Yale vs. Columbia usually provides fans with a good show. Sometimes the games are meaningful, other times they are for nothing more than bragging rights among two teams separated by a 15 dollar Metro-North ticket which usually leads to a good crowd. This one does mean something. Despite the overtime loss in Ithaca, the Bulldogs are within two games of first place with Harvard still on the schedule one more time.
Tonight’s contest at Jadwin is ostensibly a revenge game, but it doesn’t feel like it. The Tigers simply are not the same team anymore. Dan Mavraides, Kareem Maddox, and Sidney Johnson have hit the bricks, Princeton is looking on from the outside of the title race, and the sad truth is that nothing, certainly not a mid-February matchup, will avenge the Crimson’s playoff loss a year ago. Still, tonight’s matchup is one of the best battles that the Ivy League has to offer.
First, the facts: Harvard has not won at Jadwin Gymnasium since 1989; it has not swept the Killer P’s on the road since the 1984-85 season; and it has never started 8-0 in league play. Even at 11-10, a good argument can be made that the Tigers are the second best team in the conference. Its wins over Buffalo, Florida St., and Rutgers are three of the best results on the Ivy League’s collective non-conference resume, and, despite sitting in fifth place, Princeton can easily climb the ranks with six of its final eight games at home.
On Friday, Harvard heads down to Philadelphia for another one of those games, the exceptional few that shape the title race. Penn, although a half-game behind Yale in the standings after last week’s loss in New Haven, is actually in the best position to catch the Crimson because it hasn’t yet conceded a home defeat to the league leaders. What we have in effect, then, is another No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup, this time staged in one of basketball’s most hallowed gymnasiums.
If this year’s game is even half as good as last year’s, it will
be a memorable night (at the very least, it’s virtually guaranteed to eclipse the 30-point drubbing that Harvard laid on the Elis two weeks ago). In 2011, it took two overtimes to determine the outcome, an 83-82 Crimson victory, and that was not without a fair share of controversy (punctuated by Steve Bilksy wagging his finger in the face of Reggie Greenwood).
Columbia comes into this matchup with some positive momentum after splitting last weekend's northern jaunt up to Hanover and Allston. The more impressive performance for the Lions came in the loss to Harvard, a game Columbia trailed by two with only minutes remaining. Barbour continues his impressive run through the league as the conference's leading scorer and Cisco is right on Mangano's heels as one of the league's top rebounders. When the Lions get solid production from a third player, usually Lyles or Rosenberg, they are a dangerous team.
Brown, on the other hand, continues to struggle. The Bears looked promising through their first four Ivy games, getting a victory at home against Dartmouth, and keeping things interesting against Yale and Harvard. Last weekend was a big step back though, as the Bears' roster was depleted due to injury. Princeton came into the Pizz and pulled away early, never looking back in a double-digit victory, and an angry Penn team came in the next night and did the same thing. At 1-5, things look like they may be unraveling quickly for a Brown team with some very tough road trips still on the schedule.
Yale may not come into Ithaca with the fanfare and national following that
will surround Harvard’s visit in three weeks, but James Jones’ squad is quietly getting things done. The Bulldogs have not won even a share of the Ivy League title since the 2001-2002 season, but are one of three remaining legitimate contenders to this year’s crown. The Bulldogs come into Newman Arena Friday night as hot as any Ivy team. Yale, winner of seven of its last eight, enters the weekend straight off its first sweep of Penn and Princeton since the 2006-07 season. Cornell on the other hand is right about where we expected. The Big Red sits at 3-3 in the league play, a half game up on Princeton for 4th in the Ivy standings. A solid showing at home against Yale and Brown will keep the Big Red in the upper half of the league, where Bill Courtney believes his squad belongs.
At the suggestion of commenter BrianEarl4Prez, now that we are nearly halfway through
the Ivy season, we are going to be monitoring the Ivy League Player of the Year/Rookie of the Year race via this weekly feature.
