Sunday Thoughts

A young, quick Penn squad was too much to handle for Harvard as the Crimson fell a game back in the loss column and handed Princeton control of the Ivy title chase with one weekend to play.
A young, quick Penn squad was too much to handle for Harvard, as the Crimson fell a game back in the loss column and handed Princeton control of the Ivy title chase with one weekend to play.

Chaos reigns yet again in the Ivy League. At one point on Saturday night, Dartmouth and Penn led Princeton and Harvard by healthy margins. Princeton would fight back to win, 68-63 on Senior Night, moving to 9-2 in the conference. Harvard, on the other hand, was unable to dig itself out of a 16 point hole, and fell a game behind Princeton in the loss column when Christian Webster”s desperation three at the buzzer fell short. Meanwhile, Brown completed a surprising road sweep of the C”s when Tucker Halpern”s step back three at the buzzer splashed through the net to spoil Senior Night at a stunned Levien Gymnasium. In Ithaca, Yale”s victory over undermanned Cornell was the only ho-hum result of the night.

  • Tony Hicks is making a serious late push for Rookie of the Year. The award seemed completely wrapped up for Siyani Chambers a few weeks ago, but Hicks is averaging 23.8 ppg in his last four games, including 24 points in Saturday”s victory vs. Harvard. Hicks convincingly outplayed Chambers, who struggled to a 1-5 shooting, 7 turnover performance. Fellow freshman Darien Nelson-Henry was the other half of this superfrosh tandem, as the big man took advantage of Harvard”s size disadvantage, going for 18 points and 11 rebounds. Henry Brooks and Miles Cartwright also pitched in with 12 a piece for the Quakers, who had one of the wildest

    up and down weekends imaginable, falling at home to Dartmouth before outplaying league-leading Harvard for the unconventional split.

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Weekend Recap: Feb. 1-2

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A two-team race has developed pretty quickly in this year”s 14-game tournament, though the path that Harvard has taken to get to the top has been anything but easy.

The start of back-to-back Ivy weekends did not disappoint as we

were treated to some thrilling contests last night. Storylines abound at all levels of the league, so let”s just jump right in.

  • The biggest story of the weekend was Columbia crashing out of the title race after getting swept by the Ps, just like old times. The Lions put forth a valiant effort on national TV against Princeton, but couldn”t convert late and went down 72-66 at Jadwin, falling to 1-3 on the young season. Despite a career night from Maodo Lo (16 pts) and only three team turnovers, the Lions couldn”t stop a hot shooting Tigers squad. Princeton shot 51% from the field and a scorching 73% (8-11) from three. Hummer was just 2-8 from the field, but made his impact in other ways, getting to the stripe and knocking down 12-14, and dishing out seven assists to go with seven rebounds. TJ Bray had another great performance, hitting 6-10 including 3-3 from deep and committing zero turnovers. Brendon Connolly, who has seen his minutes dwindle as of late, knocked down a pretty running hooking shot to put the game away late. Princeton continues its perfect homestand and moves to 3-0. Brown and Yale visit Jadwin next weekend.

Read moreWeekend Recap: Feb. 1-2

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.

Read moreIHO Midseason Power Poll: January 9, 2013

Wow.

Brown Ivy Logo
Down goes Providence!
Down goes Providence!

When asked about Brown”s chances of winning during pre-game warm-ups, this was a night in which I honestly said, “There is a better chance of me shitting gold tonight. I”m just hoping they can score 50.” And then later, with 1:32 remaining and a 67-60 Friars lead, “Great effort tonight, but one day, they have to figure out how to win one of these.” Then something miraculous happened.

Well, several miraculous things in succession actually. The Bears threw away an inbounds pass and Providence took over, up 7 with less than 90 seconds to go. Brown, as they did so many times on this night, dug in and forced a tough shot that missed. Rafael Maia, one of Brown”s two frontcourt rookies, grabbed his 11th rebound and pushed the ball up the floor. The ball found its way to Tucker Halpern who ripped a pass across the court to Sean McGonagill who nailed a three to cut the deficit to 4. Had to have that one.

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The Shallow Bears

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Brown”s lack of depth is sure to catch up with an otherwise intriguing squad under the new direction of Mike Martin.

The opposite of deep is shallow, so understand that I am not suggesting that the gentlemen in Providence are materialistic, dull or anything of that ilk when I call this year”s version of the Brown Bears, the Shallow Bears. But rarely in college basketball have we seen the kind of bad luck that has resulted in Brown only carrying 9 active players on its roster this season. In contrast, here are the roster sizes around the league:

  • Harvard: 13 players
  • Dartmouth: 15 players
  • Penn: 15 players
  • Princeton:

    15 players

  • Yale: 15 players
  • Columbia: 18 players
  • Cornell: 20 players

So Brown, thanks to many, many injuries, is playing with about 40% fewer players than the average Ivy team. In another league, the Bears might be able to get away with this if they were lucky enough to stay healthy. But with the punishing back-to-back contests of the Ancient 8, a deep bench that can spell your starters for 15 minutes on Saturday night is a near-necessity.

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Season Preview: Brown Bears

Several question marks surround this Bears team in Mike Martin”s first year at the helm in Providence.

In 2011-12: 8-23, 2-12, 7th place

A Look Back:

At the start of last season, the Bears had plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Point guard Sean McGonagill was coming off a freshman season in which he was named Rookie of the Year, ranking 4th in the league with 5.4 assists per game and showing he could really fill up the stat sheet with a 39-point explosion against Columbia. Forward Tucker Halpern was primed for a breakout year, having earned an All-Ivy honorable mention as a sophomore after averaging around 12 and 5. McGonagill and Halpern were

also set to receive help in the middle from highly-touted 6-9 Brazilian newcomer Rafael Maia, who was expected to provide a much-needed defensive presence in the middle, as well as some scoring on the block.

Before the season even began, though, Brown caught some horrible breaks: Halpern went down with an illness that would keep him out all year, and Maia was ruled ineligible by the NCAA. With a decimated frontcourt, the Bears had to rely largely on McGonagill, combo guard Matt Sullivan, and sharpshooter Stephen Albrecht, a Toledo transfer, to carry the load offensively. The forward trio of Andrew McCarthy, Tyler Ponticelli, and Dockery Walker all had good stretches at times, but they couldn’t make up for the losses of Halpern and Maia, and Brown finished in second-to-last place in the Ivy League.

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Bad News Bears

Coach Jesse Agel can't be pleased with the way the Bears have started this season. (Photo Credit: brownbears.com)

Okay Brown fans, I have avoided this for too long. I tried to hold off writing about the Bears until there was something encouraging to say. It’s certainly been a tough opening month in Providence after boundless optimism ran wild this summer. This seemed like it would be the season Coach Jesse Agel’s squad turned the corner and challenged for the top half of the league with highly touted Brazilian recruit Rafael Maia taking over the frontcourt and a young, talented team growing a year older. With McGonagill commanding the point, sharpshooting Toledo transfer Stephen Albrecht finally getting on the court and knockdown shooter Matt Sullivan sharing minutes, the backcourt was supposed to be able to challenge anyone’s. Tucker Halpern was going to pick up exactly where he left off on the wing, looking to consistently replicate the 29 points he dropped on Harvard last year. Maia and Dockery Walker/Andrew McCarthy were going to fill up the paint with their length and bring a focus on defense back to the Pizzitola.

Unfortunately, things haven’t gone the way Brown had hoped.

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Season Preview: Brown Bears

Co-captain Tucker Halpern will try to instill some consistency to a talented team that struggled to put together back-to-back forty minute efforts last season. (Photo Credit: brownbears.com)

The Brown basketball team showed last year that it was talented enough to beat anyone in the league when it knocked off tournament-bound Princeton and held double-digit leads twice against co-champion Harvard. Harnessing that talent and executing a game plan for a full forty minutes is the next step for a young Bears squad that looks to leap into the top half this season. Brown is a dangerous offensive team with proven weapons in the backcourt and on the wing, not to mention the help arriving on the interior. Last year though, the Bears struggled on the defensive end, ranking last in the league in adjusted defensive efficiency, giving up 1.09 points per possession (adjusted for opponent). On several occasions, the Bears failed to generate stops in key situations, including a 46-point half surrendered to Harvard in a head-scratching game at Lavietes. This season, the Bears will look to buckle down and get serious about defending their bucket.

Read moreSeason Preview: Brown Bears