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)

Best Near-Upset: @Minnesota 71, Cornell 66

It was an Ivy day on the Big Ten Network as Harvard recorded a runner-up performance in this category with a three-point loss to Michigan after leading by 12 early in the second half. The nightcap saw Cornell clinging to a 45-41 lead with 12 minutes to go and eight minutes later saw the Big Red claw back to even at 60. A little 5-0 spurt gave Minnesota just enough space to hold off Cornell by five.

Runners-Up: @UCF 68 (54), Princeton 62; @Michigan 65 (62), Harvard 62; @Providence 58 (79); Yale 55

Non-Conference MVP: Keith Wright, F, HAR

It's an incredibly difficult task to separate Wright from the runners-up in this category - all of whom would be deserving of this honor. What separates Wright from the pack is that his biggest games came during Harvard's biggest games.

In five matchups with Pomeroy Top 100 opponents, the 6'8 forward averaged 18.4 points (and no fewer than 15) on 60 percent shooting and pulled down 9.8 rebounds per game. He averaged six fewer minutes per game against non-Top 100 teams and played a quieter role in many of those contests, but still had some memorable performances, including 17 points and 10 rebounds against BU and 24 points and 10 rebounds at Bryant.

Runners-Up: Zack Rosen, PENN; Ian Hummer, PRIN; Kareem Maddox, PRIN; Greg Mangano, YALE; Austin Morgan, YALE

Non-Conference ROY: Laurent Rivard, G, HAR

No one would have pegged Rivard for this honor after his season-opening flop at George Mason. Rivard had just thrown up 11 shots, connected on none of them and turned the ball over twice. Frankly, he wasn't looking too good after five games either, posting just 7.2 points on 35.7 eFG% shooting in 23 minutes per contest.

Then, a switch flipped. Over the final seven Division I non-conference games, Rivard shot 65.5 eFG% in scoring 17.1 points per contest and led the team in scoring in each of its final three out-of-league affairs. He dropped his turnover rate from 25.5% to 14.9%. Overall, his offensive rating has risen from 78, after the Colorado game, to 116 today, which leads the league among players using at least 20 percent of team possessions.

Runners-Up: Miles Cartwright, PENN; Sean McGonagill, BROWN

Most Surprising Team: Columbia

If Yale hadn't stumbled to the finish, it would have taken this award home easily, but the Bulldogs' loss is Columbia's gain. The Lions lost three senior guards and somehow got better guard play this year than last. Add to that a frontcourt that is no longer a severe offensive liability, and you've got a team that has hopped 13 points per 100 possessions in offensive rating in just one season. The defense has regressed, however, as the characteristically strong rebounding has remained but the gaudy turnover rates haven't.

Columbia's high-octane attack allowed it to give La Salle and St. John's scares on the road early in the season and to steal games at a Vlad-less American team and Maine. For a team that looked to be a distant seventh coming into the year, the Lions have to be pleased with their non-conference run.

Runner-Up: Yale

Most Disappointing Team: Cornell

In a supposed rebuilding year where the Ivies actually rose in the RPI from 21st to 14th, calling any team disappointing is a severely relative label.

Despite losing six of the top eight guys from last year's Sweet 16 team, the Big Red's fall wasn't expected to be precipitous - at least in the sense that it still figured to make the league's upper division easily. But Cornell's inability to close games that it was in good position to win (vs. St. Bonaventure, at Lehigh, at BU, at Binghamton, vs. UNH) caused a rough patch to snowball into an eight-game losing streak.

While the Big Red currently has the league's worst record, it is far from the league's worst team. The difference between expectations and reality appears to be that Cornell finds itself among that pack fighting for third through seventh, but by no means is the team you most expect to come out at the top of that heap.

Runner-Up: Brown

Least Probable Victories:
1. Yale 75, @BC 67 (7.9%)
2. Dartmouth 67, @Drake 59 (11.2%)
3. Dartmouth 71, @Hartford 57 (13.8%)
4. Harvard 78, @BC 69 (17.9%)
5. Cornell 86, Wofford 80 (18.6%)

Least Likely Losses:
1. Sacred Heart 71, @Yale 62 (13.0%)
2. Presbyterian 69, Princeton 67 (19.0%)
3. Lehigh 62, @Yale 57 (24.3%)
4. @Longwood 95, Columbia 76 (24.3%)
5. @Binghamton 69, Cornell 68 (27.1%)

Conference Records (ordered by Win Percentage, 3+ games to qualify):
1. Northeast Conference 11-5 (.688)
2t. Southern Conference 2-1 (.667)
2t. Atlantic Coast Conference 2-1 (.667)
4. Patriot League 12-9 (.571)
5. Colonial Athletic Conference 4-3 (.571)
6. America East Conference 10-8 (.556)
7. Atlantic 10 Conference 4-4 (.500)
8. Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference 2-3 (.400)
9. Big East Conference 1-9 (.100)
10. Big Ten Conference 0-3 (.000)

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