 11-15)—The Bears have beaten Princeton, sustained a two-point loss at Penn, and have had Harvard on the ropes twice. I have a feeling coach Jesse Agel is a star in the making, as is his freshman point guard Sean McGonagall (see above). They will lose Peter Sullivan but return everyone else who  contributes.

7. Cornell (4-8, 8-18)–Four games ago, coach Bill Courtney started looking ahead and has played 14 players in three of their last four games and averaged 13 players in their last seven games. It has worked, as the Big Red is 4-3 over that span. Have to believe this prime recruiter will have Ithaca rocking soon.

8. Dartmouth (1-11, 5-21)–After beating Cornell, it looks as if Dartmouth will end the season on an 11 game losing streak. With the teams above them keeping most of their good players, it is difficult to imagine the Green escaping the cellar. Most promising is freshman guard Tommy Melville who has averaged in double figure over the last four games.

A Look Ahead

One weekend left to the Ivy season, so circle the date—Saturday, March 5. That is when Princeton travels to Cambridge to visit Harvard. A Princeton win sends the Tigers dancing; a Harvard win and all eyes then turn to the Palestra three days later as Penn tries to ruin the season of their archrivals. A playoff for league honors is not out of the question. Either way, as per usual, the one left standing will become the first official entrant into the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

Whatever happens, our next column will take a close look at the Ivy champ, how they eventually earned the crown, and dissect their matchup with their first round opponent, and if they realistically have a chance to duplicate Cornell’s run. We will also bestow our annual Bradley Awards in the form of the All-Ivy team, Coach of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, and of course, Player of the Year

And as an added bonus, as defending RTC NCAA Bracket Pool contest winner, and proud owner of the coveted red leather Hickory High letter jacket, I feel it is my duty and responsibility to offer you my analysis of this year’s tournament–including who may surprise and of course the team that will ultimately enjoy a shining moment. See you then!

Share this story

Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 4th, 2010

Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

The Week That Was

In the last 32 games played, there were no results that sent shock waves across the world of Ivy League hoops. Over the course of the past two weeks, the members of the Ancient Eight pretty much beat the teams they were supposed to beat and lost to the teams from the more powerful conferences. They amassed a collective 17-15 record and currently stand #15 in the conference RPI rankings. Not bad. At the top of the heap was my preseason pick Harvard, who went a perfect 4-0. On the other end of the spectrum was defending champ Cornell, which went winless in its four games.

College Boards

  • More and more we see the little guys from the mid-majors being able to compete with the schools from the BCS conferences. Butler and Gonzaga have pretty much become the gold standard for this over the past few years. Last year Saint Mary’s and, of course, Cornell joined the party. What allows these schools to compete? And in particular, with regard to the Ivy League, what separates the men from the boys; the pretenders from the contenders? It is the ability to rebound; to hold one’s own on the boards. A simple look back over the past two weeks illustrates this point.
  • On the negative side of the ledger, there have been some pretty ugly rebounding margins. Yale, in its three losses, was outrebounded by 12 against Quinnipiac, seven against Providence, and nine versus Illinois. Cornell had rebounding deficits of 15 against Seton Hall, a whopping 22 against St. Bonaventure, eight against BYU and 15 against Syracuse — all losses. But leading the way is the guard-rich Penn Quakers. Zach Rosen is a solid POY candidate and Miles Cartwright may turn out to be Freshman of the Year. But neither will matter if they cannot fix their inside game. In their three losses the Red and Blue were demolished off the boards by 11 versus Manhattan, 22 against Drexel, and 15 versus Pitt.
  • After absorbing those statistics, it is easy to see why Harvard and Princeton remain the clear-cut Ivy League favorites. They are the only two squads that hold an advantage over their opponents on the boards, and we are not talking SATs here. Princeton holds about a +3 rebounding advantage per game while Harvard is an impressive +4, considering they are doing it without Kyle Casey. Admittedly, the quality of the opponent has had a lot to do with the aforementioned deficits. And with about six weeks still to go before conference play begins, coaches have time to address the problem and tinker with lineups. The road to the league title is definitely paved with… glass.

