Welcome to the first IHO Power Poll (based on games through 12/16/11). 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.
For the first twenty minutes tonight, Columbia’s offense struggled to create open looks against an energized and determined Holy Cross team. Down 30-14 at halftime, the Lions looked lost and exhausted. And it was completely understandable. No one in the 539 people order diflucan in attendance would have faulted Columbia if the Lions had come back out in the second half and lost by 10 or 15 points. After all, this was their fourth game in five days. Coach Smith’s bunch had just knocked off five opponents in a row, including three in three days on a West Coast trip to Los Angeles. They had no legs in the first half, as evidenced by the 5-21 shooting effort that had yielded them 14 points, led by big man Mark Cisco’s whopping four.
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.
In the Ivy League, where at-large postseason bids are pretty hard to come by, the non-conference season is often treated as a warm-up lap, a series of exhibitions dedicated to getting the kinks out and teaching players the system. When January rolls around and the league slate begins, the fourteen-game tournament brings with it a whole new level of intensity. Since that’s the way it is in our corner of the college basketball landscape, there is absolutely nothing more debilitating and frustrating than a serious injury in November or December. For Columbia, that nightmare scenario came to fruition in the late stages of a loss to the Furman Paladins.
Brown, Sean McGonagill: The Bears’ sophomore point guard picked up where he left off last season with an impressive 20 point (7-12 shooting), 10 assist performance in a 86-66 victory against D-III Johnson & Wales.
Columbia, Blaise Staab: Staab came out of nowhere to be the bright spot for Columbia on a night when Agho and Barbour couldn’t finish at the rim. Staab, who played a grand total of 70 minutes in his first three years in New York, finished with a double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds) and looked comfortable mixing it up with the nation’s best in Storrs, CT during the Lions’ respectable 70-57 loss.
Penn, Zack Rosen: Rosen had a monster night for the Quakers, tallying 26 points on 10-16 shooting, including 4-6 from range. The Quakers put UMBC away early in the second half behind some shutdown defense en route to a 59-45 triumph.
Yale, Greg Mangano and Reggie Willhite: The Bulldogs held off a late charge from CCSU to win their opener 73-69 behind 23 points and 13 rebounds from their senior star, Mangano. Captain Reggie Willhite also had a big night, dropping in 21 and adding six steals and six boards.
These are scenes from UConn and Columbia’s respective attempts at Midnight Madness. In front of 16,000 fans in the XL Center there’s Andre Drummond, the No. 1 recruit in the country according to ESPN.com and likely next year’s top pick in the NBA Draft, with a ridiculous windmill alley-oop off a pass off the backboard from last year’s Illinois Mr. Basketball Ryan Boatwright. In a basement on 118th street, there’s Wushu.
It’s fair to say there’s more excitement surrounding this UConn team than there is for Columbia. But here at Ivy Hoops Online, we’re most excited to see how one of our own can fare against the defending national champions. On paper, the Lions are in deep trouble. UConn is a consensus top-10 team, favored to win the Big East. They’re led by preseason All-American guard Jeremy Lamb, feature two more starters in the Naismith Watch List’s top 50 players (Alex Oriakhi and Drummond), and have one of the best recruiting classes in the country.
Here’s the case for Columbia: the Lions return most of their key players including the incumbent Ivy League scoring champion Noruwa Agho (the only player on either team on his conference’s first team last year). Four of the team’s top five scorers come back. Coach Smith’s squad will have much greater continuity from last season than Coach Calhoun’s. In the recent past, Columbia has been able to keep it respectable against the top teams in the country. Their last game against a top-10 saw the Lions within nine points of Syracuse at the half before losing 85-60 back in 2009. Before that, they lost by single digits to Notre Dame in ’05 and UCLA in ’01.
The Ivy League has a broad fan base scattered all over the country. With that in mind, we created the lists below for fans looking to catch a piece of live action this season.
The following is a composite Ivy League schedule of every basketball game involving an Ivy League team within approximately 90 minutes of NYC, Philly, Boston, Syracuse, and Los Angeles.
Without further ado, I present the official IvyHoopsOnline preseason predictions for the 2011-2012 season.
The good news for Columbia is that they return a proven backcourt duo in Noruwa Agho and Brian Barbour. The pair made for a dangerous tag-team last year, dominating foes that allowed them to get to the rim and take high percentage shots. The Lions lived and died by Agho and Barbour, as the pair accounted for 47.9 percent of Columbia’s points during the conference season. Despite this backcourt dependence, Columbia could very easily have finished last year in the top half if they had held on to late-season leads at Princeton and against Yale. In games where the Lions weren’t outmanned in the frontcourt, they performed extremely well, pulling out sweeps of Cornell and Dartmouth, and splits with Penn and Brown. It all starts with the two guards though, and there’s no reason to think that this season will be very different.
In Agho, Columbia has a true scorer. As much as some critics disparaged his efficiency numbers last year (and the All-Ivy First Team selection certainly did take his fair share of shots), Agho shouldered a bigger load than any other player in the league because the Lions lacked another consistent scoring option on the wing or down low. With little help surrounding him, Agho coasted to the conference scoring title. Meanwhile, Barbour quickly emerged as one of the league’s best point guards, posting the conference’s second-best offensive efficiency numbers behind Harvard’s Oliver McNally. First-year coach Kyle Smith leaned heavily on his young point guard, as Barbour played the third-greatest share of minutes for his team of anyone in the Ivy at 86.9 percent (Agho was fourth at 85.5 percent).
