Tigers Snag Best Ivy Win of the Non-Con

Princeton is rolling after earning a Top 100 win on the road at Bucknell.
Princeton is rolling after earning a Top 100 win on the road at Bucknell thanks to TJ Bray and Hans Brase.

Princeton entered the last week of November riding the wave of its best start under Mitch Henderson, one possession at Butler away from opening the season at 4-0. T.J. Bray’s welcome return to the line-up promised to stabilize the rotation. Tests against two highly-respected coaches, George Mason’s Paul Hewitt and Bucknell’s Dave Paulsen, promised Henderson an opportunity to establish his team’s identity for the rest of the season.

Playing perhaps the best half of Princeton basketball in three years, the Tigers roared to a 40-23 lead at home against GMU. Hewitt made some smart adjustments during the intermission and his team overcame the deficit to force a tie inside of two minutes. But they never gained the lead, as the Tigers called upon Bray to make some big plays. He did, with a great feed to Hans Brase and a tough bucket of his own inside, as the Tigers held on 71-66. This was the kind of game Princeton had trouble finishing in previous seasons under Henderson. Bray earned his first career double-double, scoring 18 and dishing out 10 assists. Seven rebounds, for good measure, bolstered the senior’s impressive stat line. On to Lewisburg to end the November schedule.

Bucknell under Paulsen, has become something of a rivalry for the Tigers, matching two very competitive mid-major programs with a lot of pride and pedigree. Last year’s victory at Jadwin was the highlight of Princeton’s non-conference season and one of two wins the Tigers posted against NCAA Tournament entries. Although off to a slow start, the Bison came in ranked by Pomeroy about 30 places higher than the Tigers on Saturday. On Sunday, after the Tigers’ convincing 66-53 win, the teams essentially switched places in Ken Pomeroy’s list, the Tigers moving up to 73, while the Bison slipped to 105.

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Round 1 in the Books

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Saturday”s league contests had Ivy fans expecting two very close games between traveling partners. Instead, we got

two pretty decisive victories from Columbia and Brown. The Lions” victory provided more evidence that Columbia is a real contender this year. If they want to compete for the title, this was a road game they needed to have. Meanwhile the day”s biggest statement came from Brown. The Bears” victory wasn”t necessarily unexpected, but the way they routed Yale was certainly a surprise. For such a balanced team with many different ways to put the ball in the bucket, it”s worth noting that the Bears now boast the third-best defense in the league, yielding fewer than 1 point per possession. With Albrecht back now, perhaps we have to raise the ceiling for the quickly-improving Bears: reaching the top half seems to be within the realm of possibilities.

Cornell and Yale will have to go back to the drawing board to figure out a way to salvage a split with their traveling partners after disappointing opening weekends–Cornell with an eye on fixing the defense, and for Yale, the offense.

In some of the season”s final non-conference action, Harvard had a stirring comeback that fell short in Memphis and Penn was dismantled by St. Joe”s in a Big 5 matchup. Let”s take a look at this weekend”s top performers:

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IHO Midseason Power Poll: January 9, 2013

The midseason IHO Power Poll has arrived just before teams dive into the dogfight that is conference play.
The midseason IHO Power Poll has arrived just as teams dive into the dogfight that is conference play. Did we shaft your team in the rankings? Let us know where you think we whiffed in the comments.

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.

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Season Preview: Columbia Lions

Columbia, led by the Madman of Morningside Heights, will try to prove that it is a contender and not a pretender this year.

 

In 2011-12: 15-15, 4-10, 6th place

A Look Back: Last season, Columbia experienced one of the great examples of Bill Simmons” Ewing Theory in action when Noruwa Agho went down with a gruesome injury in the home opener of the campaign. Agho had been the Lions” leading scorer and all of the team”s offense flowed through the senior guard. In his absence, Columbia was forced to shake things up, work the inside-out game more, and put the rock in Brian Barbour”s hands more often. The result was magical. After falling to 0-4, Columbia ripped off 11 of 12 victories, and looked like a much more balanced, dynamic team. Young players like Alex Rosenberg and Cory Osetkowski saw a lot of court time and proved their worth; Mark Cisco became one of the league”s dominant big men; and Brian Barbour developed quickly into perhaps the league”s most impressive point guard.

