Monday, February 7, 2011

Week 14 Powerpoll: Hey, Remember Us?

There was a time - not all that long ago - when Penn and Princeton absolutely owned the Ivy League. They had the Ancient Eight on lockdown.

When one was down, the other was up. Lots of times they were both up, leading to national recognition and awesome fireworks. But they hadn't both been down at the same time for about 20 years, when Cornell finally broke through in 2008 and grabbed the title three-straight times.

This weekend, however, both teams put the league on notice: This is our league, and we want it back.

Aside from a talented Harvard squad, the Quakers and Tigers are pretty close to having just that.


8. Dartmouth (6)

After looking frisky in a win over Cornell two weekends ago, the Big Green played only 20 minutes of good basketball over two games and have fallen to a distant last in the league in adjusted efficiency margin.

Dartmouth could barely force a miss all weekend, and as one might expect from a team with leading rebounders standing all of 6'4 and 6'5, it got hammered on the defensive glass. The Big Green's last legitimate chances to win basketball games this season probably come this weekend in hosting Yale and Brown.


7. Cornell (8)

According to the Pomeroy Ratings, the Big Red is the 332nd luckiest team in America. In other words, Cornell has played better (a lot better) than its record indicates.

Over time, the luck factor should even out, unless there's a characteristic flaw in a team that inherently makes it a bad squad in close games. I'd suggest taking a look at the Big Red's ability to score efficiently from low-variance places (two-point shots and free throws). Hmm...

6. Brown (7)

Yes, the Bears are a spot ahead of a team that demolished them on their home floor in their most recent contest.

Brown's big victory against a legitimately dangerous Columbia team and its overtime push at Penn gives it a slight resume advantage over a Cornell team that only decided to start participating in league play this past weekend.

With the Big Red waking up and the Bears' defense seemingly disappearing all together, I'd sell Brown at the six spot going forward, however.


5. Columbia (3)

After three weekends of solid basketball, the wheels finally came off the Columbia bandwagon. The Lions needed at least a split to return home with a glimmer of hope in the Ivy race, but their defensive struggles finally caught up with them.

Columbia posted its third-worst defensive efficiency performance of the season at Brown and followed it up with another below average performance at Yale. Now the Lions return home needing a sweep of Penn and Princeton to remain on the fringes of the Ivy title race.

4. Yale (5)

After scrambling to overcome a 10-point deficit to Cornell with under two to play and a surviving an intense rally by Columbia, the Bulldogs find themselves just two games back in the loss column of league-leading Princeton.

Yale has played the best defense in league competition and is finally starting to score the basketball at an average rate. The Bulldogs will get a look at all three of the teams ahead of them over the next two weekends, which will allow them to play themselves into or out of the title discussion directly.


3. Penn (4)

After a thrilling Saturday night performance against Harvard, it's hard to keep the Quakers out of the discussion of the Ivy title chase. Skepticism remains, as Penn travels for seven of its final 10 league games, but it's hard to argue that the Quakers don't have the horses to win on any given evening.

Conventional wisdom says that Penn would need more depth to compete for the title - and that may very well end up being the case - but with Jack Eggleston playing like the Ivy POY to this point and Zack Rosen, Tyler Bernardini and Miles Cartwright having enough ups in their up-and-down seasons to provide timely support, there's no reason the Quakers can't at least hang around longer than most would have expected.


2. Harvard (1)

Somewhat lost in the discussion of Saturday night's game was the fact that Harvard held an 18-point lead early in the second half, only to watch the home side come all the way back to force overtime. The Crimson also held a 12-point lead early in the game against Princeton the night before.

On both occasions Harvard looked a little lost offensively as the opponents were making their run. By the time the Crimson got back to what it does best - scoring inside and getting to the line - it was too late versus the Tigers and almost too late against the Quakers.

For Harvard to remain in the Ivy race, it must avoid those long lapses in the future, because the league is too good this year to get away with playing only 20-25 minutes of solid basketball.

1. Princeton (2)

Faced with a terribly frontloaded schedule, the Tigers had to get out to a 5-0 start before hitting the road for seven of its final nine league contests.

Well, Princeton is 80 percent of the way there, including a win over the number-one contender Harvard. The Tigers now must beat the number-two contender Penn on Tuesday night to keep the pace in the Ivy race.

Princeton has posted the best adjusted offensive efficiency in league play and the fourth-best defensive efficiency. The Tigers probably need to improve a little bit on the latter, as any defensive lapses will cost them a little more on the road where there will be a feedback effect from the opposing fans.

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