Ivy Power Rankings – Mar. 1, 2016

1. Princeton (20-5, 10-1 Ivy)

It’s Princeton’s versatility that gives the Tigers a better chance to win in a potential NCAA Tournament berth than Yale, or indeed, most mid-majors. What matters most in an Ivy playoff is that Princeton’s offense matches up well with Yale’s defense, complete with multiple sharpshooters and slashers that can use the Elis’ size advantage against them.

2. Yale (20-6, 11-1)

The Elis will go only as far as Makai Mason takes them. Against Dartmouth, for the second time in four games, Mason took 18 shots, making just four. One of those makes forced overtime in the clutch, but Mason must be more efficient for the rest of league play if Yale is to go dancing for the first time since 1962. Perhaps Nick Victor can step up offensively down the stretch, posting 15 points, including three treys, in 35 minutes against the Big Green. We’re accustomed to Victor stuffing stats elsewhere, but Victor has shown a capability to score and score efficiently that Anthony Dallier and Trey Phills simply have not.

3. Columbia (20-9, 9-3)

Saturday night at the Palestra was peak Columbia.  No Lion posted an offensive rating lower than 118, Alex Rosenberg was efficient from all over the gym, possessions ran through Maodo Lo and the Lions shot 41.7 percent from deep. Even if Columbia doesn’t win the Ivy title, its ability to avoid turnovers remains impressive: just eight turnovers at Princeton and four at Penn. Unfortunately, Columbia’s offensive discipline was not enough when it mattered most at Princeton. Columbia probably could and should have played tighter on Princeton’s three-point shooters and gambled more, especially when it became apparent that Steven Cook and Spencer Weisz were not going cold again. The Lions’ defense wasn’t as bad as Princeton’s offense was good, but the Light Blue D wasn’t good enough.

4. Penn (11-14, 5-6)

It’s ironic that the young Quakers finish a season in which it performed markedly better at the Palestra than on the road by getting blown out by Columbia, a team it had beaten at the Palestra five straight times, on 33rd Street. Freshman forward Max Rothschild’s absence might have helped facilitate Alex Rosenberg’s scoring outburst Saturday night, but really, sometimes, one of theirs is better than yours. If Penn can go 7-7 in league play by winning two of its last three games, that would be a major accomplishment for a roster this green.

5. Harvard (12-16, 4-8)

It should be troubling for Harvard fans that Zena Edosomwan can’t put himself in a position to play down the stretch of games. Edosomwan played just 27 combined minutes in this past weekend’s games due to foul trouble, including two fouls before the first media timeout at Yale and fouls Nos. 3 and 4 in quick succession midway through the second half at Brown. But the Crimson performed well with Tommy McCarthy out with a concussion, relying on Patrick Steeves and Corey Johnson to pick up the slack from deep in successive nights.

6. Brown (8-18, 3-9)

All Ivy hoops fans should miss Cedric Kuakumensah, who turned in a typically versatile stat line in Brown’s overtime win over Dartmouth: 17 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. When Kuakumensah graduates, though, he’ll leave behind a talented offensive perimeter lineup: Tavon Blackmon, Steven Spieth and Obi Okolie. But the Bears’ defense has to get its act together, even sans Kuakumensah.

7. Dartmouth (9-17, 3-9)

Overtime was not kind to the Big Green this weekend, bringing them two losses after Brown and Yale scored a combined 16 points against Dartmouth in overtime. That’s because Dartmouth continues to struggle with fouling, as players hit the four-foul mark eight times this weekend. In the final road game of his collegiate career, Connor Boehm nearly toppled Yale’s Ivy title hopes posting 16 points on 8-for-15 shooting and three steals in 42 minutes. Dartmouth gets to play spoiler one more time in its season finale hosting Princeton. KenPom predicts a 74-67 Princeton win in Hanover, but the Big Green can do better if they get the Tigers on a bad shooting night and hit the offensive boards, their strength versus Princeton’s strength.

8. Cornell (9-17, 2-10)

At least Robert Hatter looks like his old self again. After posting 31 points at Penn, Hatter scored 12 more in a solid first half for the Big Red at Jadwin, including a stanza-ending 35-footer. But for all the talk about Cornell’s defensive holes, it’s the offense that has failed the Big Red this season. Cornell ranks 295th in adjusted offensive efficiency, 233rd in effective field goal percentage and 328th in free throw percentage. The Big Red only truly excelled at hoisting NBA-range three-pointers, ranking 34th in the nation in three-point distribution among total points. Here’s hoping Cornell can turn in a strong performance in its season finale against Brown in Ithaca, in which will likely be coach Bill Courtney’s final game at Cornell.

9 thoughts on “Ivy Power Rankings – Mar. 1, 2016

  1. Zena Edosomwan came to the Ivy League as its most heralded basketball recruit since Bill Bradley in 1961. Bradley went on to be named national player of the year and captain of a gold-medal Olympic team.

    In comparison, Edosomwan in the final weekend of his junior year is having difficulty fighting his way off the bench onto the court at crunch time. Tommy Amaker has proven to be a study in contrasts. Amaker is clearly the greatest recruiter in the history of the Ivy League, but is he also totally incapable of developing his three- and four-star recruits once they arrive at Harvard. Even some of his greatest success stories, such as Siyani Chambers, seemed to appear as fully baked superstars as soon as they put on their Harvard uniforms. Amaker does not make his players better. They’re either great upon arrival, living up to their pre-college hype, or they plateau early as Edosomwan appears to be doing.

    • Finishing first in the Ivy League for 5 successive years would seem to contradict your assertion that Amaker can’t develop players. Two years ago 6 of his players made the All-Ivy Team. I think you have a very selective memory.

