It’s New Year’s Eve, and that means New Year’s resolutions abound. If the Ivies could have one doable New Year’s resolution each, here’s what they would be, along with the likelihood of each team making good on that resolution (Ivy power rankings included).
8. Penn (3-7) – Get the freshmen substantially more minutes
Sam Jones is averaging 6.1 points in just 15.1 minutes per game so far this season and has proven himself to be the kind of sharpshooting threat Penn has been missing for a long time, shooting an eye-popping 45.9 percent from beyond the arc. Yet Jones logged just 10 minutes at La Salle last night. He must be in coach Jerome Allen’s doghouse, but he has to play more regardless.
Meanwhile, now that Mike Auger’s back from a foot injury, he has to play more too. He’s just seventh on the team in minutes per game despite being second in rebounds and third in points per contest. Freshman guard Antonio Woods is actually logging more minutes than anybody due to junior guard Tony Hicks’ chronic foul trouble, but he’s just one of many frosh that will have to pick up the slack if Penn is to make a run at the top half of the conference.
7. Dartmouth (6-6) – Improve free-throw shooting
Dartmouth is by far the worst free-throw shooting team in the Ancient Eight, and it’s already cost the Big Green two games this season. Paul Cormier’s squad missed seven of 18 foul shots in a 65-63 home loss to New Hampshire and missed eight of 19 in a 74-73 loss at Longwood. Dartmouth’s 11-for-21 performance at the charity stripe made the Big Green’s 58-55 win over Northern Illinois closer than it should have been. And don’t forget Dartmouth squeaking by IPFW, 68-67, in November despite nailing just three free throws of a lowly eight attempts while the Mastodons attempted a whopping 30 foul shots. Dartmouth just isn’t athletic enough to get by without winning at the foul line. It absolutely must start doing so.
6. Cornell (6-6) – Be smarter with the basketball
Cornell’s backcourt is as intriguing as it is maddeningly undisciplined, and that’s why the Big Red aren’t higher up in the power rankings. Senior guard Devin Cherry averages a ridiculous 4.6 turnovers per contest and fellow senior guard Galal Cancer is also known for not being very protective of the basketball. Cornell has lost even more close games than Dartmouth so far, committing a combined 47 turnovers in close losses to Penn State, Drexel and St. Peter’s.
5. Princeton (5-9) – Get more consistency from Spencer Weisz
I picked Weisz, the reigning Ivy Rookie of the Year, to make first-team All-Ivy this season. Doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Weisz started the year relatively hot but had a very down December, scoring in double figures in just two of Princeton’s last six games. Even in the two games in which he notched double figures, he still shot a combined 7-for-21 from the field. The Tigers are 1-4 when he doesn’t reach that 10-point plateau. But Weisz is still dangerous on the perimeter, is vastly improved at the free throw line and poised to do bigger things throughout the conference slate.
4. Brown (7-6) – Lock down on defense
As I write this, Brown has won four straight and six of its last seven games after a rough five-game skid in November. That’s because the Bears have held five of their last six opponents to fewer than 70 points, a feat for a squad that couldn’t beat anybody the month prior, even lowly Austin Peay. When you have the two-time defending Ivy Defensive Player of the Year (Cedric Kuakumensah) in your frontcourt, locking down on defense should come with the territory, but the Bears have been susceptible to teams scoring on them in transition. If Brown’s backcourt can tighten up defensively, look for the Bears to make serious noise in January and February.
3. Columbia (7-5) – Get more nbso online casino reviews offense out of its frontcourt
Maodo Lo and Kyle Castlin can’t do this all by themselves. They haven’t been up to this point, either, but the fact that Cory Osetkowski, Jeff Coby and Luke Petrasek have respective field goal percentages of 41.9, 42.6 and 35.7 is very discouraging. And that’s to say nothing of sophomore forward Chris McComber’s 31.1 percent shooting, which undoubtedly played a role in his recent removal from the starting lineup. Columbia is built to thrive on a low number of possessions, which means offensive efficiency is crucial. This is where the Lions’ big guys have to come in.
2. Yale (10-4) – Keep spreading the offensive wealth
In Yale’s two most recent losses (Albany and Florida), the Elis struggled to get much of anything going offensively. This defense is one of the league’s best, which is saying something since Harvard and Columbia both boast stout defenses as well. But for the Bulldogs to topple Harvard, they must keep getting production out of Jack Montague, Matt Townsend and Armani Cotton in addition to Ivy Player of the Year candidate Justin Sears and all-around point guard Javier Duren. This is a tough, physical team that wears opponents down, so if the offense can fall into place as Ivy play progresses, watch out.
1. Harvard (8-3) – Don’t make this the Wesley Saunders show
Siyani Chambers has left much of the offensive load to reigning Ivy Player of the Year Wesley Saunders to handle. That’s probably not good in the long run. Too many of Harvard’s offensive positions have come down to Saunders making things happen on his own independent of any pick and roll action, which Harvard has the perfect personnel for. Corbin Miller, perhaps Harvard’s lone sharpshooting threat, must be utilized more. This offense has looked increasingly dysfunctional this month, and while much of that is due to the high level of competition (UVA, Arizona State), coach Tommy Amaker could be doing more schematically to help Saunders out. What Amaker can’t necessarily do is make Chambers more instinctively aggressive at the offensive end of the floor. Both have to happen if Harvard is to hold off Yale and other Ancient Eight company for another Ivy crown.