IHO Power Poll: December 22, 2013

Finally, the first edition of the IHO Power Poll has arrived. This season, we have seven writers voting in the poll. The points listed next to the schools correspond to the total votes from all IHO writers: 8 points for a 1st place vote, 7 points for a 2nd place vote, and so on.
Finally, the first edition of the IHO Power Poll has arrived. This season, we have seven writers voting in the poll. The points listed next to the schools correspond to the total votes from all IHO writers: 8 points for a 1st place vote, 7 points for a 2nd place vote, and so on.

There seem to be a few clear divisions within the league after six weeks of hoops. Princeton and Harvard has been the thrilling Ivy narrative thus far, with both teams on torrid runs to start the season. Many thought this would be a runaway title for the Crimson, but it’s great for Ivy supporters to see a second team step up the way the Tigers have. It certainly makes for an exciting conference slate (circle Jan. 31 and Feb. 22 on your calendars, folks).

There’s another tight battle going on in the middle of the league though, as Brown, Columbia, and Yale jockey for that 3rd position in the Ivy. This year, with up to six teams looking at the possibility of an over-.500 record, there will be something to play for below the title chase. Those middle-of-the-league contests promise to be pretty exciting as teams play for postseason berths in the NIT, CBI, and CIT.

Dartmouth and Penn have been slotted in the sixth and seventh slots, two teams that appear to be going in opposite directions.

And then there is Cornell, a team that is historically bad to the point that the 0-10 Tiny Red are owners of the worst defense in all of the 351-team Division I universe, conceding 1.198 points per possession, a far cry from the D-I average of 1.035 ppp.

Without further ado…

1. Harvard (10-1) (55 points, 7 first place votes)

When you own a title belt, the only way to lose it is through a lapse in your own performance. So while a number of Ivies have been legitimately great in non-conference play—Princeton, especially, looms as a potential juggernaut—Harvard has done nothing to relinquish its status as top dog. The lone blemish on the Crimson’s season is a godawful second half against No. 20 Colorado, in which the visiting Crimson gave away a 12-point halftime lead. Aside from that setback, Harvard has been methodically, if unspectacularly, dispatching its sneakily good opponents. A 10-point win against Holy Cross. An 18-point win against Bryant. In Alaska, an 8-point win over Denver and 12-point win over Green Bay. Across the river, an 8-point win at Northeastern and an 11-point overtime squeaker at BU. All those teams stack up evenly with Harvard’s Ivy counterparts, so the Crimson’s 9-1 record ought to be an encouraging start for head coach Tommy Amaker’s crew. Harvard’s bread-and-butter is still putting the ball in the hands of Wes Saunders and Siyani Chambers, but this season has seen the emergence of a formidable frontcourt. Kyle Casey has returned to form, putting up 11.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, Steve Moundou-Missi has made the leap to an All-Ivy performer, averaging 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds a night, and Jonah Travis has shown he can be a valuable spark plug off the bench, with 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in limited minutes. The scary news for the rest of the league is that the Crimson has not approached its ceiling yet. It’s biggest difference-maker in the paint, Kenyatta Smith, has been sidelined all year with a foot injury, and point guard Brandyn Curry has missed all but two games with a bum foot of his own. When those two return to the lineup, everyone will finally get to see if this Harvard team can be one of the Ancient Eight’s all-time best.  –C. River Banks

2. Princeton (9-2) (50 points, 1 first place vote)

My Tigers’ IHO Season Preview contained this observation: “I suppose one might make an argument that the Tigers can be better without (last year’s IVY POY Ian) Hummer, but not this reporter.” Fortunately for Princeton fans, the 2013-14 Tigers are making convincing, and different, arguments each game. With returning seniors Will Barrett and TJ Bray, the Tigers were expected to shoot the three well, and they have. It was not known that they would get significant beyond-the-arc production from NINE players, but they have. Junior Ben Hazel, who missed most of last season, has emerged as the needed backcourt complement to Bray and a reliable scorer. Freshman Spencer Weisz has started most nights, and played like a veteran all of the time. The play of Hans Brase, the sophomore center, invites comparison to Kit Mueller, one of the Tigers’ all-time great players. While Harvard has been as good as advertised, the Tigers to this point in December have clearly established themselves as the best of the rest. –Toothless Tiger

