IHO Power Poll: January 30, 2012

Zack Rosen could not be stopped by Princeton on Monday night, leading the Quakers to a 82-67 victory and a 3-0 conference record. (Photo Credit: pennathletics.com)

Welcome to the fifth IHO Power Poll (based on games through 01/30/12). 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 (4-0), (18-2)- Harvard settled the score from last season in a shockingly decisive victory over Yale on Friday night. The Crimson’s suffocating defense (and numerous unforced errors on the Elis’ part) limited the Bulldogs to just 35 points, the lowest scoring output for an Ivy team since December 2007 (Princeton at Evansville). Harvard followed up that performance with a wire-to-wire victory at Brown to complete the road sweep and move to 4-0 in conference play. Offensively, the Crimson found production from a variety of places over the weekend. Sharpshooter Laurent Rivard went off for 18 points on Friday, and the next evening Kyle Casey led the way with 20 points. Freshman Steve Moundou-Missi, who continues to be a rock off the bench, chipped in 10 points and five rebounds against Yale and six points and 10 rebounds

against Brown en route to winning his first Ivy League Rookie of the Week award (the third different freshman to win the honor for Harvard). The title race is now decidedly stacked in the Crimson’s favor. Harvard has six of its next eight games in the friendly confines of Lavietes Pavilion, where it’s currently riding a 23-game winning streak, while attrition among the challengers begins in earnest next week when Princeton and Penn visit Yale.  -C. River Banks 

2. Penn (3-0), (11-9)- Penn came to play Monday night. The Quakers came out fast and never looked back, knocking down seven of their first 10 threes and out-rebounding Princeton 31-17 (including 11 offensive rebounds). The undersized hosts were simply more aggressive on this night, as Zack Rosen put on a show dropping in 28 points on 10-18 shooting, while dishing out five assists. Tyler Bernardini added 14 pts shooting 3-5 from downtown, while Rob Belcore logged 37 minutes, grabbing seven rebounds and handing out five assists of his own. Penn is bucking the league's trend of relying on defense. They're the only team in the Ivy with a higher rated offense than defense. If the Quakers continue to shoot this well, attack the rim, get to the line, and crash the boards like they did tonight, then February 10th at the Palestra will be Part I of a battle royale in a two-horse Ivy race. But before we make that jump, Penn must attend to a very tough matchup with Yale and take care of a feisty Brown squad next weekend. -Bruno March

3. Yale (3-1), (13-5)- To call the Bulldogs’ (13-5, 3-1 Ivy) performance this weekend “disappointing” would be a euphemism to say the least. After proceeding to get absolutely embarrassed at John J. Lee by nationally ranked Harvard, losing 65-35 and committing an astounding 22 turnovers, Yale followed it up with an unconvincing 62-52 win against cellar-dweller Dartmouth (a game in which the Bulldogs committed 19 turnovers). Simply put, through four conference games, Yale looks much more like pretender than contender when it comes to challenging Harvard for the Ivy League crown.

The overarching theme has been that Yale cannot seem to find its identity on offense. While Mangano and Willhite have certainly established themselves as the Bulldogs’ two primary scoring options, Yale’s guards have been extremely inconsistent and have been largely unable to create opportunities, either for themselves or for their teammates. Thus, the offense has looked stagnant, and Mangano, appearing to lack confidence in the ability of the guards to get him the ball back were he to give it up and repost, has looked like he’s been forcing some looks. It probably hasn’t helped the offensive rhythm that Coach Jones has continued to shuffle his substitution rotation and can't seem to settle on a 6th, 7th, or 8th man. Regardless, the starters simply need to do more if this team wants to establish itself as a legitimate contender.  -Blue Ivy Ball

4. Princeton (1-2), (10-9)- The Tigers shot 58% Monday night and lost by 15. That doesn't happen much, and it suggests that there are serious problems on defense. But, if you look at the season numbers, they don't actually support that conclusion. In fact, Monday night looks like it was a bit of an aberration. On the season, Princeton has done a pretty good job on the defensive boards. Monday, they gave up 11 offensive rebounds and lost the overall battle 31-17. On D, the Tigers have allowed (by far) the lowest percentage of three-point attempts in the nation at 20.7%. In other words, opponents only shoot from downtown about one of five times. The Tigers just don't allow themselves to get hurt by the three ball. But Monday, Penn shot 10-18 from three–about 37% of the Quakers' shot attempts were from deep. These things were all problems on Monday night, but the Tigers have been able to rely on their defense all year. You can be sure that Mitch Henderson will find a way to limit Penn's quickness and deep threat when the rivals meet again at Jadwin.

These small, quick teams (Cornell, Penn) are causing problems for the Tigers. In that vein, Princeton should watch out for Brown on Friday. But here's some good news for Princeton fans: Brendan Connolly is coming along after 15 critical points vs. Penn, and Ian Hummer looked good with 21. A road sweep next weekend then a win over Dartmouth at home would bring the Tigers to 4-2 when Harvard comes to town, a night after what's sure to be a dogfight for the Crimson in Philly. Don't give up on the Tigers just yet. -Bruno March

