1. Yale (6-5)
Yale played just one game in the two weeks since the last Ivy Power Rankings, but it was indicative of the kind of performance coach James Jones may extract from his youthful roster come Ivy play. Freshman forward Jordan Bruner enjoyed arguably his best game as an Eli in Yale’s 83-77 loss at Temple, registering a career-high 15 points in just 26 minutes to go along with eight rebounds and four blocks, the third time in his six games that he has collected four blocks. Senior center Sam Downey nabbed 17 rebounds, including nine on the offensive glass, in 33 minutes. Yale committed only 11 turnovers and shot 16-for-19 from the free throw line, suggesting the prototype of a team that thrives on efficiency, superior rebounding and stout perimeter defense. The Elis also lead the conference in three-point field goal percentage, and Yale enjoyed a 3-for-8 long-range performance from freshman forward Miye Oni at Temple to go along with five assists versus just one turnover (not bad for playing his 11th game at a high-major).
2. Princeton (7-6)
Suddenly, it’s become easy to sleep on Princeton. The Tigers haven’t beaten any of the nonconference heavyweights they’ve faced this year, and Hans Brase and Henry Caruso are out for the season. But a lineup of Spencer Weisz-Devin Cannady-Steven Cook-Myles Stephens-Alec Brennan is still a formidable one, especially since Brennan is gradually settling into a greater role on this team. Princeton’s best nonconference win last season was over Bucknell as well, and the Tigers went on to become the most consistent team in Ivy play en route to a 12-2 league record. That could easily happen again. Once league play commences, I trust Spencer Weisz, Steven Cook and Devin Cannady to spearhead the conference’s most accomplished offense. The loss of Caruso, though, is easily the most concerning thing about this club. Caruso was the team’s best overall offensive player a season ago, so the victory at Bucknell without him meant something.
Penn will provide a characteristically stiff test for the Tigers at Jadwin on Saturday. How will Princeton stop A.J. Brodeur in the paint? It won’t, but it will ultimately be the Quakers’ three-point shooting that makes or breaks the Red and Blue.
3. Harvard (6-4)
Last year, the Crimson ranked next-to-last in the nation in free throw percentage. This year, they’re 33rd. Contributing to that quantum leap forward was an 11-for-13 performance at Houston on Dec. 23, tipping the scales in the Crimson’s favor in a 57-56 win. Harvard’s win at Hofheinz Pavilion marked the Ivy’s best nonconference victory of the season per KenPom, powered by freshman Bryce Aiken’s 21 points (including 5-for-5 from the foul line), three assists, three steals and three rebounds in 30 minutes.
Defense is why the free-throw shooting spike for the Crimson matters. Houston has one of the best offenses in the nation, and Harvard held the squad to 0.89 points per possession and 33.3 percent shooting on the Cougars’ home floor. If Harvard can sustain even close to that kind of defense in Ivy play, all it will take is some solid foul shooting and a couple of three-pointers from Aiken to pull games out. Senior center Zena Edosomwan’s five blocks drove that defensive effort in the Space City, and he hauled in 16 rebounds (including six offensive) in just 22 minutes in Harvard’s 67-46 win over Howard Friday. If Edosomwan is morphing into the Ben Wallace of the Ivy League, that’s good for the Crimson, but they need to cut down on the turnovers.
4. Penn (6-5)
Penn scored its first victory in the Battle of 33rd Street since 2006 with a 75-67 win over Drexel Wednesday, with Brodeur posting 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting. Then came a 74-68 triumph over the Princeton alum Sydney Johnson-coached Fairfield Stags, who also couldn’t stop Brodeur (27 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes). Penn’s offense is at its best when Brodeur lures double teams and frees up Penn’s several sharpshooters, who have to hold up their end of the deal, starting at Princeton Saturday.
5. Columbia (4-7)
Columbia hung tough at Miami Wednesday before going down in a 78-67 defeat, with the Lions’ defense shining for stretches and Luke Petrasek’s 16 points leading the way. Then came a 70-67 loss to Albany at Levien Gym despite a nine-point second-half Lions lead. Even so, freshman guard Mike Smith was the player of the game against the Great Danes, notching 21 points, five assists and just one turnover in 28 minutes. Offensive rebounding and the turnover battle look like they’re going to be problems for this team, making the production of efficient players like Petrasek and Smith even more valuable. And the Lions, who don’t yet appear to enjoy residency in the league’s upper tier, will miss Lukas Meisner’s rebounding until he returns from a minor back injury.
Also, this happened:
— Columbia Basketball (@CULionsMBB) December 31, 2016
6. Brown (9-6)
Brown picked up home wins over Maine and Quinnipiac before its four-game win streak got snapped by Stony Brook in a 92-89 Bears loss in Providence. The Bears continue to play at the fastest pace in the league and could make some headway in Ivy play at the foul line, where they rank second in the nation in ability to get to the free throw line and are 42nd at free-throw percentage. The problem, as expected, is the Bears have to shoot all those foul shots just to keep up with their opponents, who have their way with the conference’s worst defense. At least sophomore center Travis Fuller is hitting the offensive glass, registering 16 offensive boards in the past three games.
7. Dartmouth (3-9)
How quickly seasons can turn. A 0-9 start has given way to a three-game win streak, including a solid (and thrilling) 63-62 upset of New Hampshire at Leede Arena on New Year’s Eve. In the UNH win, Dartmouth continued to enjoy significant contributions from sophomore guard Guilien Smith and Evan Boudreaux posted another double-double. But it’s been Dartmouth’s defense making the difference lately, and points figure to come at quite a premium in Saturday’s Dartmouth-Harvard matchup.
8. Cornell (3-10)
Cornell’s had the busiest last two weeks, going 1-4, including an appearance in the Las Vegas Classic. The Big Red ran the gamut in those five games, sailing smoothly past Southeast Missouri State on a neutral court and playing No. 22 USC close in Los Angeles before falling, 79-67. But Cornell also got clobbered at not-so-good-right-now Syracuse and got clipped in a 98-96 overtime home defeat to KenPom No. 279 UMass Lowell, a game in which senior guard Robert Hatter reasserted himself as the focal point of Cornell’s offense, scoring 28 points in 30 minutes. The Big Red’s defense has a long way to go, and their lack of consistent rim protection necessitates their quick pace.