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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Game Preview: Penn at Brown

Zack Rosen is licking his chops at the opportunity to take on the porous Brown defense tonight. (Photo Credit: penngazettesports.com)

Let”s get right to it here. Penn isn”t losing this game. The Quakers are coming off of a frustrating loss at Yale last night, their first of the conference season, and they are going to be angry and determined. Meanwhile, Brown got throttled by a mediocre Princeton team, and despite what the Cornell Basketball Blogger claims, the Bears are far and away the Ivy team most devastated by injury and other absences. Yes, last year”s leading scorer and All-Ivy player Tucker Halpern and Rookie of the Year frontrunner Rafael Maia are out for the season, but now the already-razor thin Bears bench is taking a hit. According to Scott Cordeschi at GoLocalProv, Freshman Longji Yiljep is out for the season with a toe injury, junior Patrick Donnelly is out for the season with a hip injury, freshman Jon Schmidt has an eye injury, Jean Harris can”t play due to the flu, and Steven Albrecht is experiencing those pesky back problems. It”s honestly a war zone down in Providence, and given the lack of depth the Bears had to begin with, it”s a wonder that Brown is competing as well as they are in the league this year.

Read moreGame Preview: Penn at Brown

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