5. Cornell (2-2), (7-11)- Bill Courtney got his first win against travel partner Columbia this weekend. Chris Wroblewski was back to his junior season form, leading the team in scoring, rebounding and assists. The trio of Ski, Johnny Gray and Shonn Miller gave Cornell three double digit scorers and enough options on the offensive end to earn the victory over the visiting Lions. On the defensive end, the Red continued to stifle opponents from beyond the arc, allowing Columbia to shoot just 18% from deep, and managed to limit Mark Cisco (relatively speaking) to 10 points and 11 rebounds. A middle-of-the-pack Ivy team, the Red remained true to form, winning, albeit not convincingly, and making it back to .500 in league play.  -Sam Aleinikoff

6. Columbia (1-3), (12-8)- The Lions dropped a tough one, 65-60, up in Ithaca this weekend. Brian Barbour led a valiant second half charge and Mark Cisco fought his way to another double-double, but it wasn't enough to make up for Columbia's ugly outside shooting. Meiko Lyles had been that key third option for the Lions for so long this season, but the Big Red did a nice job of minimizing his opportunities in this contest. Lyles finished 0-5 on the day, despite averaging 3.5 FGM on 8.3 FGA on the year. There's your margin of victory right there. Freshmen Alex Rosenberg and Noah Springwater each played 22 minutes and had 10 and 5 points, respectively. The youngsters also coughed up the ball a combined seven times, costing the Lions precious possessions. Coach Smith will have these guys competing in most games this season, but it looks like the Lions still may be one season away from jumping into the top half. –Bruno March

7. Brown (1-3), (7-14)- While travel partner Yale had a disappointing 1-1 weekend, Brown had a very encouraging 1-1 weekend. I suppose it's all about expectations, but the Bears pulled out a gutsy win against Dartmouth on Friday before putting up a very respectable fight against Harvard. Andrew McCarthy threw together a spectacular performance in that Dartmouth victory, scoring 19 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and swatting a school-record 7 shots. A 13 and 7 against Keith Wright and the Crimson allowed McCarthy to collect Player of the Week honors in the conference. Things are looking up for the Bears who have been in striking distance in all three of their losses. Point guard Sean McGonagill struggled early, but dazzled in the final minutes on Friday, finishing with 11 points and 10 assists against the Big Green. All five of the Bears' starters were in double-figures against Harvard, but not a single point came from the bench in the 68-59 loss, speaking to the lack of depth the injury/ineligibility-ravaged Bears are playing with. This weekend, Brown plays host to Princeton, a team the Bears shocked 75-65 at the Pizz last season, before hosting undefeated Penn coming off of a big game with Yale on Friday. -Bruno March

8. Dartmouth (0-4), (4-16)- I want to live in a world where Dartmouth can hold on to a second half lead. The Ivy League would be a whole lot more interesting. Today, for example, the Big Green would be sitting tied with Yale and Cornell at 2-2 (with the easiest schedule remaining), and Tyler Melville would be the Ivy League Player of the Week after averaging 12.5 points in a pair of wins. But in this world, a late Dartmouth collapse is as certain as death and taxes. First, on Friday, the Big Green did not score a field goal over an almost 10 minute stretch as it coughed up an eight-point lead to Brown in the Battle for the Basement. Then, on Saturday, Dartmouth’s bid for an upset over the Bulldogs stalled out around the nine-minute mark as it mustered only eight points down the stretch of a 10-point loss (after leading by three). Surely, the Big Green will break through at some point and score its first league win (right?), but to date Dartmouth is just a surprisingly competitive team that is extremely adept at losing. -C. River Banks

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3 thoughts on “IHO Power Poll: January 30, 2012

  1. This is one Tiger who’s not giving up…just yet. Zack Rosen played the game of his life last night, POY stuff. The February 10 match-up with the Quakers at the Palestra will be the first real test for Harvard in about as hostile an environment as the Ivy League can produce.(With respect, the John J. Lee Amphitheater at Payne Whitney Gym has the atmoshere of a corporate board room taken over by spitballing interns.) The Tigers will be waiting 24 hours later for what’s left of the Crimson…If Harvard sweeps down south, however, the race is over. A win against Harvard allows Penn to control its own destiny facing second half road games in Cambridge and the season ending war in Princeton.The only way open for the Tigers requires help from others. Damn.

  2. Don’t get me wrong. I like the Crimson, what they have done, and where they stand after four games. But saying today that “The title race is now decidedly stacked in the Crimson’s favor” makes no sense. They’ve got a harder path than unbeaten Penn.

    Penn has already picked up a road sweep in New York State. Harvard has to wait until the last weekend of the season for its try at sweeping Columbia and Cornell.

    Penn gets a chance to duplicate Harvard’s Southern New England sweep in two days. And, whatever that outcome, they will then welcome the Crimson to a packed Palestra a week from Friday. Moreover, Harvard’s two remaining Ivy back-to-back road swings are against balanced opponents who require equal preparation.

    One game-at-a-time. How about if we revisit this overstatement next week… and the week after that?

    • IvyBBallFan, as fans, we know that it’s never over until it’s over. The lack of finality until the buzzer sounds is one reason that we love sports.

      But you can’t take an 18-2 team with computer ratings in the mid-two digits and say that they are not a clear favorite against an 11-9 team with ratings in the mid-100’s.

      We all respect the unpredictability of sports. But this title race is Harvard’s to lose. Given that the door to the admissions department has been ripped off its hinges for Tommy Amaker, he has an AI recruiting advantage that none of the other seven Ivy coaches can even dream about.

      If Harvard does not win the championship outright this season, it would be a collapse of epic, historic proportions. Yeah, I’d say that both the deck and the title race are “decidedly stacked in the Crimson’s favor.”

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