Through five games, Dartmouth is about where most observers pegged them to be record-wise. For the first time since 2004, the Big Green won its home opener, defeating Maine 67-54 on Nov. 10 before suffering a three-game losing streak, including a pair of double-digit losses to New Hampshire and Bucknell. The UNH loss was particularly demoralizing as Dartmouth shot just 16-of-60 (27%) from the floor while allowing 44 free throws at home on Nov. 13. While that loss was the low point of the young season, the last two games have hinted at the potential — both good and bad — that Dartmouth could bring to the table come Ivy League play.
After a wild and often depressing week in which the three league favorites looked downright flawed, I figured it was time to put together the first IHO Power Poll of the season and try to sort this situation out. Let”s get one thing straight: all eight teams have problems right now. If league play started tomorrow, there”s not a single result that could take place that would truly shock me. Dartmouth over Harvard? It could happen. Brown over Princeton? A hot shooting night for the Bears and it”s a wrap. I”m not trying to suggest that the league is upside-down, because it”s not. It”s just a very weak year at the top and in the middle, so we”re probably going to see some of the lower teams steal some games. As far as postseason aspirations go, that”s not a good thing, but for fans of the 14-game tournament, it should make for a lot of exciting basketball. Let”s get to the rankings:
1. Harvard (2-3)– The defending champions haven”t done much to deserve this top spot, but hey, neither has anyone else, so it belongs to the Crimson for at least another week. Vermont exposed Harvard”s defense, making the extra pass to get open looks inside and using simple screens to get open looks from deep. Over and over again. When it was all said and done, Harvard had allowed 85 points on 60% shooting. Rotations were too slow, closeouts were late, and the rest of the league received a nice blueprint for how to beat this young Crimson squad. On the plus side, Amaker still has a lot of time to get his guys ready for the games that count, and Siyani Chambers has proven himself to be a stud at point guard. Saunders has been impressive and Rivard continues to fire away from range (46%). They”re going to be okay– and this year, that might be enough.
The opening two nights of the college basketball season gave Ivy hoops fans a lot to celebrate. On Friday night, Harvard got the kinks out against a solid D-III squad in MIT and Penn mounted the greatest comeback in program history (!) to knock off UMBC at the Palestra.
On Saturday, the League kept rolling, as Cornell got great production from their guards, beating Western Michigan 80-75, and Princeton won a tight one on the road thanks to some late-game heroics, 57-53 over Buffalo. Yale came out firing against Sacred Heart in a late-afternoon matinee in West Hartford, and looked like they would
cruise to an early victory, but the Pioneers stormed back to force OT and dealt the Bulldogs a painful defeat, 85-82.
In the nightcap, Dartmouth won their first season opener since 2005, slowly pulling away from Maine in the second half at Leede Arena, 67-54, while
Columbia annihilated Furman in South Carolina, 68-47, behind a backcourt barrage. Here are the weekend”s best performances:
In 2011-12: 5-25, 1-13, 8th place
A Look Back: Dartmouth has been treading water for a while now, and the last three seasons have been eerily similar: a few non-conference wins, an Ivy home win towards the middle of the season and a whole lot of defeats. The Big Green has won just five games in each of the past three seasons and hasn’t won an Ivy road contest since February 21, 2009, when Ivy Player of the Year Alex Barnett led Dartmouth to victory at Princeton.
Dartmouth opened 1-2 before heading across the continent for the Great Alaska Shootout, falling to San Francisco and
Central Michigan but nabbing a win over DII Alaska-Anchorage. Wins against Elon and Longwood were the only other highlights from a losing non-conference season that mostly featured games against local competition – a 65-47 loss at Notre Dame on Dec. 10 being the notable exception.
