Crimson are Champions Again after Dramatic Final Weekend

Harvard is the Ivy champion again after a home sweep, while losses to Yale and Brown end Princeton
Harvard is the Ivy champion again after a home sweep, while losses to Yale and Brown end Princeton”s run at NCAA Tournament glory.

After an Ivy season with more twists and turns than this past season of Homeland, it was only fitting that the final back-to-back weekend would feature one last surprise at the top of the Ancient Eight ladder. Entering Friday, Princeton seemingly had one hand on the trophy, needing to win what was sure to be a hard-fought battle at The Church in New Haven, as well as at Brown, a team Princeton had completely stifled in its previous meeting at Jadwin. Harvard, on the other hand, with no margin for error, would be forced to contend with a Columbia squad eager to go out with one final win in its disappointing season, as well as depleted Cornell. Realistically, we seemed to be looking at a Princeton title or a playoff. Few could have predicted what went down.

  • Harvard did what it has done all year and found a way to win. Once again, it wasn”t particularly pretty, but they made the plays they needed down the stretch. Against Columbia, Harvard led the Lions by 1 with just over 30 seconds left before Steve Moundou-Missi made a huge steal and flew in to slam the ball home to secure the W. On Saturday, Harvard led by 15 with 6 minutes to play, but a furious Big Red comeback almost made things interesting in the closing moments. The Crimson held strong though, keeping Cornell from scoring any FGs in the final 2:30, closing out a 65-56 victory. The win clinched a share of the Ivy title, and all eyes turned to Providence. Harvard”s players followed the score updates from Brown-Princeton, and got to enjoy a second round of celebrations when the final score came across the screen. The Crimson returns to the dance for the 2nd straight year, looking to improve upon its first round exit last season. Most bracket predictions have the Crimson as a 14 seed at this point, though it seems reasonable to expect Harvard to land anywhere between a 13 and a 15.

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Postseason Projections

We know Princeton and Harvard will play on into March, but will the Ivy League get more than two teams into the postseason? It
We know Princeton and Harvard will play on into March, but will the

Ivy League get more than two teams into the postseason? It”s a long shot, but still possible.

With just one week to play, we”re bringing back a feature that seemed to be much more relevant last season when a record four Ivy League squads played in the postseason. (In case you”ve forgotten, Harvard went dancing last year, falling by 9 to Vanderbilt in Albuquerque, while Penn and Princeton both won one game in the CBI before bowing out in the quarters. Yale was eliminated in the first round

of the CIT.) This season, it seems far more likely that we will see only two teams qualify for the postseason, though four teams technically remain alive going into this weekend. Yes, Brown and Columbia can still make the postseason if they reach .500, and there are 68 (NCAA) 32 (NIT) 16 (CBI) 32 (CIT) = 140 spots in this year”s four postseason tournaments. Let”s dive in.

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IHO Power Poll: March 6, 2013

With Harvard unable to handle the deadly southern road trip, Princeton looks poised to grab the Ivy title...if they can navigate three tricky road games to close it out.
With Harvard unable to handle the deadly southern road trip, the Tigers look poised to grab the Ivy title…if they can navigate three tricky road games to close it out.

All season long, Princeton and Harvard have traded places in our Power Poll, but the Crimson”s well-documented Jadwin blues, coupled with a shocker of a loss at the Palestra on Saturday, leave the Tigers in control of the title picture. There is still a lot of basketball to be played, but Mitch Henderson”s veteran squad will be a strong favorite in its final three road games and the young Cantabs can only take care of business and scoreboard watch at this point. Outside the top two, the Brown Bears were the big movers this week, while the injury-stricken Big Red continued to tumble. This will be our final Power Poll of the year, but make sure to check back next week for our IHO All-Ivy Awards.

1. Princeton (9-2) (5 first place votes, 40 points)Ian Hummer wouldn”t let Princeton lose on Friday. The senior stepped up and played a complete game on both ends of the floor, willing the Tigers to victory in the final minutes of Harvard”s comeback attempt. The atmosphere at Jadwin was electric on Friday, as the students showed up in force to support the orange and black on national television. There was a fan in a Gumby suit, two people dressed as bananas, and a man in an American flag one-piece jump suit who came within inches of hitting a half-court shot for $10,000. In other words, Jadwin was the place to be on Friday, and on the biggest stage, the Tigers came through. Saturday was Senior Night, and while Harvard was down in Philly gacking up its chance at a championship, Princeton was struggling with a hangover, trailing Dartmouth at the half. Henderson did what he had to do to get his squad motivated at the break though, as the Tigers opened up a double-digit lead and held on for the crucial 68-63 win. Now, with three games to play– all on the road, mind you– every Princeton fan has suddenly become a math major, calculating the odds of winning out against the league”s 3rd, 4th, and 5th placed teams. Using Pomeroy”s odds for each game, here”s your answer (and it might surprise you): Princeton”s chances of winning out are 38.76%. Of course, there are other feasible ways Princeton can win the title, but let”s be serious. Harvard isn”t losing to Columbia again and Cornell is trotting out its B-Team with all those injuries. I know I wouldn”t bet against Hummer at this point, but let”s see this race for what it is: not over yet.  -Bruno March

