Ivy Power Rankings – Feb. 16, 2016

1. Yale (17-5, 8-0 Ivy)

Yale exorcised some demons (Big Green Goblins, maybe) at Leede Arena Friday night before subsequently trumping Harvard at Lavietes for the third straight season. Yale didn’t benefit from particularly hot shooting in either game, instead grinding it out on the strength of Justin Sears and Makai Mason, a formidable tandem since it always seems to loom large in games down the stretch. Nick Victor’s 12 rebounds and six assists were crucial in securing victory in Boston as well. But the Bulldogs may need to get hot again at Jadwin Friday night, as their on-fire shooting against the Tigers in New Haven last month was only enough to produce a four-point squeaker win.

2. Princeton (16-5, 6-1)

Again, the Tigers’ win over Columbia was uncannily like their win over Penn. Princeton’s clutch play is not a fluke. As noted above, had the Bulldogs not kept draining threes late in the second half in their previous meeting with Princeton, the Tigers would have won in New Haven too. Devin Cannady now ranks first among all Ivy players with at least 20 percent of their team’s possessions in offensive rating, little surprise given how quickly he takes over games in his limited minutes. (Ranking second in offensive rating among all Ivies is Henry Caruso.) That Princeton could win a key matchup with Ivy title implications on the road with Caruso completely shut down by Isaac Cohen speaks to the depth of this squad. This team certainly seems to have the intangibles right now.

3. Columbia (17-8, 6-2)

It’s not over, Lions fans. If Columbia wins out in its last six games, which would entail a win at Jadwin and a regulation season finale triumph over Yale, the Lions would put themselves at 12-2 in league play, with Yale needing to lose just one other game to give Columbia a route to the Ivy title. When a freshman-filled Penn team collapsed against Princeton at home earlier this season, that was understandable. When a senior-laden Columbia squad with hopes for an Ivy crown does it, it’s unacceptable. Cohen’s exit from the game as Columbia held a 67-58 lead with 3:48 left instantly transformed the game into a free-for-all for Princeton’s backcourt, especially Cannady. The Lions need to just keep plugging away now, and it’s imperative that they get off to a fast start against Harvard Friday to shake off the malaise of the Princeton defeat.

4. Penn (9-12, 3-4)

Two weeks ago, Penn was last in our Ivy power rankings. Since Penn’s got Cornell’s old coach, Penn’s also got Cornell’s old slot. In Steve Donahue’s return to Ithaca Saturday, the Quakers showed why their arrow is pointing up, conquering Cornell on the second night of a back-to-back with some recently developed wrinkles. Senior center Darien Nelson-Henry notched 12 assists this past weekend, finding open guys off of ball screens and freshman guard Jackson Donahue proved he can be effective off the dribble as well as beyond the arc.  With Nelson-Henry leading the way, Penn ranks third in the league in rebounding margin, including second in offensive rebounding. The next step for the youthful Quakers is reducing turnovers (they rank last among all Ivies in turnover margin), which will likely come as their collective experience gradually builds.

5. Harvard (10-14, 2-6)

The Crimson don’t look totally lost when Zena Edosomwan’s on the court. Edosomwan was back this past weekend after sitting out the previous weekend due to injury, and he was the only option besides freshman guard Corey Johnson that worked Saturday night in a loss to Yale. It’s not looking like Harvard will break even in league play, but with all the freshmen slated to make an immediate impact next season, I’m most interested to see how much the Crimson continue to improve at attacking off the dribble, a season-long weakness amplified when the shots stopped falling during league play.

6. Dartmouth (8-14, 2-6)

The Big Green’s point distribution in Saturday’s win over Brown was unusually even. Sure, Ivy Rookie of the Year Evan Boudreaux scored 25 points, but sophomore guard Taylor Johnson added 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting and fellow sophomore guard Miles Wright posted 15 points as well. Of course, that did come against the worst defense in the conference, but that’s the kind of production that is going to have to coalesce around Boudreaux for the next three years if Dartmouth is to rise to true contender status.

7. Brown (7-15, 2-6)

About that defense. Brown is allowing 82 points per game during Ivy play, and nothing else really matters. Tavon Blackmon is quietly one of the league’s greatest floor generals, with solid court vision and efficient shooting. But the Bears’ defense needs shored up going forward. Too bad a two-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year, Cedric Kuakumensah, is graduating from the program this year.

8. Cornell (9-13, 2-6)

As noted above, two weeks ago, Cornell was fourth in our Ivy power rankings. What a difference a couple of brutal back-to-backs make. The Big Red’s high-pressure defense has been putting as much pressure on themselves as their opponents by overcommitting and giving up easy looks in the paint. Their season-long inability to rebound competently results in second-chance opportunities for opponents and one-and-done trips for an offense committed to hero ball from freshman Matt Morgan with previous Ivy League-leading scorer Robert Hatter still trying to find his sea legs as he recovers from an ankle injury. Cornell ranks a distant last in the conference in assists in league play, a product of its disjointed pacing and lack of motion beyond Morgan, whose 25.3 points per Ivy game aren’t enough to offset these deficiencies. Cornell was projected to place last in the league standings, and despite an early road sweep, that projection looks very much in play.

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