Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by Michael James on November 22nd, 2013

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


Looking Back

  • Upset Alert MainstaysPrinceton said goodbye to one of its best two-way players of all time. Columbia graduated two three-year starters. Brown not only lost three senior contributors from last season, but also had to deal with the abrupt loss of swingman Tucker Halpern, who had battled injuries throughout his career and couldn’t get healthy enough to remain on the Bears’ roster. The common belief was that those three teams would spend 2013-14 rebuilding, but Butler, Michigan State and Providence would strongly disagree. Princeton trailed the Bulldogs by 11 with less than six minutes to play before missing a potential game-tying two just before the buzzer. Brown rallied from 16 points down in the second half against the Friars to lead with under five minutes to play before a Sean McGonagill missed three with six seconds to play finally ended the Bears’ hopes. Columbia easily took the biggest stage, though, leading at the half and trailing by one with just four minutes to play. Two critical shot clock violations in the final few minutes gave the Spartans the space they needed to put the game away.

    In a league that is getting younger and younger, Harvard's Kyle Casey is chugging along. (AP)

    In a league that is getting younger and younger, Harvard’s Kyle Casey is chugging along. (Harvard Athletics)

  • Youth Served — A year after losing six seniors who posted offensive ratings over 100 with a usage rate of 20 percent or more, the Ivy League has reloaded and gotten even younger while doing so. There are no seniors and three members of the sophomore and freshman classes among the five highest usage players in the league, and just two seniors are using more than 21 percent of their team’s possessions (Harvard’s Kyle Casey and Dartmouth’s Tyler Melville). The sophomore and junior classes are driving the production, as 18 of the 22 players posting an above average usage rate (over 20 percent) are from one of those two cohorts. Given that the Ivy League has settled into the No. 15 spot in Pomeroy’s conference ratings and won’t lose as many productive seniors as it has in previous years, the 2014-15 season could provide the first real shot for the league to make a push toward the Top 10.

Power Rankings

  1. Harvard (4-0) — While the Crimson has yet to face a Top 100 opponent, it’s not like Harvard is entirely untested to this point. The 10-point neutral site win over Holy Cross and the 18-point home victory over Bryant look a lot better when you consider that the only other losses those two squads have incurred have come against Top 25 opposition. The Crimson has managed injuries to center Kenyatta Smith and guard Brandyn Curry without skipping a beat, getting some surprising, big nights from forwards Steve Moundou-Missi and Jonah Travis. The cupcakes are almost all behind the Crimson at this point, and the next six games heading into the winter exam break finally will provide the stiff test that everyone wants to see this Harvard team face.
  2. Yale (2-2) — There may be no better snapshot of what this Bulldogs team is all about than its 47-14 run against Central Connecticut State in the season opener in Bridgeport. It wasn’t the magnitude of the run, but the fact that Yale scored on all but three possessions (all turnovers) over the final 13 minutes of the game to cobble together a massive comeback from 17 points down. Yale bullied its way to the free throw line and corralled every wayward shot on the offensive glass to stun a Blue Devils team that looked comfortably in control. Yale’s only losses thus far have come at Connecticut and Rutgers with the latter being decided by just a point on the final possession. Read the rest of this entry »
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2013-14 RTC Conference Preview: the Ivy League

Posted by Michael James (@ivybball) on November 6th, 2013

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


Top Storylines

  • Best Ivy Team Ever? Every league preview from this summer and fall seemed to start with the assumption that Harvard would not only cruise to the Ivy title, but that it could very well end up as the best team the league has ever seen. Putting aside the great Penn teams of the 1970s – one of which reached the Final Four and two others which finished third in the final AP poll – it’s extremely tenuous to predict that the Crimson will even end up as the best Ivy team of the 64-team era. The 1998 edition of the Princeton Tigers set that bar, finishing the regular season with just one loss and nabbing a #5 seed before falling to Michigan State in the round of 32. While that’s the best known example, five other Ivy teams spent some time in the national polls, including Princeton’s 1991 squad, which lost by two to Villanova as a #8 seed in the first round. Two Penn teams from the mid-90s cracked the Top 25 and one scored an NCAA win as a #11 seed, while Harvard and Cornell recently rode appearances in the Top 25 to #12 seeds with the latter advancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen. Given that most pundits have the 2013-14 Crimson as a fringe Top 25 team, it would seem that the hype about Harvard possibly being the best Ivy ever is mostly indicative of how soon most have forgotten the very good Ivy teams of the recent past.

