Well, a Penn grad has finally ascended to the highest office in the land. Although most would argue that this is indeed our rightful place in the world order, our man in the White House is not quite what we, or anyone with a liberal arts education, expected. The Ivy hoops season is also a bit of a surprise (yawn), in that no one expected it to be this bad. There’s a frontrunner that keeps blowing late leads despite their aura of inevitability and too many blah contenders looking to get their act together by January.
For the first time in years, there appears to be no dominant team among the Eight. The favorites, HYP, have all had their early problems and the bottom half of the league is as bad, if not somewhat worse, than anticipated.
So without further ado, I give The AQ’s Special Post-Election Ivy Power Rankings. “It’s going to be yuge!!”
1. Penn (3-5): As is my custom, I am placing the Quakers in their rightful place at number one. (Has there ever been another position?) Overall, the nascent Ivy season has been good to the Quakers mostly because of the emergence of superfrosh A.J. Brodeur. It is clear that he, along with senior Matt Howard, is carrying the team. When reached for comment, the president-elect was quoted as saying, “He is fantastic, just fantastic. He’s got moves like Dirk Nowitski- oh wait, I may have to deport that guy. What I meant to say is he has moves like Larry Bird. Steve Donahue is incredible, just incredible, an offensive genius. I don’t know why he isn’t in the NBA, he should be. I can totally see the Quakers making it all the way to the Final Four this year.”
Although I cannot agree with the above hyperbole, I do think the Quakers finally look like a “team” for the first time in almost 10 years. The best example is the 70-62 loss to Temple. A tough team, on the road and down by 16 to start the game, the young Quakers never quit and stormed back to almost steal the contest. No one can tell me that this would have happened two years ago. They move well without the ball and their defense is much improved as well. On the negative side, the shooting can be streaky (especially Caleb Wood and Jackson Donahue) and the bench is a tad weak, thin and unreliable. But I think overall, they are doing much better than anyone expected. More importantly, win or lose, they are fun to watch. Naturally, the losses to Navy and George Mason I think were preventable, but the young Quakers are still finding out who they are. It is still unclear if Antonio Woods will return in January, but if he does, the team will acquire another potent scorer thus lifting them up another notch. Regardless, come league play, Penn looks to be a tough out.
2. Harvard (4-4): Jeb Bush. Great pedigree, but has not found a way to harness the ability at his disposal. Donald Trump’s demeaning line in the September debates: “Yeah, Jeb, you’re real tough” effectively ended the younger Bush’s campaign. Although Tommy Amaker has once again out-recruited the other seven schools, the Crimson too don’t appear to be “real tough” either. It remains yet to be seen if Amaker can mold a potent team from his four-star recruits. Freshmen Seth Towns and Bryce Aiken are presently carrying the offensive load while Siyani Chambers is averaging almost eight assists per game. Still Zena Edosomwan, and many of the upperclassmen, have not been effectively integrated into the offense, while a bench, that could probably beat Dartmouth by itself, has not been terribly productive. The flashy season-opening game against Stanford in China (which the Crimson lost) has since been stained by an ugly loss to winless Holy Cross. Although a young team, I think Harvard has the greatest potential upside as the year goes on if the coaching staff can somehow pull it together.
3. Yale (5-4): The Elis are indeed the Bernie Sanders of the league this year. They started the year with a bold, unexpected win at Washington, and it has been mostly down “Hill” from there. The loss to Bryant was particularly disheartening for the defending league champion. In addition, there has been losses to Pitt, a blowout at UVA, and another loss to Vermont (how appropriate). You’d think they’d be better, but alas, no. James Jones, the old man of the Ivy, is doing his best to rally his talented and experienced roster before league play begins, but the only real test left is against Temple on December 22. I still think they will be at the Palestra come March, but it is anyone’s guess if they can win anything after that.
4. Brown (7-5): Marco Rubio. Nice, hard-working, telegenic, some star power (Steven Spieth and Joshua Howard) small time wins against weak competition, but wins nonetheless. Hammered by the powers, but still managed to hold their own against Rhode Island. They will surprise a few of the Ivy frontrunners once the season begins, but I don’t see a trip to Philly (except on January 14 when they lose to the Quakers) in their future.
5. Columbia (4-5): Carly Fiorina. In the end, you just know the Lions aren’t going anywhere. Columbia is suffering from a post-Maodo Lo let down. The nucleus of their team was decimated by graduation and it shows. Their only wins have been against Pomeroy 200+ schools. More importantly, the excitement and electricity that last year’s team generated has evaporated like the memory of playing Kentucky tough in Lexington. Despite Jim Engles’ best efforts so far, the Lions are slowly transforming themselves back to the Columbia basketball that I loved so much because they were lovable losers that always sucked really badly.
6. Cornell (2-5): Ben Carson. A lone outsider trying to make a mark on their own. Coach Brian Earl, who I’m sure has quickly discovered that he’s not in Princeton anymore, inherited some decent offensive talent in Matt Morgan and Robert Hatter. But despite a weak schedule, the Big Red have only managed two wins (Lafayette, this year’s Ivy punching bag and Northeastern, against which Matt Morgan did his best Tony Hicks imitation and hoisted up 34 points.) Cornell learned last year that hero ball is never a great way to win against superior competition. Defensively, well let’s not sugarcoat it, they suck.
7. Dartmouth (0-8): Mike Huckabee. A disaster. No shot whatsoever and you can’t understand why he doesn’t realize it from the start. The Green are now one of only four teams left in Division I without a win. This in itself is a little disconcerting because although they lost Connor Boehm and Malik Gill, they still have the last two Ivy Rookies of the Year in Evan Boudreaux and Miles Wright. First-year coach David McLaughlin is probably up all night listening to the soft patter of the snowfall in the darkness of the Hanover winter trying to figure a way to get his team its first win.
8. Princeton (4-4): Hillary Clinton. The overwhelming preseason frontrunner was supposed to steamroll the competition and possibly be ranked in the top 25 nationally. Yet, as @Ivybball (Michael James) would say, “Uh, no.” True, they have played a very tough non conference schedule but they seem, like Hillary, to have taken too much of their positive preseason press to heart. Their wins have come against Rowan, Liberty, Lafayette and Hawaii. (If that mighty list doesn’t strike fear in your heart I don’t know what will. They also almost lost to Liberty, blowing a 15-point lead with seven minutes to go.) To their credit though, the Tigers have not been blown out in any of their losses – but they haven’t played any ranked competition either.
More importantly, they seem to fail the all important “AQ Eye Test.” They do not shoot the ball terribly well and look well, sloppy, when they have it. That Cal game was so bad, that I regret the two hours of my life i wasted watching it. In general, the Tigers just don’t look poised and they certainly don’t have, at this moment anyway, the luster of an eventual Ivy champion. Personally, I think their arduous travel schedule (Italy, Utah, Hawaii) will eventually wear on the team as the season progresses. This is significant because Mitch Henderson’s teams have traditionally (and delightfully) underachieved in league play. They should win, but I would not at all be surprised if they, just like Hillary, cough up a giant-sized hairball instead of, well, roaring. Even better if it is at the hands of yet another Penn grad.
Stay Red and Blue my friends,