IHO Power Rankings – Feb. 10

1. Harvard (5-1)

Harvard’s still the class of the conference. The Crimson held Yale to 11 points in the entire first half at Payne Whitney Gym to tie Yale atop the Ivy standings at 5-1 in league play. Wesley Saunders’ career-high 33 points did Brown in in overtime the night before. Reports of the Crimson’s demise were clearly premature. Harvard hosts Columbia and Cornell at home, two more solid defensive squads that will not be easy outs at Lavietes. The thing about Harvard is that the Crimson win the close ones – they’re 8-1 in overtime games since 2010. I have a feeling that that stat will be coming into play at least one more time down the stretch.

2. Yale (5-1)

The Bulldogs responded to the biggest game for their program in quite some time by going 3-for-22 in the first half. Harvard’s defense is awesome, but the Elis were visibly a little tense in the early going too. Still, Yale is 5-1 and tied for the conference lead with its greatest rival and another shot at that rival at Lavietes, the same place Yale trumped Harvard last season. All is not lost for the Elis, but it was disconcerting to see them abandon Justin Sears in the second half.

More importantly, the Whiffenpoofs are full steam ahead.

Read moreIHO Power Rankings – Feb. 10

Crimson survives at Brown, prevails at Yale

Reports of Harvard's demise were proven premature in New Haven Saturday night.
Reports of Harvard’s demise were proven premature in New Haven Saturday night.

The Crimson’s season hung in the balance: There were eight seconds left and Harvard trailed by two points. A loss would seriously hurt the Crimson’s chances of even a share of the Ivy title.

This was not the narrative for Harvard’s Saturday night tilt against league-leader Yale, however – this was the storyline of their game against bottom-dweller Brown on Friday.

Read moreCrimson survives at Brown, prevails at Yale

Crimson collapse, and Big Green capitalize

Lavietes Pavilion hasn't hosted too many 26-2 runs in its day.  (gocrimson.com)
Lavietes Pavilion hasn’t hosted too many 26-2 runs in its day. (gocrimson.com)
Harvard’s 70-61 loss to Dartmouth was the culmination of every single thing that has gone wrong for the Crimson at some point this season. Critics of Harvard have pointed out that when Wesley Saunders isn’t “on,” they can’t win, that Harvard’s offense is anemic, that Siyani Chambers turns over the ball too frequently. One thing that Harvard had not been called out on – until yesterday – was its defense. Harvard struggled to get key stops when it needed them, which led to this deflating loss. But really, this was a tale of two halves… or four quarters, actually.

Read moreCrimson collapse, and Big Green capitalize

Crimson conquer first Ivy Foe, Miller lethal from long range

Harvard stifled Dartmouth for a 57-46 win in Hanover on Saturday night to move to 1-0 on this young Ivy League season. The win is the Crimson’s third straight, and their eleventh straight versus the Big Green. In Harvard’s most important tilt thus far, it took care of business. Out of the gate, the Crimson shined, making their first three shots. However, they only made one field goal in the next seven minutes of play, letting Dartmouth tie the score at eight. Then Corbin Miller got hot, posting the next 11 points for the Crimson. Harvard looked very streaky offensively in the first half, but Dartmouth’s shooting woes (27 percent from the field), coupled with Harvard’s stout D, gave the visitors a seven-point lead at halftime.

Harvard traded blows with Dartmouth in the second half, with the Crimson’s lead eventually reaching eleven, three minutes into the half. However, Dartmouth stayed within reach and was able to cut the lead to five only a few minutes later. With Saunders out due to foul trouble, Kenyatta Smith, Siyani Chambers, and Corbin Miller stepped up scoring Harvard’s first 22 points of the second half (that’s every point for the first 18:17 of the half). Strong late-game performances from the charity stripe by Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders sealed the Crimson’s first Ivy League victory. Though at the time the game seemed well in hand, clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch will be crucial to Harvard’s success against tougher Ivy League foes.

