Saturday Thoughts

It is what we thought it would be. Princeton made it look easy Friday night and Harvard had to work for it (again), but it appears that only two teams will contend for the crown this season.
It is what we thought it would be. Princeton made it look easy Friday night and Harvard had to work for it (again), but it appears that only two teams will contend for the crown this season.

On a snowy northeastern night, the 2013 Ivy League title race was, for all intents and purposes, officially narrowed down to two teams.

Princeton 63, Brown 47. Princeton looked like a deserving contender, thoroughly dominating a hot Brown team at Jadwin behind a trio of remarkable individual offensive displays. Ian Hummer plowed past two more names, into 4th, on the Princeton scoring list; Denton Koon confirmed that last weekend’s 22-point outburst was no fluke; and TJ Bray continued to prove that his early season shooting woes were, in fact, a fluke. The three combined for 46 points, the exact total that the entire Brown team managed to score in a game that was never truly in question after halftime.

Hans Brase was active on both ends too, registering three blocks and consistently putting himself in the right spots.

For the Bears, Rafael Maia had 19 points and nine rebounds for the Bears, but it took him 17 shots and 11 free throws to get there. He struggled to finish particularly when he received the ball with his back to the basket due to the Tigers’ length inside. Brown went with a more structured series of set plays in the half-court, hellbent on getting the ball inside. It didn”t seem to work,

as Maia was undone by Princeton”s length and Brown”s sharpshooting guards and wings were largely marginalized.

Harvard 67, Cornell 65. I don’t think I’m being overly hyperbolic when I say that Harvard has to be on one

of the most ridiculous runs to open the conference season in the history of college basketball. The Crimson have flirted with disaster in all five contests thus far, coming from behind late in both Dartmouth games, barely holding off pesky Yale after holding a double-digit lead, needing two overtimes to defeat Brown after leading by 22, and now blowing a 21 point lead at Cornell before Errick Peck’s last second game-winning attempt misfired. In an attempt to come up with a reason for this inexplicable pattern, I noticed the following statistical anomaly of ambiguous significance.

In three home games, the Crimson have been effectively shut down on offense in one half while playing reasonably consistent defense:

  • 20 points in first half, 42 in second half vs. Dartmouth
  • 49 points in first half, 20 in second half vs. Brown
  • 40 points in first half, 27 in second half vs. Yale

While in two away games, the Crimson have gotten burned in one half on defense, but put up somewhat consistent offensive halves.

  • 43 points allowed in first half, 22 points allowed in second half at Dartmouth
  • 22 points allowed in first half, 43 points allowed in second half at Cornell

That”s almost definitely just a coincidence, and the larger takeaway is that Harvard has been inconsistent on both ends of the floor over the course of its first five games. Looking at Pomeroy”s adjusted numbers, the culprit seems to be largely Harvard”s defense, which is vastly underperforming in conference play. At the end of the day, the Crimson are still 5-0, albeit the most unconventional 5-0 I have ever seen. We’ll see if this pattern holds Sunday at Columbia.

Dartmouth 60, Columbia 57. Dartmouth pulled off the year’s most shocking result thus far, going into Levien and coming away with an historic victory for Paul Cormier, and a death blow for the Lions’ contender hopes. Interestingly enough, the last two victories have come largely as a result of the contributions of Dartmouth’s freshmen, and not from the talented sophomore class that had shown some promise last season. Connor Boehm and Alex Mitola gave the Lions” defense fits as Boehm went 9-14 for 20 points and seven rebounds, with Mitola on fire from deep, going 4-5 from beyond the arc en route to 17 points. Junior Tyler Melville has earned himself a starting role, and the Hanover veteran proved his worth, scoring 15 points on 5-8 shooting.

For Columbia, the team”s three-point shooting drought continues as the Lions shot a putrid 15% from deep last night. Remarkably, that number isn”t that far off of Columbia”s Ivy play three-point average thus far (27.0%). Sharpshooters Mullins (0-5) and Frankoski (2-7) just can”t seem to find their stroke. Mullins is shooting 18% from deep (4-22) in his last four games. After the game, Kyle Smith said in the post-game presser that Columbia is stuck in a mental funk, as reported by Big Apple Buckets. Hard to argue with that given how poorly is prized backcourt is shooting (Barbour included). Columbia, unfathomably, is staring down 1-5 on Sunday unless they can pull it together and knock off league-leading Harvard.

Yale 68, Penn 59. The Bulldogs fought hard late and won a battle against an undermanned Penn squad at the Palestra. The Quakers, down two with 1:35 to go, needed one stop to earn a chance to tie, but Austin Morgan stepped up and hit his only field goal of the game, a clutch three-pointer that gave Yale a five point lead that they wouldn”t relinquish. Morgan finished 1-10 from the field, but Armani Cotton (4-7, 15 pts, 6 rbs) and Justin Sears (3-7, 11 pts, 7 rbs) picked up the slack as Yale bounced back from last weekend”s sweep. It wasn”t a pretty victory, as the Elis turned the ball over 18 times and shot just 34%, but it was just what they needed, getting to the line early and often. Javier Duren also had one of his best games, scoring 11 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. Matt Townsend continued his run of good form with 12 points of his own.

It was another tough loss in a season full of them for Penn. The Quakers are without Fran Dougherty and Steve Rennard for the rest of the season, and looked to their youth to replace that production. Nelson-Henry was effectively shut down, as the big man only scored one point in 18 minutes. Foul trouble was an issue again for Penn, as the Quakers had 31 total fouls and five players with at least 4. Henry Brooks and Dau Jok had solid games, as Brooks went 6-9 for 12 points in just 19 minutes, and Jok had 10 off the bench including 3-5 from deep. Penn looks to bounce back against Brown tonight.

4 thoughts on “Saturday Thoughts

  1. You tweeted that Columbia is a 1.5-point favorite at home against Harvard. I find that hard to believe. Today’s Sagarin update has Columbia at 71.83 and Harvard at 77.01. Even accounting for Sagarin’s current home court advantage of 3.45, the Lions should be a slight underdog rather than a slight favorite. In addition, if you factor in the manner in which Harvard has reached its 5-0 Ivy record, it’s obvious that Amaker has successfully negotiated some sort of pact with The Devil. With the power of Hades on its side, Harvard would seem to be a value purchase for a betting man.

    Like most Ivy fans, I hope that Columbia wins today, but I just don’t see how the Lions can be a Vegas favorite in this one.

  2. I felt the same way about the line. I can assure you it is the real line though, as you can check any gambling website or even the ESPN Scorecenter app. Hopefully Vegas is right and we can see a Lions victory shake up this title race.

    • Seriously. I learned a long time ago that the people who run Las Vegas Sports Consultants know what they’re doing.

      On the other hand, one of their primary inputs *IS* Sagarin’s “Predictor” model so the opening line doesn’t usually differ too much from what Sagarin’s model suggests. If anything, the opening line is usually skewed a bit in favor of the bigger name team likely to attract more money, which in this case would be Harvard.

      But I’m not complaining about the outcome. Congratulations to Columbia for closing the deal when Dartmouth, Yale, Brown and Cornell could only flirt with our emotions. Now let’s see everybody else close the deal as well.

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