IHO Power Poll: February 27, 2013

 Hummer vs. Saunders! Bray vs. Chambers! Henderson vs. Amaker! It
Hummer vs. Saunders! Bray vs. Chambers! Henderson vs. Amaker! It”s Princeton vs. Harvard with the title on the line this Friday at Jadwin!

In a year where it seemed like 11, even 10 wins, might be enough to capture the crown, both favorites have mostly avoided stumbling thus far (Yale, Columbia notwithstanding…), to the point that it seems realistic that 12 wins may only earn entry to another thrilling playoff. We”re looking far ahead here with 2.5 weekends to go, but the Tigers and Crimson appear to be rounding into top form at this point, setting the stage for one, maybe two, bitterly fought clashes between two teams with a quickly growing rivalry– experience and length vs. youth and athleticism, the old guard vs. the new kids on the block. Friday should be a real treat for fans of the league, and really, fans of good, hard-fought basketball.

1. Harvard (9-1) (5 first place votes, 40 points)- It wasn”t exactly pretty, but the Crimson took care of business and swept its I-95 neighbours to remain atop our power rankings for at least another week. Friday night”s game lacked the drama that”s become typical of Harvard-Brown match-ups, as the Crimson jumped out to a 21-5 lead and won a wire-to-wire rock fight that saw a combined 42.3 eFG% and 58.3 FT% shooting from Harvard and Brown. But Saturday”s contest in New Haven proved to be a different story. A neck-and-neck first half was punctuated by a Wes Saunders dunk that forced Ivy hoops nerds to replace their John Daniels poster. After the Crimson built an 8-point lead early in the second half, it looked like Harvard might start pulling away, but the Bulldogs responded with an 18-5 run. Needing to stem the tide, the Crimson”s lone senior, Christian Webster, stepped up yet again. The veteran forward, whose reputation for big shots continues to grow, nailed three triples over the next five minutes to recapture the lead, and Harvard eked out a 72-66 win at the free throw line in the final minutes. The stage is now set for a de facto playoff game at Jadwin, where the Crimson has not beaten Princeton since 1989. The Ivy League championship hangs in the balance. –C. River Banks

2. Princeton (7-2) (35 points)- Mitch Henderson lit a fire under his team last week, challenging them to get angry and come out with some passion against the C”s. It worked, as the Tigers held both opponents under 35% shooting and rolled to double-digit victories behind Ian Hummer”s 17-23 FG weekend. The Princeton 3-point shooting watch remains in effect, as yet another solid weekend keeps the Tigers over 50% from deep (50.8%) through nine conference games, still best in the nation. Focus now turns to Friday night, when Princeton will try to avenge its February 16th loss at Lavietes in a must-win game at Jadwin. In the first contest, Princeton failed to make use of its height advantage, getting outrebounded by the smaller Crimson and getting blocked six times by the athletic Kenyatta Smith. Smith and Moundou-Missi were the game changers in that first contest, combining to go 10-11 from the field for a total of 28 points. We”ll see what adjustments Henderson makes in the rematch. A win Friday though is just the

beginning for the Tigers. As respected longtime IHO commenter, Toothless Tiger, put it a few days ago, Princeton realistically may need to win eight in a row (having already won two in a row) with perhaps two games vs. Harvard, one at the Yale team that already beat them, and one at bitter rival Penn. The road to glory is long but this Tigers team seems poised to take on the challenge. –Bruno March

3. Yale (5-5) (30 points)- The Bulldogs put together another very solid weekend, taking care of business against Dartmouth and then nearly knocking off Harvard in front of a packed house at The Church. Matt Townsend stepped up against the Crimson and had one of his best games this season, showing that he is capable of being that interior big man the Bulldogs need. Another player whose role has expanded as his play has picked up is Javier Duren. The sophomore point guard has shown the ability to score lately, dropping 15 points on Harvard on 6-11 shooting. Consider that sophomores Townsend and Duren are starting to consistently contribute along side this season”s previously lauded breakout players, freshman Justin Sears and sophomore Armani Cotton, and it”s easy to see why this youth movement should have Yale fans getting excited about the future of this team. The Bulldogs” athleticism and depth have helped establish Yale as the league”s best rebounding team. Against Columbia two weekends ago, Yale”s advantage on the boards, 32-18, led them to a blowout over the Lions. If the Elis can get after it on the glass again, they should have a good shot at completing the season sweep of Columbia on Friday night, remaining on track for a 13th straight top half finish. –Bruno March

