Monday, March 7, 2011

NOTEBOOK: Harvard Clinches Share, Princeton Can Join Tomorrow Night

From the moment Tommy Amaker was hired at Harvard in April 2007, this moment was seen as a foregone conclusion - a point in the future that existed without a definite date, but with a definite presence.

Amaker would lead the Crimson to an Ivy title, at some point, and Harvard's big gamble would pay off. At least a few people, however, would have been skeptical that it would happen this soon.

The progression has been steady each year, starting even from the first. With a young, but ultimately decently talented roster, recovering from loss of All-Ivy talents Brian Cusworth and Jim Goffredo, Amaker led Harvard to its first marquee win, knocking off Michigan at home, during a tough 8-22 campaign.

The following year brought the Crimson's first win over a ranked opponent (Boston College) and Harvard's first win at The Palestra in 18 years. Last season brought the Crimson's first 20-win campaign ever and its first postseason tournament berth since 1946. In year number four, Amaker delivered on his initial promise and brought Harvard its first ever Ivy League title.

But don't make the same mistake that ESPN did in the wake of Harvard's 79-67 win over Princeton on Saturday night. The Crimson clinched a share of the Ivy title, but only just that - a share. The Tigers can earn their share at The Palestra against rival Penn tomorrow night, in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN3.

If Princeton wins, it would clinch the Tigers' first Ivy title since 2004 and force the league's first playoff since Yale, Princeton and Penn all shared the title in 2002. The Bulldogs beat the Tigers in the first playoff game at The Palestra, while Penn knocked off Yale in Easton to clinch the automatic bid. As an historical side note, that Quakers team had a decent enough at-large profile to at least be in the discussion if it had lost to the Bulldogs - something that this year's Harvard team shares.

The Quakers are also a winner in all of this. In the midst of a solid turnaround job (a Penn team that was right on the cusp of the 300s in the Pomeroy ratings last year has risen to the national average, ~175, this season), the Quakers get a home game against their most bitter rival with the opportunity to keep Princeton from going to the NCAA tournament. More than just that, a victory would give Penn a share of third in the league and a 14-win season (the most victories since the 2007 tourney team).

In other words, for the first time since the 2001-2002 season, there are three teams with relevant league games on the horizon after the final regular season Ivy back-to-back weekend.


Harvard 12 2
Princeton 11 2
Yale 8 6
Penn 7 6
Columbia 6 8
Cornell 6 8
Brown 4 10
Dartmouth 2 12

Total      1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8
Brown 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 100% 0%
Columbia 0% 0% 0% 0% 100% 0% 0% 0%
Cornell 0% 0% 0% 0% 100% 0% 0% 0%
Dartmouth 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 100%
Harvard 100% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Penn 0% 0% 42% 58% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Princeton 58% 42% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Yale 0% 0% 100% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%


Team OffEff DefEff AdjEff
Brown 0.996 1.062 -0.065
Columbia 0.954 1.011 -0.057
Cornell 1.031 1.069 -0.038
Dartmouth 0.871 1.077 -0.206
Harvard 1.105 1.006 0.099
Penn 0.992 0.990 0.002
Princeton 1.023 0.933 0.090
Yale 0.960 0.986 -0.026

The league's final weekend did little to jumble up the adjusted efficiency margin standings. Harvard was able to expand its lead slightly, but Princeton's solid showing at Dartmouth kept the Crimson from gaining too much ground, even with the head-to-head win.

Penn and Yale's dueling splits gave the Bulldogs no worse than a share of third, while giving the Quakers either solo fourth or a tie for third. Penn has a clear advantage in adjusted efficiency margin, however, and that makes sense, given that the Quakers went 2-4 in games decided by one possession or in overtime, while the Bulldogs went 4-2 in one possession games.

The Big Red closed strong both in the standings and in adjusted efficiency margin, grabbing a tie for fifth with Columbia in the former and solo fifth (and almost catching Yale for fourth) in the latter. Cornell was dead last in AEM after the first full Ivy weekend, but closed hard in February and March. Meanwhile, Columbia was beginning its slow fade after a hot start, as it went from a close third to near seventh in the course of a month.

All in all, the adjusted efficiency margin seems to indicate that Penn and Cornell were a little unlucky this season (most would agree with that, I imagine) and that Yale and Columbia were the beneficiaries of a little good fortune.


8. Dartmouth (8)
Mercifully, the long season is over. Even though the Big Green went 5-23, 1-13, it's still hard not to be impressed with what Paul Cormier got out of that team. Cupboard is just that bare in Hanover.
7. Brown (6)
It was a rollercoaster ride for the Bears during the league season. No Lower Division team has a better win than Brown's 75-65 defeat of Princeton, but without the ability to play consistent defense, the ceiling on the Bears' Ivy record was extremely limited.
6. Columbia (7)
Showed some grit in fighting off a 12-point deficit with three to play against Yale and clawing back from down five with two to go in the first overtime. But the second overtime was the story of the Ivy season - the Lions were a team with some intriguing pieces that always just seemed a touch overmatched.
5. Penn (5)
The Quakers' 32-9 run at Dartmouth on Saturday night had me impressed. The 36-21 hole that Penn had to dig itself out of? Not so much. Still, the Quakers will take their guaranteed Upper Division finish where it really matters - the Ivy standings.
4. Cornell (4)
Only Princeton and Harvard closed with a stronger final nine game record than the Big Red's 6-3. Story of the season for Cornell was fouls. When it held opponents under a 45 percent FT Rate, it went 9-4. When it failed to do so? 1-14.
3. Yale (3)
Barely stayed ahead of the Big Red despite losing in Ithaca on Saturday night. The Bulldogs' win over Harvard was the distinguishing factor in comparing Yale and Cornell's recent resumes.
2. Princeton (1)
Tigers cleaned the glass well against Harvard, but there weren't many misses to corral. It was the second-worst shooting performance allowed all year behind Duke, but the Crimson shoots very well at home and a potential playoff wouldn't be at Lavietes.
1. Harvard (2)
The Crimson finished the regular season with the second-best offensive efficiency rating (111.2) for any Ivy during the nine years of the Pomeroy Ratings (first was 2010 Cornell - 115.9). At the same time, if Harvard wins the title, it would be one of the worst defensive champions during that stretch.


The league office has yet to announce the site and time for a playoff which is now as likely as the prediction of Princeton beating Penn (58%). All indications seem to point to both factors being released today, but no statement has been released at the time of posting. Keep an eye on @ivybball on Twitter for news when the announcement is ultimately made.

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