The week that was in Ivy roundball, power rankings included:
8. Penn (0-5)
Sigh. More on Penn here, but suffice it to say that the Quakers’ loss to Wagner made their tangible improvements against Lafayette and Temple look like a mirage.
7. Dartmouth (1-3)
Meh. The Big Green let a four-point lead with 7:04 left slip away at home to New Hampshire, which trumped Dartmouth, 65-63, via a game-winning bucket by Daniel Dion with four seconds left. Dartmouth beat IPFW, 68-67, earlier in the week but entered the New Hampshire game with the lowest-scoring offense in the conference and second to last in turnover margin. This offense just isn’t very good and somebody besides Alex Mitola needs to step up as a consistent weapon. Prior to New Hampshire, Connor Boehm was shooting just 43.8 percent from the field, and his scoring was down to 6.7 points per game from 10.9 last season. Boehm was the Big Green’s leading scorer against the Wildcats and will have to be even more impactful going forward for this offense to lift itself up.
6. Brown (3-5)
Brown lost to Austin Peay Thanksgiving Day, 79-58, after the Governors’ only prior win had been a five-point victory over Berea of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Conference. Brown shot 26.9 percent in the second half and committed 21 turnovers, six of which belonged to point guard Tavon Blackmon. Then Blackmon and the Bears struggled mightily against the full-court press of Johnson & Johnson Wales. Blackmon must play with more poise at the point and Steven Spieth and J.R. Hobbie must get in double figures more consistently if the young Bears are to reach their full potential this season. Brown’s win over Prairie View Friday happened because Spieth and Hobbie stepped up, scoring 28 points on 10-for-14 shooting, including 6-for-8 from beyond the arc. The bad news is this offense doesn’t look good when Hobbie and Spieth are off. The Bears’ possession of the worst turnover margin in the conference is no fluke.
5. Princeton (3-5)
Following the Tigers’ troubling loss to Incarnate Word, Princeton (and our own Toothless Tiger) traveled to California for the Wooden Legacy. Princeton’s offense – specifically Spencer Weisz – faltered in a 62-56 loss to UTEP. Still, Amir Bell only committed three fouls this time! Then the Tigers lost their fifth straight game in a matchup with San Diego. Amir Bell fouled out but he did score 17 points while Weisz bounced back with 18 points and nine boards. Freshman Alec Brennan finally made an impact with the first nine points of his collegiate career in addition to two blocks. The Tigers shot 54.2 percent shooting in the second half, and that efficiency definitely carried over into a 69-54 win over San Jose State Sunday in Anaheim, where the Tigers shot 71.4 percent from the field in the second half. Most importantly, Amir Bell only committed two fouls Princeton showed a level of defensive cohesion throughout the game that had eluded them prior to Sunday night. It’s the defensive side of the floor that the Tigers need to shore up, but there’s still plenty of time for them to keep progressing there before Ivy play rolls around.
4. Cornell (4-4)
Yes, the Big Red now belong in the upper half of the Ivy League, at least for now. Cornell beat Canisius, 67-60, before dismissing Binghamton, 68-54, Saturday. Before Binghamton, the Big Red were shooting just 39.9 percent from field. So why do the Big Red already have four wins, more than last year? Defensive rebounding, a category in which Cornell ranks first in the conference, and the simultaneous emergence of Devin Cherry, Galal Cancer and Robert Hatter as dependable backcourt contributors. They are still hit or miss and can make low-percentage decisions offensively and are still “hit or miss” guards, but they’re more hit than miss lately. If sophomore forward David Onuorah can keep progressing on offense, the Big Red will be in decent shape indeed.
3. Columbia (4-1)
Columbia just keeps relying on its defense to grind games out, and it keeps working. The Lions’ defense has been awesome so far and Columbia hasn’t allowed more than 57 points in any of its five games. Maodo Lo is getting solid help at both ends now that Alex Rosenberg is gone. Cory Osetkowski and Jeff Coby are strong rebounders – Coby is averaging 5.3 rebounds in just 14.8 minutes per game. Meanwhile, Kyle Castlin is averaging 9.3 points in just 20.8 minutes per contest, but more on him later.
2. Yale (6-2)
The Bulldogs have more wins than anyone else in the league. In their loss to Providence, though, the Elis’ defense struggled when Justin Sears was on the bench. Still, the Elis are ranked first in the conference in both rebounding and offense for a reason – they’re for real. Yale’s 69-57 win over Hartford revealed that the Bulldogs are a dangerous team in transition, which isn’t surprising given coach James Jones’ personnel. The Bulldogs’ uptempo preference paid off in the second half against the Hawks, and it’ll keep paying off too.
1. Harvard (4-1)
Well, Harvard just keeps ticking. The Crimson had eight players with at least 13 minutes in their 84-63 win over Houston. The offense still hinges on Wesley Saunders scoring at least 20 points per game, but he’s been doing just that, so hey, that’s fine. The Crimson’s interior D was suspect at times against the Minutemen, but Harvard’s poise in front of an awkwardly UMass-partial crowd at Lavietes Pavilion was impressive and yet expected. For now, the status quo remains.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK – Harvard guard Wesley Saunders – Who else could it be? The senior guard notched a combined 51 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and two steals in wins over Houston and UMass. He came through in the final minute to seal the win against the Minutemen and must be considered the very early frontrunner to repeat as Ivy Player of the Year.
ROOKIE OF THE WEEK – Columbia Kyle Castlin – has a very weird point-scoring trajectory in the first five games of his career: 0, 18, 0, 19, 0. When he’s on, he’s really on. And boy, was he on against Fairleigh Dickinson. Castlin notched 19 points, nailing 13 of 14 free throws and adding five rebounds in 30 minutes. Four days later, Castlin logged 20 minutes and didn’t score at all. But the 6-foot-4 rookie has shown he’s a long-range threat who can hit the boards with success when he’s, well, on.
SURPRISE OF THE WEEK – Harvard forward Zena Edosomwan – As our Crimson Crawford pointed out, something clicked for highly touted Harvard sophomore Zena Edosomwan against UMass. Though he played just 14 minutes, Edosomwan’s impact was obvious, as evidenced by his season-high eight points and five boards. The 6-foot-9, 245-pounder played like the tough, physical inside presence he was always hyped to be, and that can only be good for the Crimson in the future.
FACEPALM OF THE WEEK – Brown-ing out – Brown just hasn’t been a very good team thus far, and it’s looked that way against other teams that haven’t been very good teams thus far. Austin Peay (RPI: 305)? Prairie View (RPI: 313)? Johnson and Wales???
And yet, the Bears turned the ball over 61 times in those three matchups combined, committing at least 20 turnovers in every game. The Bears also shot just 42 percent from the floor in those games and even got blown out by the Governors. This is not a good trajectory for the Bears right now.