Bad News Bears

Coach Jesse Agel can't be pleased with the way the Bears have started this season. (Photo Credit: brownbears.com)

Okay Brown fans, I have avoided this for too long. I tried to hold off writing about the Bears until there was something encouraging to say. It’s certainly been a tough opening month in Providence after boundless optimism ran wild this summer. This seemed like it would be the season Coach Jesse Agel’s squad turned the corner and challenged for the top half of the league with highly touted Brazilian recruit Rafael Maia taking over the frontcourt and a young, talented team growing a year older. With McGonagill commanding the point, sharpshooting Toledo transfer Stephen Albrecht finally getting on the court and knockdown shooter Matt Sullivan sharing minutes, the backcourt was supposed to be able to challenge anyone’s. Tucker Halpern was going to pick up exactly where he left off on the wing, looking to consistently replicate the 29 points he dropped on Harvard last year. Maia and Dockery Walker/Andrew McCarthy were going to fill up the paint with their length and bring a focus on defense back to the Pizzitola.

Unfortunately, things haven’t gone the way Brown had hoped.

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Battle 4 Atlantis: Harvard Defense Wins Championship

Harvard won the inaugural Battle 4 Atlantis by beating Central Florida, 59-49, for its third win in as many days. (Photo credit: facebook.com)

The team that won the Battle 4 Atlantis was not one that we knew. Since when has Harvard been a shutdown defense? A team that allowed 1.015 points per possession last season yielded just .737 points per possession against Utah, .684 points against Florida St., and .849 points against Central Florida. Since when has the Crimson so thoroughly cleaned the glass? A team that struggled on the boards against the likes of MIT and Holy Cross won each rebounding battle, 37-26, 36-26, and 35-33 against the Utes, the Seminoles, and the Knights, respectively.

Harvard took its game to a different level for three nights on the fittingly named Paradise Island. It was a collective effort. Just as the Versus announcers struggled to name a tournament MVP from the Crimson’s roster (the distinction fell almost by default to senior forward Keith Wright), it’s difficult to single out a player who didn’t carry his weight. Junior Christian Webster struggled with his shot but hit two threes to open an early lead against Central Florida; Wright notched just two field goals against Florida St. (both were timely dunks), but he grabbed eight rebounds; senior guard Oliver McNally deferred most of the ball-handling duties to Brandyn Curry, but he snagged 10 boards and racked up eight assists in the final two games of the tournament. There are too many examples to completely enumerate.

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Battle 4 Atlantis: It’s OK If You Enjoyed a 46-41 Game; I Did

Harvard pulled off a big upset of No. 20/22 Florida St. with a 46-41 victory last night. (Photo credit: thecrimson.com)

Charles Bukowski once said poetry is like a beer shit. He meant it as a compliment; in fact he could think of no higher praise. To him a warm beer shit represented dirty realism, an urgency for the elemental, a celebration of baseness. The stink was a reminder of man’s primal essence, unencumbered by the superfluities of his world.

Harvard-Florida St. was a beer shit. The first half—with its historically low scoring output—was offensive (as in, unpleasant), and it was hardly redeemed by the relatively explosive second period. The Twitter-verse rightly derided the contest as ugly. But at least to this viewer, it was also poetry.

With shots misfiring from all over the court, each possession carried a heightened importance; each made basket was extra precious, knowing that this field goal might make the ultimate difference. This urgency translated into a competitiveness so palpable that, despite my mounting frustration at the two stalled offenses, all I could think was, “Wow, these guys are playing hard.” And isn’t that the essence of the game?

On most days, we celebrate skill and virtuosity, but, really, talent is only part of the equation. Hard work and desire are fundamentally the game’s fuel. Because talent was on a low-burn yesterday (and that’s being generous), we got to glimpse these teams’ reserves. It became a battle of wills rather than a battle of skills. And, while those who favor aesthetics likely prefer the latter, the former has its own kind of Bukowskian beauty.

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Battle 4 Atlantis: Harvard Crushes Utes

Brandyn Curry led Harvard to an easy victory over Utah in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. (Photo credit: gocrimson.com)

What a terrible game. Almost nobody could endure it in person, and I imagine very few suffered through the entire HDNet telecast. Technically, Harvard’s 75-47 win over Utah made 2011-12 the fifth straight season that the Crimson has topped a BCS program. But this game had all the excitement of an airport delay.

A few interesting developments stood out from the boredom. One was junior forward Christian Webster showing some life. Last season’s second-leading scorer racked up just nine points in the first three games of the season. His two-for-seven shooting line (two-of-six from three) is not exactly impressive, but it is progress. Webster scored eight points in a two-and-a-half minute stretch late in the first half, and for the first time this season he seemed involved in the offense. The junior added three rebounds, two assists, and three steals in 19 minutes of limited action.

Brandyn Curry was the only sizzle in the blowout. The Harvard guard connected on three acrobatic layups, including one in which he drove down the middle of the lane, faked a pass with his left hand before Euro-stepping and finishing with his right. He (along with Kyle Casey) commanded the game in the decisive early moments, posting nine points and three assists in 20 minutes.

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Catching up with Cornell: Time to Execute

Cornell's junior forward Eitan Chemerinski has been their lone consistent performer through five games. (Photo Credit: cornellsun.com)

Potential. In a word that’s what we can take from the first five Cornell games of the season.

The pieces are clearly there. A solid backcourt is staffed by a senior with the potential to lead, a top-flight shooter who has the potential to fill up the scoring column and a fearless, hard-driving freshman who has the potential to play like a seasoned veteran. Several guys that have the potential to keep legs fresh without experiencing a huge drop off back the main rotation.

On the wing, an explosive, bouncy freshman and a hardnosed, burly sophomore have the potential to more than hold their own.

