IHO Power Poll: January 30, 2014

The true Ivy season finally begins in earnest tomorrow with all teams entering back-to-backs. Can IHO's unanimous #1 Harvard hold serve at home against the Old Guard?
The Ivy season finally begins in earnest tomorrow with all cialis online pharmacy teams entering back-to-backs. Can IHO’s unanimous #1 Harvard hold serve at home this weekend against the Old Guard?

After the Crimson’s surprising loss to FAU, some have suggested that the Ivy title race may not be as cut and dry as everyone expected. And in some sense, that’s fair. Harvard certainly doesn’t look like a team that’s going to run the table and finish the season in the Top 25. But 12-2 seems about right at this point for a team getting back one of the nation’s best shot blockers and otherwise loaded with talent at every position. And yet the best thing going for Harvard is the strength of the middle of the league. It seems increasingly unlikely that another team will be able to navigate the minefield of teams 2 through 6 and win even 10 league contests. But that’s why they play the games. Things could look a lot different on Sunday if Penn or Princeton can tag Harvard with a home loss, or if Columbia can sweep the second leg of its three-weekend road trip.

Let’s get to it…

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Brown Rolls Yale 73-56

The Bears looked sharp on Saturday at the Pizzitola, hammering Yale 73-56 and moving to 1-1.
The Bears looked sharp on Saturday at the Pizzitola, hammering Yale 73-56 and moving to 1-1.

Last weekend’s Pizzitola Center reversal closed the book on yet another Yale-Brown split, the sixth in nine straight years of Bulldog-Bear back-to-back conference openers. The main man responsible for turning the previous week’s result around for the Bears: the unstoppable Sean McGonagill whose hot hand (29 points on 8-11 FG, 7-9 3PT) singlehandedly stopped a late Yale run and iced the game for Bruno. In what might have been their most complete effort of the year, the home team looked organized, prepared, and sharp– assisting on 19 of 27 field goals, including five impressive dimes from big man Rafael Maia.

The offense functioned exactly the way Brown fans had hoped it would entering this season with freshman Tavon Blackmon doing a solid job handling duties at the point (7 assists), while McGonagill was allowed to focus on pouring in shots from every corner of the floor. Dockery Walker provided an energetic spark off the bench with 10 points on 5-6 shooting, and Steve Spieth was all over the court with 9 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals.

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Columbia 71, Cornell 61

The Lions did what they had to do, making the halftime adjustments to run away from overmatched Cornell last night at Levien.
It wasn’t pretty down the stretch, but the Lions did what they had to do, making the halftime adjustments to run away from overmatched Cornell last night at Levien.

Rarely does a 10-point win leave the Lion Loyalists as unsatisfied as it did on Saturday night in Upper Manhattan – the aura around the post-game press conference was indicative of that.

Despite Cornell’s late-game run sparked by a full-court press and a small lineup, Coach Smith was proud of the way his team fought through the adversity saying, “We went through some tough ones like that last year and didn’t get it done, so hopefully [this win gives us] a little confidence moving forward.”

The Lions began the night hitting 3-4 from three, taking advantage of a Cornell defense that was overplaying the backdoor cuts and providing open looks off of handoffs and down-screens. But after a David Onuorah (6 pts, 4 rbs) rim-rattling dunk, another Onuorah put-back layup, and a Devin Cherry (16 pts) old fashioned three-point play, the game was tied at 21 with 2:59 left in the first half. A pair of “and-1s” from Alex Rosenberg, followed by a Maodo Lo layup got us to halftime, just 29-26 Columbia.

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Searching for Solutions in Ithaca

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Cornell’s failure to play anything resembling defense has resulted in a swift fall to the bottom rungs of college basketball. Can the Big Red even stay competitive in an up year for the Ivy?

It really wasn’t that long ago that Cornell Basketball could be uttered with sincerity in the same sentence as the likes of Duke, Kentucky, Syracuse, and Michigan State. Now, just four short years later, Cornell comparisons have fallen to the company of Grambling State, Southern Utah, and Lamar. Of course, that’s what happens when you go from the Sweet Sixteen to a 1-13 non conference record faster than you can say Wroblewski or Chemerinski.

1-13.

I write it again because it’s stark. 1-13, what do you do with that? In theory, it’s simple. You change.

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The Country’s Leading Rebounder Resides in Hanover

We may need to dub Gabas Maldunas the Vilnius Vacuum based on the way the Lithuanian has cleaned up the boards this season.
We may need to bestow upon Gabas Maldunas the nickname “The Vilnius Vacuum” the way the Lithuanian has cleaned up the boards this season.

1999. It’s been fifteen years since Dartmouth finished Ivy League play with more wins than losses. Under head coach Dave Faucher, last millenium’s final incarnation of the Big Green went 10-4 to finish three games back of a title and in a respectable third place. In the decade and a half since then, the Big Green have finished at 7-7 twice but have not reached the promised land of a winning record. With Ivy teams four through seven currently separated by less than 40 teams in the Pomeroy rankings, some have suggested that the boys of Hanover may have a shot to improve on last year’s 5-9 finish and break the 15-year streak of futility.

