Monday, January 31, 2011

Inside The Numbers: Beware Variance

With 14 games down, the league has begun to sort itself out a little bit. There are still three tiers, but the tiers are a lot more even than when the bottom and top combined for just three teams with five left in the middle.


Harvard           22             6           11             3
Princeton           23             7           11             3
Yale           15           13             8             6
Columbia           17           11             8             6
Penn           14           14             8             6
Cornell             8           20             4           10
Brown           11           17             4           10
Dartmouth             7           21             3           11

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Week 13 Powerpoll: Home Is Where The Wins Are

A relative snoozer on Friday got wild on Saturday as Penn-Brown and Princeton-Yale went down to the buzzer (and in the former's case, past it).

Five teams still have at least a decent shot at the title as the calendar turns to February. Let's sort it all out in this week's powerpoll.

Friday, January 28, 2011

14-Game Tournament: Odds Are That...

Two-and-a-half months of evaluation have finally yielded to actual games, as the eight Ivy teams will have their first back-to-back weekend, starting tonight at 7 p.m.

With just 14 games to decide a champion, and just three or maybe four losses permitted to remain a contender, every weekend can and does feel like the biggest weekend of the year.

We'll get to the weekend odds down below, but given that this is the last "pre-season" 14-Game Tournament piece, let's start with the generic league-finish odds.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Even Ken Pomeroy Hates Joe Scott

Maybe hate is a strong word.

In fact, Ken Pomeroy probably doesn't even know what Joe Scott did to him. But, rest assured, if Pomeroy knew, it would keep him up nights.

You see, Mr. Pomeroy has a system. Actually, to be fair, the system is the brainchild of a different brilliant basketball mind, Dean Oliver, but Pomeroy has been the statistician and messenger that has been most effective at popularizing Oliver's work. Put simply, Oliver developed a method by which teams of all different compositions and strategies could be rated against each other on a level playing field, and, most importantly, team quality could be distributed down to the individual player level.

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:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

And Then There Were Five...

The last Ivy team to have its season ended during the 2009-2010 campaign has become one of the first this year, as Cornell fell to Columbia 70-66 at home yesterday afternoon.

The Big Red joins Brown and Dartmouth on the bottom of the Ivy heap at 0-2, while the Lions, Harvard and Yale all sit at 2-0. Penn and Princeton will get underway in league play at home this weekend against the Bears and Bulldogs.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Analysis: How They Played Against Whom They Played

Measuring Ivy League teams against each other based upon what can be wildly disparate non-conference schedules can be a difficult task.

The tempo free movement has led some breakthroughs in the field of unbalanced comparisons, and now one of the gurus of such analysis, Ken Pomeroy, has provided another aspect by which to compare team performance. In an effort to allow readers to parse out more meaning from game-by-game offensive and defensive efficiency figures, Pomeroy has added a rank for each, which indicates how well a rating stacks up against all of the other teams the opponent has played.

While this particular measure suffers from bias based upon the quality of specific opponent's opponents, in the aggregate, it can provide useful information about a team's offensive and defensive performance in the context of who it has played.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Week 11 Powerpoll: All Hail Strongest Ivies Since 2001-2002

It's official now - the Ivy League and its 14th through 16th RPI, Pomeroy and Sagarin ratings will record the best finish in each since the 2001-2002 season that saw the league earn an 11 seed in the Big Dance and send two teams to the NIT.

Five Ivy teams finished the non-conference slate in the Top 200 of the RPI, two league squads hung in the top 100 of the Sagarin ratings and six cracked the Top 220 of the Pomeroy ratings. Harvard, Princeton and Yale combined for four wins over BCS opponents and the league is 11-12 against the CAA, A10, MAAC and Conference USA with one game left to play.

This is the final non-Ivy back-to-back weekend of the year, with three travel partner return games dotting the Saturday schedule. Let's take a look at where the teams stack up heading into those games:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Non-Conference Superlatives

With just two Division I games remaining (Penn wraps up the Big 5 schedule), it's time to take a look back at the league's non-conference performance and recognize the noteworthy performances from what has been a very strong first two months for the Ivies.

Best Win (tie): Harvard 78, @BC 69; Yale 75, @BC 67

It would be almost impossible to distinguish between the two, since the opponent was one in the same and the margins were separated by a point. The Bulldogs pulled off the upset over the No. 55 Pomeroy team by shooting a blistering 62 eFG% (for a +18% eFG margin) and being stingy with the basketball (17% TO Rate). It was a completely opposite story for the Crimson, which actually got outshot by eight eFG percentage points, but cleaned up the boards well and kept the Eagles off the free throw line.