4. Cornell (5-5) (24 points)- Arguably the best two game stretch of Shonn Miller”s young career was overshadowed by a complete dud by Cornell as a whole, relegating the members of Newman Nation, who were all giddy and pounding their chests a week ago, to hiding in the basement of Olin Library. The Red made Tony Hicks look like one of the most prolific scorers the Ivy League has ever seen, and watched Princeton play with a workmanlike mentality that Cornell should have displayed on its own floor. An 0-2 weekend was definitely a step in the wrong direction and was the kiss of death for any (albeit remote) title hopes the Red had, but the disappointing sweep puts the team in a position to learn a lot about itself over the final two weeks. Cornell can give Courtney his first winning season on East Hill and another season of improvement. This may not be enough for most fans, and definitely won”t satisfy Courtney, but is the best Cornell can do in the position it”s in. With a team made up of primarily young rotation players, these final four games will be a true test of grit that, if weathered, will serve Courtney”s squad well moving forward. -Gorge Newman

5. Penn (4-5) (21 points)- After witnessing the hoops futility on Saturday night between the Quakers and Lions, as per doctor’s orders I am heavily sedated. My personal physician thought it best that I remain in a state of narcotic-induced tranquility while I write this; thus, I cannot be held responsible for what follows—it’s probably the valium talking. The Quakers rolled in to Ithaca Friday and gave the Big Red the ass kicking they so rightly deserved. (It’s the drugs.) Tony Hicks’ 29 points (the most for a Penn freshman since Jerome Allen’s 31 against, who else, Cornell), not only avenged Penn’s earlier loss but finally woke the foolish Red faithful from their acid-induced fever dream of competing for the Ivy title. Get real. This year, third in the Ivy might as well be 53rd. The Quakers then confidently headed south to floundering Columbia and presumably their first Ivy sweep of the year. Coach Allen prophetically saw the key to the game after vanquishing Cornell. “If we can hold teams to low field-goal percentage shooting, whether we make shots or miss shots [Saturday] night, we’ll still have a chance to win.” Wrong. What I witnessed on Saturday night was the most pathetic display of Penn basketball in the last 30 years. If I told anyone in the Greater Philadelphia area that we held The Lions to two field goals for the entire second half and still managed to lose by 17, they would think that I was crocked on high dose Valium (which I am). The Quakers, despite another strong night from Hicks with 19 points, scored only four field goals. It was so bad that the nine year-old girls playing a simulated game at halftime had a better field goal percentage than both teams combined! Of course for Columbia, where athletic futility is basically the school’s raison d’etre, the attitude as reported in The Daily Spectator was, “Hey, we sucked, but we won.” However for Penn, even a win would have been looked upon with disdain—such is the pride within the program. Therefore, a loss under these circumstances can only be described as obscene. Like, “Show me on the dolly where the bad man touched you” obscene. (Valium again.) The Quakers have an opportunity to redeem themselves, however. This weekend Harvard comes to town the day after its death match with Princeton. The Crimson will be at its most vulnerable for the foreseeable future. The team will be tired from the trip and from the game. It’s a great opportunity for the Quakers because after this year, Coach Amaker, with his influx of prodigious talent, will essentially be bringing the equivalent of a gun to a knife fight every night. Should Penn win on Saturday before a national TV audience, the horror of last weekend will quickly fade into distant memory. But if they lose…well I still have enough Valium to last another week. Stay Red and Blue my friends.The AQ