Looking at their results so far this year though, you may be inclined to think this is the same old Dartmouth of years past. In their seven wins, the Big Green have yet to beat a team in the top 85% of Division I, racking up victories over five sub-300 squads and two D-III outfits. But credit Dartmouth- the team has not fallen into the common trap of playing down to the competition; the young troops have gone out and beaten all seven of those weak teams by double-digits. Against its strongest opponents, Dartmouth has stayed competitive on the road, taking Illinois to the wire in Champaign behind a barrage of late-game three-pointers and playing Harvard even for a half in Allston.

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What's Up with Yale?

Before Yale's win over D-III Baruch, the Bulldogs had lost four straight games. What's ailing Yale?
Before Yale’s win over D-III Baruch, the Bulldogs had lost four straight games. What’s ailing the Elis?

Before this season, followers of the Ivy expected a lot out of Yale in ’13-14. This was a team that won seven of its last ten games last season, sweeping both Princeton and Penn twice.

So far though, the Bulldogs have been a disappointment. At 6-8, Yale’s best win is on the road at Hartford, a five point victory against the country’s 263rd best team according to Pomeroy. Opportunities for BCS wins were squandered at Rutgers and at Providence; stinkers were laid against average squads such as Bryant and Albany. So what’s going on? What’s keeping this Yale team from being as good as it should be?

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A Classic Battle at the Palestra

Princeton couldn
Princeton couldn”t contain the Big Hyphen and, despite multiple stirring rallies, was dealt a real setback at the Palestra.

With a performance worthy of praise from even the most ardent Tiger fans, the Penn Quakers outlasted Princeton last night at The Palestra, 77-74, vaulting themselves into a tie for first place in the Ivy League in the process. Good for you, AQ. And good for you, Jerome Allen. The Penn faithful should cease calling for your job… at least for a while.

The Quakers established clear dominance inside right from the start, feeding Darien Nelson-Henry and Fran Dougherty again and again for relatively easy baskets. An early foul by Hans Brase sent him to the bench in favor of Pete Miller, who quickly drew two more, sending the coaching staff to their drawing boards. Penn continued to have its way through most of the first half, helped by the Tigers’ inability to convert their bread-and-butter three point shots.

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The Thaw

Penn shocked the Ivy world by pushing the pace and rebounding, knocking off title contender and archrival Princeton at the Palestra.
Penn shook up the Ivy race by pushing the pace and rebounding, knocking off title contender and archrival Princeton at the Palestra.

I suppose I would be remiss if I did not comment on Saturday night’s game.

The Penn-Princeton rivalry is, and always has been, special. In fact, as I recall our games at both the Palestra and that drafty, geodesic aircraft hanger in New Jersey, my ears still ring. Saturday’s contest was indeed no exception in our shared history as the Quakers finally showed a flash of the kind of team that everyone (including me) thought they could, would, and should be.  The Tigers are a decent team (I stop short of classifying them as  “a good team” because, after all, it’s the Tigers), and Penn, along with the much-vilified Jerome Allen, should be congratulated for taking them down in exciting fashion. The Red & Blue somehow managed to do everything they hadn’t done during most of their brutal and disappointing non-conference schedule, namely: rebound (42-25), defend, and play a full 40 minutes of hoops. Still, they almost gave the game away by once again beating themselves with costly fouls and turnovers.  Their bench play was also better but, in general, remained mostly invisible. Princeton, for their part, happened to have an off night from the three point line, a usual strength of their team, thus validating the axiom, “live by the three, die by the three.” Tonight, they died. [Ed. note: This is what’s possible when you shoot over half of your attempts from behind the arc– 50.7%, the highest percentage in the country– you are bound to have off nights like that.]

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Columbia’s Statement Victory

Columbia 68, Stony Brook 63.
Columbia 68, Stony Brook 63. Rosenberg and Lo led the Lions to their fifth win in six tries.

Coming off of a 50-point first-half and an impressive 81-61 win against St. Francis (NY), Columbia needed to accept that not everything that worked against the Terriers would work against the Seawolves. It was a good thing that last night was the Alex Rosenberg and Maodo Lo show at Levien.

Stony Brook was led by a 20-point effort from their big man, Jameel Warney, but it wasn’t enough to overcome two heroic efforts from Alex Rosenberg and Maodo Lo, who both posted career-highs – 24 pts and 29 pts, respectively.

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Can the Lions become Kings of the Ivy League Jungle?

Below, Wolfgang breaks down the Ivy
Below, Wolfgang breaks down the Ivy”s hottest team. But will it translate to conference success?

Entering their final non-conference game against Stony Brook (KenPom #113) tonight, Kyle Smith’s Columbia Lions are generating some serious buzz. After a heartbreaking defeat against Manhattan and a hard fought loss to then-#2 Michigan State, the Lions are 8-4 over their last 12 games. Coach Smith is settling on his eight-man rotation, and these young Lions are looking like a team that can contend at the top of the league. The unanswered question remains; is this the same Columbia team from last season that looked strong entering conference play, but then limped to a 4-10 conference finish, or is this a different pride of lions?

The biggest question entering this season was how the Columbia guards would fill the void left by Brian Barbour and limit turnovers. Although the Lions turn the ball over on 19.4% of their possessions (226th in the country), the turnovers aren’t killing Columbia, and are simply a product of Smith’s unconventional, high-risk, high-reward offense.

Read moreCan the Lions become Kings of the Ivy League Jungle?