Runners-Up (Pomeroy Rating): @Harvard 82, Colorado 66 (60); Princeton 82, @Tulsa 78 (84); @Princeton 78, Rutgers 73 (97)

Week 10: Ivy League Awards

For the second week in a row, Columbia guard Noruwa Agho and Yale center Greg Mangano shared the Ivy League Player of the Week honors.

Mangano had 23 points and a whopping 17 rebounds against Brown, while Agho had 25 points on 53% eFG shooting as Columbia defeated Cornell for the first time in 10 tries. Agho racked up four turnovers in the victory, continuing a troubling trend as he has attempted to add the title of ball distributor to his game this season.

League Rookie of the Week honors went to Harvard's Laurent Rivard, who scored all 16 points (on 92% eFG shooting) in the second half in a win over George Washington. It could have easily been his third straight win, but his 23-point effort at Boston College wasn't enough to get the nod in Week 9.

Friday, January 14, 2011

14-Game Tournament: The CORNELL!!!/columbia Series

None of the Lions faithful want to remember that 2002-2003 season.

Columbia went 2-25, 0-14 in the Ivy League and rarely even close. The Lions also scored fewer than 50 points in 13 of the 27 games that year and 40 or fewer a whopping seven times.

Most of the effects of that disastrous season wore off rather quickly, as Columbia rebounded to go 6-8 in league play the following year and put together three-straight .500 finishes from 2007 to 2009. One landscape shift, however, hasn't reset itself to pre-2003 levels yet, and it happens to be one of the most important in league play - the season-opening travel partner series.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Week 10 Powerpoll: Four More Teams To Get Underway

Harvard and Dartmouth kicked off the 2011 Ivy League season last Saturday, but pardon the rest of the league's apathy.

Ever since the league has settled into the current scheduling format, January has always been a weird month with the Crimson and Big Green usually kicking things off before the other six and Penn and Princeton not hitting the floor for league contests until almost February.

This Saturday, four more Ivy teams will dive into the 14-Game Tournament with Cornell traveling to Columbia and Yale headed to Brown. The Lions haven't beaten the Big Red at home since 2005 and haven't won a game in the series since 2006. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have won three out of the last four in Providence.

Conventional wisdom is that splitting the travel partner games (unless your travel partner is one of the favorites) can put you in a pretty deep hole to start. This year, however, that might not be as much the case, with the eventual champion's record expected to fall in the 11-3 or 10-4 range.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Harvard 68, Dartmouth 53: Quick Thoughts

This time, the Crimson did more than just survive and advance.

Dartmouth used an 8-0 run to cut Harvard's 17-point lead to nine with 9:31 left, but a Laurent Rivard three pushed the margin back to 12, and the Big Green would get no closer the rest of the way.

Harvard held Dartmouth to nine points over the game's first 14 minutes, but the Big Green got 10 quick points to cut the deficit to 25-19 with three to go in the first half. Dartmouth trailed by just eight as the first half ticked down, but Rivard nailed a trifecta with six seconds left to give the Crimson a 32-21 lead at the intermission.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

14-Game Tournament: Getting A Head Start

As has become tradition in the Ivy League, Harvard and Dartmouth will kick off the league slate tomorrow at Leede Arena, in the opening contest of the 14-Game Tournament.

By most accounts, the contest should be an exercise in anticlimax. The spread should settle in the low double-digits in favor of the visitors, and the Crimson is coming off a huge win over a top 50 opponent, Boston College.

Those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it, however.

Friday, January 7, 2011

History Remains, Until You Change It

A 10-5 start with a sweep of Dartmouth got them all talking. Twice.

Maybe Harvard would finally do it. Finally exorcise the demons of never having won an Ivy title.

But twice, the Crimson failed spectacularly. In 2002-2003, Harvard got swept at Penn and Princeton and followed it up with two more losses at Brown and Yale before losing star guard Pat Harvey to academic ineligibility and proceeding to finish 4-10. Three seasons later, the Crimson started 4-1 before getting beat on a baseline, banked three at Cornell and blowing a six-point lead in the final minute at home against Princeton en route to a 5-9 finish.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Week 9 Powerpoll: Just Five Days To 14-GT

Travel partner month is finally here (Penn and Princeton fans, feel free to skip down to the rankings...) as Harvard and Dartmouth kick off the Ivy season in Hanover this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. Yale/Brown and Cornell/Columbia follow one week later, with all three return games taking place on the 22nd.

Just 15 Division I non-conference games remain, four of which tip tonight during the seven o'clock hour, meaning that the league's RPI finish in the teens (currently 14th) is all but guaranteed.

Let's take one final look at where we stand before the 14-Game Tournament tips in earnest this weekend: