When it comes to Penn basketball, the Jerome Allen years have unfortunately inured me into believing the ancient Greek’s wisdom. (As for quoting Aristotle, this is “Ivy Hoops Online,” not Big 10 or SEC Hoops Online, otherwise I’d quote a Kardashian. I therefore make no apologies for my pretension.) Saturday night’s win over St. Joe’s is, of course, gratifying. Any win at this point is.
Be where your feet are
— Jordan Matthews (@jmattjmattjmatt) December 2, 2014
NEW YORK – There was a moment, in the second half of Columbia’s massively disappointing loss to Cornell, where all felt hopeless. The Big Red had stretched their lead to some new high — was it 11 points? 13? — and their bench roared with jubilation after each bucket. The Columbia faithful, a sellout 2,715 people packed so tightly into Levien that the gym was approaching “call the fire marshal” status, began to grow quiet, one or two or 20 beginning to slink meekly down the bleachers and then back up onto campus, covered in a coat of gloppy wet snow.
Harvard had lost earlier in the day, as I found to my shock and glee on a random scroll through Twitter during the women’s game. (That, too, a disappointing loss for the Light Blue.) Yale had been scared senseless by Brown at home. The mantle of the Ivy League was right there for Columbia to grab, just two games into the season, in front of the largest crowd seen in Levien since before the 2010-11 season. And the Lions let it slip away.
PHILADELPHIA – Who are we?
Generally, it’s a question asked in philosophy classrooms across the country by students wearing ugly plaid sweaters, and knit caps on their heads.
The only similarity between Penn coach Jerome Allen and the typical hipster philosophy student is the glasses, but last night, after his team won its first Big 5 game in three years against St. Joe’s, Allen was asking the same question.
And it’s a fair one to ask about this Penn squad, albeit troubling when coming from the man who should know better than anyone else. The Quakers’ effort seems to fluctuate from night to night. When the Palestra has been packed recently, against Villanova last weekend and against the Hawks last night, Penn brings a higher level of energy. Then, when no one is around to watch, the Quakers lay eggs, like the one they laid against Monmouth on Wednesday.
Last night, their leader, Tony Hicks, went from taking zero shot attempts in the first half to shifting completely in his approach in the last twenty minutes of the contest, driving to the rack at will. Darien Nelson-Henry took control in the second half, but missed two free throws late that could’ve put the game away sooner for the Quakers.
But “Who are we?” may not be the right question to ask, because it doesn’t solve the Quakers’ problems. In fact, when looking at the difference in regards to level of performance from night to night, it’s quite clear who the Quakers are: an inconsistent squad, both on the micro and the macro level.
Since I practice law by day, let”s enter into a few stipulations:
THE GOOD: Null.
By any objective standards, this was a horrific basketball game. Columbia averaged a whopping 0.76 points per possession and Cornell kept pace at 0.71. Despite never leading in the game, Cornell had a great shot to win given a flurry of Columbia miscues down the stretch (see below). Columbia turned the ball over 23 times, Cornell shot 25.9 percent from the field as a team, and everyone on both sides likely wants to focus all of their attention towards Saturday’s rematch in Morningside Heights rather than the game tape of yesterday’s “masterpiece.”
The Harvard Crimson are predicted to win the Ivy League. Led by senior standout Wesley Saunders and the highly touted head coach Tommy Amaker, Harvard has enjoyed immense success over the last several years. To the schooled eye and on paper, Harvard is the Ancient Eight’s best team.
But sports are not about who is better on paper, and nobody came here to play school. Anything can happen on the hardwood and nothing is a foregone conclusion. Harvard has not locked up anything yet—and it’s not going to. Come March, Harvard, like you and me, will be sitting at home. Here’s why:
Check out our archive of tonight’s On the Vine podcast, in which Kevin Whitaker of Big Apple Buckets and IHO’s own Robert Crawford join Peter Andrews and Mike Tony to cover the latest Ivy action. Segments include post-Penn-Princeton analysis, thoughts on our IHO writers/readers’ poll and predictions for the upcoming Brown-Yale and Columbia-Cornell matchups:
After polling Ivy Hoops Online’s writers and longtime readers before the Ivy season tipped off Saturday, here’s IHO’s official power ranking:
Harvard and Yale were the near unanimous picks to finish Nos. 1 and 2 respectively, although Yale did garner three No. 1 votes. Columbia obviously prevailed at No. 3 but got significant competition for that spot from Princeton. Brown never finished higher than fourth in any ranking and even fell to seventh in two rankings. A third of our poll participants selected Cornell to finish in the top half of the league while 40 percent of our participants picked the Big Red to finish in the bottom two spots, making Cornell the team with the most range in our rankings. In what is perhaps the most damning stat of all, the only four people who picked Penn to finish higher than last are Penn alums/students.
So … two-team race. Got it.