    There will be plenty of teams gunning for Harvard this season. (AP)

    There will be plenty of teams gunning for Harvard this season. (AP)

  • Going DigitalJust two years ago, the Ivy League office took a ton of flak as it struggled to farm out its premier basketball properties to television or even specialty streaming channels like ESPN3. Only six Ivy League contests were picked up that season, despite a dramatic race which ended where Princeton defeated the rival Quakers to send Harvard to its first NCAA Tournament in over 65 years. Last season, that number crept to nine broadcasts with the new league television deal with NBC Sports Network, but still the only way to watch Brown defeat Princeton to send Harvard back to the Big Dance was via a grainy web feed. Shortly after the season ended, however, the league announced a massive new infrastructure project to merge all of the web feeds into one Ivy Digital channel and provide professional, multi-camera, high-definition broadcasts of all events for the league’s revenue sports. Now, simply by paying one flat fee (roughly $100 for all sports), fans can watch any Ivy home contest and all league games without having to buy each individual school’s package and could access every game in one place. Add in features like quad view, which can allow viewers to watch four games at once, and the Ivy basketball fan has everything he or she needs to keep live tabs on the league race as it unfolds on Friday and Saturday nights in February and March.
  • Stability in an Unstable World While the Ivy League and its core eight institutions weathered the conference realignment storm without even a joking rumor about possible new arrivals or departures, pardon the players and coaches if they stumble over the new affiliations of some of their non-conference foes this season. The four conferences that the Ivies have played the most over the past two seasons (America East, Patriot, NEC and the Atlantic 10) all underwent varying levels of changes, and that’s before considering the six games the league will play against the American Athletic Conference, which didn’t even exist last season. The result of all the chaos is a composite schedule with a diverse set of non-conference opponents, as Ivy teams will play members of 23 different leagues this season.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Harvard (13-1)
  2. Penn (9-5)
  3. Yale (9-5)
  4. Princeton (9-5)
  5. Brown (5-9)
  6. Columbia (4-10)
  7. Cornell (4-10)
  8. Dartmouth (4-10)

Read the rest of this entry »

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CIO… the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 15th, 2013

CIO header

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

Looking Back

  • One For The Record Book – While Yale’s 69-65 victory over Princeton sent shock waves throughout the league, the score itself obscured the myriad storylines, ranging from interesting to bizarre, hidden beyond a cursory glance. The Tigers saw their 21-game Ivy home winning streak come to an end – a run which extended all the way back to the 2009-10 season. The victory helped push the Bulldogs into a tie for third in the league and put Yale back on pace to finish in the Ivy’s upper division for the 13th consecutive season. Also, it marked just the seventh time in the Academic Index era (dating back to 1980) that a team pulled off the back-to-back sweep of Pennsylvania and Princeton on the road. The game itself was very strange, as both teams posted effective field goal percentages over 60% and each offense rebounded over half of its missed shots.
  • High Octane – After spending most of the non-conference slate struggling mightily to score the basketball, the eight Ivies have experienced a veritable explosion on the offensive end during league play. Every team has seen its offensive efficiency rise, as the 14-Game Tournament has seen Ivy teams score an average of six points more per 100 possessions than they did during the non-conference slate. True-shooting percentage has risen substantially in league play as teams have started getting to the line more and converting a greater percentage of their three-point shots. Dropping threes is a great equalizer for an underdog, and sure enough, the league’s two biggest upsets to this point (Yale over Princeton and Columbia over Harvard) have seen the favorites succumb to a barrage of trifectas from their opponents.

    The Tigers continue to roll, but an unbalanced schedule has Princeton playing seven of its final nine on the road.

    The Tigers continue to roll, but an unbalanced schedule has Princeton playing seven of its final nine on the road.

