The best thing about this week of Ivy action is it’s the first full weekend of league play. Now that all Ivies except the Ps have squared off with their travel partners twice, we get beyond those singular matchups and into the grueling back-to-backs that give the conference its identity. In other words, this is when we start to find out definitively who the contenders really are.
- Yale (11-5, 2-0 Ivy)
The Bulldogs lived up to their reputation of trouncing lesser competition, bruising Brown in Providence with frontcourt depth. It’s got to be really encouraging that forwards Brandon Sherrod and Sam Downey combined for 42 points on 17-for-20 shooting with Justin Sears plagued with foul trouble. It’s hard to judge the Elis too much by their offensive efficiency against the Ivy League’s most porous defense, but this was a certifiably strong performance. Yale’s defense is the best in the conference. Yale is the best rebounding team in the conference. Let’s keep the analysis simple here – those facts mean a lot.
2. Princeton (13-6, 1-0)
The Tigers haven’t played a Division I game since beating Penn, 73-71, in overtime at the Palestra on Jan. 9, having also beaten Brnynyn Athynnannanan Sunday in an utterly pointless waste of time. Can Princeton pick up a crucial win at Yale Saturday? We’ll have more on that later in the week, but it’s going to come down to how effective the Tigers’ defense can be at limiting Yale’s two-point efficiency. Yale shot 62.9 percent and 60.6 percent respectively from two-point range in its two wins over Princeton last season, and Yale figures to enjoy a similar outcome this season too if Princeton, which is solid at collecting steals, can’t frustrate the Elis’ guards, namely Makai Mason. Henry Caruso ranks 42nd in the country in effective field goal percentage, and he will likely have to have one of his greatest games as a Tiger for Princeton to steal one in New Haven.
3. Columbia (11-4, 2-0)
Columbia got the sweep of Cornell it needed, but now it must nab at least one win this weekend during its Dartmouth and Harvard road trip so it doesn’t then have to sweep Yale and Brown on the road the following weekend. Columbia’s defense remains the worst among Ivies that aren’t Brown, but the Lions proved Saturday they can, on occasion, shoot the lights out so completely that nothing else matters. At least at Harvard, Columbia’s stable of dispensable frontcourt players can be allowed to foul Zena Edosomwan, who like many of his teammates, can’t shoot free throws.
4. Harvard (9-9, 1-1)
Which brings us to Harvard. The Crimson shot 6-for-20 from the line in a game in which they lost by 13 points. You do the math. The problem for Harvard is that too few of its players can create off the dribble. A pickpocketer like Malik Gill wreaked havoc on the Crimson because Harvard is built to beat teams standing still, whether it’s spotting up for three or feeding Edosomwan in isolation. Harvard isn’t great off the dribble, which could work to Columbia’s advantage Saturday.
5. Dartmouth (7-9, 1-1)
The Big Green went on a five-game losing streak after beating Harvard last season. Dartmouth has depth going for it – it ranks 32nd in the nation in bench minutes, meaning it doesn’t have to have eye-popping numbers from Evan Boudreaux or Miles Wright every night for the team to be successful. Boudreaux, though, is the real deal, already one of the conference’s very best scorers and rebounders just two Ivy games into his collegiate career.
6. Cornell (7-9, 0-2)
KenPom has Cornell losing its next five games, but an 0-7 start to league play isn’t likely since the Big Red have the offensive firepower in its backcourt, physicality and go-go tempo (23rd in the nation in average possession length and 13th in adjusted tempo) to trip up a few favorites.
7. Penn (6-9, 0-1)
If only a Quaker besides Jackson Donahue could get and stay hot from three (looking at you, Sam Jones), Penn’s offense would be so much more potent. Penn’s defense has actually improved incrementally since the start of the season as its offense has regressed, but like Harvard, Penn lacks off-the-dribble playmakers, and that’s a pretty significant shortcoming for a young team that will now rely heavily on a freshman backcourt.
8. Brown (5-11, 0-2)
Which Brown is the real Brown? The one that scared Yale in New Haven or got pummeled at the Pizz? Unfortunately, the latter is more likely. Brown has too many players on the wing who are liabilities on defense, guys who can shoot but do little else. Brown gets very few offensive rebounds, blocks or steals. Cedric Kuakumensah has not fared especially well as a focal point of this offense, shooting just 46.8 percent from two-point range this season. Too many turnovers, not enough consistency or cohesion.