6. Brown (4-6) (14 points)- The Bears have been offensively challenged for several weekends in a row now, having failed to crack 1.00 points per possession in six straight contests. The chief culprits have been three-point shooting and offensive rebounding, two areas where the Bears rank last in the Ancient Eight in conference play. While Sean McGonagill had a great night out on Saturday (Dartmouth tends to allow that), Brown fans have to be concerned with his play lately as the usually trusty point guard had put together a string of five straight poor performances before Saturday, a streak in

which he accumulated 18 turnovers to just 5 assists. On the bright side though, the Bears have now doubled their win total from last season with four games to play. Brown even still has something to play for, as a clean sweep of their final two weekends would make the Bears eligible for a postseason tournament. Of course, Pomeroy gives Brown just a 0.6% chance of stealing all four from the C”s (road) and the P”s (home), but that”s why they play the games. If the Bears are going to return to the high-level play on both ends of the floor that created such a buzz around this team just a month ago, it”s going to start with McGonagill turning around that assist-to-turnover ratio, Halpern and Albrecht regaining their stroke, and Maia crashing the offensive boards and finishing around the rim. An angry Cornell team coming off of a weekend of getting whooped will provide a stiff test on Friday in Ithaca. Win and a top half finish is in reach. –Bruno March

7. Columbia (3-7) (11 points)- Don”t let the comely color fool you. It”s ugly being light blue. After watching arguably its worst offensive performance in recent history last Friday against Princeton, Columbia had finally reached rock bottom. Visibly disappointed in the play of his big men, Coach Kyle Smith went to the four guard lineup, reminiscent of the 2006 Villanova squad — unfortunately Smith doesn”t have the luxury of three NBA draft-picks (Foye, Lowry and Ray). Also notable, Princeton is the tallest team in Division 1 and starts a backcourt of Bray at 6″5″” and Koon at 6″8″”. In the first half, Columbia looked entirely one-dimensional. The offense consisted entirely of Frankoski, Lo and Mullins running off double-staggered or fade screens until the long possessions concluded with either a contested three or a wild layup. A few notes on the Columbia big men: Cisco has been Mr. Cellophane as he”s been almost invisible as of late (4.4 ppg in last 5 games); Osetkowski is shooting a ghastly 42% from the field (well below par for a big man). On Saturday, the Lions seemed to pull it together and were noticeably loose in warmups. Mullins dropped 18, and the Lions cruised to a victory. Despite shooting only 33% from the field, they were aided by a Quaker team that shot 29%. Barbour seemed more active and pitched in with 12, and was 7-8 from the line. Given that they are playing their worst basketball of the season, Columbia should be content to split the weekend. The wick has shortened, but the candle still flickers with hope for a top half finish. –Wolfgang Evans

8. Dartmouth (2-8) (5 points)- What began as a slide has now metastasized into a full-blown losing streak, as Dartmouth dropped its fifth straight on Saturday night at Brown. This is usually the time of year where a team starts looking forward to next year, and with just one graduating senior (Matt LaBove, who plays just four minutes per game), the Big Green would normally be excused if their focus shifted to 2014. But while an upper-half Ivy finish is out of the question, Dartmouth still has one very real goal remaining for this season: escaping the Ivy cellar for the first time since 2009. That’s not to say that Paul Cormier won’t spend the last few weeks of the season figuring some things out, though. He needs to iron out a rotation – Dartmouth has used five different starting lineups for its 10 Ivy games. If the Big Green can settle in on a few key lineups, that could also end up helping solve its main problem – consistency. Alex Mitola showcased his long-range abilities in the loss to Yale on Friday, hitting 7 of 10 threes for 27 points. But only one other player cracked double digits as the rest of the team shot just 10-for-35 (29% in the loss). Mitola faltered the following night, shooting 3-for-12, and no one picked up the slack, leading to another dismal offensive effort (36% FG) in a 59-50 loss to Brown. Gabas Maldunas again proved his worth on defense and on the boards, averaging 11 rebounds and 4.5 blocks in the two games last weekend, but his offensive game has proved maddeningly inconsistent (his last seven point totals: 16, 2, 5, 16, 19, 4, 8). Part of that is due to a lack of attempts (he shot 12 times last weekend compared to 31 the weekend before, even though he played four more minutes), and Cormier will have to decide how much he wants his Lithuanian big man to factor in the offense in the team’s final four games. A road trip to the Killer P’s is usually no time for experimenting, but if Dartmouth wants to improve, they may have no other choice. –Jonathan Gault

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