3. Brown (6-3) (38 points)

The Bears remain a bit of an unknown quantity. The road warriors have amassed a 4-2 record away from the Pitz, but a closer look at their victories reveals that the 6-3 record may be less impressive than it seems. Brown has zero wins over Top 200 teams, though a four point loss to Providence and a three point defeat to Bryant suggest that Mike Martin’s squad can compete with the Ivy’s best in ’14. The frontcourt duo of Maia and Kuakumensah continue to complement each other nicely as Maia focuses on scoring and offensive boards while Kuakumensah cleans up on defense, landing in the nation’s Top 100 players in defensive rebounding rate and block rate. McGonagill has been carrying a really heavy load (playing 94.5% of minutes, 5th in the nation), and bringing all the freshmen along, while still posting very impressive offensive numbers. Of those freshmen, Leland King, Steven Spieth, and Tavon Blackmon have been most effective. Norman Hobbie has also provided a spark off the bench with his three point shooting, though his minutes have declined lately. If the Bears are going to hold down this 3rd spot, they need to do a better job taking care of the basketball and keeping their big men out of foul trouble. –Bruno March

4. Columbia (7-5) (34 points)

Columbia has a 7-5 record on the young season, and has lost zero games to teams outside of KenPom’s top 150. They almost pulled off the impossible, but came up just short against #2 ranked Michigan State in East Lansing. They still have three tough non-conference games left (@St. John’s, @Colgate and home vs. Stony Brook), but one or two wins in those three could further propel their impressive non-conference resume entering Ivy League play. Predictably, sophomores Grant Mullins (12.2 ppg) and Maodo Lo (11.6 ppg) are leading Columbia through the maturation process as the Lions look ready to make the leap to the top half of the Ivy in 2014. Columbia is getting it done right now thanks to very consistent three point shooting as a team (41.3% on the year) and the 5th best team defensive rebounding rate in the country, snagging 76.6% of rebounds at their basket. Close game woes still appear to plague the Lions, who are just 2-3 in games decided by five points or less, including an unforgivable giveaway in the closing seconds against New York rival, Manhattan. –Wolfgang Evans

5. Yale (5-6) (33 points)

Yale is looking like a classic James Jones team. The good news is the Bulldogs have the talent to compete in the top half. Justin Sears has made the leap in his sophomore year and is one of the league’s elite scorers. One of the big question marks coming into the season was whether or not Javier Duren could handle the full load at point guard, while improving his turnover numbers. He’s answered that question in the affirmative, putting together a solid first six weeks of the season, including a career-high 26 points on Friday against Albany. Beyond that, the Elis have had solid production from Brandon Sherrod and Nick Victor, though it’s unclear that the rest of the team can do enough to win when Sears is shut down (Yale is 3-1 when Sears grabs a double-double, 2-5 when he doesn’t). Fifth is a bit harsh for this team, but the reality is that they have lost some close games that they’ll need to win if they’re going to be firmly top half in ’14. –Bruno March

6. Dartmouth (6-4) (20 points)

Though the Big Green has now played nine games, it’s still difficult to tell what to expect from this squad. No result has stood out so far; Dartmouth has won the games it’s supposed to and lost against superior competition. But if I were a betting man, I’d be bullish on the Green right now. Gabas Maldunas leads the league in rebounding (10.1 per game) and sophomore Connor Boehm has made a leap, shooting 61.8 percent from the field, tops among Ivy players. Yes, blowouts of Lyndon State and Jacksonville State help those numbers, but Boehm played his best against the best competition. He scored a season-high 15 points on 7-for-13 shooting in a road loss to IPFW on Dec. 7 and improved on that three days later against Illinois, shooting 7-for-11 for 17 points.

That 72-65 defeat to the Illlini was a promising sign for the entire team. Dartmouth traditionally suffers a heavy defeat in its December western road trip (lost by 19 to Arizona State last year, by 18 to Notre Dame in 2011, by 29 to Iowa State in 2010…) but the Big Green played Illinois close thanks to Boehm, Maldunas and some hot shooting off the bench from freshman Eli Harrison. Harrison is an x-factor for the Big Green heading into 2014, a 6-foot-6 forward who can spread the floor with his shooting ability (10-for-19 on threes so far).

It’s unlikely Dartmouth will continue to lead the league in field goal percentage once Ivy League play begins, but with just D-III Lesley remaining in 2013, the Big Green will have one more chance to pad its stats. Don’t be fooled by the weak slate, though. All five starters can play, Maldunas is one of the league’s best big men, and Boehm appears on his way to joining him. There’s plenty to be excited about in Hanover. -Jonathan Gault

7. Penn (2-6) (15 points)

The Quakers so far have been in a word…bad. In more than one word, they have been really, really bad and extremely disappointing. I have yet to see them play any resemblance of “team” basketball. A year later, there is little perceptible change from last season’s horror show except this year they are dead last in the nation in committing turnovers, 18.5 per game. (I mean…that’s progress, right?)  What’s more, the Quakers more often than not look completely lost on offense. Compare them to Princeton’s Felix Ungar-like obsessive compulsive ball handling, and they look like Oscar Madison running around with his pants down while high on mushrooms. So let’s see…incessant turnovers , poor defense and the “entropy offense.” Hmmm… sounds like a recipe for a lot of long humiliating nights at the Palestra for the Penn faithful. Oh yes, Henry Brooks is still on the team so the fouls will keep coming and the opponents’ blood will keep flowing (Ed. Note: Brooks commits an astonishing 9.0 fouls per 40 mins).

