Thursday, January 27, 2011

Week 12 Powerpoll: Let The Games Begin

The mad dash is underway. Six weekends, plus two Tuesdays to crowning a new Ivy champion.

Some teams have already dropped back from the pack, as Brown, Cornell and Dartmouth are two games off the pace before league play even started in earnest. Others have dropped behind the leaders merely by virtue of not having stepped on the court.

Finally, everyone gets to join the 14-Game Tournament fracas. But before they do, let's see where each Ivy team stacks up:

8. Dartmouth (8)

Despite appearing to have a bare cupboard and a weak recruiting class, the Big Green has taken decent strides versus last season. Offensively Dartmouth is merely well below average, instead of historically bad, and defensively, the team is just a shade below the Ivy mean.

The Big Green had Harvard on the ropes for 30 minutes, holding the lead on the road until the eight minute mark. The lack of a consistent offensive presence sank Dartmouth, as it floundered once the jumpers stopped falling. That being said, the Big Green has proven that it has enough offense and a decent enough defense to steal some Ivy wins.

7. Brown (7)

The league's third most inconsistent offense and second most inconsistent defense delivered over the past week, torching the nets at home in a win over a good Quinnipiac team, while allowing the Bobcats to score in bunches as well, before going cold in a loss at Yale, while shutting the Bulldogs down on the other end.

Brown fans need to brace themselves for a rollercoaster ride this year. The Bears won at Princeton and gave Cornell 30 good minutes on the road as well last season. The metrics all point to quite the same variability this year.

6. Cornell (6)

It seems almost monotonous to keep harping on it, but the Big Red must learn to keep opponents off the free throw line. Columbia's free throw rates (free throws attempted divided by field goals attempted) in the travel partner series were 49 and 57 percent.

There's a good Cornell team hidden behind a couple serious flaws. If it can string together a few good rebounding nights and even out the free throw attempts, it could string together a few wins as well.

5. Penn (5)

There's just nowhere for the Quakers to move to in this poll. The St. Joseph's game was Penn's most complete of the season, as it matched a solid offensive performance with a solid defensive one.

There is a lot to like about segments of the last four games. The converse of that is that there have been some scary stretches over that span as well. Penn is capable of beating every team ahead of it in this poll, but it's also capable of losing to every team behind it. That's what happens when you have the league's most volatile defense. Anything from seventh to second in the league wouldn't be a big surprise.

4. Columbia (4)

It doesn't seem to matter who the competition is, the Lions are going to be in it down the stretch.

Aside from Longwood, no team has been able to bury Columbia - even Top 100 teams like St. John's and Bucknell have struggled to put the Lions away.

Columbia's downfall will be its consistently bad defense (worst in the league and second least variable), but its ability to get efficient scoring from its guards and decent production out of its bigs - last year's downfall - has made it dangerous. Expect the Lions to throw the kitchen sink at Harvard on Friday night in the hopes of sneaking away from the New England trip with a surprise sweep.

3. Yale (3)

Last weekend's win over Brown was one of the most dominating eight-point victories you'll ever see. Greg Mangano and Jeremiah Kreisberg locked down the paint on both ends of the floor, while the two sides' guards cancelled each other out with disappointing performances.

The Bulldogs held the Bears to their worst and sixth worst offensive performances of the travel series, and its that defense that should buoy Yale during a tough Ivy slate where its mercurial offense could abandon it for stretches at a time. Winning without star guard Austin Morgan providing almost anything offensively has been impressive, but it's not a recipe for success, at least in terms of winning an Ivy title.

2. Harvard (2)

The Ivy's biggest conference-play underperformer since 2003 almost laid another embarrassing egg at home, needing a 31-10 run over the final 16 minutes to beat lowly Dartmouth.

Granted, the Crimson was fighting both apathy and a spate of injuries (Wright - ribs - and Rivard - ankle/Achilles - played through while Webster - hip - and Van Nest - illness - couldn't), but it was the manner in which the scare took place that was so concerning. The tremendously undersized Big Green pulled down 41.7 percent of its misses - Harvard's third worst defensive rebounding performance of the season - and used that to slow the pace to a crawl - 58 possessions, the Crimson's fewest in any game all season. That allowed Dartmouth to hit a handful of shots, grab a lead and attempt to bleed the clock dry.

The strategy ultimately didn't work out for the Big Green, but the blueprint is now out there for a team with a little stronger offense to adopt and potentially see different results.

1. Princeton (1)

The College of New Jersey should have called timeout at 10:44 of the first half, assembled its team near midcourt and taken a picture with the 18-18 score in the background.

From there on out the Tigers destroyed the Division III Lions, scoring 55 of the games final 77 points for the 73-40 win. Things will get progressively more difficult for Princeton over the next couple weeks, as it gets visits from Brown and Yale before facing off with Harvard next Friday.

Even though the national media has forgotten about the Tigers during their January hibernation, most pundits around the league still agree that Princeton is the team to beat. With Kareem Maddox and Ian Hummer playing at POY levels and stalwarts Dan Mavraides and Douglas Davis flanking them on the perimeter, it's hard to envision this team not being there at the end in March.

1 comment:

  1. Fun Fact: Princeton used to be called the College of New Jersey. So it's basically like playing a JV version of yourself.