Our Ivy weekend roundup features a raucous rematch, some Red and Crimson splitting, a No. 4 stepping to the fore and late-game strategy deja vu.
ITHACA – The Tigers’ annual January hiatus has given me cabin fever. Last night I jumped on I-81 north to head up to Cornell to see what Brian Earl’s club could do against the vaunted Harvard freshmen. I wanted a firsthand look at the Tigers’ opponent next Saturday in Cambridge.
Our Ivy weekend roundup focuses on a really entertaining club, clutch three-point shooting, a chalk result, some turned tables in a rivalry game, a dry spell, the youngsters taking over and #PathToThePalestra.
IHO breaks down the two games comprising Saturday evening’s Ivy conference play-opening slate:
Penn at Princeton, 7 p.m.
Last season: Princeton beat Penn twice by a combined three points, and the Ps’ last meeting at Jadwin Gym on March 12 put a scare into the Tigers, who were outscored 40-23 over the final 14:52 in a 72-71 victory over the Red and Blue. Princeton committed 16 turnovers, its highest amount in Ivy play last season, and then-freshman Penn guard Tyler Hamilton came out of nowhere to provide 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in 37 minutes, easily the best performance of his Penn career.
1. Yale (6-5)
Yale played just one game in the two weeks since the last Ivy Power Rankings, but it was indicative of the kind of performance coach James Jones may extract from his youthful roster come Ivy play. Freshman forward Jordan Bruner enjoyed arguably his best game as an Eli in Yale’s 83-77 loss at Temple, registering a career-high 15 points in just 26 minutes to go along with eight rebounds and four blocks, the third time in his six games that he has collected four blocks. Senior center Sam Downey nabbed 17 rebounds, including nine on the offensive glass, in 33 minutes. Yale committed only 11 turnovers and shot 16-for-19 from the free throw line, suggesting the prototype of a team that thrives on efficiency, superior rebounding and stout perimeter defense. The Elis also lead the conference in three-point field goal percentage, and Yale enjoyed a 3-for-8 long-range performance from freshman forward Miye Oni at Temple to go along with five assists versus just one turnover (not bad for playing his 11th game at a high-major).
The Crimson traveled to the Lone Star State to play its toughest opponent of the season in the Houston Cougars at Hofheinz Pavilion. Riding a three-game winning streak, the Crimson were hot. Harvard’s previous three wins over the Rams of Fordham, the Huskies of Northeastern, and the Eagles of Boston College were impressive; but this Cougar team was a whole different animal. While Houston didn’t come in boasting any signature wins, they were not to be taken lightly. According to KenPom, Houston possesses the nation’s 16th-ranked offense – and it’s not hard to see why. Houston is one of the 25 slowest teams in the country, while still averaging 83 points per game. With the inexperienced Crimson still trying to get its defense together, the matchup posed a unique challenge.
Eight games into the season, the Crimson sit at 4-4. Although this may not be the start everyone in Cambridge dreamed of when fate brought this team together, the Crimson are trending upward after winning three straight games heading into the exam break.
Harvard started the season by losing four consecutive winnable, Division I games. The team hung with Stanford in its opening night game in China, but it still didn’t feel like a great showing, even with Bryce Aiken scoring 21 points in his first collegiate game. After trouncing Fisher College, a non-NCAA team, the Crimson hit a low point in their season. Harvard was only three games in, but an 11-point loss to Holy Cross at home was not a good sign. With Zena Edosomwan only playing seven minutes, Siyani Chambers committing five turnovers (Harvard had 19 as a team), and freshman Bryce Aiken out with an injury, there didn’t seem to be much to take away from that game – besides what not to do. Seth Towns and Corey Johnson had solid games, but there were more question marks than answers. Would the heralded tandem down low of Zena Edosomwan and Chris Lewis play up to expectations? Or, more importantly, would the heralded tandem down low of Zena Edosomwan and Chris Lewis play? Would Bryce Aiken return soon? What was wrong with Siyani?
Well, a Penn grad has finally ascended to the highest office in the land. Although most would argue that this is indeed our rightful place in the world order, our man in the White House is not quite what we, or anyone with a liberal arts education, expected. The Ivy hoops season is also a bit of a surprise (yawn), in that no one expected it to be this bad. There’s a frontrunner that keeps blowing late leads despite their aura of inevitability and too many blah contenders looking to get their act together by January.
For the first time in years, there appears to be no dominant team among the Eight. The favorites, HYP, have all had their early problems and the bottom half of the league is as bad, if not somewhat worse, than anticipated.
So without further ado, I give The AQ’s Special Post-Election Ivy Power Rankings. “It’s going to be yuge!!”
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?