Saturday's Best

Zack Rosen is a man on a mission. (Photo Credit: philly.com)

Best…Wow: Zack Rosen did it again. Two clutch Rosen free throws with 23 seconds left put Penn up one, and after a rebound off a missed Corbin Miller three ended up in Harvard”s possession, Tyler Bernardini stepped up and drew a charge on Kyle Casey with only seconds remaining. Penn was able to run the clock out on the inbounds, securing a 55-54 victory and breaking Harvard”s 28-game home winning streak. More importantly, the Quakers are now a half-game back of first place, and tied with the Crimson in the all-important loss column. A Penn victory seemed unlikely late in the second-half as a Curry back door pass to Saunders put Harvard up 7 with only five minutes to play. Cue Rosen. The soon-to-be Ivy Player of the Year once again one-upped himself, knocking down a three on the wing, an elbow jumper, and the game-winning free throws in the final minutes to lift the Quakers. Rosen finished with 20 points on 6-14 shooting (4-7 from deep), while Miles Cartwright added 8 points. Props must be given to Tyler Bernardini who despite playing with an ankle injury, stepped up with great help defense to draw the pivotal charge on Casey. For Harvard, Casey led the way with 12 points

and 6 rebounds, with Keith Wright adding 9 points and 5 rebounds. Wesley Saunders had 10 off the bench and Laurent Rivard had 8. The Crimson outrebounded the undersized Quakers 24-15, but only shot 2-11 from three. Harvard now goes on the road to Columbia and Cornell for its final weekend. Penn returns home to face Yale and Brown before closing out the season against archrival Princeton. It”s worth noting that half of the league remains alive for the title as we enter the final weekend. Yale needs a sweep and one Harvard loss; Princeton needs to win out, have Harvard lose both, and have Penn lose one. It should be a fun finish to the Ivy season.

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Friday's Best

Kyle Casey led Harvard to the brink of an Ivy title with a big 20-point, 8-rebound performance against Princeton on Friday night. (Photo Credit: gocrimson.com)

Best Clutch Defense: The Crimson pulled this one out thanks to a late-game stretch of lockdown defense. Between 8:17 and 2:02 remaining in the game, Harvard held Princeton scoreless, a stretch during which a 55-54 Tigers lead turned into 59-55 Crimson advantage (Harvard wasn”t exactly lighting it up late in this one either). The Cantabs went 8-8 from the line down the stretch to seal the victory. The scoring was provided by the big men on this night, as Kyle Casey went for 20 pts and 8 rbs, while Keith Wright pitched in with 12 pts and 6 rbs. Brandyn Curry gave Harvard a key second half spark and finished with 15 pts, 6 ast, and 0 turnovers. Oliver McNally also added 13 including going 6-6 from the line in the final eighteen seconds. For Princeton, the scoreless drought doomed the Tigers, who stopped getting the good looks that had been so plentiful in the first half. The ball stopped moving crisply and the shots were contested, and they just didn”t fall. Ian Hummer and Doug Davis each had 14 and Patrick Saunders had 12 points in a huge first half, but didn”t get any looks in the second half. With the loss, Princeton falls out of the Ivy title race. Meanwhile, Harvard”s home win streak moves to 28 and the Crimson can now turn its focus to Penn. Harvard can clinch at least a share of the Ivy title with a win tomorrow night.

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Why Harvard Will Win/Lose

Our favorite cranky Cantab-hating commenter sent us the following essay yesterday. The author of this piece is not affiliated with Ivy Hoops Online, but we always welcome and encourage commenters, outside contributors, and readers to share their opinions and thoughts. 

The Ancient Quaker is sick of all the talk about 2012 Harvard being the best Ivy team ever. How about Penn's 1979 Final Four team? (Photo Credit: blogs.dailypennsylvanian.com)

By The Ancient Quaker

Now that the preliminaries are finally out of the way, at last comes the make or break weekend for the Crimson. The hyperbole surrounding this team is insufferable. The sporting press has already crowned them champions since early September. Some have even dared to call this year’s Crimson the best Ivy team of all time. (No, that would be the third ranked (that’s 3) Quakers of 1970. If you don’t agree, there are plenty of other possibilities: Bill Bradley’s Tigers, Penn’s 1979 Final Four team or even the sixth-ranked 1967 Columbia Lions with Jim McMillan.) What’s more, earlier this week ESPN was trying to determine Harvard’s likely tournament seed. As amusing as these possibilities may be, to this I say not so fast. With the P’s coming to Boston in a few days anything can happen. As I have already made clear in a prior article, I am no fan of Harvard Basketball or of their unctuous coach Tommy Amaker. Nevertheless (for fun), I will posit why I believe the Crimson will win their first outright title. Then to be fair (and hopeful), I will suggest why they will fail.