In the post, a pair of juniors has the potential to provide an offensive spark and a raw freshman has the potential to step in and give a few high-energy minutes.

The problem with potential? It doesn’t win games.

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Breaking Down the Princeton Tigers

Princeton's Doug Davis couldn't rekindle the magic at the buzzer this time as Princeton fell to Elon on Tuesday, November 22nd 56-55. (Photo Credit: goprincetontigers.com)

After a quick Thanksgiving break, the 1-3 Princeton Tigers head down to Lewisburg, PA (official town slogan: There’s still a place…) for a three-game set as part of the TicketCity Legends Classic. Our sample size has quadrupled since the last time we checked in on Princeton, and even though it’s still very (very!) early in the season, it seems worthwhile to see if the problems that promoted panic after the Wagner opening debacle have resolved themselves or fester yet like an open sore on the Tigers’ palm.

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The Great Alaska Shootout

Dartmouth has left the mainland in search of some tournament action against the likes of San Francisco this holiday. (Image credit: goseawolves.com)

’Tis the season for holiday tournaments, and, in the spirit of the times, Dartmouth has left the cold woods of Hanover for the frozen wilderness of Anchorage to participate in the Great Alaska Shootout. Like turkey and stuffing, the classic tournament is a Thanksgiving fixture, as it tips off its 34th edition tonight.

The Shootout lacks some of the heavy hitters that it’s hosted in the past, but the tournament has more than made up for it with an eclectic mix of mascots, which include the Big Green, the Anteaters, the Chippewas, the Racers, and the Dons. Dartmouth squares off against the aforementioned Dons tonight (or, um, this morning) at 1:30 a.m. in a game televised on Fox College Sports and YES Network.

San Francisco—which returns all five starters from a team that went 10-4 in the WCC a year ago—has jumped out of the blocks to a 4-1 start. The undersized Big Green will have its hands full with the Dons’ duo of Angelo Caloiaro, a 6’8 senior putting up 13.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, and Perris Blackwell, a 6’9 junior who averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds a season ago. But the Big Green might have found something in its own frontcourt, as freshmen Jvonte Brooks and Gabas Maldunas have each grabbed co-Rookie of the Week honors in the season’s first two weeks. Both freshmen were instrumental in Dartmouth’s first win against Bryant on Saturday, combining for 20 points and 18 rebounds in the 66-62 victory.

The winner of Dartmouth-San Francisco will face the winner of Murray St.-Alaska Anchorage in the semifinal, while the losers will square off in a consolation game. The other side of the bracket pits Central Michigan against New Mexico St. and UC Irvine against Southern Mississippi. It must be said that in every iteration of the Great Alaska Shootout at least one participant has made it to the NCAA Tournament.

Jeremiah was a Bulldog and Other Thoughts on Yale-Seton Hall

Reggie Willhite and Yale played solidly for much of Tuesday night's game against Seton Hall, but were done in by sloppy play and turnovers in the second half. (Photo Credit: northjersey.com)

At one point during a break in the action at tonight’s Yale-Seton Hall matchup at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, a 7-year old lined up against a 13-year old to compete in the classic put-on-these-oversized-clothes-and-run-down-the-court-and-score contest. A 7-year old really has no business competing with a 13-year old, but there were so few people in the stands, they may not have been able to find two kids of a similar age (kidding, but barely). After a few missed lay-up attempts by the older child, there was the 7-year old, shuffling to the elbow and launching a prayer.

The shot fell far short and the older child made his lay-up to win the prize.

I could use that as a tidy little metaphor for the game that played out between Seton Hall and Yale, but it wouldn’t really be accurate. The Bulldogs had every opportunity to win this game, and it certainly wasn’t because Seton Hall was bigger and more experienced. On the contrary, there were quite a few times tonight when you would have thought the Bulldogs were the 13-year old, forcing Seton Hall into bad decisions on defense and finishing on clever passes at the rim. Yale is still a work in progress, though, and they let a big opportunity slip away during a seven-minute scoreless stretch late in the game. As an Ivy fan, it was frustrating to watch because the Bulldogs were talented enough to win this game. Here’s what Yale needs to improve upon if they want to eventually challenge Harvard and Penn, who look like the class of the league right now.

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Game Preview: Cornell at Delaware

Freshman Shonn Miller has taken home two Ivy League Rookie of the Week awards already this season. Miller looks to lead the Big Red over the Blue Hens of Delaware tonight. (Photo Credit: buffalonews.com)

By Sam Aleinikoff & Jake Mastbaum

Game 5: Cornell (2-2) vs Delaware (0-2) – Tuesday, November 22 – Bob Carpenter Center Acierno Arena

On the heels of an impressive victory over American East-favorite Boston University, Cornell hits the road in search of a winning record for the first time in nearly a year. The Red was last above .500 following a win over the same Delaware squad that it travels to play on Tuesday. With a newly developed, and largely unexpected interior threat in the duo of Eitan Chemerinski and Josh Figini, Cornell hopes that balance in the scoring column will keep the group on the winning path against the Blue Hens.

The Blue Hens look to be at full strength Tuesday night.  Freshman Kyle Anderson and Jarvis Threatt each went down for stretches on Friday night at Villanova but are expected to play. Their ability to bounce back will play a major factor in Delaware picking up its first W of the season.

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This Weekend's Top Performers (11/20/11)

Penn's Zack Rosen is averaging 23 ppg through four games. More importantly, the Quakers are out to an encouraging 3-1 start. (Photo Credit: penngazettesports.com)

The Ivy League shook off its sluggish start to the season this weekend, going 6-1 and improving to 10-13 against Division-I opponents. This weekend also saw Brown, Dartmouth, and Princeton pick up their first D-1 wins of the season, while Harvard continues to roll over inferior opponents, no matter what coast the Crimson is playing on.

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