Best (Share of) Title Clincher: While Harvard rode its big men on the block to a close victory on Friday, it was the Crimson”s perimeter play that won the game on Saturday at Cornell. Harvard shot 12-26 from three, led by four second-half triples from Brandyn Curry. Up 12 with eight minutes to play, it looked like the Crimson would be able to coast to a share of the conference title, but Cornell made a late 16-6 run behind Chris Wroblewski that got the Red within two at 57-55. Wroblewski missed a tough layup with 3:20 left though, and Cornell only managed two stops the rest of the way as Harvard got nine straight points from Oliver McNally to finish off the game (including another impressive 4-4 performance at the line). McNally led the Crimson with 17 and Curry added 12. Kyle Casey pitched in with 11, while Keith Wright had 8 points and 11 rebounds. For Cornell, Wroblewski had a great night in his finale at Newman, finishing with 19 points and 7 assists in the upset bid. Galal Cancer looked under control and more mature in his final game as a freshman, notching 8 points, 3 assists, and just 2 turnovers in 26 minutes against the league”s best defense. With the close victory, Harvard earns at least a share of the Ivy title. Crimson eyes will be glued to ESPN3 on Tuesday night as a Penn loss to Princeton will hand the Cantabs their first NCAA bid in 66 years. A Penn victory will force a playoff (most likely next Saturday at Yale from what we hear)
for the second straight year. Would Harvard”s 26-5 at-large profile with five Top 100 wins be enough to garner an at-large bid if Penn wins the playoff? The Crimson would prefer not to find out.
A truly dramatic Friday night in the Ivy League ended with all the favorites pulling out victories.
Best Game: We were treated to a classic Ivy battle at Levien Gymnasium last night as Harvard prevailed 77-70 over Columbia in overtime. A packed gym that included Jeremy Lin and Spike Lee created a raucous atmosphere for a contest with massive title implications and the Crimson and Lions did not disappoint. Harvard jumped out to an early ten-point lead behind easy inside scores from Keith Wright and Kyle Casey. Late in the first half, Columbia settled down and started taking away the inside pass, creating turnovers that helped the Lions get back in the game. Freshmen Alex Rosenberg and Cory Osetkowski combined for 12 critical first-half points to bring the Lions within 34-30 at the half.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair as Harvard alternated between the block and the perimeter, showing their versatility. Columbia countered with Brian Barbour, who solidified his spot on the All-Ivy First Team with a jawdropping performance down the stretch against the League”s best backcourt defender in Brandyn Curry. Time after time, Barbour managed to penetrate, get to the bucket and finish from tough angles at the rim.
With four minutes to go, Harvard led 59-53. With Columbia on the ropes and needing a bucket, Harvard forced the Lions into a long possession. As the shot clock wound down, Cisco kicked the ball to the top of the key to Cory Osetkowski, the 6″10″ big man who had yet to hit a three all year. Osetkowski banked home the critical trey ball and Levien erupted. Columbia
added a Barbour jumper on its next trip down the floor before Brandyn Curry nailed a three to push the lead back to four with less than two minutes remaining. Columbia got it down to two and got the ball back after a Wright travel, and Barbour found a way to tie the game with another shifty drive. Harvard held for the final shot, but McNally”s three didn”t fall.
In overtime, the teams traded defensive stops for three minutes before Laurent Rivard and Kyle Casey hit two dagger threes that gave Harvard an advantage that they wouldn”t relinquish. The result was a clutch, hard-fought victory for Harvard, drawing them within one win of another Ivy title, and yet another heartbreaking loss for Columbia. Harvard now faces Cornell. A win gives the Crimson at least a share of the league championship, while a win coupled with a Penn loss to Yale would give Harvard the outright title and the NCAA bid. Columbia will host Dartmouth on Senior Night.
