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.

Now, let's get to the rankings:

8. Dartmouth (8)

Whatever spell the Big Green had over the Crimson at Leede was finally broken, as Dartmouth fell behind by 11 at the half and couldn't get within nine the rest of the way. That game wasn't one that the Big Green expected to win anyway, but aside from the trip to Colgate next Monday, Dartmouth won't be favored in any individual game the rest of the way.

That being said, the Big Green is only six percent to post a bagel in the win column during league play.

7. Brown (7)

The win at Maine seems like it was an awful long time ago (okay, so it actually was), and the performances since haven't inspired much confidence.

Watch out for freshman Dockery Walker, though. He provides Brown with an interior presence it sorely needs, but like most rookies, he has to overcome a fatal flaw to stay on the floor. Walker's specific nemesis is the free-throw line, from which he's shooting just 10-for-25 on the season (40%).

6. Cornell (6)

As it has been all year, this is the level at which it is almost impossible to distinguish the teams.

What we know is that the Big Red will win its fair share of Ivy games. It's three-point shooting percentage margin alone will be enough on some nights. Consistency will be a huge issue, however. Cornell has failed to shoot better than 50 eFG% from the field in all but three of its 14 games all season, and its defense has taken a tumble since the exam break.

The Big Red looks to be one of the many teams that will finish around 7-7, though that could be good enough for third place this season.

5. Penn (5)

With another solid post presence in Mike Howlett and an explosive swingman in Dan Monckton, the Quakers were a neat darkhorse to blow up what is supposed to be a two-team Ivy race.

But with Howlett back on the shelf with more shoulder issues and even mentioning Monckton's status considered more taboo than saying the name of that Scottish play, it's clear that Penn will be dancing with the players that got them to this point.

This point isn't all that bad, as an Ivy POY talent, another potential first teamer, a potent rookie and a once-dynamic shooter will get you pretty far, even in such a talented league.

4. Yale (3)

Teams have started figuring the Bulldogs out and with that a surprising early season run has started to fizzle.

Much like Cornell, Yale can light it up from three and generate some surprising results (12-for-21 in an upset win at BC, 10-for-16 in a close loss at Vermont). When you shut down star guard Austin Morgan, however, the Bulldogs start teetering on the edge of disaster. From there, all you have to do is push 6'11 post Greg Mangano out to the perimeter, and your defense will have free reign on rebounding Yale's misses. Unlike the Big Red, however, if you can't get Mangano out of the paint, he and freshman Jeremiah Kreisberg can do a lot of damage from close range.

Defensively the Bulldogs are in the pack with Harvard and Princeton, and that could be the primary factor that allows Yale to separate itself from the morass of teams stuck in the middle of the Ivy standings.

3. Columbia (4)

If nothing else, the fans at Levien will be entertained.

The Lions have an exciting, young backcourt, buoyed by a star in Noruwa Agho. The frontcourt has been good enough this year to create a well-rounded offense that doesn't really struggle in any area.

Then, there's the other end of the court. Columbia's frontcourt-by-committee is stacked with tremendous rebounders and Agho does a great job from the guard spot. There aren't all that many misses to rebound though, as opponents shoot a scorching 51 eFG%. In a league full of teams that are above-average from beyond the arc, the lack of quality shooting defense could ultimately be the downfall of the Lions.

2. Harvard (2)

After sleepwalking through the post-exam period and nearly following an embarrassing loss at Connecticut with what would have been a much more embarrassing home loss to Monmouth, the Crimson finally snapped out of it after the new year, knocking off Boston College and registering the first impressive Harvard performance at Dartmouth since 2006.

It's hard to nit-pick the players on the floor, but the commentary should focus on how few fall into that group. The Crimson only has eight players that have seen more than 50 minutes all season and one of those players, Jeff Georgatos, hasn't seen any time against a Division I opponent in over a month. Tommy Amaker seems content to go primarily with a seven-man rotation for the stretch run - something which leaves Harvard incredibly exposed to its historical nemesis - injuries.

1. Princeton (1)

The Tigers haven't played in over a week now and won't see the court again against a Division I foe until opening the Ivy slate against Brown more than two weeks from now.

It's almost a shame for a team that entered its exam break red hot - winners of nine of its last 10. Aside from the loss to a mercurial Presbyterian team, Princeton put together a very nice non-conference resume with wins over Rutgers, Bucknell, Siena, St. Joe's and Tulsa, as well as a six-point loss to a very good UCF team.

With the first five league games at home, the Tigers need to continue the hot streak from the outset of Ivy play, because the flip side of that equation includes seven road dates in the final nine games.

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