In a year where it seemed like 11, even 10 wins, might be enough to capture the crown, both favorites have mostly avoided stumbling thus far (Yale, Columbia notwithstanding…), to the point that it seems realistic that 12 wins may only earn entry to another thrilling playoff. We”re looking far ahead here with 2.5 weekends to go, but the Tigers and Crimson appear to be rounding into top form at this point, setting the stage for one, maybe two, bitterly fought clashes between two teams with a quickly growing rivalry– experience and length vs. youth and athleticism, the old guard vs. the new kids on the block. Friday should be a real treat for fans of the league, and really, fans of good, hard-fought basketball.
Many Ivy fans had been clinging to the minutest of chances that this season would deliver more than the two-horse race between Harvard and Princeton that we”ve all been expecting. That final hope was extinguished this weekend, as both the Tigers and the Crimson cruised to road sweeps, eliminating all other contenders by every realistic measure. Still, the Other Six still have plenty to play for as Cornell and Columbia still have small chances of earning a postseason bid, Yale looks to finish top half for the 13th straight year, and young teams look for some momentum to carry into next year. Meanwhile, the spotlight now turns to Jadwin Gymnasium, where on Friday, the next chapter in the Harvard-Princeton rivalry will be written. A Harvard victory will essentially put a ribbon on what has turned into a dominant conference season for the young Crimson. If Princeton can hold court (as they will be favored to do), then we will most likely head to the final weekend all square in the loss column, perhaps destined for another dramatic playoff for the NCAA bid.
In the meantime, let”s look at this weekend”s big winners and losers.
Finally, we are starting to see a bit of separation in the Ivy League standings. Harvard held serve at home to break the tie at the top with Princeton; Cornell swept its Brown/Yale road trip to keep its own outside title chances alive; Columbia and Dartmouth could not grab a win last weekend and fall out of the race for third. A few interesting conference stats to ponder: To date, 31 Ivy League games have been played. Eighteen home teams have been winners (58%); 10 of 31 games have been decided by four points or less or in overtime (32.3%, highest % in nation); and only 2 of 31 games have been blowouts of greater than 19 points (6.5%, second-fewest in nation). In summary, your eyes haven”t deceived you. This year has been full of close calls and great finishes. Without further ado, let”s get to the rankings.
1. Harvard (5 first place votes, 40 points)- Up until last weekend, the Harvard Ivy jaunt had been a white-knuckle ride. Then Kenyatta Smith happened. After being relegated to the bench because of his propensity for turnovers and fouls, the sophomore big man—a former prized recruit who many had written off as a bust—received a surprising starting nod. Smith rewarded Coach Amaker for the move by putting up 20 points, 10 blocks, and nine rebounds in 31 minutes against Penn, and following up that career-best performance with 14 points, seven rebounds, and six blocks in 20 minutes against Princeton. Propelled by Smith”s post play, particularly his protecting the paint on the defensive end, the Crimson put together its first wire-to-wire league wins of the season. It was a stunning turnaround for Smith personally and a Harvard team that was knocked on its heels after a blowout loss at Columbia a week earlier. Perhaps last weekend was a flash in the pan for the sophomore center, but if not, the Crimson might have found the missing piece for its defense of the 2012 Ivy title. –C. River Banks
We have a lot of love for all of the Ivy teams, especially on a day like Valentine”s Day. From Hummer”s smooth moves getting to the bucket, right on down to Dartmouth”s overachieving group of freshmen, there”s a storyline that warms the heart on every squad. The Big Red, the team perhaps most suited for a holiday like today, is led by Shonn Miller, who must have a fear of commitment because no one doles out rejections like him these days. Even Harvard, the ice cold Ivy villain to many, has Siyani Chambers– the heartbeat that keeps the Crimson going. Columbia”s Cupid has to be Brian Barbour, whose artfully placed arrows travel in the form of assists and currently have the Lions safely out of last-placed heartbreak in this edition of the Power Poll. But enough with all this mushy stuff, let”s get to the rankings.