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Ivy Postseason Possibilities

Half of the Ivy League has a chance to play in the postseason with just four games to play.

With only four games to play, five Ivy teams have a good shot of finishing the season with a winning record. Unfortunately for Columbia, the bad computer numbers, lack of quality wins and disappointing conference record will keep the Lions off the court in mid-March. For the league”s top half, let”s take a look at what could be in store after the final Ivy weekend:

Harvard: The Crimson remain heavy favorites to win the league outright. A sweep at home this weekend would virtually end all doubt regarding Harvard”s ultimate March destination. A split that includes a victory over Penn would probably do the trick too. IHO says: The Crimson are headed to the Big Dance.

Penn: The 15-11 (7-2) Quakers have a pretty comparable profile to the second-placed Princeton team from 2010. Those Tigers (RPI #133) finished 20-8 with a significantly weaker strength of schedule as this year”s Quakers and were invited to the CBI, where they knocked off Duquesne and IUPUI before falling to Saint Louis. This Penn team is on track to finish in second in a significantly better league, has better computer numbers (RPI #108) , a Top 100 win in the victory over Saint Joe”s, and the draw of one of the country”s best point guards in Zack Rosen. If you”re a Penn fan with NIT hopes, you may be out

of luck. Last year”s NIT at-large selections had an average RPI of 67 with Nebraska squeezing in with the worst RPI at #89. The CBI, on the other hand, took teams with an average RPI of 119 last year. While the CBI is a bit more unpredictable with the pay-to-play format, Penn still seems like a good fit as a road team, or even a home team if they”re willing to put up the cash. IHO says: Zack Rosen and the Quakers will play on into March in the CBI.

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Could Cornell have Stopped Zack Rosen?

Zack Rosen did everything right in the final four minutes against Cornell. Could the Big Red have done more to stop him? (Photo Credit: thedp.com/thebuzz)

Johnny Gray has done a lot of great things this season, but prolific defense has not been what he’s known for. But Gray changed that on Friday. In the first 36 minutes of action, Gray managed to hold the Ivy League Player of the Year favorite to just 10 points on 5-14 shooting. Unfortunately, it was the final four minutes, not the first 36 that made the difference.

Four minutes. How much can really change in four minutes? Just ask Zack Rosen. Rosen, in the final four minutes against Cornell, was unbelievable, playing probably the best stretch of basketball I’ve seen by a point guard at any level. Yes, even including the great Jeremy Lin.

Rosen was the best player on the court. The crowd knew it. Cornell knew it. Most importantly, Rosen knew it, and he played like it. Four minutes, 3-3 shooting, 13 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 steals. Big shot after big shot. Big play after big play. Rosen single handily turned a four-point deficit into a seven-point victory.

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IHO Power Poll: February 20, 2012

Keith Wright's Harvard Crimson has been the wire-to-wire #1 team in the IHO Power Poll this season. (Photo Credit: thecrimson.com)

Welcome to the eighth IHO Power Poll (based on games through 02/20/12). Please note that these rankings are based off of our best guesses of how the Ivy League picture will sort itself out. We always love to hear your gripes and whines in the comments below.