Player of the Year
1. Zack Rosen- Penn”s point guard has been superb so far for the Quakers. Logging the most minutes in the league and still managing to put up the most efficient offensive rating among go-to players says everything you need to know about this guy. Rosen”s passing ability is unmatched in a league full of impressive point guards this season, but the senior is also shooting 41% from deep and 48% from the field. Against rival Princeton, Rosen put up a performance for the ages, scoring 28 points and dishing out five assists with only two turnovers in 39 minutes. This is not a most valuable player award, but think about where Penn would be without Rosen? Certainly not in the thick of a title chase halfway through the season.
Welcome to the sixth IHO Power Poll (based on games through 02/06/12). Please note that these rankings are based off of our best guesses of how the Ivy League picture will sort itself out. We always love to hear your gripes and whines in the comments below.
1. Harvard (6-0), (20-2)- The Crimson protected its home court over the weekend to remain undefeated in league play. Harvard showed little sign of weakness against Cornell on Friday night, building a 14-point lead at the break and affording its starters some rest in the second half (the bench saw 40 percent of the court time). The light load proved useful the following night, as the Crimson had to grind out a 57-52 victory over Columbia. Despite 11 missed free throws, Harvard built an 8-point lead with a little over five minutes remaining, but two threes and a three-point play from the Lions left the Crimson clinging to a 2-point lead with 2:39 to go. But Harvard executed down the stretch, getting a pair of stops and hitting five of its final six free throws (the Crimson took 32 on the night compared to just eight for Columbia) to ice the victory. The home sweep carried Harvard to the top of the Ivy League standings and sets up a huge showdown with Penn at the Palestra this Friday. -C. River Banks
Quick thoughts from Saturday night”s results
Best Team: Yale. Yale gets the rare P”s sweep by taking down Princeton 58-54 at home. Reggie Willhite was the star, dropping 20 points, including a second-half highlight reel dunk, while grabbing 9 rebounds. Greg Mangano had another dominant performance as well, getting 20 points of his own (on 17 shots, though) to go with 12 rebounds, for yet another double-double. The Yale backcourt didn”t shoot well–Grace was 0-4, Morgan was 1-9–but they finally ended their turnover woes, limiting giveaways to 10. Princeton was coming off of a very hot shooting night against Brown, but the Tigers were held to 33% from the field (and an ice cold 19% from deep), with Ian Hummer”s 18 points leading the way. Princeton falls out of the title chase with their third loss of the season.
Let”s get right to it here. Penn isn”t losing this game. The Quakers are coming off of a frustrating loss at Yale last night, their first of the conference season, and they are going to be angry and determined. Meanwhile, Brown got throttled by a mediocre Princeton team, and despite what the Cornell Basketball Blogger claims, the Bears are far and away the Ivy team most devastated by injury and other absences. Yes, last year”s leading scorer and All-Ivy player Tucker Halpern and Rookie of the Year frontrunner Rafael Maia are out for the season, but now the already-razor thin Bears bench is taking a hit. According to Scott Cordeschi at GoLocalProv, Freshman Longji Yiljep is out for the season with a toe injury, junior Patrick Donnelly is out for the season with a hip injury, freshman Jon Schmidt has an eye injury, Jean Harris can”t play due to the flu, and Steven Albrecht is experiencing those pesky back problems. It”s honestly a war zone down in Providence, and given the lack of depth the Bears had to begin with, it”s a wonder that Brown is competing as well as they are in the league this year.
If there’s one thing Cornell knows all too well, it’s that it can’t sleep on the Dartmouth basketball team. A year ago, the two teams met in Hanover, a game that most thought Cornell would surely win. Despite the common prediction, the Big Red came out lacking focus and energy, resulting in its first loss at Dartmouth in the last six seasons. Out of all the tough stretches the Big Red endured last season, losing at Dartmouth was rock bottom. If we can use last year’s matchup to infer one thing about Saturday night’s game, it’s that the Big Red won’t be caught sleeping.