Power Rankings

  1. Harvard (5-1) – Harvard takes over the top spot thanks to a five-game winning streak. The backcourt duo of Brandyn Curry (7.2 assists per game and leading the league)  and Christian Webster (16.5 ppg) are beginning to live up to the promise they showed as freshmen on a consistent basis. Add forward Keith Wright (16.0 PPG and 8 RPG), the returning Kyle Casey, and a useful freshman class, and you have a Crimson team that will leave the rest of the league red with envy.
  2. Princeton (4-3) – Truth be told, the Tigers are three points away from being an impressive 6-1. A collapse of presidential proportions led to a one-point defeat at James Madison, a game in which Princeton led by 13 at halftime. Playing their third game in three days, in what can only be described as an heretical loss, the Tigers fell by two to Presbyterian.
  3. Brown (3-3) – Rarefied air for the Bears. They get the nod here with a .500 record aided by a rather weak schedule. Leading the way are forwards Peter Sullivan and Tucker Halperin averaging 15.6 and 12.8 PPG, respectively.
  4. Columbia (3-4) – Despite the loss to Bucknell, the Lions seem vastly improved and are playing hard for new coach Kyle Smith. A solid backcourt, led by Noruwa Agho (17.3 PPG) and running mates sophomore Brian Barbour and  freshman Dyami Starks, give Columbia a nucleus on which to build.
  5. Penn (3-3) – the Quakers may find it difficult to escape the second division any time soon given the strength of their non-conference schedule. However, they continue to show flashes of brilliance led by junior Zach Rosen and freshman sensation Miles Cartwright. At Pittsburgh, in a game that featured Big East standouts Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker, it would not be an exaggeration to say Rosen was the best player on the court.
  6. Yale (3-3) – Another team at .500 and one that appears to be much-improved after their unlikely win at BC. The Elis boast four players averaging in double figures led by underclassmen Austin Morgan (16.8) and Greg Mangano (15.7 PPG/8.5 RPG). A blowout at then-#19 Illinois has been Yale’s only clunker.
  7. Cornell (2-5) – How the mighty have fallen as the Big Red are in the midst of a four-game losing streak. Their record should put them in the power poll basement but it’s difficult to rank them below their colleagues from Hanover. Coach Bill Courtney continues to struggle to find a blend, mixing returning contributors, 2009-10 bit players, and a talented freshman class. There are twelve players averaging more than eight minutes a game.
  8. Dartmouth (2-5) – Though they seem destined once again for the cellar, there is some cautious optimism in Hanover that the Big Green can improve on their 5-23 record from last year. In their last game, an 80-63 win vs. Colgate, Dartmouth had six players in double figures. The last time they had even as many as five was in November 2007.

Player of the Week

This week’s award goes to the fuel-efficient Ian Hummer of Princeton. In the last 5 games, the 6’7 sophomore from Virginia has averaged 16 points per game on 63% shooting from the field. Over the same span he has also grabbed a team-leading 38 rebounds (7.6 RPG). So congratulations, Ian! You have most certainly earned your stripes.

Looking Ahead

Sparse schedules over the next two weeks as the teams from the Ivy League begin their hoops hiatus for finals. Wondering how many other Conference Check-Ins will contain that phrase? Brown has a three game road-trip ending with the traditional tussle with cross-town rival Providence. Columbia appears capable of racking up three wins with home games vs. Stony Brook, Wagner, and Bryant.  Another loss appears on the horizon for Cornell, as they head to The Barn to face an angry bunch of Minnesota Golden Gophers, who come off a home loss to Virginia. Fortunately, the Big Red have 14 days to lick their Gopher wounds (where is Bill Murray when you need him?) before embarking on a more forgiving part of their schedule. Dartmouth has ten days off before Army marches in. Tommy Amaker brings his league-leading Harvard squad into Crisler Arena to face Michigan. It’s anyone’s guess as to what his reception will be as he returns to the scene of his not-so-successful stint with the Wolverines. Penn/Army highlights a twin bill at the Meadowlands on Saturday for a must-see! The second game is some meaningless contest between Duke and Butler. (and the Jeopardy! answer is… What would you find in Windsor Castle?). Princeton is the one team that plays on a relatively consistent basis. A home game vs. St. Joe’s precedes a very winnable four-game road trip. Three games in four days await Yale, beginning with a trip to scenic Burlington and a date with the Catamounts of Vermont. (a school for the few, the proud, the select).

