IHO Power Poll: March 6, 2013

With Harvard unable to handle the deadly southern road trip, Princeton looks poised to grab the Ivy title...if they can navigate three tricky road games to close it out.
With Harvard unable to handle the deadly southern road trip, the Tigers look poised to grab the Ivy title…if they can navigate three tricky road games to close it out.

All season long, Princeton and Harvard have traded places in our Power Poll, but the Crimson”s well-documented Jadwin blues, coupled with a shocker of a loss at the Palestra on Saturday, leave the Tigers in control of the title picture. There is still a lot of basketball to be played, but Mitch Henderson”s veteran squad will be a strong favorite in its final three road games and the young Cantabs can only take care of business and scoreboard watch at this point. Outside the top two, the Brown Bears were the big movers this week, while the injury-stricken Big Red continued to tumble. This will be our final Power Poll of the year, but make sure to check back next week for our IHO All-Ivy Awards.

1. Princeton (9-2) (5 first place votes, 40 points)Ian Hummer wouldn”t let Princeton lose on Friday. The senior stepped up and played a complete game on both ends of the floor, willing the Tigers to victory in the final minutes of Harvard”s comeback attempt. The atmosphere at Jadwin was electric on Friday, as the students showed up in force to support the orange and black on national television. There was a fan in a Gumby suit, two people dressed as bananas, and a man in an American flag one-piece jump suit who came within inches of hitting a half-court shot for $10,000. In other words, Jadwin was the place to be on Friday, and on the biggest stage, the Tigers came through. Saturday was Senior Night, and while Harvard was down in Philly gacking up its chance at a championship, Princeton was struggling with a hangover, trailing Dartmouth at the half. Henderson did what he had to do to get his squad motivated at the break though, as the Tigers opened up a double-digit lead and held on for the crucial 68-63 win. Now, with three games to play– all on the road, mind you– every Princeton fan has suddenly become a math major, calculating the odds of winning out against the league”s 3rd, 4th, and 5th placed teams. Using Pomeroy”s odds for each game, here”s your answer (and it might surprise you): Princeton”s chances of winning out are 38.76%. Of course, there are other feasible ways Princeton can win the title, but let”s be serious. Harvard isn”t losing to Columbia again and Cornell is trotting out its B-Team with all those injuries. I know I wouldn”t bet against Hummer at this point, but let”s see this race for what it is: not over yet.  -Bruno March

2. Harvard (9-3) (35 points)- Destiny is a tease. For the past two months, she”s led on Crimson fans, stoking their confidence and inspiring visions of dancing come March.

At the beginning of the season, she lifted Harvard past Dartmouth, Yale, Brown, and Cornell in a series of squeakers. Then she carried them to new heights as the Crimson rounded into form against Penn and Princeton. Of course, even as Harvard double-tapped the Bears and the Bulldogs in late February, the Crimson faithful knew the road to Madness would wend through Jadwin Gymnasium. But, with Destiny”s favour, this squad was peaking just in time to break the Tiger”s ballyhooed home winning streak. Or so it seemed. Harvard showed 40 minutes of fight against the Tigers, but its inability to hit a shot outside of the paint (literally!) spelled doom. The failure to wrest control of the title race was disappointing, but the Crimson still controlled its Destiny, so to speak. However, that fickle mistress had other designs. Saturday night she breathed new life into a spiralling Quaker team, which, behind the inspired play of freshmen Tony Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry, pulled off one of the shockers of the season. Now, with one weekend left in the 2012-13 Ivy campaign, Harvard needs help to extend its season. The Crimson needs Destiny to smile on it one more time. But given Harvard”s sudden letdown last week and given its charmed run through this supposed rebuilding year, the Crimson”s karma appears spent. I hope I”m wrong.  -C. River Banks

3. Brown (6-6) (30 points)- What a weekend for Bruno. The Bears went up to Ithaca and shook off the shooting slump that had plagued them for several consecutive games, scoring a sizzling 1.38 points per possession behind 22 points a piece from Rafael Maia and Tucker Halpern. Cedric Kuakumensah broke Brown”s single-season blocks record with seven in the win, and I would be pretty shocked if he doesn”t break this record at least once more in the next three years. The Brown freshman is putting together a strong Defensive Player of the Year resume, . (Still, Shonn Miller looks to be the strong favorite for the DPOY, as he is 3rd in rebounding, 3rd in blocks, and 2nd in steals). The next night, the Bears dug themselves another 11 point halftime hole– their fourth such deficit in six games– and clawed all the way back thanks to a monster second half from Maia, McGonagill, and Sullivan. Up two with about 39 seconds left, the Bears managed to get a stop, but couldn”t corral the rebound. Columbia managed to draw a foul and knock down two FTs to tie the game, setting the stage for another Cardiac Bears moment of glory. Brown got the ball into the frontcourt and took a timeout with 1.1 on the clock, and Martin drew up a thing of beauty. Sullivan”s inbounds pass was on the mark and Halpern”s three found the middle of the cylinder, delivering Brown its first road sweep of the C”s since 2003. Looking ahead, the Bears can secure a top half finish with one win, and still have an outside shot at a postseason bid to the CIT if they can find a way to sweep Princeton and Penn on Senior Weekend.  -Bruno March

