Sunday, December 19, 2010

Week 7 Powerpoll: Stocking Stuffer Edition

It's Christmas time, so it's time to dole out our metaphorical stockings to each of the eight Ivy teams.

Competition can be fierce in the No. 11 RPI league in the country, especially with a relatively indistinguishable clump around the middle, but we've done our best to separate the good little teams from the bad ones.

Now, on to this week's powerpoll:


8. Dartmouth (8)

There's been a certain friskiness among the Big Green players that didn't exist a year ago (aside from organized team protests).

Dartmouth has been trouble at home and on the road for teams outside the top 200, going 3-2 with an average plus-five point differential in those games.

Sadly, this happens to be the year that five Ivy teams are likely to finish among the top 200, so a surprise run to 7-7 in league play like 2008-2009 probably isn't in the cards.


7. Brown (7)

The Bears haven't seen the court for the better part of two weeks, so no reason to move them out of the seven-spot.

With five Division I non-conference games left to go - all against opposition outside the Top 150 - Brown needs to prove that it can stop the offenses that it should be able to stop. That starts with forcing turnovers, something the Bears haven't been able to do for three years now.

At this point, Brown looks like one of the many Ivy teams that can be trouble on any given night, but not over any extended length of time.

6. Cornell (4)

The drop has less to do with the loss at Binghamton in particular (Road games are always tough. Always.) and more to do with some year-long, troubling offensive metrics.

Shooting the three hasn't been a problem for the Big Red, but finding any other offense has been. Slashing wing Errick Peck has been a huge disappointment thus far, and Cornell's posts have struggled to
generate efficient offense from the blocks.

The Big Red has been good enough defensively to smooth over the rough shooting patches, but nothing can save Cornell when its shooters go ice cold from long range.

5. Columbia (6)

Another team in the midst of a long hiatus from the court, the Lions have some work to do upon their return.

The league's worst defensive team has to work harder to keep opponents off the score sheet or else having a nationally above-average offensive attack won't matter one bit.

Don't be fooled by the record. Columbia is a deeply flawed team that will have to improve dramatically to garner an upper division Ivy finish.


4. Penn (5)

The much-maligned Quaker defense is finally fighting back. With its strong pre-exam performance against Villanova, Penn's defensive rating fell to 101, while its free-throw adjusted defensive rating (with opponents' FT percentage adjusted to the national average) dove below 100.

If anything, now it's the offense that needs to pick up the slack. The Quakers are searching for better wing production to flank star point guard Zack Rosen and an interior presence to pair with Jack Eggleston.

Penn has plenty of in-house options, but no one has distinguished himself yet. The most likely scenario would be for Tyler Bernardini to regain his stroke and Mike Howlett to be instantly productive back from injury. The Quakers are still far from being a player in the race, but should be a dangerous team on any given night.


3. Yale (3)

The count is up to six weeks now, and the Bulldogs are still showing no signs of falling off the torrid pace they've set for themselves.

The 42 percent three-point shooting (14th nationally) will fall back down to earth, and since Yale is a poor offensive rebounding team, more of those misses will become defensive stops for the opposition. Still, as only one of three Ivy teams with a net-positive Adjusted Efficiency Differential (Offensive Rating minus Defensive Rating), the Bulldogs have a long way to fall before dropping out of the top three.

2. Princeton (2)

The CBE Classic pool play at James Madison left a lot of people wondering about this Princeton team. Over the past six games, the Tigers gone a long way toward erasing any doubt.

Princeton has won its last six games, including a double-overtime thriller at Tulsa, and should run that streak to seven (next Wednesday at Tulsa) before heading to Orlando for a potentially challenging doubleheader of Northeastern and Central Florida. Throw in a visit from Marist and the traditional, post-exam non-Division I game and the Tigers could be staring at a 12-4 non-conference record.

The outcome of those games, however, is far less important than seeing strides on defense. Princeton is still mired in fourth in league defensive rating - no team outside the top two in that category has won the league during the eight years for which data is available.

1. Harvard (1)

A pivot point is fast approaching for the Crimson.

Harvard has six key players at an offensive rating of 100 or better, including four up over 110. Among that group is freshman Laurent Rivard, who since starting the season 0-for-11 from the field has shot 43 percent from three and an effective field goal percentage right at 60, and junior Andrew Van Nest, who is finally playing like the stretch four the Crimson thought it was getting.

Now, with Kyle Casey finally fully healed (both the foot and the mystery illness), Harvard should be able to kick its game to another level. Sadly, the competition will make this tough to gauge (difficult tests at UConn and BC and visits from lowly Monmouth and Division III neighbor MIT), but if the Crimson truly is the class of the Ivy League, it will manage to give one of the Huskies or Eagles a real scare.

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