After a wild and often depressing week in which the three league favorites looked downright flawed, I figured it was time to put together the first IHO Power Poll of the season and try to sort this situation out. Let”s get one thing straight: all eight teams have problems right now. If league play started tomorrow, there”s not a single result that could take place that would truly shock me. Dartmouth over Harvard? It could happen. Brown over Princeton? A hot shooting night for the Bears and it”s a wrap. I”m not trying to suggest that the league is upside-down, because it”s not. It”s just a very weak year at the top and in the middle, so we”re probably going to see some of the lower teams steal some games. As far as postseason aspirations go, that”s not a good thing, but for fans of the 14-game tournament, it should make for a lot of exciting basketball. Let”s get to the rankings:
1. Harvard (2-3)– The defending champions haven”t done much to deserve this top spot, but hey, neither has anyone else, so it belongs to the Crimson for at least another week. Vermont exposed Harvard”s defense, making the extra pass to get open looks inside and using simple screens to get open looks from deep. Over and over again. When it was all said and done, Harvard had allowed 85 points on 60% shooting. Rotations were too slow, closeouts were late, and the rest of the league received a nice blueprint for how to beat this young Crimson squad. On the plus side, Amaker still has a lot of time to get his guys ready for the games that count, and Siyani Chambers has proven himself to be a stud at point guard. Saunders has been impressive and Rivard continues to fire away from range (46%). They”re going to be okay– and this year, that might be enough.
2. Princeton (2-4)– Oh man, that was ugly at Wagner. Tough to win when you score 42 points in 45 minutes, but the Tigers almost did it. They are a dominant defensive team thanks to their incredible length– they”re the second tallest team in the nation (6″7″ average height). But the Tigers must do a better job of taking care of the ball. They also haven”t answered the question of what happens when Hummer doesn”t have a big night. Barrett had one point and five turnovers at Wagner. TJ Bray is 4-28 from three this year. It looks like sophomores Wilson and Koon may get more looks if they can continue to contribute, so maybe production will come from them. Note: this Princeton team lost a lot of confounding non-conference games last season before starting slow on the road in Ivy play and finally, ripping through the second half of the Ivy slate. This year, they open with five straight Ivy contests at home.
3. Columbia (4-3)– If Columbia hadn”t thumped Villanova, we may be having a very different conversation right now. Instead, the Lions are considered serious contenders despite some suspect performances against San Francisco and Marist. Brian Barbour certainly runs the show, but the Lions are a well-rounded team and have added a very solid freshman contributor in Grant Mullins. The Canadian scorer is off to a blazing start as he”s shooting 56% from the field, 54% from 3, and 91% from the line. Steve Frankoski is getting time in the backcourt as well, dropping 15 on “Nova on five threes. On the wing, Alex Rosenberg continues to be a hustler that can fill up the stat sheet, and Mark Cisco remains a force down low. This balanced attack has resulted in four different double-digit averaging scorers for the Lions, who can beat you in several different ways. Unfortunately, the Lions have allowed a 40-point half in all three of their losses. Something tells me Coach Smith will get the Lions to defend for a full 40 minutes by the time January rolls around.
4. Cornell (3-5)– First of all, Cornell is not a good team right now. They have serious issues that were exposed against Stony Brook. And yet, I”ve given them the 4-slot, even though I”m not convinced they can go .500 in the league this year (I see a lot of 5-6-7 win teams…). Anyway, the positives for the Big Red: depth, youth, speed. Cornell is playing at a much faster pace than anyone in the league. If they”re able to push the tempo against other slower Ivies, they may be able to outrun some of the other teams. Freshman Nolan Cressler has been impressive from deep, shooting 49% from range thus far. Shonn Miller has established himself as one of the league”s most effective defensive players. He”s even done a nice job putting the biscuit in the basket, shooting 50% on 2 pt. FGs and 88% from the line. Cherry, Gray, and Cancer are all doing their best to replace Wroblewski”s assists, but the team needs to do a better job of taking care of the ball. Inside, Chemerinski has done a nice job of hitting the boards and scoring efficiently (62% shooting). Next up, Cornell has a very winnable game vs. Colgate on Saturday before getting 16 days off to prepare for a road trip to Vanderbilt and Duke.