      • I don’t think your point contradicts my point.

        Of the 20 highest ranked men’s basketball recruits in the Ivy League over past 20 years, Amaker has probably brought 15 of them to Harvard. That’s how great his lead in recruiting productivity has been. One could argue that, with five consecutive Ivy titles but two of them shared (Princeton 2011, Yale 2015), Amaker is actually underachieving given the size of his talent advantage.

        When Dartmouth defeated Harvard last year (2015, with Saunders and Chambers et al), Harvard had the 10 highest ranked recruits on the court that evening. Based solely upon recruiting services, Harvard could have fielded the two highest ranked quintets before a single Dartmouth player would have gotten off the bench. And yet Dartmouth won with their collection of players from the Island of Misfit Toys.

        I’m not saying Harvard doesn’t have great players. Not at all. I’m saying Amaker doesn’t make them any better than their raw talent would suggest, based upon their recruiting accolades. His guys don’t follow the usual development trajectory from freshman year to senior year. They either explode onto the scene (Saunders and Chambers being perfect examples), fully justifying their recruiting hype or they follow Edosomwan’s development path.

  2. In addition to Coach Amaker’s team success, it is important to note that many highly recruited basketball centers tend to take longer to fully develop their skills as compared to highly recruited guards and wings. A good example is Parade High School All-American Center Brian Zoubek, who was one of the top 25 prospects in the country when he was recruited by Duke. He played relatively little until his senior year, averaging only 7 minutes per game as a freshman and 10 minutes per game as a sophomore. By his senior year, Coach K helped improve his post skills such that he was a key contributor to Duke’s national championship team in 2010.

    • You raise an interesting question. Do certain positions take longer for excellent players to develop? I’m not averse to your hypothetical construct, but citing one anecdotal player from six years ago is hardly a forceful argument.

      Look at the parade of outstanding big men who have cycled through John Calipari’s Kentucky program on one-and-done timeframes. Duke’s Jahlil Okafor is another easy example. I could name plenty more.

      It’s possible on a theoretical level that it takes longer to develop a quality big man than a point guard. Different positions make different demands on their players. It definitely takes longer to develop a quality quarterback than a quality wide receiver. But your hypothesis remains an interesting but unproven question. And quarterback is a unique position among all sports, even compared to a dominant point guard. A quarterback is tracking what 21 men are doing across a field of vision measuring 53 yards wide on every play. A big man in basketball has a much easier job analytically.

      I would argue that, because Edosomwan is not playing against opponents of the quality that Zoubek or Okafor faced, he should dominate more quickly, not less. On a relative basis, Edosomwan stands head and shoulders above his conference peers in terms of his recruiting buzz. If anything, he should be taking names and kicking butt the moment he puts on his Harvard uniform freshman year.

  3. The well-known adage frequently heard within the college and NBA community is about how you need to be more patient with young Bigs since they tend to take longer to fully develop. I could give you ample additional evidence of additional bigs who took longer to develop their skills. One of the best recent Ivy examples is Jeff Foote of Cornell who started his career as a walk-on project at St. Bonaventure and managed to evolve over 5 years into an accomplished All-Ivy center. If you review game film of Zeno during his freshman year, it was very clear he had remarkable athleticism, but was very much lacking in this post moves and fundamentals. His improvement over the past three years is actually impressive.

    • You’re certainly good at finding anecdotal evidence from six years ago to support your hypothesis. I believe that there have been more counter-examples in the past six seasons from the University of Kentucky alone. Certainly, John Calipari is not having any trouble getting dominant big men drafted by the NBA after only one year in Lexington.

      As I said above, I’m open to the hypothesis that certain positions may see players develop more slowly on average.

      On the other hand, I think it’s more than fair that literally the most highly rated Ivy basketball recruit in the past half century should not follow a development path characterized as “more slowly on average.” Tommy Amaker’s recruits are not average. The recruits at Dartmouth and Brown are average. Harvard is bringing in the very best recruits in the conference. To discuss Zena’s development path at Harvard in the same sentence as that of Jeff Foote — a super hard worker who did not have a single college scholarship offer coming out of high school — supports my position, not yours.

      Zena Edosomwant was offered by more than a dozen Power Five programs. Jeff Foote was offered by not a single NCAA program, Division I, II or III. That these two opposite ends of the recruiting spectrum are now being discussed together suggests Tommy Amaker does not develop his players on schedule.

  4. I respectfully disagree with William M. Amaker does a good job developing his players. Wesley Saunders played sparingly his freshman year because it took him a while to hone his offensive game. Then he became a star. Lin, Wright, McNally, Casey, Curry, Moundou-Missi and Rivard all improved to become All-Ivy players. Siyani Chambers is the only one who was “ready” from the start.
    I was in Honolulu this past December. Zena Edosomwan was the best Big Man in the tournament. He outplayed the Bigs for BYU, Auburn and Oklahoma; and was on the All Tournament team. Injuries and Harvard’s weakness at point guard (all 3 injured) have reduced Zena’s effectiveness during the Ivy League season.
    Coach Amaker isn’t perfect, but his players do improve. Only Zena approaches the recruiting talent level of the four 4-Star players in next year’s freshman class. That is a fact.

  5. I also happen to think Anaker is an underachieving coach (except for recruiting), but for other many other reasons. As for player development, I will tell you what one prominent Ivy Head Coach told me a few years ago-/”regardless of how they play in high school , you never know what you are getting until they step on the court in college.” I think this can apply to both Kenticky and the Ivy. This is perhaps why a Foote can succeed and a Zena “underachieves” . Therefore i do not wholly blame Amaker for that. (I will reserve my criticisms for another day-like tomorrow. )

    The AQ

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