Welcome to the sixth IHO Power Poll (based on games through 02/06/12). 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 (6-0), (20-2)- The Crimson protected its home court over the weekend to remain undefeated in league play. Harvard showed little sign of weakness against Cornell on Friday night, building a 14-point lead at the break and affording its starters some rest in the second half (the bench saw 40 percent of the court time). The light load proved useful the following night, as the Crimson had to grind out a 57-52 victory over Columbia. Despite 11 missed free throws, Harvard built an 8-point lead with a little over five minutes remaining, but two threes and a three-point play from the Lions left the Crimson clinging to a 2-point lead with 2:39 to go. But Harvard executed down the stretch, getting a pair of stops and hitting five of its final six free throws (the Crimson took 32 on the night compared to just eight for Columbia) to ice the victory. The home sweep carried Harvard to the top of the Ivy League standings and sets up a huge showdown with Penn at the Palestra this Friday. -C. River Banks
T-2. Yale (5-1), (15-5)- Reggie Willhite’s electrifying dunk against Princeton said it all this weekend. Yale intends to contend, and after watching them sweep the P’s at John J. Lee over the weekend, there’s no reason to believe that this team cannot at least compete for the Ivy League crown.
On the defensive end, Yale simply looks fantastic. Their rotations, particularly in the last three games—in which they surrendered only 52, 53, and 54 points respectively—have been quick and precise. And while they haven’t forced too many turnovers; more importantly, they aren’t conceding any open looks (over the last three games, opponents are shooting 35% from the field).
Offense, however, is where Yale could find itself in trouble. Mangano has continued to further his campaign for Player of the Year, having posted back to back 20 and 10 performances. However, after him, the offensive identity of this team remains in flux. While captain Reggie Willhite has emerged as the number two option, he often finds himself needing to handle the ball too much and can—despite his capacity to spontaneously assume MJ-mode—be particularly prone to turnovers. He isn’t alone in this regard. The guards still must prove that they are capable of consistently taking care of the rock.
This will be the ultimate theme for Yale : if they can limit their turnovers and get production outside of the 3 and 5 positions, they will be a difficult team to beat. -Blue Ivy Ball
Ed. Note: The Bulldogs remain tied for second in our poll as a result of having three road trips remaining, despite knocking off the Quakers this weekend.
T-2. Penn (4-1), (12-10)- Up 53-50 at Yale with under 3 minutes remaining, Penn had an open corner three from Miles Cartwright that would have iced the game, but it went long. The Quakers wouldn”t score again as Yale”s suffocating defense prevented the slicing Penn guards from getting to the rim. It was a missed opportunity for a team that could have put some distance between itself the rest of the pack. Instead, we are now looking at a three-team title chase after Penn slaughtered Brown and the Bulldogs hung on against Princeton on Saturday. Penn holds on to a tie for second in this poll thanks to their home-heavy remaining schedule–the Quakers only have the Northern New England road trip left. First, of course, is the pivotal throwdown at the Palestra this Friday night where a raucous atmosphere is sure to greet visiting Harvard. -Bruno March
4. Princeton (2-3), (11-10)- Another week of 1-1 basketball keeps the Tigers mired in the sub-.500 basement at 2-3. After taking care of Brown in Providence, Princeton faltered in a must-win road game against Yale. The Tigers” perimeter defense was stellar against the Bulldogs (Yale shot 3-20 from beyond the arc) and even though Mangano”s line of 20 points and 12 boards has the look on paper of a dominant performance in the paint, it took Yale”s center 17 shots to get there.
So where did it all go wrong for Princeton? Well the Tigers only shot 4-21 from three point land themselves and were out rebounded 45-34. And Princeton can”t win if senior shooting guard Doug Davis is 2-12 from the floor and misses all 5 three-point attempts. The kicker? Denton Koon only sees 4 minutes of action against the Elis. That all adds up to a four point loss and another wasted opportunity for the Tigers to reassert themselves into a meaningful place in the Ivy League conversation. The good news for Princeton? After 5 road games to kick off its Ivy League season, Princeton finally returns to the friendly confines of Jadwin Gymnasium for 7 of its last 9 contests. But it might be too late to matter. -Spencer Gaffney
5. Cornell (3-3), (8-12)- The Big Red has yet to surprise anyone one way or the other this season. Cornell is beating the teams it”s supposed to beat and falling to the teams it”s supposed to lose to. This past weekend was no different. An eleven point loss at Harvard and a nine point win at Dartmouth isn”t going to turn any heads, but it is still a positive sign. At this point last season, Cornell was 0-5 in Ivy play, searching for anything to give it a spark. Cornell has graduated from searching for answers to searching for ways to take that next step. A win at home against Yale would be that next step. Until then, Cornell remains on the outside looking in at the top half of the league. -Jake Mastbaum
6. Columbia (2-4), (13-9)- The fact that the sixth-best team in this league lost by five on the #23-ranked team”s home court speaks volumes about the depth of the conference this year. Unfortunately for Coach Kyle Smith and Columbia, that”s little consolation for an Ivy season that”s been a bit disappointing after such a great run in the non-conference slate. At Dartmouth, it took a mid-range baseline jumper from Mark Cisco in the waning seconds to knock off the pesky Big Green, but the Lions got an all-important road win and marched into Massachusetts with nothing to lose. They nearly pulled off the upset thanks to a balanced attack and their typical hardnosed defense, coming within two points at 48-46 when Alex Rosenberg completed a three-point play with less than three minutes to go. They were unable to claw all the way back though, as Harvard”s 25-game home win streak remained in tact. Columbia hosts Brown and Yale this coming weekend as Brian Barbour tries to retain his grip on the conference scoring title (18.5 ppg through 6 games). -Bruno March
7. Brown (1-5), (7-16)- The Bears had a tough weekend at home, never really looking competitive in blowout losses to Penn
and Princeton. Brown suffered some more bad news on the injury front as a thinning bench struggles to provide support or even stay healthy. Brown”s frontcourt of Andrew McCarthy and Tyler Ponticelli put up some impressive stats this weekend, with McCarthy getting 20 and 12 against Penn and Ponticelli shooting 11-15 combined over the two games. The Bears backcourt duo of McGonagill and Albrecht had been carrying the scoring load all year, but the pair was held to 2-19 shooting combined against Penn. The Bears get a shot at moving up the Ivy standings with a Friday night game in New York to take on Columbia. -Bruno March
8. Dartmouth (0-6), (4-18)- It was Groundhog Day in Hanover on Friday, as the Big Green saw a second-half lead turn into a loss. This time, after two Gabas Maldunas free throws made it 62-60 with 1:16 remaining, Columbia tied the game on a pair of free throws, forced a Maldunas miss on the other end, and scored the game-winning bucket on a baseline jumper from Mark Cisco with four seconds left. The next night against Cornell, the Big Green was down 10 before even scoring a point. To its credit, Dartmouth fought back to within 2 with 1:42 remaining, but the Big Red closed on a 9-2 run to grab a 68-59 victory. By virtue of its winless record, Dartmouth remains in the basement of the Power Poll, but given the Big Green’s relative competitiveness, that basement is not the dark, despairing location of years past; it’s likely partially furnished, containing at least a ping-pong table, with a small window of hope for the future. -C. River Banks