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Game Preview: Yale at Columbia

Meiko Lyles was en fuego Friday night at Levien. He'll look to continue the hot streak Saturday against Yale. (Photo Credit: gocolumbialions.com)

Yale vs. Columbia usually provides fans with a good show. Sometimes the games are meaningful, other times they are for nothing more than bragging rights among two teams separated by a 15 dollar Metro-North ticket which usually leads to a good crowd. This one does mean something. Despite the overtime loss in Ithaca, the Bulldogs are within two games of first place with Harvard still on the schedule one more time.

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Friday's Best: Yale knocks off Penn

Greg Mangano carried Yale to a big victory over Zack Rosen's Penn Quakers tonight at the John J. Lee Amphitheatre. (Photo Credit: ivyleaguesports.com)

Quick hitters from Friday night”s games

Best win: Yale. Tonight”s biggest victory has to go to the Yale Bulldogs. Penn had a lot of momentum late in this game, and the Bulldogs could have let it all slip away when they started to get sloppy with the ball in the second half. Yale”s guards turned it around though and Mangano decided that the Elis weren”t losing this one, grabbing two offensive rebounds off missed free throws (one was his own) in the final minute to seal the win. Turnovers continue to trouble this team as Reggie Willhite, Austin Morgan, and Mike Grace combined for 13 giveaways, but besides those lapses in judgement (which need to be corrected soon), the Yale guards were impressive. Morgan hit three critical three pointers under pressure; Willhite showed his typical hustle on both ends, grabbing key rebounds and knocking down a huge late-game jumper; and Mike Grace had his best game of the season. The North Carolina native was 5-6 from the field with four assists, showing a propensity for the bank shot and looking more dangerous than he has all year. Mangano was pissed off at the referees all game, but he stopped whining and took the game into his own hands down the stretch, denying Rosen the chance at a game-tying three by getting those monster rebounds. The big man showed great touch around the rim all day, finishing with 23 points on 8-13 shooting and 10 rebounds. If this was Round One of the Player of the Year battle between Mangano and Rosen, the Bulldog came out on top.

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Can Cornell Stop Mark Cisco?

Mark Cisco's 18 and 20 led Columbia to a Round 1 victory in the home-and-home against travel partner Cornell. This Saturday, the Big Red hosts the Lions for Round 2 in Ithaca. (Photo Credit: gocolumbialions.com)

The first thought Columbia’s second year head coach, Kyle Smith, expressed after defeating Cornell, 61-56 Saturday night was how true to form the play was of a typical Ivy League game. The biannual matchup between Cornell and Columbia takes the classic Ivy League mold Coach Smith was referring to and brings it to the next level. Every season for two weeks, Bill Courtney and Kyle Smith have nothing to worry about except game planning against its travel partner. There is so much film and so much time, that by game day, it’s nearly impossible to surprise or sneak up on the other. So was it really a surprise that round one of the Cornell-Columbia series ended up being a three point game with just twelve seconds to play? To Kyle Smith, not at all.

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Game Preview: Penn at Columbia, Friday 7PM

Columbia's Mark Cisco needs to have a big game if Columbia wants to hold court against a dangerous Penn squad. (Photo Credit: gocolumbialions.com)

Penn visits Columbia on Friday night in the conference opener for both squads. Columbia enters the game having won 11 of their last 12, most recently traveling to Elon and knocking off the Phoenix 65-60. Penn comes in off of Tuesday’s 68-57 Big Five loss to La Salle. The Quakers are 4-5 in their last nine games.

Where they Stand

These two teams have just completed very different non-conference slates. Penn, at 7-9, has played a whopping eight teams in Pomeroy’s Top 100. The Quakers are 0-8 in those games, but five of the contests were decided by single-digits and Penn has largely taken care of business against opponents outside of the Top 100.

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Red Hot Lions Win Thriller over Holy Cross

Columbia's Mark Cisco was too much to handle for Holy Cross down the stretch in the Lions' 46-45 victory. The senior hit the game-winning free throw with just 2.4 seconds remaining. (Photo Credit: gocolumbialions.com)

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.

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