4. Yale (6-6) (25 points)- The Bulldogs earned their third consecutive split weekend, falling at Columbia thanks to a grotesque offensive performance (14-45 from the field), before putting it together in Ithaca for a solid road win. Brandon Sherrod had his best game of the year with 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Matt Townsend also continued his streak of impressive performances, scoring in double-figures both nights, including a 19-point career high performance against the Big Red. The emergence of these two players recently has been huge for the Elis, as Jeremiah Kreisberg missed his second straight weekend, presumably due to injury. It seems doubtful that we”ll see him back on the court this year. In classic James Jones fashion, Yale has overachieved in what had seemed like a rebuilding year. The underclassmen for this squad have shown great improvement over the course of this season, and there”s good reason for optimism going forward thanks to Justin Sears, Armani Cotton, Townsend, Sherrod, and Javier Duren. If the Bulldogs can get one this weekend against Princeton or Penn, they”ll ensure that Coach Jones gets his 13th consecutive top half finish.  –Bruno March

5. Penn (5-6) (19 points)- Friday, my beloved Quakers fell, in The Cathedral no less, to bottom feeding Dartmouth, marking only the fourth time since 1957 that Penn had failed to defend its home floor against The Green. With this new loss, I had finally reached the nadir of my fandom. Since the agonizing debacle in Morningside Heights the week before, I hadn’t eaten and had shunned all manner of personal hygiene. With my unshaven face, fetid halitosis, and baggy clothes, I bore a striking resemblance to the Unabomber (except the Unabomber was probably better looking)…Click here for The AQ”s full article. There was no need to worry however. Saturday night, a motivated and energized Penn squad defeated the Crimson: suffocating defense, solid rebounding, run and gun—in short, classic Quaker Basketball. The freshman tandem of Hicks and DNH (both of whom have future Captain written all over them) had their skills on full display before a national television audience. Harvard could not cope with Penn’s size, quickness and wave after wave of substitutions which eventually wore down their smaller, road weary line up. Jerome Allen’s strategy (hatched mostly out of absolute necessity) of giving almost every player floor time across the season had finally paid off mightily. As Captain Miles Cartwright aptly said afterward, “We grew up.” There is still much more for these young Quakers to learn and this week’s road trip to Yale and Brown, as well as the annual finale with Princeton, will surely test them once again. They remain wildly inconsistent, so much so that Coach Allen bluntly admitted after Saturday’s contest that “I don’t know who they are.” I don’t know who they are either, but this win will hopefully be the beginning of what they can eventually become.  -The AQ

6. Cornell (5-7) (13 points)- Ivy Hoops Online voters had Cornell slotted everywhere from 5th to 8th this week. In a “what have you done for me lately” league, Cornell has rallied off four consecutive losses, all on its home floor, and squandered a chance to be a significant player in this year’s race. I could pretend it’s 1950, take out my whooping stick, and go all corporal punishment on the Big Red for its lackluster play, but what purpose would that serve? The Cornell team that placed as high as 3rd in the IHO polls is far different from the team we see today. A shoulder injury for Shonn Miller, an ankle injury for Devin Cherry, an undisclosed departure from basketball activities for Johnny Gray, and Cornell is playing with one hand tied behind its back. Take away 60% of any Ivy starting lineup this late in the season, in a year with as much parity as we’ve seen, and tell me which team doesn’t struggle. The aforementioned trio will not be walking on the floor again this season. What’s left for the Big Red is an opportunity to watch Nolan Cressler continue to flourish, an opportunity for guys like Deion Giddens to gain some much needed game experience, an opportunity for a senior class to take the floor one more time, and an opportunity to show some pride. For the sake of those sporting Red, let’s hope we can see at least that.  –Gorge Newman

