IHO Power Poll: February 21, 2013

Harvard defended Lavietes Pavilion on Saturday night and regained a hold of first place in the standings and in the IHO Power Poll.
Harvard defended Lavietes Pavilion on Saturday night and regained a hold of first place in the standings and in the IHO Power Poll.

Finally, we are starting to see a bit of separation in the Ivy League standings. Harvard held serve at home to break the tie at the top with Princeton; Cornell swept its Brown/Yale road trip to keep its own outside title chances alive; Columbia and Dartmouth could not grab a win last weekend and fall out of the race for third. A few interesting conference stats to ponder: To date, 31 Ivy League games have been played. Eighteen home teams have been winners (58%); 10 of 31 games have been decided by four points or less or in overtime (32.3%, highest % in nation); and only 2 of 31 games have been blowouts of greater than 19 points (6.5%, second-fewest in nation). In summary, your eyes haven”t deceived you. This year has been full of close calls and great finishes. Without further ado, let”s get to the rankings.

1. Harvard (5 first place votes, 40 points)- Up until last weekend, the Harvard Ivy jaunt had been a white-knuckle ride. Then Kenyatta Smith happened. After being relegated to the bench because of his propensity for turnovers and fouls, the sophomore big man—a former prized recruit who many had written off as a bust—received a surprising starting nod. Smith rewarded Coach Amaker for the move by putting up 20 points, 10 blocks, and nine rebounds in 31 minutes against Penn, and following up that career-best performance with 14 points, seven rebounds, and six blocks in 20 minutes against Princeton. Propelled by Smith”s post play, particularly his protecting the paint on the defensive end, the Crimson put together its first wire-to-wire league wins of the season. It was a stunning turnaround for Smith personally and a Harvard team that was knocked on its heels after a blowout loss at Columbia a week earlier. Perhaps last weekend was a flash in the pan for the sophomore center, but if not, the Crimson might have found the missing piece for its defense of the 2012 Ivy title. –C. River Banks

2. Princeton (35 points)- No bench scoring (0 points) and an inability to stop Harvard”s other options doomed Princeton last Saturday. Most teams would expect a pretty positive result when holding Saunders and Chambers to a combined 6-23 from the field, but Princeton let big men Kenyatta Smith and Steve Moundou-Missi run wild on its defense, yielding 14 points to each player on a combined 11-12 from the field. Getting outrebounded despite a massive height advantage didn”t help either. Bray and Brase were cooler from the field than normal, but it was the team”s less-than-stellar defense and inability to deal with Smith and Laurent Rivard”s timely threes that let this game get away. The Tigers have time to regroup and get it together, as they still control their own destiny, but the margin of error is gone. Princeton”s toughest road trip remaining is this weekend at Cornell and Columbia, before returning home for the rematch vs. Harvard. Anything less than a sweep this weekend will put the Tigers in danger of falling out of the title chase. –Bruno March

3. Cornell (30 points)- Last week it was close, but after emerging from southern New England 2-0, there’s no doubt Cornell has earned the third ranking in this week’s polls. With the sweep, the Red has created some distance between itself and everyone not named Harvard or Princeton. Early in Ivy play, this very poll had the Red ranked sixth, commenting that “Cornell’s seams are separating,” and this very writer emphasized Courtney’s once 5-29 record away from Ithaca. Since then, Cornell is 4-1 on the road and has taken the biggest strides of any team in the Ancient Eight. Some may argue this is still only a two horse race. They may be right, but there’s no denying that Cornell has put itself

in a position to play meaningful games throughout February and into March. Considering where this team was early on, Bill Courtney deserves a ton of credit. –Gorge Newman

4. Yale (25 points)- The Bulldogs couldn”t overcome a ghastly performance at the free throw line on Friday night (12-26, 46%) and lost the battle for third place to the visiting Big Red, 68-61. Yale”s typical balanced scoring was led by Justin Sears with 13, but the Elis couldn”t take care of the ball like they had been doing in victories, turning it over 16 times. Shonn Miller and Errick Peck combined for 30 inside, and Johnathan Gray did most of the damage on the perimeter with 18. Yale will get another crack at the Big Red in two weeks, and Jones tends to make the right adjustments in rematches. Saturday, Yale redeemed itself, blowing out a crumbling Columbia team with panache. Fifteen Yale players saw the court in this one, as Jones was able to empty his bench with several minutes remaining thanks to 62% shooting from the field. The Bulldogs remain remarkably balanced night in and night out as no one took more than seven shots or played more than 24 minutes against the Lions. Yale thoroughly dominated the boards (Cotton led the way with 8), pulling down 32 to Columbia”s 18, despite taking more shots than the Lions. The loss to Cornell eliminates Yale from any realistic title chance, but the Bulldogs have a great chance to stay in the top half with Dartmouth (revenge game) and Harvard (archrival) visiting New Haven this weekend. -Bruno March