On the good side, they are rebounding better and are 29th in the nation in assists (16.6 apg). Tony “they told me I could run the team” Bagtas is now in fact running the team and has dished out 17 assists during his first two starts. His talents are sorely needed as Penn has not had a true floor general since Zack Rosen graduated. Still, it is far too early to say whether he will prosper or falter as the season goes on. DNH (now sidelined indefinitely with a concussion) and Tony Hicks have remained stalwarts and are improving, but overall the rest of the team is mediocre at best. The starters are talented but wildly inconsistent and the bench is deep but impotent. Potentially devastating losses await at Marist and NJIT. Lose those and QuakerNation will indeed be in full scale revolt.  (Note: The Daily Pennsylvanian is predicting that a loss to NJIT will be the defeat that eventually causes Jerome to finally lose his shit at the post-game press conference and begin spewing expletives at the media.)

But it’s not just the losses that are infuriating the fan base, it’s the way this 2-6 team is losing; no matter how poor the competition, the Quakers get into a deep hole early and the players are just not poised and resolute enough to get themselves out.  This will not cut it during Ivy play. The League (except Cornell) is playing extraordinarily well and now there are too many determined teams.  Penn, at the moment, is unfortunately not one of them. Something therefore needs to change rapidly because, at present, Jerome Allen’s Quakers simply do not know how to win. -The Ancient Quaker

8. Cornell (0-10) (7 points) 

Until Cornell manages to become the final Division I basketball team to win a game this season, these are the only words the team gets. –Jake Mastbaum

Ed. Note: Instead of a blurb, I will list the categories in which Cornell is in the Bottom 10 teams in the nation: point-per-possession defense (351st of 351), defensive effective FG% (344th), rate at which the Big Red cause turnovers (344th), rate at which the Big Red get to the free throw line (350th), 3-point defense (346th), free throw % (56.9%! and 347th), steal % (349th). 

18 thoughts on “IHO Power Poll: December 22, 2013

  1. While Brown, Columbia and especially Princeton have gotten off to strong starts this season, there is a qualitative difference between being a legitimate championship contender and merely being the tallest of the Seven Dwarves. Here is one perspective on the degree of Harvard’s dominance. Professor Banks has compiled the average rating of all Ivy recruits since 2002. Excerpted below are those players since Amaker’s arrival in 2007, in order of the Professor’s adjusted score:

    1. Zena Edosomwan H
    2. Wesley Saunders H
    3. Kenyatta Smith H
    4. Michael Hall H
    5. Siyani Chambers H
    6. Ian Hummer Princeton
    7. Patrick Lucas-Perry Penn
    8. Hunter Myers H
    9. Matt Howard Penn
    10. Evan Cummins H
    11. Brandyn Curry H
    12. Andrew Van Nest H
    13. Jamal Lewis Penn
    14. Dee Giger H
    15. Jonah Travis H

    In summary, of the 15 highest rated recruits across all eight Ivy programs over the past seven years, eleven of them are on the Harvard roster this season.

  2. Interesting information. Excuse my ignorance, but where did the good prof get these ratings?

    I am shocked and dumbfounded that Lucas-Perry, Lewis and Howard are on the list. These guys have, unfortunately, done little for Penn while the Harvard and Princeton players have done quite well. I wonder if this is another indication regarding coaching maximizing a players potential.

    On other news, Penn got absolutely blown out by a 2-9 Marist squad today. The game was over early validating all of the AQ’s comments above. It is quite a sad state of affairs for a once proud program.

    Good luck to Cornell tonight against Stony Brook. A victory tonight and they may make it into the #7 slot in the next Power Poll!

    • Thank you RB, I am frequently validated.

      PLP was originally a Michigan State recruit before a knee injury. Howard came highly rated and so did Lewis who has turned out to be ,IMO, a dud. As any coach will tell you, there’ s nothing worse than a highly regarded recruit who eventually sucks. This is because he not only sucks but he also takes up a valuable roster spot.

      The above Harvard statistics are of course suspect mainly because they are Harvard statistics, you know, like their grade inflation (mean =A- in Cambridge).