5. Penn (2-5)– Hmmm. Another team that is tough to nail down. Any analysis of the Quakers has to start with Fran Dougherty. This guy is playing as well as anyone in the league, resulting in the growing #Fran4POY campaign. In fact, at the beginning of this week, he was one of three players in the country to be in the national Top 50 in PPG and RPG. Dougherty is hitting 67% of his two-point FG attempts and cleaning up the boards for the Quakers. Miles Cartwright has also done a nice job getting to the line and being
an on-court leader. These two Quakers account for 50% of the team”s scoring. The rest of Penn”s squad is still a work in progress. Freshman Jamal Lewis seems to have earned his minutes at the point, and on the defensive end, he leads the team in steals. His rookie colleague, Tony Hicks, has also been getting some PT and is third on the team in scoring, albeit only 5.1 ppg. It”s not clear that Dougherty and Cartwright can consistently carry the load for this team, but the Quakers may want to figure out how to complement the two scorers sooner rather than later. Their next six games are against Top 150 competition.
6. Brown (3-3)- There”s good news and there”s bad news for the Bears. The good news is that their freshmen are starters and contributors, and that”s tough to find in this league. Kuakumensah is a talented athlete who hustles and pulls down a lot of rebounds. He does a great job playing help defense and is going to continue to improve for the Bears. Maia is going to be an elite big man in this league, if he”s not already there (his 19 pts and 15 rbs against Sacred Heart is as good a stat line as we”ve seen this year in the league). He doesn”t move down the court very fluidly, but he”s extremely strong and has great footwork in the paint. He”s also an incredible finisher around the rim. The race for Rookie of the Year is going to be competitive with Cressler, Sears, and Mullins, but Maia is the frontrunner in my book. Also, Tucker Halpern”s return adds a key weapon to the Bears” arsenal. On to the bad news for Brown: no depth. Their starting five of McGonagill, Sullivan, Halpern, Kuakumensah, and Maia is formidable. With any depth at all, that is a team that could challenge for top half. Unfortunately, the Brown bench is short and unproven– and the Bears have not been able to stay healthy. This team would be helped tremendously with Albrecht or McCarthy or Walker.
7. Dartmouth (1-3)- The Big Green is improved and getting immediate contributions from their freshmen again this year, especially Alex Mitola. Dartmouth followed up bad losses to New Hampshire and IPFW by giving a very good Bucknell team a run for its money. Unfortunately, foul trouble plagued the team”s trio of sophomores– Brooks, Maldunas, and Golden– and the game slipped away. Luckily, Dartmouth has a great opportunity coming up to snag its first D-1 road win since December 21, 2010 when they go to Virginia to play Longwood on Saturday in the midst of an eight-game road trip. The key is going to be keeping Maldunas involved inside while keeping him out of foul trouble. There”s talent here; these young guys just need some confidence to build on and a little more time to adjust to the collegiate game.
8. Yale (2-6)- I”m still not sure what to make of this Yale team. I”m not convinced that Coach Jones knows the deal either, as he still is working with a pretty deep rotation and different starting lineup combinations. I do know one thing though: this team needs to figure out how to score or it”s going to be a long season. Sears is a quality rookie who brings energy, athleticism, and size to a team that really needs it. As expected without the interior distraction of Mangano, Austin Morgan”s shooting numbers have come down pretty significantly (except from the stripe where he continues to be automatic). The offense still runs through Morgan, but other people are going to need to step up and draw some attention away from the Bulldog guard. Maybe it will be Matt Townsend who has gotten good minutes the last few games and had 15 against Army. Maybe it will be Sam Martin, the senior captain, who has been shooting well as of late. But it”s got to be somebody because Yale isn”t going to win many games
this year if they continue to shoot this poorly (38% as a team) and turn the ball over this much (averaging 16 TOs). The Bulldogs have a chance to get rolling against three mediocre opponents now in Bryant (though watch out…), New Hampshire, and Albertus Magnus (D-III).