Please put your hand up if you had Dartmouth sweeping the weekend without Gabas Maldunas and Columbia dropping two at Yale and Brown. You in the back? No, you’re just scratching your head? Yeah, me too. It was that kind of weekend in the Ivy League. On to the weekend’s big winners…
Home Court Advantage: We know it’s hard to win on the road in the Ivy League, but wow. Home teams went 8-0 this weekend as all four New England teams swept their back-to-backs. Through 15 Ivy contests, only two away teams have come away victorious (Columbia at Cornell and Harvard at Dartmouth).
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.
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?
After the first weekend of February 2013, it looked more likely that Yale would finish in last place in the Ivy League than 3rd place. The Bulldogs were coming off of a throttling in Hanover at the hands of lowly Dartmouth, and only had an overtime home victory over Brown to show through four league contests. At 1-3 and heading south to face the P’s, the Elis were staring 1-5 right in the face. But something special happened on that trip: Yale developed an identity as a physical, glass-crashing basketball team. Behind 32 offensive rebounds in two nights, the Bulldogs swept the Penn-Princeton road trip for the first time since 1987. That weekend propelled the young team, which was largely considered to be in a rebuilding year, back into the top half of the Ancient Eight for the 13th consecutive season. Freshman Justin Sears emerged as one of the league’s best rookies, crashing the offensive boards as well as anyone in the conference, and showing a knack for getting to the line and scoring. Sophomore Armani Cotton also made a splash, going for a career high 20 points and 12 rebounds in a win against Holy Cross, and earning a more central role as the season progressed. The Elis finished the year with three straight victories, including another sweep of Penn and Princeton, this time in New Haven–shaking up the title chase and sending old Blue into the offseason with some serious momentum for 2013-14.
Believe it or not, the conference slate is merely three days away, and in some sense, that”s a bit of a shame because the Ivy League has really been cranking into gear over the last couple weeks, sticking it to some big conference squads. Wins over California, Bucknell, and Providence (among other impressive performances) have elevated the league all the way to 18th in the Pomeroy conference rankings and to 23rd in the conference RPI. While some had feared that in such a down year, the Ivy champ would receive a dreaded #15 or even #16 seed in the NCAA tournament, it now seems that the Ancient 8 king will earn a more palatable #13 seed, according to Joe Lunardi”s first edition of Bracketology, released January 8th. Furthermore, all eight Ivy teams have defenses ranked in the top 215
teams of Division I, but only three have offenses ranked in the top 215. With that in mind, we are going to buck convention and predict that offense wins championships as those three top 215 offenses make up our top 3 spots in this week”s Power Poll.
While it may be tough to see in terms of results, especially after today”s eight point loss to New Hampshire, this young Yale Bulldogs team is making progress. So far, the biggest problem has been getting good shots and taking care of the ball. The Bulldogs rank near the bottom of Division I in shooting percentage and turnover rate. Today”s loss was a perfect example: 1-14 shooting from three (7%) and 18 turnovers.
The reason for the low shooting percentage has simply been a lack of dangerous offensive weapons. Opponents have keyed on Austin Morgan and have kept him mostly quiet. Other than Justin Sears, no one has demonstrated the ability to score. And Coach James Jones sure has given everyone a chance. Besides Morgan, there isn”t a player on this roster playing more than 60% of the team”s minutes. Yale has been going with the old 11 man rotation.
A Look Back: The 2011-12 season was a year that Yale had been building towards for quite a while with all-league big man Greg Mangano becoming a senior and a strong supporting cast having formed around him. A successful run through the non-conference slate and the emergence of Reggie Willhite as a team leader and all-around stat stuffer made this Bulldogs team a trendy dark horse pick entering the Ivy season. A comprehensive dismantling of a good Vermont team and a victory at Rhode Island had Eli fans dreaming of dancing for the first time in Coach Jones” tenure. The Bulldogs got safely through the home-and-home with Brown unscathed, setting up perhaps the most highly anticipated hardwood version of “The Game” in decades. A raucous atmosphere awaited the Crimson favorites as they entered John J. Lee on January 27th, 2012. Unfortunately for Yale fans, Harvard put forth an utterly dominating defensive performance, holding Yale to 35 points and coasting to a 65-35 thumping. The Bulldogs were not yet ready for primetime it seemed.
Penn has accepted a bid to the College Basketball Invitational Tournament and will host the Quinnipiac Bobcats in the first round on Wednesday night
at 7:30PM. Zack Rosen and Tyler Bernardini will get a well-deserved chance to play once more in front of the hometown crowd at the Palestra, and the underclassmen will get some helpful tournament experience. Quinnipiac
will be a tough opponent for the Quakers, as the NEC”s fifth-placed team led the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. The Bobcats are relentless on the glass, averaging 43 rebounds per game while playing at an average tempo. For dk – Denne side giver dig Iphone lobbyen, hvor du har oversigten over de spil du kan spille fra din Iphone. an undersized squad like Penn, it”s going to be a true challenge to compete on the boards. Quinnipiac is led by senior guard James Johnson and sophomore forward Ike Azotam, who is averaging nearly a double-double with 15.9 ppg and 9.5 rpg.