      The AQ

      • I’m pretty sure these are ratings from services such as Scout or Rivals, not C. Rivers’ personal subjective ratings.

        Whatever they are, I think they are roughly reflective of “public” information at the time the players were recruited.

        Think about it this way: If the 2014 Ivy season were a pick-up game, Tommy Amaker would get to pick first, second, third, fourth and fifth. He gets to fill out an entire starting five before any other coach gets to pick a single player. Of the next seven players to be chosen, Jerome Allen selects two and Amaker gets the other five. (Van Nest and Hummer have graduated.)

        If Harvard does not win the conference with a 14-0 record this year after accumulating this kind of talent advantage, then something is very wrong.

  3. Wonder if we’ll ever get the AI data on all these blue choppers at Harvard. Thank goodness Ian Hummer’s father and uncle played ball for the Tigers.

    • I do not believe that any star player must have a low AI. For example, Laurent Rivard is majoring in computer science and Steve Moundou-Missi is majoring in applied mathematics. As far as I’m concerned, that makes them bona fide geniuses compared to the usual roster of sociology and government majors which populate most Ivy basketball squads.

      On the other hand, we know that some star players do have low AIs. Zena Edosomwan did not clear the League minimum AI until he padded his transcript with a PG year at Northfield Mount Hermon. That’s not exactly unheard of in Ivy recruiting.

      So those are the outliers: Rivard and Moundou-Missi at the high end, Edosomwan at the low end.

      What can we conclude about the bulk of the Harvard roster? One mathematical principle which can guide our thinking is that the law of large numbers applies at lower thresholds than we might guess. For example, what are the odds of any two people having the same birthday in a roomful of N people? If N is as low as 20, the probability of any two people sharing a birthday is 41%. If N is 30, the probability is 71% and, by the time N is 50, the probability is overwhelming at 97%. A layman unfamiliar with statistics might be surprised at how low N can be and still almost guarantee that two people have the same birthday.

      Why is that relevant to Harvard recruiting? Start with a guess as to what is the probability that, among any two random basketball recruits, the better player has the lower AI. We know with absolute certainty that the probability is greater than 50%, likely materially so. Let’s start with a guess of 65%.

      If the number is in fact 65%, then what is the probability that, in an eight-team conference, one roster of 20 players could contain 11 of the best 13 players WITHOUT that roster also exhibiting the lowest distribution of AI scores?

      Consider that the probability of any single team having even the five most highly rated recruits is 1/(8^5) = 1/(32,768) = 0.0003. So it’s incredibly unlikely that Harvard would have the five highest rated recruits, to say nothing of 11 of the top 13.

      Even if you account for the exogenous variables that Amaker might simply be a better recruiter and Harvard offers better financial aid and has a more famous name, it would not take much mathematical calculation to conclude the probability that 11 of the 13 best players arriving onto the same roster without their having the lowest AI distribution is astronomically unlikely. Sure, Amaker might have an academic booster or two or three to keep the team average respectable, but the AI distribution of the guys who actually see court time almost certainly is materially lower than the AI distribution curve of any other Ivy League team.

      • Harvard’s Financial aid allows them to compete with Stanford, Northwestern, and Duke. Only Princeton and Yale have the same branding strength in the Ivy League. The A1 academic booster argument is a tired and lazy excuse for the fans whose teams benefitted because the Crimson gave no attention to basketball for the first half century of the Ivy League.

        • While one of Harvard’s strengths as a great university, in every sense of that term, is its financial position, even Brown has an endowment value well north of $2 billion. Most Ivy schools are committed to a “need based” financial aid policy and blind admissions. Most, including Brown, are committed to funding 100% of its admitted applicants’ financial needs. Harvard’s ability to compete for athletes is not a function of its money, vis a vis, the other members of the League. Its competitive advantage is derived from its willingness to recruit players in the lower AI tiers in greater numbers than is permitted by the policies of admissions departments at other Ivy schools. Since the historical arrangement among the Ivy members has been voluntary, and therefore, unenforceable by the League, Harvard ought to remain in the national Top 25 for years to come.

        • Harvard’s financial aid and the HYP brand name were equally relevant prior to Amaker’s arrival, yet Harvard never won a conference championship in over a century of competition.

          In only seven years of the Amaker regime, Harvard men’s basketball has posted the two lowest NCAA Academic Progress Rates of any Ivy team in any sport with the exception of Penn men’s fencing. Harvard’s rolling four-year APR score has declined every year that Amaker has been there.

          I don’t see how you can call the AI argument a tired and lazy argument when Harvard is both recruiting players better than the League has ever admitted in the three decades of the AI system and they are collectively posting the poorest academic record of any Ivy athletes.

