IHO Awards of the Week – Dec. 15

The week that was in Ivy roundball, rankings included:

8. Penn (3-5)

Three wins in a row vs. teams whose KenPom rankings add up to 970 (Navy: 322, Binghamton: 340, Marist: 308)

7. Dartmouth (3-5)

Nice 21-point win at UMass-Lowell, but Dartmouth really has become Gabas Maldunas, Alex Mitola, Connor Boehm and a bunch of guys. That trio accounted for 50 of the Big Green’s 67 points in a loss at Jacksonville St.

6. Princeton (3-8)

More losses than any other Ivy. Princeton lost by 14 to St. Peter’s, which Brown beat by 12 in the Bears’ season opener, so the Tigers fall below Brown here. Still, an outstanding first half at Cal showed that the Tigers are capable of much more. Untapped upside still looms large for Princeton.

Columbia beats Kentucky, 46-56

Kyle Smith's squad was on top of its slow-paced game at No. 1 Kentucky last week. (gocolumbialions.com)

Kyle Smith’s squad was on top of its slow-paced game at No. 1 Kentucky last week. (gocolumbialions.com)

LEXINGTON, Ky. — When you’re an Ivy League team and you play the No. 1-ranked team in the country, your goal is respectability. To show your fans that you can hang tough with blue-chip NBA prospects, to make your alumni proud on the biggest possible stage, and to demonstrate to basketball observers anywhere that the Ivy League is not to be taken lightly.

The Columbia Lions checked all three of those boxes on Wednesday — and many more. They scored eleven points before Kentucky — a team with NINE All-Americans coming out of high school, playing at home in one of the toughest gyms in the country — scored even one. They led at halftime, 25-23, ensuring an ESPN2 halftime show that focused on how good Columbia was playing.* It was 27 minutes into the game before Kentucky seized the lead, as the Lions forced the Wildcats to activate their considerable potential in a game they would have expected to be a walk in the cake. It was a game that will linger long in the memory of the long-suffering Light Blue boosters.

Princeton can’t hang on at California

Princeton played its best half of the season at California Saturday evening, shooting a sizzling 62 percent from the field, including 8-for-14 from three-point range, to lead 37-28 at intermission.

The second half was far more typical of the Tigers’ season, however, as the Golden Bears stepped up the defensive pressure and unleashed NBA prospect Tyrone Wallace, who scored 20 of his game-high 23 points after the break. The game was closer than the final score (67-57) suggests.

Terrific ball movement gave the Tigers numerous open shots early in the game. Four different players accounted for the first seven shots, all good, giving the Tigers a lead that reached 11 points.

How Penn basketball can keep us from forgetting about it

Penn's win over Marist Tuesday marked its first victory at the Palestra in six tries. (upenn.edu)

Penn’s win over Marist Tuesday marked its first victory at the Palestra in six tries. (upenn.edu)

Like many, I was a bit shocked that Jerome Allen has not placed on ESPN’s “10 Best-Dressed Coaches List.” Anyone who has seen the man up close knows his elegant sartorial choices are beyond reproach.

I was equally shocked when this very forum expended more than 51 minutes of last week’s On the Vine podcast discussing Ivy League basketball and spent exactly two seconds on the Quakers. In fact, after discussing six other teams, host Peter Andrews at one point says, “There’s only one other team that we haven’t talked about, Dartmouth.”

Shame on you gentlemen…

These two incidents, albeit small, point to one thing: the current irrelevance of Penn basketball.  Both mainstream and social media blather on and on about everything from the overall strength of the league to the beauty of the Yale offense, to the disappointment of the Brown defense, to the burgeoning diameter of Mitch Henderson’s bald spot.

But nothing about Penn.

Columbia is playing Uglyball – and it’s working

Kyle Smith's Uglyball approach is paying dividends for the Light Blue. (Columbia Athletics)

Kyle Smith’s Uglyball approach is paying dividends for the Light Blue. (Columbia Athletics)

What is the most memorable basketball offense of all time? Chances are your mind just jumped to memories of the Showtime Lakers, the Seven Seconds or Less Suns, the Stockton and Malone pick and roll, or the present-day Spurs. Visions of great ball movement, transition dunks and helpless defenders are probably dancing through your head like sugarplums at this very second.

The offense Kyle Smith and the 2014-15 Columbia Lions are running more resembles the Four Corners offense which, while ultimately leading to many victories, sucked the life out of the game and ultimately led to the implementation of the shot clock. Despite playing at this snail’s pace, only four teams in the NCAA have attempted a higher percentage of three-pointers than the Lions. This combination of a slow tempo and an absurdly high percentage of threes taken has created a painful-to-watch offense that is the key to Columbia’s season.

Watch out for Harvard’s Corbin Miller

Corbin Miller has scored in double figures in three of Harvard's past five games. (gocrimson.com)

Corbin Miller has scored in double figures in three of Harvard’s past five games. (gocrimson.com)

On Monday night, Harvard’s tough defense and late-game toughness pushed the Crimson over Boston University, 70-56, at Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge. For the first thirty minutes of the game, Harvard and BU traded leads and the scrappy Terriers just would not go away. Then halfway through the second half, Harvard pulled ahead for good on a Wesley Saunders three-pointer, and the game was never in doubt after that. BU’s head coach, Joe Jones, noted after the game that Harvard played like a “winning team” down the stretch, and BU simply did not.

Once again, Saunders had an outstanding night, with 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Great performances from Saunders are becoming the norm (he is currently the only player in the NCAA averaging at least 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game), so it was another Harvard player’s performance that caught the attention of Crimson fans.

The Ivy League isn’t struggling, but Princeton is

Mitch Henderson is looking to right the ship for the 3-7 Tigers. (ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com)

Mitch Henderson is looking to right the ship for the 3-7 Tigers. (ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com)

Princeton turned a nine-point first-half lead into a 14-point deficit at the end of last night’s clunker in Jersey City. Desi Washington, the Peacocks’ leading scorer, returned after missing eight games due to a wrist injury. Washington dominated this one, scoring 18 to lead both teams in the 60-46 St. Peter’s victory. Although tied at the half at 25, the Peacocks (4-6) seized control early in the second stanza in what must have been an eerie reminder to the Tigers (3-7) of their second half meltdown last week at FDU. The Tigers now face their second West Coast trip in less two weeks as they head to Berkeley to face California this weekend. Probably won’t be a happy flight … in either direction.