Welcome to the ninth and final IHO Power Poll (based on games through 02/27/12). 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 (10-2), (24-4)- Saturday’s loss to Penn was painful for the Crimson for a number of reasons—Senior Night, the home winning streak, the title implications—and it may grow even more so depending on the results of next week. In a matter of minutes, Harvard went from being assured of at least a share of the Ivy crown to potentially watching the NCAA Tournament from home. Credit Zack Rosen for carrying the Quaker squad, but the Crimson handed Penn the opportunity as a result of turnovers (11 in the first 12 minutes), mental errors (a length of the court layup with three seconds left in the first), and questionable personnel strategy (Corbin Miller on the court and Keith Wright riding pine). As nice as the win over Princeton was, the loss to the Quakers was far worse, and the specter of another traumatic conclusion is, for the first time, beginning to loom over Harvard’s dream season. -C. River Banks
Best…Wow: Zack Rosen did it again. Two clutch Rosen free throws with 23 seconds left put Penn up one, and after a rebound off a missed Corbin Miller three ended up in Harvard”s possession, Tyler Bernardini stepped up and drew a charge on Kyle Casey with only seconds remaining. Penn was able to run the clock out on the inbounds, securing a 55-54 victory and breaking Harvard”s 28-game home winning streak. More importantly, the Quakers are now a half-game back of first place, and tied with the Crimson in the all-important loss column. A Penn victory seemed unlikely late in the second-half as a Curry back door pass to Saunders put Harvard up 7 with only five minutes to play. Cue Rosen. The soon-to-be Ivy Player of the Year once again one-upped himself, knocking down a three on the wing, an elbow jumper, and the game-winning free throws in the final minutes to lift the Quakers. Rosen finished with 20 points on 6-14 shooting (4-7 from deep), while Miles Cartwright added 8 points. Props must be given to Tyler Bernardini who despite playing with an ankle injury, stepped up with great help defense to draw the pivotal charge on Casey. For Harvard, Casey led the way with 12 points
and 6 rebounds, with Keith Wright adding 9 points and 5 rebounds. Wesley Saunders had 10 off the bench and Laurent Rivard had 8. The Crimson outrebounded the undersized Quakers 24-15, but only shot 2-11 from three. Harvard now goes on the road to Columbia and Cornell for its final weekend. Penn returns home to face Yale and Brown before closing out the season against archrival Princeton. It”s worth noting that half of the league remains alive for the title as we enter the final weekend. Yale needs a sweep and one Harvard loss; Princeton needs to win out, have Harvard lose both, and have Penn lose one. It should be a fun finish to the Ivy season.
Best Clutch Defense: The Crimson pulled this one out thanks to a late-game stretch of lockdown defense. Between 8:17 and 2:02 remaining in the game, Harvard held Princeton scoreless, a stretch during which a 55-54 Tigers lead turned into 59-55 Crimson advantage (Harvard wasn”t exactly lighting it up late in this one either). The Cantabs went 8-8 from the line down the stretch to seal the victory. The scoring was provided by the big men on this night, as Kyle Casey went for 20 pts and 8 rbs, while Keith Wright pitched in with 12 pts and 6 rbs. Brandyn Curry gave Harvard a key second half spark and finished with 15 pts, 6 ast, and 0 turnovers. Oliver McNally also added 13 including going 6-6 from the line in the final eighteen seconds. For Princeton, the scoreless drought doomed the Tigers, who stopped getting the good looks that had been so plentiful in the first half. The ball stopped moving crisply and the shots were contested, and they just didn”t fall. Ian Hummer and Doug Davis each had 14 and Patrick Saunders had 12 points in a huge first half, but didn”t get any looks in the second half. With the loss, Princeton falls out of the Ivy title race. Meanwhile, Harvard”s home win streak moves to 28 and the Crimson can now turn its focus to Penn. Harvard can clinch at least a share of the Ivy title with a win tomorrow night.
Welcome to the eighth IHO Power Poll (based on games through 02/20/12). 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 (9-1), (23-3)- Harvard took care of business this weekend with its best back-to-back performances in a month. A depleted Brown team did not put up much of a fight on Friday night, and the next day the Crimson weathered Yale’s best shot
to pull out a 15-point victory. Keith Wright was the leader on the court, averaging 11 points and nine rebounds in just 23 minutes per game, but Harvard got standout performances from Steve Moundou-Missi (14 points off the bench against the Bears) and Brandyn Curry (a season-high 18 points against the Elis) as well. Now holding a game-and-a-half lead over the competition, the Crimson can effectively wrap up its second Ivy title in as many years if it can beat the Killer Ps next weekend at Lavietes, where Harvard now owns a 27-game winning streak. -C. River Banks