1. Harvard (9-1), (23-3)- Harvard took care of business this weekend with its best back-to-back performances in a month. A depleted Brown team did not put up much of a fight on Friday night, and the next day the Crimson weathered Yale’s best shot

to pull out a 15-point victory. Keith Wright was the leader on the court, averaging 11 points and nine rebounds in just 23 minutes per game, but Harvard got standout performances from Steve Moundou-Missi (14 points off the bench against the Bears) and Brandyn Curry (a season-high 18 points against the Elis) as well. Now holding a game-and-a-half lead over the competition, the Crimson can effectively wrap up its second Ivy title in as many years if it can beat the Killer Ps next weekend at Lavietes, where Harvard now owns a 27-game winning streak. -C. River Banks

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Saturday's Best

Brandyn Curry led the Crimson to a season sweep over Yale with 18 points on Saturday night in Harvard's 66-51 victory at Lavietes. (Photo Credit: thecrimson.com)

Best Domination of a Rivalry: Another efficient offensive performance from Harvard (1.22 points per possession) coupled with yet another lockdown defensive effort kept the Crimson in the driver”s seat. That”s 27 in a row at Lavietes and a season sweep of archrival Yale. This time, Harvard got out to a 35-15 first half lead, but Yale responded with an 11-0 run to close the half. The Bulldogs got within four early in the second half, but Harvard pulled away behind Curry”s scoring, Wright”s inside finishing, and Miller”s shooting off the bench.

For Yale, it was Mangano once again getting the buckets as the big man made it happen all over the court, knocking down 3 of 4 three point attempts and finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds. A lack of depth hurt the Bulldogs (Mike Grace was not 100% after injuring his ankle) and Harvard did a great job of limiting Yale”s backcourt production. Austin Morgan and Reggie Willhite were held to 4-13 from the field and 15 points. For the Crimson, a balanced attack did the trick, though it was Brandyn Curry with

18 points and 5 assists leading the way. Wright finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds. It seems like we”ve had a game with serious title implications every weekend, and the Crimson will face one more when Zack Rosen and the 7-2 Quakers come to town on Saturday. One more sweep at home will virtually clinch the first solo title in Harvard history.

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Friday's Best

Mack Darrow's huge night off the bench helped lift Princeton over Columbia last night. (Photo Credit: goprincetontigers.com)

Best Second Half: Princeton rode a 50 point second half to an impressive 77-66 victory over Columbia at Jadwin. The Tigers limited Mark Cisco to 4 points and 5 rebounds, as Doug Davis notched 20 points and Ian Hummer added 16 to lead Princeton into the top half. The Tigers stuck with a short rotation of eight players and it allowed their guys to get in a shooting rhythm, as the team shot 51% from the field on the evening with all eight getting into the scoring column. The game was all tied up at 27 at the half, but a 14-3 run in the middle of the second half pushed the Tigers ahead to stay. Mack Darrow contributed 19 points off the bench (4-6 FG, 9-9 FT) in 26 minutes to provide an important spark. For the Lions, Brian Barbour continued to showcase his ability as a scorer with 22 points (5-12 FG, 11-13 FT), and Blaise Staab took advantage of the start by pouring in 12 points to go with 6 rebounds. Princeton takes on Cornell in a critical matchup at Jadwin tonight as the Tigers try to climb back up the standings.

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Game Preview: Yale at Harvard

Yale needs to take care of the ball and get more out of its bench if the Bulldogs want to hang with Harvard at Lavietes tonight. (Photo Credit: thecrimson.com)

The last time that Harvard lost at Lavietes was February 19, 2010, a 79-70 loss to Cornell almost two years to this day. Since then, the Crimson has racked up—after last night’s comfortable 69-42 win over Brown—26 consecutive wins at home, and they now trail only Kentucky (49 wins) for the longest home winning streak in the country (D1). In short, as Yale’s season lies in the balance tomorrow—Yale must win to continue any hopes of seizing an Ivy League title—the Bulldogs are traveling into one of the toughest road environment’s imaginable to make or break their season.

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Game Preview: Cornell at Princeton

Chris Wroblewski is going to need to control the tempo if the Big Red are going to get back on track at Princeton tonight. (Photo Credit: cornellbasketballblog.blogspot.com)

Coming into the weekend, Cornell and Princeton were arguably the hottest Ivy League teams. Both teams entered Friday night looking to capture its longest winning streak of the season after collectively dismissing arguably the two best teams in the conference, Harvard and Yale. Friday night, Princeton surged in the second half to top Columbia while Cornell faltered late and fell at the Palestra. Princeton, who has probably been the most inconsistent team in the league this season will have to put together a complete effort if it doesn’t want to find itself being swept by Cornell for the second time in the last three seasons.

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