Our Ivy power rankings take the measure of the Ancient Eight’s pluses and minuses since Nov. 21. Here are last week’s power rankings.
1. Yale (2-1)
Who outside of New Haven expected Yale to have this kind of start when then-Ivy Player of the Year candidate Makai Mason was declared out for this season with a foot injury?
And who expected Yale to gel so quickly after Ivy Rookie of the Year candidate Jordan Bruner reportedly suffered an ACL sprain earlier this month?
What happened last year (23-7, 13-1): Nothing to see here, just the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 54 years and a thrilling NCAA first-round win over Baylor. Now graduated forward Justin Sears picked up a second straight Ivy Player of the Year award and now-junior guard Makai Mason established himself as a potential Ivy Player of the Year in future seasons with his clutch play all year, including a 31-point performance against Baylor.
For a deeper look back at Yale’s banner year, read our Ian Halpern’s comprehensive chronicle from April of the Bulldogs’ rise to championship history.
Last year, the Elis won their first outright Ivy title since 1962 and their first NCAA Tournament game ever. They narrowly lost to Duke in the round of 32 in Providence. This year’s version will present more of a challenge to heralded head coach, James Jones, who enters his 18th year as Elis coach and the dean of all Ivy coaches. Jones won the coveted mid-major Coach of the Year honor last year, along with a host of other honors.
Here we are.
Yale makes its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1962 Thursday at 2:45 p.m., a virtual home game for the No. 12 Bulldogs against the No. 5 Baylor Bears. The Bears will be attempting to gain revenge from a first-round upset at the hands of upstart Georgia Southern last year. The Bears have enjoyed success in the Big Dance under 13-year coach Scott Drew, going to the Elite Eight in 2010 and 2012. But then-No. 3 Baylor got upset by No. 14 Georgia State in Athens, Ga. in the Bears’ first NCAA contest last season, an eerily similar virtual road matchup with an underdog foe to the threat posed by Yale in Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center this season.
The game should be low-scoring, which will favor the Elis. Both teams turn the ball over too much (Yale ranks 296th in the country in turnover percentage, Baylor ranks 228th), but Yale has shot the ball better, especially from two-point range against high-major competition.
Yale 88, Cornell 64
Yale entered into this game with seemingly little momentum despite having won 15 of its previous 16 contests. The Elis eked out an overtime win at home against lower-tier Ivy Dartmouth with Makai Mason shooting just 4-for-18 from the floor and sporting a gimpy ankle, while the program continues to deal with controversy stemming from the team’s show of support for departed ex-teammate Jack Montague. But in Ithaca Friday night, Yale steamrolled Cornell for 40 minutes, building a 30-point lead late in the second half courtesy of another perfect Brandon Sherrod performance from the floor. Sherrod’s 18 points on 6-for-6 shooting led all scorers and anchored an offense that posted 32 made field goals on 54.2 percent shooting, taking advantage of Cornell’s inferior defense early and often. Robert Mischler, Cornell’s only senior, helped spark an 18-9 run for Cornell midway through the first half that brought Cornell to just a 22-20 deficit, but the Elis finished the stanza on an 18-2 run of their own in the final 7:32. That first half featured some promisingly even scoring distribution, with Sam Downey, Anthony Dallier and Khaliq Ghani consistently joining Sherrod and Mason in the scoring action. Yale was additionally rewarded for its efforts when …
The Tigers’ weekend sweep of Yale and Brown at Jadwin gave them control of their destiny in the hectic Ivy race and tied them with the Bulldogs in the all-important loss column.
The largest Jadwin crowd in the Mitch Henderson era, bolstered by a beer-soaked cadre of undergraduates and Garden State chief executive Chris Christie, Delaware ’84, was on hand for Friday’s matchup with Justin Sears and company. Yale controlled the backboards and the game in the early going, taking an 11-6 lead after six minutes. Two Sam Downey free throws gave the Bulldogs their largest lead of the game, 19-13, with nine minutes to go in the first period. The key statistic was Yale’s six offensive rebounds while shutting the Tigers out in that category. At the five-minute mark the margin remained six, 27-21.
Harvard 76, Cornell 74
This will surely be remembered as the weekend that ensured Bill Courtney’s exit as Cornell’s head coach after six years of no postseason tournament appearances, following him taking over a program fresh off a Sweet 16 run in 2010. On Friday night, Cornell came out flat and struggled mightily for long stretches in a home 78-66 loss to Dartmouth, a game that the Big Red had to have after being on the wrong end of back-to-back weekend sweeps. Then this game happened.
1. Yale (13-5, 4-0 Ivy)
The Elis have been getting everything they want lately. Brandon Sherrod’s perfect streak from the floor has been well-documented, but what makes Yale so dangerous is that the production can come from anywhere. Nick Victor, the quiet glue of the team, is capable of providing critical points as he has against Princeton and Brown so far in league play, and Sam Downey ranks fifth in the nation in individual offensive rating. To beat Yale, you have to spread the Bulldogs out defensively and hope they’re not too hot on the other end of the floor. Columbia can do that, and Princeton did do that, but Yale just wasn’t cool enough to lose to the Tigers. Like last season, Yale’s biggest games down the stretch will come on the road, with six of its last eight games away from New Haven, including a season-ending showdown at Levien on Mar. 5. The time to build a cushion is now.
Yale 90, Brown 66
Last week, Yale built a 21-4 lead hosting Brown before the Bears clawed their way back in to pester the Bulldogs the rest of the game. Friday night brought just the opposite.