5. Brown (18 points)- The Cardiac Bears continued to torture their fan base this past weekend with both games coming down to the wire. Matt Sullivan worked a miracle on Friday night, nailing a contested three in the closing seconds to lift Brown to a 58-55 win over Columbia. The Bears trailed by 11 at the half and were carried almost exclusively by Sullivan”s career high 27 points and Cedric Kuakumensah”s career high 19 points. John Daniels had a chance to score after Sullivan”s clutch three, but Kuakumensah swatted his attempt away, corralled the rebound, and buried to free throws to put the finishing touches on the victory. The next night, Brown once again found itself in an 11 point halftime hole, but dug its way out yet again behind another huge effort from the freshman, Kuakumensah. Cedric had 13 points and a mind-boggling 19 rebounds on this night, but Steven Albrecht”s three with 4 seconds left couldn”t find the nylon and the Bears dropped a heartbreaker, 69-66. The emergence of Kuakumensah is encouraging as the Bears” starting five continues to grow, but Halpern in particular is caught in a shooting funk after a 1-13 weekend, and Brown”s conference-only offense remains mired in last place in the Ivy. The Bears stay at home this weekend and look to avenge a double-overtime loss against now-streaking Harvard. –Bruno March

6. Penn (17 points)- Friday’s loss to Harvard, although disappointing, was of course expected. In addition to the already significant personnel losses on the Penn team, a hobbled DNH certainly didn’t help matters. It’s not like the old days anymore. You can’t just go into Cambridge with half a team and hope to win. Interestingly, the Crimson had difficulty handling the Penn big men and the Quakers consequently nabbed a respectable 17 offensive rebounds. After the game Coach Amaker was also quite complimentary of his opponent, thus winning my (extremely) fleeting admiration. “They’re a better team than they played against us tonight. They’re explosive on the perimeter and hard to guard in that regard.” So glad he can foresee the uphill battle that his future NBA lottery picks will have over the next four years going up against the boys from Philly. Anyway, after yet another humbling loss, I decided to get in touch with my feminine side and caught a Saturday afternoon matinee of The Vagina Monologues—you know, to try and control my pent up frustration and subliminal rage before that evening’s meeting at Dartmouth. Good thing. The soothing voices of the actresses speaking so gently and tenderly about their private parts proved to be the perfect palliative for watching the start of the game. Penn endured a 17-6 run by the Big Green before finally ending a shaky first half down 30-18. At halftime, I could feel my unbridled rage returning in Bruce Banner-like proportions. Then suddenly the Quaker team I always knew was out there finally appeared. They proceeded to score 49 points in the second half shooting a blistering 80% from the field. The Penn bench outscored The Green 25-2. More importantly, after being battered by Harvard the night before, the team showed poise, resolve, and resilience. OK, it was still Dartmouth but it was also the unpredictable first Ivy road trip for the young Quaker team. Now comes another long bus ride to the C’s. Cornell is momentarily on a roll while the Lions are once again in familiar territory, full flail. (After two years of fulsome preseason hype followed by mysterious devolvement into abject underachievement, can’t you just hear the tortured thoughts flowing briskly through Kyle Smith’s brain, “Oooh, so this is what they mean about coaching at Columbia…”) Much of this weekend’s success will most likely depend upon DNH’s creaky left knee, but the Quakers seem to be gaining confidence with each game. I’ll be at Levien on Saturday night. As

always I’ll be looking for Penn to complete the New York sweep. I would expect nothing less. Stay Red and Blue my friends. -The AQ

7. Columbia (10 points)– Just when we all thought they had turned a corner after putting together a full 40-minute effort and waxing Harvard, Columbia put up their 2nd and 3rd weakest offensive outputs of the season with 55 and 56 points, respectively, and dropped both games. With 19 turnovers in each contest, the Lions were clearly feeling the effects of an ill Brian Barbour. Although he returned to the starting lineup on Sunday against Yale, Barbour seemed more of a decoy, logging just 1 point and no assists in 21 minutes. The only Lion who has put up consistent numbers these last three games has been Frankoski, who continued his sharp shooting going 14-27 (52% FG) over the weekend. Against Yale on Saturday, Frankoski was the only starter that scored more than 2 points. The Lions are certainly battling injuries, but are also battling an identity crisis. We know they can shoot the three, but can they defend it? We know they can take care of the ball when healthy, but can they win the battle on the boards? Is this the weekend that Columbia finds their most trusted five, and solves their identity crisis?  Who the hell knows? -Wolfgang Evans