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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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A Battle Royale at Jadwin

The Tigers pulled out an instant classic at Jadwin on Friday, thanks to another incredible performance from Ian Hummer. Now, we
The Tigers pulled out an instant classic at Jadwin on Friday, 58-53 over Harvard, thanks to another incredible performance from Ian Hummer. Now, we”re all square in the loss column in a thrilling Ivy title chase.

On a night in which he passed Doug Davis to move into 2nd on the all-time scorers’ list in Princeton history, Ian Hummer took after his old teammate and refused to allow Harvard to walk away with the Ivy title in hand. With the game hanging in the balance in the final minutes, Hummer played with the desperate urgency of a senior who recognized the enormity of the moment. His put-back to take the lead, followed by a strong move to get position down low and get fouled were game-changers in the last two minutes, but Hummer brought the intensity from the tip. He had eight rebounds in the game’s first eight minutes and set the tone for his squad early on.

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IHO Power Poll: February 27, 2013

 Hummer vs. Saunders! Bray vs. Chambers! Henderson vs. Amaker! It
Hummer vs. Saunders! Bray vs. Chambers! Henderson vs. Amaker! It”s Princeton vs. Harvard with the title on the line this Friday at Jadwin!

In a year where it seemed like 11, even 10 wins, might be enough to capture the crown, both favorites have mostly avoided stumbling thus far (Yale, Columbia notwithstanding…), to the point that it seems realistic that 12 wins may only earn entry to another thrilling playoff. We”re looking far ahead here with 2.5 weekends to go, but the Tigers and Crimson appear to be rounding into top form at this point, setting the stage for one, maybe two, bitterly fought clashes between two teams with a quickly growing rivalry– experience and length vs. youth and athleticism, the old guard vs. the new kids on the block. Friday should be a real treat for fans of the league, and really, fans of good, hard-fought basketball.

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Weekend Recap: February 25, 2013

Harvard and Princeton took their brooms to the road this weekend and swept up the competition, setting up another massive contest between the league
Harvard and Princeton took their brooms to the road this weekend and swept up the competition, setting up another massive contest between the league”s foremost powers on Friday at Jadwin.

Many Ivy fans had been clinging to the minutest of chances that this season would deliver more than the two-horse race between Harvard and Princeton that we”ve all been expecting. That final hope was extinguished this weekend, as both the Tigers and the Crimson cruised to road sweeps, eliminating all other contenders by every realistic measure. Still, the Other Six still have plenty to play for as Cornell and Columbia still have small chances of earning a postseason bid, Yale looks to finish top half for the 13th straight year, and young teams look for some momentum to carry into next year. Meanwhile, the spotlight now turns to Jadwin Gymnasium, where on Friday, the next chapter in the Harvard-Princeton rivalry will be written. A Harvard victory will essentially put a ribbon on what has turned into a dominant conference season for the young Crimson. If Princeton can hold court (as they will be favored to do), then we will most likely head to the final weekend all square in the loss column, perhaps destined for another dramatic playoff for the NCAA bid.

In the meantime, let”s look at this weekend”s big winners and losers.

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IHO Power Poll: February 21, 2013

Harvard defended Lavietes Pavilion on Saturday night and regained a hold of first place in the standings and in the IHO Power Poll.
Harvard defended Lavietes Pavilion on Saturday night and regained a hold of first place in the standings and in the IHO Power Poll.

Finally, we are starting to see a bit of separation in the Ivy League standings. Harvard held serve at home to break the tie at the top with Princeton; Cornell swept its Brown/Yale road trip to keep its own outside title chances alive; Columbia and Dartmouth could not grab a win last weekend and fall out of the race for third. A few interesting conference stats to ponder: To date, 31 Ivy League games have been played. Eighteen home teams have been winners (58%); 10 of 31 games have been decided by four points or less or in overtime (32.3%, highest % in nation); and only 2 of 31 games have been blowouts of greater than 19 points (6.5%, second-fewest in nation). In summary, your eyes haven”t deceived you. This year has been full of close calls and great finishes. Without further ado, let”s get to the rankings.

1. Harvard (5 first place votes, 40 points)- Up until last weekend, the Harvard Ivy jaunt had been a white-knuckle ride. Then Kenyatta Smith happened. After being relegated to the bench because of his propensity for turnovers and fouls, the sophomore big man—a former prized recruit who many had written off as a bust—received a surprising starting nod. Smith rewarded Coach Amaker for the move by putting up 20 points, 10 blocks, and nine rebounds in 31 minutes against Penn, and following up that career-best performance with 14 points, seven rebounds, and six blocks in 20 minutes against Princeton. Propelled by Smith”s post play, particularly his protecting the paint on the defensive end, the Crimson put together its first wire-to-wire league wins of the season. It was a stunning turnaround for Smith personally and a Harvard team that was knocked on its heels after a blowout loss at Columbia a week earlier. Perhaps last weekend was a flash in the pan for the sophomore center, but if not, the Crimson might have found the missing piece for its defense of the 2012 Ivy title. –C. River Banks

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IHO Power Poll: Valentine's Day Edition

Yale is the big mover this week in our Power Poll as the Bulldogs climb all the way into the top half on the wings of the 8th southern sweep in Ivy basketball since 1980.
Yale is the big mover this week in our Power Poll as the Bulldogs climb all the way into the top half on the wings of the 7th southern sweep in Ivy basketball since 1980.

We have a lot of love for all of the Ivy teams, especially on a day like Valentine”s Day. From Hummer”s smooth moves getting to the bucket, right on down to Dartmouth”s overachieving group of freshmen, there”s a storyline that warms the heart on every squad. The Big Red, the team perhaps most suited for a holiday like today, is led by Shonn Miller, who must have a fear of commitment because no one doles out rejections like him these days. Even Harvard, the ice cold Ivy villain to many, has Siyani Chambers– the heartbeat that keeps the Crimson going. Columbia”s Cupid has to be Brian Barbour, whose artfully placed arrows travel in the form of assists and currently have the Lions safely out of last-placed heartbreak in this edition of the Power Poll. But enough with all this mushy stuff, let”s get to the rankings.

1. Princeton (4-1) (5 first place votes, 40 points)– Things would have been quite different for the Tigers had Columbia not destroyed Harvard on Sunday, but here they are, still sitting in the top spot, despite the end of the 21-game Ivy home winning streak. Let”s skip over Friday”s domination of Brown (Hummer, Koon, and Bray were transcendant, Barrett was solid and Brase and Connolly were game-changers on defense) because Saturday was much more interesting. The loss to Yale was a total surprise given how efficiently the Tigers had been dominating their league opponents, winning their first four games by an average margin of 13 points. Henderson will certainly have the Tigers working all week on how to handle the pressure of an extended zone because after Yale”s successful execution of that game plan, the rest of the league is sure to borrow that strategy against the Tigers. There”s also no way a team with Princeton”s size should ever allow the league”s worst shooting team to shoot 55% from the field. Lost in Saturday night”s upset was another impressive performance from Denton Koon. Princeton”s 6″8″ sophomore continues to impress by knocking down the majority of his looks. In fact, Koon has shot at least 50% in all of his last five games and in nine of his last ten. Leaving him open to help on Hummer is no longer a valid option for opposing defenses. Princeton heads up north for Dartmouth on Friday before the biggest game of the season on Saturday night at Harvard. –Bruno March

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Sunday Thoughts

This was one of those weekends where nothing seems to make sense as Yale was the only team to sweep its two contests.
This was one of those weekends where nothing seems to make

sense as Yale was the only team to sweep its two contests.

Throw out the transitive property; toss your scribbled notes in the air; step on your calculator. This year”s conference play continues to confound as Yale, left for dead last Saturday and ranked last in our most recent Power Poll, rose from the ashes and swept Penn and Princeton on the road, the rarest of Ivy feats. Hats off to the Bulldogs who got it done, 69-65, behind a balanced attack and backcourt discipline against the usually disruptive and lengthy Tigers” defense. Yale guards, who have been maligned in this space for their turnover troubles, did a great job on Saturday, committing just six turnovers (the whole team had a total of 13 compared to Princeton”s 16). The trio of Javier Duren, Austin Morgan, and Sam Martin led the way in scoring, dropping 13, 11, and 11, respectively. Duren got it done by getting to the rim and hitting all five of his free throws, while Morgan (3-6 from 3) and Martin (3-3 from 3) impacted the game with the deep ball. Yale”s defense really bothered Ian Hummer, who did manage to go 6-10 from the field, but also committed seven costly turnovers. My personal favorite anecdote from the game was a tweet from The Trentonian”s Nick Peruffo, who talked to Justin Sears after the game and found out that Sears calmed himself at the free throw line by “thinking about watching Entourage.” Can”t question it if it works!

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