Normally, this list is dutifully accompanied by the earnest commentary and incisive statistical analysis that you’ve come to know and love from IHO. An introspection of our favorite teams that is indeed worthy of our elite educations.
For those of you expecting this, my apologies in advance. This week, since it is still early in the 14-Game Tournament and because there were no real surprises in the games last weekend, I thought it was the perfect time to switch things up a bit. (After all, you have the whole month of February to get your ORAT freak on.) Instead, I’ve decided to rank the teams as I see them which of course has nothing to do with reality. So without further ado, here is The AQ’s “Special” IHO Power Rankings for February 1, 2015.
1. Penn: After getting completely embarrassed by Harvard on Saturday night before a nearly full Palestra, it seems the Quakers won’t be in this lofty position for at least the next half century if we’re lucky. Therefore, I would be totally remiss as a Quaker fan in not completely abusing my power as a Roundball Poet by putting them where they clearly don’t belong.(This is the American way after all.) The plethora of problems which has infected Jerome Allen’s Quakers for the last four seasons like unbridled plague have been analyzed to death in this forum and therefore bear no repeating. In losing to Harvard yet again, the yawning gulf between the Ivy’s best and worst was on full display for another agonizing year. Emblematic of this defeat was Darien Nelson-Henry’s line score for the weekend: two points and five personal fouls in 43 minutes of play. In addition, the Crimson shot field goals at a higher percentage than the Quakers shot free throws (49 percent to 47 percent).
“Hey AQ, aren’t you forgetting something? Penn beat Dartmouth Friday night.” No, I didn’t forget. The Green played below their Crimson-slaying level mostly because like international man of mystery Austin Powers, Alex Mitola apparently lost some of his prodigious hoops skills during the unfreezing process after leaving frigid Hanover for balmy Philadelphia. Thus he shot a paltry 2-11. Beating Dartmouth used to be an afterthought, but now it’s suddenly a big deal, a sad commentary on the current mess in Philly. Besides, I cannot imagine Penn will beat Dartmouth again later this month. The only bright side from last weekend’s debacle was that Athletic Director Grace Calhoun was at the games. Someone from Brown has thus become our only hope at hoops salvation. I have therefore nicknamed her “Saving Grace.” Without her help in the near future, it will take a lot more than my juvenile and shameless chicanery for the Quakers to ever see the top of the Ivy again. Let’s hope she does her job with extreme prejudice.
2. Yale: The Yalies had a good weekend, sweeping both games from Columbia and Cornell and remaining the only undefeated Ivy. They are also my favorite to win the title. Coach Jones, after what seems to be an eternity in New Haven (not an oxymoron), may finally get his chance to dance. More importantly, he gets permanent family bragging rights over his younger brother Joe who couldn’t pull off this feat while he was head coach at Columbia. Justin Sears seems to have another gear once Ivy play starts shooting for 28 points and 19 points respectively last weekend as well as playing stout defense throughout. In addition to Sears, there is Rhodes Scholar Matt Townsend. A steady if not stellar player, when a game gets tight, he has been known to crush the opposition with his mind. Townsend will probably only need to use half a cerebral hemisphere for the Elis to devastate Penn in two weeks. (This game is going to make the Harvard contest look like a taut affair.) If the Bulldogs make it to the NCAA Tournament, look for him to be a media darling,
3. Columbia: I have a soft spot for Kyle Smith, a mancrush if you will. His steady hand in the face of adversity (remember, besides losing several star players this season, he’s also a head coach at Columbia) in many ways he reminds me of Fran Dunphy sans moustache. No matter how bad things got, Dunph always looked the same. His body language was absolutely inscrutable. Smith, even though he looks like your high school math teacher (“OK people, let’s open our books to page 314, the isosceles triangle”), is the same way. Unlike Jerome who seems to constantly have a, “Hey, you sunk my battleship!” meltdown when things start to go south, Smith remains cool. It just goes to show you that a placid demeanor can go a long way in the turbulent world of college hoops.
In addition to the coach, a few of the players also make The Lions imminently watchable. Maodo Lo endeared himself to me when during the Hofstra game, I heard him yell “nein!” when the ref called him out of bounds. Conor Voss, although his hoop skills make DNH look like Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, is a vanilla mountain. Between his Mohawk, massive size and an otherworldly gameface, he is one frightening dude. And finally there is the freshman Kyle Castlin who had a breakout game on Saturday against Brown with 21 points. There is athleticism like Maodo Lo, and then there is that rare combination of athleticism and grace that is just a gift of nature. Like Wesley Saunders or Jerome Allen, if you were lucky enough to have seen him play, Castlin has that gift. He is just a pleasure to watch even when he’s just running up the court without the ball. While the Quaker rookies begin to fade as the season inevitably beats them down, Castlin should be a lock for Ivy ROY.
