Yale – With Princeton missing Hans Brase for the 2015-16 season due to injury and Columbia’s defense still struggling to make an impact, Yale has to be considered the favorite to win the Ivy League title at this early point. The comfort sophomore guard Makai Mason has displayed in running this offense is perhaps the biggest reason why. Mason posted 21 points and five assists in 36 minutes in Yale’s 99-77 home win over Sacred Heart Monday, a game in which pretty much everything came together for the Elis. Yale notched 16 offensive rebounds, scored 27 second-chance points to Sacred Heart’s 10 and took 17 more shots than SHU as a result. The Bulldogs also enjoyed 24 bench points and shot 52.9 percent (9-for-17) from three.
A lot of Ivies can shoot the ball from deep and have offensive depth. None can hit the boards like the Bulldogs can, especially on the offensive end, and that will pay dividends for them come conference play. Yale proved in its season opener that it can win without reigning Ivy Player of the Year Justin Sears.
Cornell – If Cornell’s first game was wild in its own way (surrendering 116 points in a road loss to Georgia Tech), then its next contest at Colgate was certifiably insane, and worthy of its own recap. The Big Red held jumped out to a 13-2 lead and held a 36-17 advantage in the first half. Cornell even held a 62-51 lead as late as the 8:45 mark of the second half before Colgate came back by heating up from beyond the arc and constantly getting to the line. Cornell junior guard Darryl Smith’s trey with 49 seconds left tied the game and forced overtime, during which Cornell built and blew another eight-point lead in the final two minutes of the period. Cornell sophomore guard Wil Bathurst forced double overtime with his jumper with two seconds left, and the Big Red took over from there for a 101-98 victory.
Now that the crazy has been chronicled, what to make of it? Not a good look to give up 214 points in your first two games of the season, but at least Cornell followers now know there are a few legitimate offensive talents among their guys. Junior guard Robert Hatter notched 33 points in just 27 minutes against Colgate before fouling out in double overtime, and freshman guard Matt Morgan took advantage of his insertion into the starting lineup by drilling five three-pointers in a 76-59 home win over Binghamton Tuesday. Hatter, Morgan and Smith comprise a solid shooting nucleus, but the team is still undisciplined at that end of the floor – 20 turnovers against Binghamton, including eight from Hatter to go with his 11 assists. This is a team without much of a frontcourt at either end of the floor, and I don’t see Cornell’s big shots-to-bad turnovers ratio holding up well against teams with tighter defenses.
Brown – 6-6 junior guard Steven Spieth snared 23 boards in Brown’s two games this week, a 71-55 home win over Holy Cross and 75-66 loss at Niagara. That’s important because it at least suggests, along with that Brown can still notch significant rebounds in its four-guard, uptempo system around senior forward Cedric Kuakumensah. This is a team designed to rely heavily on its bench for offensive juice, particularly with shooters JR Hobbie and Corey Daugherty. Of Daugherty’s 12 field goal attempts at Niagara, 10 were from beyond the arc, and only two of them went in. It remains to be seen whether the Bears can beat foes inside out. At least the Bears aren’t worrying about the 30-second shot clock. Their offense moves too fast for that, for better and worse.
Columbia – Will senior forward Luke Petrasek start going forward? That’s one obvious question after he came off the bench to co-lead all scorers with 19 points in the Lions’ 81-71 loss at Kansas State. The should-be obvious answer is that it doesn’t matter whether Petrasek starts or not. If he does, you prioritize offense over defense at the five spot, a mistake for a team as defensively challenged as the Lions. If he doesn’t and you continue slotting in 7-1 Conor Voss, you opt for size and defensive potential, because The Lions have enough scorers, and if Petrasek is finally a real scoring threat, he’ll present himself as such just as much in his minutes off the bench as he would in a starting role. The real question is where the defense and rebounding will come from in the frontcourt. The Lions have a while to figure that one out, but no obvious leads as of now.
Dartmouth – Presenting the brick parade! Dartmouth, Harvard and Penn combined to shoot 11-for-69 (15.9 percent) from three-point range Wednesday, as the Big Green shot 3-for-19 (15.8 percent) in a 73-63 loss at Marist. At least Dartmouth supporters got confirmation that the Evan Boudreaux that posted 25 points in his collegiate debut wasn’t a mirage – he notched 16 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 34 minutes. Otherwise, this was a game that KenPom No. 246 Dartmouth probably should have won even on the road against KenPom No. 301 Marist, and what’s most troubling in this very early stage is that sophomore guard Miles Wright and senior guard Malik Gill have combined to shoot a paltry 7-for-31 (22.6 percent) from the floor so far this season.
Perhaps they’re just figuring out a different chemistry in a different tempo with Boudreaux now in the mix. Last season, Dartmouth ranked 272nd among 351 Division I teams in average possession length. So far this season, the Big Green rank 86th. Dartmouth is better off winning by attrition with free-throw shooting and its strong half-court defensive personnel, rather than relying on its outside shooting.
Harvard – One of very few Ivies this season whose defense is clearly better than its offense. That’s always been the formula for coach Tommy Amaker, though, one that bodes well for league competition. What also bodes well is that Harvard hung with UMass in a 69-63 home loss despite shooting 5-for-27 from three, an unusual approach for a team that hasn’t relied on outside shooting to this degree in a long time. In related business, what doesn’t bode quite as well is the team’s reliance on freshmen Tommy McCarthy and Corey Johnson. McCarthy has been Harvard’s go-to guy so far, with possession after possession going through him. That’s fine to an extent, but I can’t help but think this offense would be better served if more players got shots in an offense clearly predicated toward spacing and movement away from the ball.
Penn – Hey, 3-0 is 3-0. This is as consistent as I’ve ever seen senior center Darien Nelson-Henry play. DNH scored 16 points on 8-for-11 shooting in just 22 minutes in the 60-54 win at Delaware State. The Quakers have several solid backcourt defenders, as evidenced by sophomore guard Darnell Foreman’s plus/minus acumen, and most importantly, Penn’s got the belief that it can win when games get tight. That’s bigger than any tangible statistic can show.
Princeton – No game action this week until Saturday.