8. Dartmouth (5 points)- An 18-point drubbing at the hands of Princeton on Friday night came as no surprise to the Big Green faithful. At that point, the Tigers appeared to be the class of the Ivy League, and were able to get any shot they wanted at Leede Arena, shooting 56% from the floor, including 57% (8-for-14) from deep. Apart from a resurgent Gabas Maldunas (16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks), making his first start since February 1, there wasn’t much to be pleased about against Princeton. But what will really have Dartmouth fans – and head coach Paul Cormier – steaming is the utter collapse that was Saturday’s second half against Penn. The Big Green appeared to have the game well in hand after the first 20 minutes, limiting the stagnant Quaker offense to just 18 points on 35% shooting. And then, the deluge. Penn scored on almost every possession in the second half, shooting 16-for-21 from the field and 15-for-19 from the line for a total of 49 points, enough to turn a 12-point halftime deficit into a double-digit win. And as if giving up 49 points in a half wasn’t bad enough, Dartmouth did it against one of the league’s worst offenses: the Quakers are averaging just 92.3 points per 100 possessions, good for 292rd nationally. Though Maldunas topped his line from Friday with 19 points, 10 boards (including 6 offensive) and 3 blocks, it wasn’t enough as Henry Brooks and Jamal Lewis combined for 28 points on 12-for-15 shooting. Aside from the disastrous defense in the second half, the Big Green was also done in by a total lack of bench scoring, getting just two points compared to Penn’s 25. Jvonte Brooks could help in that respect, but whether due to a conflict with Cormier or an injury (he hobbled off the court against Princeton after just two minutes), he doesn’t appear to be an option right now. The Big Green’s biggest problem lately has been getting its best players to play well together, particularly Maldunas and Connor Boehm. When both are on their game, they form a formidable 1-2 punch in the frontcourt, but unfortunately for Dartmouth, Maldunas has struggled when Boehm thrives and vice versa. With winnable road games against Yale and Brown up next, Cormier had better hope that those two can figure it out quickly, as a fourth consecutive last-place finish looms in the distance. -Jonathan Gault

4 thoughts on “IHO Power Poll: February 21, 2013

  1. My long-forgotten suggestion that the Ivy race this season would be for second place has returned with a mocking vengeance. The Harvard team that was slapped in the face in NYC said, “Thanks, I needed that…” and did some b**** slapping of its own against the P’s. The Tigers started slowly at Levietes, once again showing a frustrating inability to finish from two feet…and less! Harvard wasn’t much better in the early going, and, when the Tigers reached the last 30 seconds of the first half trailing by one the flames of hope blazed. With fouls to give Henderson sent designated hit man Chris Clement into the game, who did his job, eating up the clock with Harvard stalled near mid-court. Naturally, Hummer blocked the desperation 3 attempt as the Tigers skipped out of harm’s way. But wait…! Rivard snared the blocked shot somewhere in the Harvard student section and was able to launch what we shall say was an improbable buzzer beater. Naturally. The anti-climactic second stanza was the worst defensively for the Tigers since their visit to the very personable Jim Boeheim’s place in November. Not since Syracuse have the Tigers entered the last 4 minutes of a game with the outcome essentially decided. Harvard exposed the lack of depth on Henderson’s team, as he got 0 points from his bench. Amaker’s produced 14 (Mondou-Missi) in a 12 point game. Amaker also found a way to neutralize Denton Koon, something no one else has done this year. With Kenyatta Smith contributing like Keith Wright this Crimson team can be scary good, as we all though it might be. Not throwing in any towels, but two more on the road this weekend could make second place the goal. If the Tigers survive, they host Harvard next Friday on a court the Crimson have found difficult to negotiate. Hope is now embers, glowing in the darkness….

    • Here’s an idea, AQ: March 12, The Palestra, you put up a cheese steak and I’ll put up something for which New Jersey is famous…if I can think of something…

  2. Sorry my man, cheese steak beats landfill compost any day. Still, I wish the Tigers well until the 12th of course.

    The AQ

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