1. Princeton (4-1) (5 first place votes, 40 points)– Things would have been quite different for the Tigers had Columbia not destroyed Harvard on Sunday, but here they are, still sitting in the top spot, despite the end of the 21-game Ivy home winning streak. Let”s skip over Friday”s domination of Brown (Hummer, Koon, and Bray were transcendant, Barrett was solid and Brase and Connolly were game-changers on defense) because Saturday was much more interesting. The loss to Yale was a total surprise given how efficiently the Tigers had been dominating their league opponents, winning their first four games by an average margin of 13 points. Henderson will certainly have the Tigers working all week on how to handle the pressure of an extended zone because after Yale”s successful execution of that game plan, the rest of the league is sure to borrow that strategy against the Tigers. There”s also no way a team with Princeton”s size should ever allow the league”s worst shooting team to shoot 55% from the field. Lost in Saturday night”s upset was another impressive performance from Denton Koon. Princeton”s 6″8″ sophomore continues to impress by knocking down the majority of his looks. In fact, Koon has shot at least 50% in all of his last five games and in nine of his last ten. Leaving him open to help on Hummer is no longer a valid option for opposing defenses. Princeton heads up north for Dartmouth on Friday before the biggest game of the season on Saturday night at Harvard. –Bruno March
Throw out the transitive property; toss your scribbled notes in the air; step on your calculator. This year”s conference play continues to confound as Yale, left for dead last Saturday and ranked last in our most recent Power Poll, rose from the ashes and swept Penn and Princeton on the road, the rarest of Ivy feats. Hats off to the Bulldogs who got it done, 69-65, behind a balanced attack and backcourt discipline against the usually disruptive and lengthy Tigers” defense. Yale guards, who have been maligned in this space for their turnover troubles, did a great job on Saturday, committing just six turnovers (the whole team had a total of 13 compared to Princeton”s 16). The trio of Javier Duren, Austin Morgan, and Sam Martin led the way in scoring, dropping 13, 11, and 11, respectively. Duren got it done by getting to the rim and hitting all five of his free throws, while Morgan (3-6 from 3) and Martin (3-3 from 3) impacted the game with the deep ball. Yale”s defense really bothered Ian Hummer, who did manage to go 6-10 from the field, but also committed seven costly turnovers. My personal favorite anecdote from the game was a tweet from The Trentonian”s Nick Peruffo, who talked to Justin Sears after the game and found out that Sears calmed himself at the free throw line by “thinking about watching Entourage.” Can”t question it if it works!
On a snowy northeastern night, the 2013 Ivy League title race was, for all intents and purposes, officially narrowed down to two teams.
Princeton 63, Brown 47. Princeton looked like a deserving contender, thoroughly dominating a hot Brown team at Jadwin behind a trio of remarkable individual offensive displays. Ian Hummer plowed past two more names, into 4th, on the Princeton scoring list; Denton Koon confirmed that last weekend’s 22-point outburst was no fluke; and TJ Bray continued to prove that his early season shooting woes were, in fact, a fluke. The three combined for 46 points, the exact total that the entire Brown team managed to score in a game that was never truly in question after halftime.
Hans Brase was active on both ends too, registering three blocks and consistently putting himself in the right spots.
For the Bears, Rafael Maia had 19 points and nine rebounds for the Bears, but it took him 17 shots and 11 free throws to get there. He struggled to finish particularly when he received the ball with his back to the basket due to the Tigers’ length inside. Brown went with a more structured series of set plays in the half-court, hellbent on getting the ball inside. It didn”t seem to work,
as Maia was undone by Princeton”s length and Brown”s sharpshooting guards and wings were largely marginalized.
There”s a new squad at the top of our rankings (and a new one at the bottom). In between, the Ivy”s surprise team is two possessions away from being undefeated and the league”s dark horse is already out of contention. One league favorite has underperformed shockingly and somehow still finds itself at the top of the standings, while the Ancient Eight”s doormat benched its captain and ran away with a comfortable victory. Just when we think we”ve got this league figured out, another back-to-back weekend kicks off and provides us with a shocking result, so please indulge us as we engage once again in this biweekly exercise of inevitable futility. This week, all five IHO writers submitted polls and the results are below.
