Welcome to the first IHO Power Poll (based on games through 12/16/11). Please note that these rankings are based off of our best guesses of how the Ivy League picture will sort itself out. We always love to hear your gripes and whines in the comments below.
1. Harvard (9-1)– The Crimson are head and shoulders above the rest of the league right now. Ranked 35th in KenPom's rankings and 22nd in the RPI, Harvard has a major tournament title from the Battle 4 Atlantis, as well as the league's best win against the ACC's Florida State Seminoles. The only blemish on the resume is a perfectly understandable loss in Storrs (though Columbia only lost by 13…), after which the Crimson showed their resiliency by waxing the floor with BU. Harvard has gotten it done so far by being relentless on the defensive end and versatile on offense. The only possible cause for concern for the Crimson is that they've been a little bit lucky so far, and may be a bit overrated. Their opponents' free throw percentage is by far the worst in the nation (54.7%). That's bound to rise and make some of their Ivy battles tighter than some may expect (or maybe the Lavietes faithful have simply uncovered the secret to getting inside opponents' heads).
2. Yale (7-2)– The Bulldogs have won five in a row and Greg Mangano is starting to assert himself as the league's best player. While the wins over Army, Hartford, and Bryant aren't anything to write home about, especially given how close the games were late in the game, Yale destroyed a good (not great) Vermont team and won a close game on the road against local NEC foe Sacred Heart. The reason for Yale's high ranking here is not for what they've accomplished though; this ranking is steeped in the faith in their balance, depth, and potential. The Bulldogs are going to be a tough matchup for every team in the bunched-up middle of the league, with dangerous scoring weapons down low (Mangano), on the wing (Willhite), and on the perimeter (Morgan). Yale has four players in the top 15 in the league
in offensive efficiency (the above three plus Kreisberg). Harvard also has four, and no one else has more than two. Circle your calendars for January 27th. That's the day the Crimson invade New Haven, and it should be the best conference game of the year.
3. Princeton (5-6)– Honestly, spots 3 through 6 are a complete mess. The Tigers get the edge here by virtue of their performances against Buffalo, NC State, and Rutgers. Hummer is shouldering a huge load right now, responsible for 32.3% of the Tigers' shots, but also getting it done on the glass, dishing the rock, and on defense. He's averaging nearly 18 points, more than 8 boards, and over 3 assists. The question is can Princeton be good enough if he has an off night. The Elon and Morehead State games would suggest that the answer is No. This team's inconsistency is confusing. The ineffectiveness of Brendan Connolly is a cause for concern, as Princeton continues to shoot the three at a higher-than-comfortable rate instead of working it inside. Can Davis, Bray, Darrow, Saunders, and Koon create enough scoring to supplement Hummer? We'll give them the benefit of the doubt for now.
4. Penn (5-6)– The Quakers have played a tough schedule so far and they'll end up better off for it. It's been all Zack Rosen all the time as the Penn guard is on pace for one of the most remarkable individual seasons we've seen in quite some time. Even on the rare occasion that Rosen is not shooting the ball well, he makes his teammates significantly better simply by being on the court. His 38% assist rate speaks volumes. He's averaging 20.8 points per game, good for 17th in the country. Rosen is shooting 48% from three and 93% from the line. When Tyler Bernardini is on, this Penn team can score in bunches. It's a shame Rosen shot the ball poorly against UCLA because Bernardini was on fire, and the Quakers could have bagged a Pac-12 skin. Belcore has acquitted himself quite well and appears to be the best option among the rotating big men. The more Allen can get out of his big guys, the more that opens up the floor for his star guards.
5. Columbia (7-4)– How about the Lions? When Agho went down, you could hear the scratching on the cellar door in Hanover, as everyone (us included) seemed to write off Columbia. Many common complaints about Agho's inefficiency seem more valid now as the Lions have chalked off a shocking seven-game win streak. They should be favored in their next four too, so this win streak could reach double-digits before all is said and done. That being said, let's take it for what it's worth. The Lions have beaten a bunch of 150 teams and displayed great heart in playing really tough, scrappy defense. They still can't score the ball. They don't really do anything that well on offense. They shoot the three a lot, and at a decent clip (35.3%), but a big chunk of their scoring comes from Cisco's physicality on the block. Daniels has stepped up on the boards and Rosenberg has been impressive stepping into a big spot in his rookie season. Barbour, of course, is so solid, a rock in the backcourt. The upside is limited though and it'll be tough for Columbia to win enough games against the second-tier teams to lift them into the top half.
6. Cornell (3-4)– Cornell probably deserves better than sixth here, but out of the three teams above, who are they better than? The Lehigh win was a great step, but after losses to Delaware and American, the Big Red need to do more to convince us they're a top half team. They'll certainly get the chance in their next six games, as they have a very busy holiday season (at Illinois, at Penn St, at Maryland). The Red have gotten production from surprising places so far this year. Eitan Chemerinski has performed above expectations in the frontcourt and freshman Shonn Miller came to Ithaca game-ready. Wroblewski has struggled as a scorer, but like any good point guard, he finds other ways to contribute when the shot is not falling. Drew Ferry leads the team in scoring (13.0 ppg) and is shooting 42% from beyond the arc. The Big Red are getting it done on the defensive end by closing out on shooters and limiting opponents to 25% three-point shooting. Unlike Harvard, Cornell is getting a bit unlucky, as their opponents are shooting 77.5% from the stripe, 7th best in the country. With only seven games down, we want to see more from Cornell before we take a definitive stance on their top-half chances.
7. Brown (5-7)– If the Brown Bears had a General Manager, you'd have to be intrigued by what he's doing. The Bears look downright dangerous with McGonagill, Halpern (redshirt granted), and Maia all together for two more years. Of course, Maia would have preferred to be ruled eligible and Halpern would rather not be dealing with the long-lasting effects of mono, but if you're a Brown fan you have to try to look on the bright side, as this team is set to contend in the top half for the next two years. As far as this year goes, Brown got an important win against Central Connecticut, proving they can outrun and outgun a solid team (CCSU should finish in the top three in the NEC). Defense hasn't been a strength of the Bears for a few years now, so it seems like Agel's strategy is to push the ball and let the talented guards try to create easy scoring opportunities. McGonagill does it all for the Bears, averaging 14.5 ppg, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. Albrecht has been inconsistent, but when he's been on, his scoring abilities have been evident. He's shooting over 44% from beyond the arc since November 21st. Andrew McCarthy has been a stalwart on the glass, grabbing nearly one out of every four rebounds on the defensive end when he's on the floor. More good news: the Bears have four winnable games coming up for before the Yale doubleheader that opens Ivy play.
8. Dartmouth (2-7)– A familiar spot for the Big Green. Their one D-1 win came against 1-9 Bryant, but there's some good news. Dartmouth is an above-average defensive team. They've played some solid teams close, including Rutgers and San Francisco. They've got some good young players who are getting valuable experience and making notable contributions. That list of freshmen starts with Lithuanian forward Gabas Maldunas, who is averaging 9 points and 5.4 boards in only 21 minutes per game. John Golden and Jvonte Brooks have also stepped in and played meaningful minutes in their first years. RJ Griffin and David Rufful have shared the scoring load, with each averaging just over 10 points on the season. Therein lies the problem though, as the Big Green is in Division I's bottom 15 in offensive efficiency. In a league that is defined by its strong defense this year, that doesn't bode well for Dartmouth.