If you took everything said in the preseason media teleconference at face value, then you’d think every team has a shot to win the Ivy League title this year. Here are a few of the best sound bites from Wednesday, taken beyond face value.
Yale head coach James Jones on the Bulldogs’ preseason No. 2 ranking: “Every year for the last I don’t know how many, we’ve always been picked lower than we’ve finished. We’re picked second; there’s only one more spot to go to, so hopefully it works out for us.”
In the middle of a vanilla interview, Jones whips out this nugget. That’s a suspiciously juicy factoid for a coach—I’m guessing the SID gave it to him. For the record, the last time Yale failed to surpass its preseason ranking was 2007-08. By the way, looking through old preseason rankings is a hoot: last year Cornell got a first place vote; in 2009-10, Penn was picked third; the 2008-09 Tigers were chosen dead last. I wonder if the previous season is a better predictor of preseason polls than the end of year rankings.
Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson on the Tigers’ scheduling difficulties: “When you’re in a position like ours—we like being in a situation like this—where teams don’t want to play you, especially this year with a good group coming back, it’s a little more difficult to get your phone calls returned.”
Humblebrag! “They hate me cuz they ain’t me,” Henderson added.
Paul Franklin, The Trenton Times: “It hasn’t been that long, obviously, since you played…or maybe it is. [Pause for laughter]. Sorry about that.”
Penn head coach Jerome Allen: “It’s OK.”
Paul Franklin of The Trenton Times stole the show on Wednesday. Reporter chumminess is an especially awkward variety of male flirting, but in the hands of a skilled veteran like Mr. Franklin, it’s borderline magical.
“1995 was like so long ago, AMIRITE?! ROFL!!!”
Jerome was unfazed, and in his chocolatey, midnight DJ voice he gave a courtesy chuckle and forgave the age crack.
Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker on 2009-10: “Jeremy made so many other people better. I think that’s always the mark of a special player, which Jeremy was for us.”
The Jeremy Lin narrative has taken a slightly disappointing turn, as he’s become one of those NBA bench players that fans cheer for ironically. Well Tommy Amaker is not going to let that spoil his legacy in Cambridge: JEREMY LIN IS THE BEST PLAYER IN HARVARD HISTORY. THAT’S THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS.
Dartmouth head coach Paul Cormier on the Big Green’s inexperience: “One good thing about having freshmen is sometimes that lack of experience doesn’t affect their confidence and they just feel that they’ve been successful at whatever level they’ve been at and hopefully that some of that success can carry over.”
What Cormier is trying to say is that freshmen don’t have the Dartmouth stink yet. The Dartmouth stink doesn’t wash off. One season in Hanover and you’re permanently stinky. It sounds like his plan is to quarantine every member of last season’s 5-23 team by keeping them on bench rest and to start anew with this freshmen class. It’s like the plot of The Walking Dead.
Paul Franklin, Trenton Times: “Playing a little devil’s advocate with you here: if I’m a hardcore Cornell fan and I start harassing you with, ‘Hey coach, when are we going back to the Sweet Sixteen?’, what’s your response?”
Cornell head coach Bill Courtney: [Laughs] “I’ll tell you what, it’s funny because you get a lot of that when I go to the grocery store or the movies or something like that… We’re working towards that and we’ll continue to work until we get back to that point.”
Franklin: “Alright, you’ve got five years then I’m coming after you.”
Courtney: [Laughs] “I hear you.”
More gold from Franklin. The question is legitimate—when will the Big Red climb back to the top of the Ivy League?—but I wonder what he means by “coming after you.” I can only assume that Mr. Franklin has some ferocious tickling in store for Courtney if he can’t lead the Big Red back to March Madness by 2016.
Columbia head coach Kyle Smith, on senior guard Noruwa Agho: “I just feel he’s one of the best all-around players in the league and one of the best all-around players I’ve ever been around… I don’t know if that will show up as much in the stats, but it’s certainly showing up with his leadership.”
The Myth of Noruwa Agho lives on, but Smith at least seems to acknowledge that Agho’s raw stats hide his inefficiency. Thankfully for Columbia, Agho might lead the league in leadership, so they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.
Brown head coach Jesse Agel: “This league is really, really good. There are no nights off. There are no more weekends where, you know, Penn and Princeton would go somewhere and say, ‘Well, we’ve just got to get through this weekend and we should win two.’ I don’t think anyone’s thinking that anywhere now.”
Franklin: “No more sightseeing, huh?”
Agel: [Laughs] “I don’t know what you could see on some of those rides. Having lived up in the deep Northeast, not much sightseeing in the winter.”
Franklin: [Laughs] “Alright, thanks.”
Franklin does it again! It might be the preseason, but Mr. Franklin is in rare form. He forced a chuckle out of Jesse Agel, who might be the most humorless coach in the Ivies. But Agel snaps back into his sour mien with a terse “sure” to close out a riveting, if hardly informative, hour and a half teleconference.