4. Brown: For Quaker fans, Leland King is probably the best thing to happen to Penn all season. Why? Because his mysterious departure may mean Brown, and not Penn, winds up in the Ivy cellar. In fact, the continued loss of players from the Brown roster is weird and disturbing. I like Mike Martin and have no idea of what kind of culture he has created in Providence, but this same pattern of enigmatic desertions happened just before Joe Scott got canned at Princeton and GM got the axe at Penn. Just sayin’. Other than that, I saw them play on Saturday and they looked lost.
5. Cornell: Kudos to the avuncular Bill Courtney for steadying a rapidly sinking ship. Last year’s D-1 laughingstock is this year’s D-1 mediocrestock. Regardless, that’s progress. (Which is much more than I can say is currently happening in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.) The Red are quite athletic and play a solid brand of defense which tend to keep them in games. This is an extremely important tactical maneuver mostly because the Red have no offense. (Against Brown, a game in which they won, they shot 37.5 percent, seven percent (1-for-14) from beyond the arc.) Shonn Miller, arguably Cornell’s best player, for some reason thinks he’s a shooting guard. He was 1-for-9 from three-point range for the weekend games. I don’t know why he does this but all I can say is Shonn, keep on hoisting up that three-ball, especially on Friday night. Statistically, you’re bound to hit one. (For those of you who wanted it, there’s your statistical analysis for this piece.) Still, after the interminable bus ride to the boondocks of Ithaca, I’m looking for the Red to open a can o’ whup ass on the Quakers.
6. Dartmouth: I think the Green are a better team than the one who lost to the Ps last weekend. As Harvard found out, they have a lot of dangerous shooters. Coach Paul Cormier has done an admirable job in making hoops at Dartmouth relevant. The more important question is – does anyone in the frozen tundra actually care?
7. Harvard: I suppose I’d have to get them sooner or later. Doesn’t it seem like the Crimson win everything? The following is a list of Harvard’s 2014 Ivy Championship teams: men’s basketball, football, heavyweight crew, squash, swimming and diving and fencing. Then of course there are the women’s teams: golf, ice hockey, lightweight crew, squash, swimming and diving, indoor track heps, outdoor track heps and, finally, volleyball. My conclusion—clearly they all cheated. I mean, what other school has this kind of intemperate athletic success? In any event, Harvard is still the favorite to win the league this year and rightfully so, but I am putting my money on Yale. It just feels like everything is finally coming together for the boys from New Haven. The Crimson, as Dartmouth amply showed, are as vulnerable as they have been in years. Let’s see who else can take advantage of it. (Hint: It won’t be Penn.) This week’s game against the Bulldogs may very well put Harvard in the “doghouse” for the rest of the season. It should be one of the best games of the year to watch.
8. Princeton: As a true Red and Blue-blooded Quaker, it is only fitting that I put the Tigers last. Sure, after putting up a noble fight against Harvard on Friday, they’re probably third at this point on anyone’s “real” power ranking. But the chasm between second and third this year is a hefty one. Some people even think they’re a worthy title contender. I’m sorry, but I think those folks have been frequenting Asquith L. Cockburn III ’16 a little too often. (He’s the local hash salesman on Nassau St. Tell him The AQ sent you and you’ll get a free night of drinks during Bicker.) Although a serviceable squad, the Tigers are certainly nothing to write home about in my opinion. For starters they’ve lost every away game they’ve played. Not a good prognostic sign for this weekend. Soft in the frontcourt, they are also 332nd in rebounding. What’s more, there is still the infamous Incarnate Word debacle which they have yet to live down. I expect Princeton to descend significantly in the ivy standings as the season grinds on. (At least that is my hope as misery loves company.) If nothing else, Mitch Henderson can always run across Route 1 to the Center for Advanced Physics and have his incipient bald spot outfitted into a reflective death ray so he can incinerate the competition before his squad can register another “L.”
So there you have it, IHO Power Rankings, AQ style. Don’t worry, I promise I won’t do it again.
Stay Red and Blue my friends,