7. Columbia (4-8) (12 points)- Entering conference play at 8-6, Columbia looked like a team destined for the top half of the Ivy League, perhaps even a potential dark-horse contender for

the league title.  Since then, the Lions are just 4-8 in conference, and seem to be limping across the finish line.  Despite a lackluster record, Columbia”s saving grace has been the future of its promising young backcourt.  With Yale in the house last Friday, Maodo Lo put up a season-high 20 points on 9 of 15 shooting which included a 16 point second half surge where he was seen emulating the “Jordan Shoulder Shrug.”  Columbia never looked back and sent the Bulldogs out of Morningside Heights with a 59-46 beating. Looking ahead to the Post-Barbour era and the future leadership of this Columbia team, the ceiling looks high for Lo. On Saturday, hosting the Bears, Columbia found itself with a comfortable lead, up 31-20 at the half. Comfortable, but certainly not safe – especially against the Cardiac Bears.  As the Bears mounted their comeback, Mark C(r)isco, who finished with a goose-egg in the rebound column, fouled out down 54-53 with 3:36 left after hack-a-shaq”ing Cedric Kuakumensah to send him to the line for two. As he did in a key situation in the last matchup between these two squads, Cedric hit both.  The rest of the way, the Lions scrapped together five of six from the line to eventually tie the game at 58 all with just three seconds remaining. The finish was just another chapter of painful history for Columbia. Daniels was caught behind the screen, and help from Osetkowski in the paint was not on its way. This was a combination of poor communication and defensive awareness, and a ballsy shot from Brown”s Halpern.  Entering its final weekend of play, Columbia looks to avoid the Ivy League Cellar as they travel to face the Crimson and the Big Green.  –Wolfgang Evans

8. Dartmouth (3-9) (6 points)- Dartmouth may still be mired at the bottom of the Ivy League standings and this site’s Power Poll, but contrary to what I wrote a week ago, there is far more optimism around the program heading into the season’s final weekend. That optimism is powered by the team’s best southern road trip since 2009, with a win at Penn on Friday (just Dartmouth’s second in 16 years) followed by a five-point loss at Jadwin on Saturday. Freshmen Alex Mitola and Connor Boehm once again led the way in a balanced effort at the Palestra, as Mitola put up 17 points and 3 steals while Boehm sank 6 of his 8 shots for 15 points off the bench. Part of Dartmouth’s success was due to the Quakers’ mistakes, as Dartmouth attempted 26 free throws on the night (making 23) and forced 18 Penn turnovers (leading to a 27-13 advantage in points off turnovers). But the Big Green also deserves credit for holding Penn big man Darien Nelson-Henry scoreless in his 15 minutes, contributing to a 26-14 advantage in points in the paint. Saturday’s loss at Princeton was a marked improvement over the teams’ last encounter two weeks earlier, but in the end Dartmouth just could not close the gap on the rolling Tigers in the second half. Tyler Melville’s career-high 23 points on 9-for-11 shooting was the highlight, while Maldunas (17 points, 12 rebounds) rebounded after a disappointing Friday effort. A home sweep of sixth- and seventh-placed Cornell and Columbia would prevent a fourth straight last place finish and give the team five Ivy wins on the season, a number they’ve achieved on just one other occasion since 2005 (all this assuming that Columbia doesn’t pull the upset against Harvard on Friday). You never quite know what Columbia squad you’re going to get, and even though the Big Red has lost four straight home games by an average of over 13 points, nothing is certain this year in the Ivy League. That said, a home sweep is certainly within the realm of possibility, and such an outcome would give a young squad some much-needed momentum heading into 2014.  -Jonathan Gault

4 thoughts on “IHO Power Poll: March 6, 2013

  1. In its current condition, missing two starters and their sixth man, Cornell will be hard-pressed to come up with a win Friday night in Hanover. The current accurate ranking of those two may well be a tie for last.

    Brown, with the homecourt advantage over Princeton, really has a shot for a sweep this weekend. However, their short bench could get them in trouble against the taller, more numerous Tigers Saturday night.

  2. 4 down, 2 of 3 to go, 3 of 3 for the title outright. Hats off to The AQ who knew full well what his Quakers’ courageous stand in the Cathedral would mean for the Tigers. Nevertheless he taped up his ankles and hounded poor Siyani Chambers into exhaustion in the final road game of the year for the Crimson. Oh, those back-to-backs. Ironic isn’t it, that the quaint Ivy practice of scheduling games to impact lightly on the players’ academic opportunities would do Harvard in? The Tigers had not much left on Saturday either, but managed to survive a valiant effort by Dartmouth. One more Power Poll to go…

  3. Gentlemen, very well written Power Poll this week. Thanks for the poetry — a pleasure to read.

    I don’t know if Harvard was abandoned by Destiny but perhaps it was a Jinx. We’ve all heard about the Sports Illustrated Jinx. The Thursday before Harvard’s Princeton-Penn weekend, the Boston Globe published a feature-length article on Amaker’s recruitment of Chambers, which focused on the fact that coach has been ardently chasing player since Siyani was in eighth grade. Amaker has apparently been regularly showing up at Chambers’ games since middle school.

    I don’t see how Amaker can be AI-compliant if he’s recruiting players that young, years before he has any idea what their college academic qualifications will be. Boston Globe Jinx?

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