1. Princeton (3-0) (5 first place votes, 40 points)– Princeton handled the C”s with relative ease, dispatching of Cornell behind a career high 22 points from Denton Koon. Ian Hummer also had 22 points on Friday and added nine rebounds in a game the Tigers ran away with early in the second half behind a 15-0 run. A desperate Columbia came to Jadwin on Saturday, eager to get a much-needed victory after losing to hapless Penn. Princeton allowed this one to stay close until the end, but Hummer”s wingman on this night, TJ Bray, hit a huge three with 2:55 to play to give the Tigers a five point lead, and after a beautiful Brendan Connolly retro hook shot, Princeton made sure that five point margin would not be breached again, winning 72-66. Through three games, Princeton has the most efficient offense and defense in the Ivy, and the best player in Hummer. Things are looking up for the coasting Tigers, who get Brown and Yale at Jadwin this weekend before finally leaving the friendly confines of Central Jersey for Dartmouth and Harvard in two weeks. –Bruno March
The start of back-to-back Ivy weekends did not disappoint as we
were treated to some thrilling contests last night. Storylines abound at all levels of the league, so let”s just jump right in.
- The biggest story of the weekend was Columbia crashing out of the title race after getting swept by the Ps, just like old times. The Lions put forth a valiant effort on national TV against Princeton, but couldn”t convert late and went down 72-66 at Jadwin, falling to 1-3 on the young season. Despite a career night from Maodo Lo (16 pts) and only three team turnovers, the Lions couldn”t stop a hot shooting Tigers squad. Princeton shot 51% from the field and a scorching 73% (8-11) from three. Hummer was just 2-8 from the field, but made his impact in other ways, getting to the stripe and knocking down 12-14, and dishing out seven assists to go with seven rebounds. TJ Bray had another great performance, hitting 6-10 including 3-3 from deep and committing zero turnovers. Brendon Connolly, who has seen his minutes dwindle as of late, knocked down a pretty running hooking shot to put the game away late. Princeton continues its perfect homestand and moves to 3-0. Brown and Yale visit Jadwin next weekend.
Ian Hummer– The Princeton star is a large favorite to win this award. The Tigers” offense is heavily dependent on his production and ability to slice through the lane. Hummer is probably the toughest guy to defend in the league because even if you can keep him from scoring, he”ll find his teammates for open looks, as he currently leads the league in assist rate, chalking up dimes on over 36% of his teammates” field goals when he”s in the game. If Princeton wins the league, it”s hard to see a scenario in which Hummer doesn”t win this award.
Stats: 2nd in PPG,
4th in APG, 4th in RPG, 9th in SPG, 6th in BPG. He”s scored in double figures in 13 of 15 games, and has had 25 in three games (high of 28 at Lafayette and at Elon).
Wesley Saunders- Harvard”s leader plays nearly 90% of his team”s minutes and is very efficient from the field. Saunders” ability to score and draw fouls is essentially unmatched in the league, and he”s even shooting 50% from deep right now (7-14). If Harvard wins the title and Hummer”s stats don”t blow everyone else out of the water, it”s probably Saunders” trophy to lose.
Stats: 1st in PPG, 5th in APG, 16th in RPG, 1st in SPG, 15th in BPG. Has scored in double figures in all 16 games, and has had a season-high 21 twice (vs. Vermont and vs. Rice).
Recently, I came across one of my old undergraduate notebooks. It was from a rather derivative course in Philosophical Anthropology, The Death Ritual in Ancient Civilizations: Meaning and Myth. As I flipped through the tattered, yellowed pages, I perused the notes on the practices of the Aztecs during the Feast of Toxcatl.
For one year, a flawless youth was selected by the Ancient Mexicans to live among the tribe as a God. The young man was perfection personified: the avatar of beauty and health. He was given lavish clothes, eight servants and four virgins to attend to his every wish. However, at the end of the year when the feast began, The Chosen One climbed the stairs of the great temple where priests cut his heart out and offered it, still beating, to the sun.*
*Full disclosure: There was never any course in “Philosophical Anthropology.” I’m not even sure such a discipline even exists. I simply lifted the preceding material from an article on Megan Fox in the February edition of Esquire Magazine. The actress’ sultry eyes, dangerous curves, and tattooed skin served as a necessary distraction to keep my eyes averted from the television as the St. Joe’s Hawks opened a “can o’ whup ass” on the Quakers.