Power Rankings  

  1. Princeton (11-8, 4-1) – While the Tigers look like the most complete Ivy team and have the added benefit of experience going for them, one thing to keep in mind is that the Tigers haven’t played a road game since January 5th and have yet to venture away from Jadwin in league play. With seven of its final nine on the road, Princeton is about to find out just how tough it is out there, starting with its trip to Dartmouth and Harvard this weekend. Over the same timeframe that the Tigers won 21 straight games at Jadwin Gym, they went just 9-7 on the road, losing at five different Ivy venues. Princeton’s home-road splits this season have been pretty much dead even, so there’s no reason to expect any drop off as the Tigers leave New Jersey, and all it would take is one road sweep to make Princeton the prohibitive favorite. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Summer Update: Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 19th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Ivy League correspondent, Howard Hochman.

Reader’s Take


It seems like only yesterday that Doug Davis was hitting his buzzer beating, fall-back, fall-down jumper that turned Harvard followers crimson. And not soon after, Brandon Knight’s last-second layup was a stake in the eye of the Tiger. But we must look forward and we can only hope the 2011-12 Ivy hoop season can provide the same excitement. This year, it appears seven of the Ancient Eight will be battling for second place. Harvard returns everyone, will be favored to go unbeaten in league play, and, in fact, each starter is capable of earning all league honors. But more on that later. First….

Summer News and Notes

  • Providence Coaching Change Trickles Into Ivy Ranks: We have yet to hear a good explanation why a title-winning Princeton coach and alum Sydney Johnson would leave that bucolic and secure setting for traditional basketball hotbed… Fairfield. Now granted, the MAAC is an underrated conference and departing coach Ed Cooley did not exactly leave the cupboard bare after a 25-win season. In my opinion, the move is lateral at best. But never fear, Princetonians, the apple does not fall far from the tree; the Pete Carrill coaching tree, that is. Mitch Henderson, another alum, and most recently Bill Carmody’s right hand man at Northwestern, was immediately signed on, so it would be wise to keep “three-pointer” and “back-door” in your vocabulary.
  • Ancient Eight Coaches Resist GMU Courtship: Speaking of coaches, when Jim Larranaga departed George Mason for the sunny climes and dollars at Miami, the school first looked north to the Ivy League for his replacement. Not surprisingly, Tommy Amaker chose to remain with his talent-laden bunch in Cambridge. What is surprising is that Bill Courtney turned Mason down. You might remember it was Courtney who was the recruiting architect of the Patriots’ Final Four team in 2006. Furthermore, the CAA is most assuredly a step up from the Ivy and enjoyed one of its finest seasons with VCU coming out of nowhere to make a Cinderella run to the Final Four. It makes one think Mr. Courtney likes what he sees on the roster and that the future may be brighter than most imagine at Cornell.
  • Life Outside Campus: Last season, Greg Mangano of Yale was named the RTC Ivy Player of the Year as a junior. After a season in which his double-double average led the Elis to a third-place finish, and after some discussion with his coach, James Jones, Mangano decided to declare for the NBA Draft but did not hire an agent. A few NBA teams showed interest, but fortunately for Yale fans, he listened to the whispers in his ear and withdrew his name and everyone exhaled at Pepe’s Pizza and Louis’ Lunch. As a reward for his outstanding season, Mangano was invited to try out for the World University Games Team, beginning July 31 in Colorado Springs. The Games themselves will take place next month in China, but it won’t be as big a culture shock as most would expect for Mangano. He averaged over 21 points per game during Yale’s recent ten-day swing through the country. Only 12 (out of the 22 high-profile invitees) will make the traveling squad. We will keep you posted.

Douglas Davis (20) was one cool customer for Princeton, sinking this heartbreaker to top the Crimson and nearly leading the Tigers to an NCAA Tournament upset over Kentucky (Associated Press/Jessica Hill)

Power Rankings

  1. Harvard: Just let the names Kyle Casey, Keith Wright, Brandyn Curry and Christian Webster roll off your tongue and you have the reasons why last year’s co-title holders should repeat with ease though the middle of the league has gotten stronger. An undefeated run through the league seems reasonable and with some out-of-conference success, a Top 25 ranking appears attainable. Kenyatta Smith, a rebounding machine a la Wes Unseld at 6’7″ and 260 pounds, leads a formidable recruiting class. Pencil in a meaningful Selection Sunday for the first time in Cambridge. Read the rest of this entry »
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