    Share this story

    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.
    Share this story

    Checking in on… the Ivy League

    Posted by jstevrtc on December 18th, 2009

    Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

    There hasn’t been much action on the floor recently as the Ivy League geniuses are in the middle of final exams — but there was one huge move off the floor when Penn fired head coach Glen Miller after an 0-7 start.  The firing has generated rare attention to the league from the national media, and most of it has been negative.  Believe me, I understand why people are saying that the Ivy League should hold itself to higher standards.  But after following the team closely for the last few years, I must say that I firmly believe Penn made the right decision.  A program that wins six conference championships this decade should never get to a point where it has the third lowest RPI in the entire country.  The Palestra, college basketball’s most historic gym, should never be silent and half-empty.  It wasn’t just the wins that disappeared; it was the spirit of Penn basketball.  And only a move like this — rash as it may seem to outsiders — can restore the program’s tradition, which has been glorious for many, many years.  I talk more about the firing in my new blog that just launched for all things Penn sports.

    On to the (unofficial) power rankings….

    • Cornell (7-2): Big Red has deservedly been getting some votes in the AP Top 25 poll.
    • Harvard (7-2):  Knocking off big-conference schools has almost become a staple under Tommy Amaker.
    • Princeton (5-4): After losing four straight, Tigers have reeled off three consecutive wins.
    • Columbia (5-4): Sophomore guard Noruwa Agho continues to dominate for the Lions, sharing league player of the week honors with Harvard’s Jeremy Lin after averaging 26.5 points per game in a pair of road wins.
    • Brown (4-7): Bears lost four straight heading into a three-week layoff but their schedule has been difficult.
    • Yale (4-6): Bulldogs are getting healthier heading into the new year.
    • Dartmouth (2-7): Big Green earned its second win of the season with a 29-point thrashing of Division III Lyndon State.
    • Penn (0-7): The Quakers are probably not the worst team in the league … but it’s hard to put them anywhere else since they haven’t won a game and have the third worst RPI in Division I.

    B.C. CAN’T BEAT HARVARD:  If not for the Miller firing, the biggest story in the past two weeks would be Harvard’s win over Boston College — for the second straight year. And this came only three days after the Crimson narrowly lost to Connecticut. Senior Jeremy Lin may be the best player in the league, and is even getting a little NBA buzz. But before anyone thinks of that, the Crimson go up against another Big East opponent when they face Georgetown (and former Ivy League coach John Thompson III) on Dec. 23. Could another upset be in the works? Don’t rule it out.

    THE HAWK DIES AGAINST CORNELL:  Cornell used a crippling 25-4 run in its most recent win, a 78-66 victory over St. Joe’s, to go into its break with a very impressive 7-2 record — considering its only two losses came against Big East teams. Still, the team hasn’t always clicked on all cylinders — which is why the 25-4 run was so nice to see for Big Red fans .

    HITTING THE CENTURY MARK:  In its 102-91 win over Wagner last week, Columbia put up the most points against a Division I opponent since the 1976-77 season — also against Wagner.  At Penn, fans get free cheesesteaks if the team scores over 100 points. Unfortunately, they haven’t been giving out half of a cheesesteak in the rare cases Penn scores over 50 this season.

    VINTAGE PRINCETON:  The Tigers beat Monmouth, 46-42, on Wednesday, despite shooting 30.4 percent for the game. The last time Princeton won with a field goal percentage as low was in 2004.

    BATTLE OF PROVIDENCE:  Despite 12 points from each of the Sullivan brothers (Matt and Peter), Brown fell to Providence, 78-62, in the annual showdown for Rhode Island’s capital. Rhode Island — neither a road nor an island. Discuss.

    BULLDOGS IN COLORADO:  Yale will spends its New Year’s Eve in the Rocky Mountain State, taking on Colorado on Dec. 29 and Colorado State on Dec. 31.

    WELCOME, JEROME ALLEN:  Penn’s interim coach Jerome Allen, a terrific player in the 90s, will lead the Quakers into Davidson on Dec. 28 for his first game as a head coach. Penn then stays in North Carolina to face Duke on Dec. 31. Allen’s first home game in charge? That’s against Temple and his old coach, Fran Dunphy. Welcome to coaching, sir.

    FEARLESS PREDICTION OF THE WEEK:  I have a feeling Harvard makes it two terrific wins in a row after it meets Georgetown. And if Penn beats Duke on New Year’s Eve, I will drink about nine extra bottles of champagne in celebration.

    Happy Holidays, everyone. Last year, I told everyone to pray to God Shammgod.  This year, I recommend you pray to Boubacar Aw — who doesn’t have a religious name…just an awesome one.

    Share this story