  4. Sigh. Back to the Power Poll.

    Losses by both Brown and Yale to Albany pushed both teams a half notch below the Lions in the “middle of the pack” group. With a good showing against St. John’s and a win at Colgate, Columbia can firmly establish themselves as Team#3 in this year’s Ivy race.

    However, their path in the league will be made more difficult by their traveling partner that appears to be the worst Ivy team since the 2002-03 Lions. Columbia will generally play very well-rested opponents during the league season.

    • Interesting point re: Columbia playing fresher-than-average teams, IBF.

      I agree than Columbia looks like the 3rd best team at this point. I’m hesitant to put a lot of confidence in the Lions though based on their non-conference performance. As we learned last year (and the year before, and the year before), the conference season is a different beast.

      One reason I would be optimistic, though, were I a Lions fan, is their defense so far. In the three previous years, Columbia gave up an average of at least ~102 points per 100 possessions. This year, they’re allowing fewer than 99 points per possession.

      One stat that worries me though: the Lions are shooting 41.3% from deep. Not sure if that’s sustainable.

  5. And the Lions do put in a good showing against St. John’s. Up 1 with 7min left? Not bad. 9-18 from long range with three of them coming from Meiko Lyles. Not bad at all. Twin Towers (Petrasek and Osetkowski) pounding the paint for 8R/14P against a more athletic St. John’s frontcourt. Lookin’ pretty good. Being opportunistic enough to allow SJ’s poor free throw shooting keep them in the game. I like it.

    Right you are, Bruno, that the league season has been the Lions’ downfall in each of Smith’s three years, but something feels different this time around.

    Nothing will convince me better that things have changed than heading up to Hamilton and bringing home a win Monday night. Langel, Jordan, and Klatsky have ‘Gate playing its best ball in years, ready to challenge Bucknell and BU for the Patriot League top spot. This will be a very good one for the Lions to win.

  6. Petrasek is drawing a lot of raves in the early season, and well he should. He looks like the kind of player you can establish a team upon, and he is just starting his career. Maybe not a Muscala, but if he is close to that kind of player the Lions will be in the Ivy conversation for several seasons.

  7. Columbia had a very good game against St. John’s. A shame they couldn’t pull it out in the end. I agree that Petrasek looks very good. A solid inside and outside game. Hopefully, he’ll continue to improve.

    Can someone who knows more about the Lions note some specifics about the team?

    Can’t say for sure, but the Lions certainly have a shot at being #3. However, at this time in the season the last two or three years I thought similar things.

    Another sad result for Penn this afternoon. They shot 60% for the game, including 10 3-pointers and were up 14 with 8 minutes. However, they stopped scoring over the last three minutes and lost by 1 against Rider.

    DNH was out for the second straight game from a concussion. Hicks was benched from the starting lineup, shot 0-4 and played 12 minutes. Offensively, they were strong scoring 88 with MJC, Dougherty and Harrell accounting for 61 points. Unfortunately, they were out rebounded 43-26, including 21-6 on the offensive side and gave up two huge runs to end both halves.

    The post-game article at the DP certainly doesn’t have any info that will help any pro-Allen (as coach) fans, http://www.thedp.com/article/2013/12/penn-basketball-chokes-late-lead-loses-heartbreaker-at-rider-89-88 .

  8. The Lions just came up with their biggest W of the season over Colgate in Hamilton.

    They did it all. At down 7 with 1:30 left, they applied a full court press, blocked off the lanes to the basket, and outscored the Raiders 7-0 to force OT. The Lions played ‘Gate tough through a 4-4 first OT. Then, Petrasek got loose for a bunny and Mullins canned a three from the right side to put them up five with 90secs gone in the second OT. Their dead-eye work from the stripe came through for a 76-70 win.

    For now, there is no doubt they’ve earned the #3 spot in this poll.

    • Agreed. A very good win for the Lions. They wore Colgate down by the end of regulation. Petrasek came up big at the end, but took (and missed) way too many outside shots. Rosenberg was excellent. How come he is not starting?

      • I agree– it’s odd he’s not starting. Apparently, Smith likes his energy off the bench. With Osetkowski out last night, he got the extra minutes.

        Good win for the Lions. Colgate was missing two starters, but the Lions got it done without their own big man. Gutsy win and a much-needed close-game victory for a team that hasn’t been able to win at the wire in recent seasons. With Brown and Yale looking mediocre over the last month and Columbia opening conference play against perhaps the worst team in Division I, I like the Lions’ chances to be a dark horse into February. A 3-1 league start looks likely.

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