Read moreCrimson conquer first Ivy Foe, Miller lethal from long range

Breaking down why Harvard is still the class of the Ivy League

As a Harvard optimist, I was unfazed by the Crimson’s lackluster performance against Virginia on Dec. 21. I concede that Harvard is not on the Cavaliers’ level. This past Sunday, the Crimson needed a strong bounce-back performance versus a more suitable opponent, Arizona State, but once again, Harvard could not establish the upper hand in a 56-46 loss to a tough Sun Devils team. Three obvious takeaways from this game are:

  • Harvard’s defense continues to be top-notch.
  • Harvard’s offense continues to sputter.
  • Playing away from its home court at Lavietes Pavilion is tough for the Crimson.

So the real question is, can Harvard escape the Ivy League gauntlet with a stingy defense and an offense that’s weaker than last year’s? To examine this question, I decided to take a closer look at how Harvard and the other Ivy League teams have fared against “Ivy League-caliber” competition.

Read moreBreaking down why Harvard is still the class of the Ivy League

Watch out for Harvard’s Corbin Miller

Corbin Miller has scored in double figures in three of Harvard's past five games. (gocrimson.com)
Corbin Miller has scored in double figures in three of Harvard’s past five games. (gocrimson.com)

On Monday night, Harvard’s tough defense and late-game toughness pushed the Crimson over Boston University, 70-56, at Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge. For the first thirty minutes of the game, Harvard and BU traded leads and the scrappy Terriers just would not go away. Then halfway through the second half, Harvard pulled ahead for good on a Wesley Saunders three-pointer, and the game was never in doubt after that. BU’s head coach, Joe Jones, noted after the game that Harvard played like a “winning team” down the stretch, and BU simply did not.

Once again, Saunders had an outstanding night, with 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Great performances from Saunders are becoming the norm (he is currently the only player in the NCAA averaging at least 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game), so it was another Harvard player’s performance that caught the attention of Crimson fans.

Read moreWatch out for Harvard’s Corbin Miller

IHO Awards of the Week – Dec. 1

The week that was in Ivy roundball, power rankings included:

8. Penn (0-5)

Sigh. More on Penn here, but suffice it to say that the Quakers’ loss to Wagner made their tangible improvements against Lafayette and Temple look like a mirage.

7. Dartmouth (1-3)

Meh. The Big Green let a four-point lead with 7:04 left slip away at home to New Hampshire, which trumped Dartmouth, 65-63, via a game-winning bucket by Daniel Dion with four seconds left. Dartmouth beat IPFW, 68-67, earlier in the week but entered the New Hampshire game with the lowest-scoring offense in the conference and second to last in turnover margin. This offense just isn’t very good and somebody besides Alex Mitola needs to step up as a consistent weapon. Prior to New Hampshire, Connor Boehm was shooting just 43.8 percent from the field, and his scoring was down to 6.7 points per game from 10.9 last season. Boehm was the Big Green’s leading scorer against the Wildcats and will have to be even more impactful going forward for this offense to lift itself up.

Read moreIHO Awards of the Week – Dec. 1

Saunders, Crimson squeak by Minutemen

Wesley Saunders notched 27 points in Harvard's victory over UMass Saturday. (ivyleaguesports.com)
Wesley Saunders notched 27 points in Harvard’s victory over UMass Saturday. (ivyleaguesports.com)

In what seemed like a home game for UMass (half of the fans at Lavietes Pavilion were cheering for the Minutemen), Harvard eked out a much-needed win in the final seconds against a very good non-conference opponent. This victory, Harvard’s third in a row, was exactly what the Crimson needed as they continue to rebound from their tough early-season loss to Holy Cross. And in terms of their potential seeding in the NCAA Tournament (if they are fortunate enough to get there again), this game was huge. Harvard is starting to look like the national contender they were predicted to be going into the season. Individual performances in the UMass game, however, may provide the greatest reasons for the Crimson faithful to rejoice.

Read moreSaunders, Crimson squeak by Minutemen