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:

8. Dartmouth (8)

The Big Green played well for 60 of the 80 minutes in Iowa, but got run over by a Bucknell team that has caught fire in recent weeks.

It's hard to fault Dartmouth for the latter, but again, the league is just too good to look past some of the Big Green's many flat performances. With a lot of the Ivy teams falling back down to earth, the gap between last and seventh isn't as large as many thought it would be, but Dartmouth must jump an entire level in terms of offensive consistency to stick at a higher level in the powerpoll.

7. Brown (7)

Watching the Bears take on Army showed off everything that is wrong with Brown. The Bears couldn't buy a defensive stop in the second half, squandering a 12-point lead by simply getting outscored.

Five of the seven other Ivy League teams have offenses rated more highly than Army's and a sixth Ivy team (Yale) is right in the Black Knights' ballpark.

The Bears will be a fun team to watch in Ivy play with more than a few shootouts, but Brown will struggle to win games when its opponent is anything but ice cold.

6. Cornell (6)

The only way to describe the Big Red right now is as an absolute mess. Yes, the win over Wofford was impressive. But how many nights will Cornell shoot 15-for-21 from three and how can you not wince at the fact that the Big Red still almost lost despite the hot shooting.

Cornell is still searching for an identity at this point, beyond just being a bunch of three-point shooting specialists. The defense carried the Big Red early only to have gradually fallen apart over the past four games. Without that, and without a consistent interior threat, Cornell lacks the ability to control a contest. With a slight lead in a close Ivy road game, the last thing you want is to struggle to get stops defensively and be stuck with a high variance offensive attack. The 14-Game Tournament should be a rollercoaster ride for the Big Red.

5. Penn (4)

The Quakers' two best wins this year have been followed up by spectacular blowups on the road at 300-plus competition. First, it was Manhattan's 17-0 run to close out a victory (a Jaspers team that hasn't won since that Nov. 17 game). Then, Marist completely owned the final 30 minutes against Penn to notch its first and only non-conference win of the year.

Undoubtedly the Quakers have three stars (Zack Rosen, Jack Eggleston and Miles Cartwright), but the lack of depth for a team with a loaded roster - at least by sheer numbers - is deeply concerning. Eggleston and Rosen are playing the fourth and 31st most minutes in the nation, respectively. Will they be able to keep that up during Ivy back-to-back weekends?

4. Columbia (5)

With Yale falling apart, the Lions were poised to jump all the way to third this week, before the incredible collapse at home against Elon.

The Phoenix scored 21 points in the final six minutes to erase Columbia's 12-point lead and win by one with a jumper at the buzzer. It's a game that a team with a decent defense would have iced easily and brings up concerns - much akin to Brown's - about the Lions' ability to hang on late in high-pressure league games.

Columbia earns the fourth-place ranking on the strength of its rebounding, which has been among the best in the nation so far this year.

3. Yale (3)

Put a big down arrow with red warning lights next to the Bulldogs.

Yale has lost three straight, including two at home to below-average (Lehigh) and awful (Sacred Heart) competition. The Bulldogs have been dreadful offensively during that stretch, including its only two sub-100 offensive rating performances against non-BCS competition this season.

Teams are starting to figure out that Greg Mangano can't consistently beat them and that stopping Austin Morgan effectively stops the Bulldogs. Since Mangano hovers around the perimeter a lot, Yale struggles to get offensive rebounds. Add that to the Bulldogs' turnover problems and you have a offense that lives and dies by hot shooting, which is not an effective strategy in a consistency contest like the 14-Game Tournament.

2. Harvard (1)

Stretching an 11-day exam break to almost 20 has really cost the Crimson, as its stinkers at Connecticut and at home against a horrible Monmouth team have sent Harvard tumbling down most ranking systems.

The culprit has been three-point shooting and defense. The Crimson shot itself out of the game against the Huskies by going 4-for-31 from behind the arc and has yielded its four worst defensive ratings of the season in the month of December.

The good news for Harvard is that after a rough start, Laurent Rivard is looking like the frontrunner for the league's rookie of the year award and Kyle Casey has looked more explosive and has been more efficient over the past two games.

1. Princeton (2)

Once again, the Tigers look to be hitting their stride at exactly the right time. Or maybe they've been this good all year, as their early season losses to James Madison and Presbyterian look better and better each day.

Princeton isn't as air-tight defensively as it was a year ago - though that could change during the Ivy schedule, where the Tigers will know their opponents a little more intimately. Offensively, the Tigers are drastically improved with Ian Hummer as an effective low post anchor and Kareem Maddox at times unstoppable as a slasher. Douglas Davis, Dan Mavraides and Patrick Saunders keep knocking down threes at impressive clips, making this an incredibly difficult starting five to stop.

The term "starting five" is the key there, though. Princeton's allocates among the nation's lowest percentage of minutes to its bench, raising some concerns as to how the Tigers will hold up during the league's back-to-back weekends. That core group might be good enough, however, that such quibbles won't even matter.


  1. Technically, Maddox isn't a member of Princeton's 'starting five'...Johnson's been bringing him in off the bench, though he is almost always in by the first media timeout and averages 31+ mpg.

  2. "The good news for Harvard is that after a rough start, Laurent Rivard is looking like the frontrunner for the league's rookie of the year award"

    Always enjoying reading your stuff on the league, but I don't agree with your above assessment. Miles Cartwright had a bad night against Marist (an injury from practice might have been a factor), but I still don't see how Rivard is looking like the frontrunner for rookie of the year. By my count, Miles Cartwright has more rookie of the week awards in the book and his numbers are still in the same ballpark.

  3. Here's the brief reasoning for what I said.

    First, it's a trend issue. Rivard has been making a strong and relatively consistent surge since a very poor start. Cartwright has been up and down all year with a little more down in aggregate than Rivard. Rivard has played distinctively better since the first two games of the season.

    The defensive metrics are pretty even - Cartwright generates higher steal rates, while Rivard contributes more on the glass. Rivard has a little edge, because he fouls at lower rates.

    So, while the edge may be slight on a season-wide basis, recently Rivard has been outplaying all the freshmen. Since the award tends to be more focused on Ivy play, the frontrunner, for me, would be the rookie playing the best as we enter the league season, which has, in my opinion, been pretty clear.

  4. Fair enough and thanks for the explanation. I haven't seen enough of Rivard yet, but his numbers do look very good. Alternately, I have seen a lot of Cartwright and he has really impressed, especially with his ability to drive and score. I'll be surprised if that ability doesn't translate very well in Ivy League play, but I guess we'll find out soon enough when league play begins.