Ivy League Weekly Roundup: Nov. 17

What Happened Last Week: What could have been a strong weekend for the Ivy League became a disappointing start to the season, thanks to several close games breaking against the Ancient Eight. Yale lost to Quinnipiac in double overtime, Columbia blew a late lead to lose to Stony Brook by one point, and Penn fell to Delaware State in overtime. After Princeton and Cornell dropped single-digit decisions Sunday, nationally ranked Harvard was upset by Holy Cross, 58-57. The Ivy League went just 4-7 overall, with Cornell(!) providing the most notable win.

Steve Moundou-Missi blocked four shots, but Harvard was upset by Holy Cross on Sunday.
Steve Moundou-Missi blocked four shots, but Harvard was upset by Holy Cross on Sunday.

Three thoughts:

1. Many of the league’s top teams will spend non-conference play working through depth issues. Harvard spent much of Sunday’s loss playing a four-guard lineup with only four healthy guards in its rotation; as a result, Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders both played all 40 minutes against heavy full-court pressure, while Corbin Miller played 37. Yale showed a somewhat deeper lineup against Quinnipiac, but still rode its starters rather heavily despite foul trouble. Columbia was without Luke Petrasek and Grant Mullins on Friday, compounding the recent departures of Meiko Lyles and Alex Rosenberg. And Princeton mostly stuck with six players in its opener, an issue that was exposed by foul trouble in Sunday’s loss. Whichever teams can find breakout players (and avoid further injuries) will have a leg up in Ivy play.

2. Before Harvard’s loss, the biggest surprise of the weekend was Cornell’s 68-60 victory at George Mason, a win that looked even better when Princeton fell to the Patriots on Sunday. This isn’t a peak George Mason team — the Patriots went 4-12 in the Atlantic 10 last year — but it’s still an excellent result for a team that beat just one D-I opponent last season. Before the Big Red bandwagon gets too full, however, it’s worth noting that Cornell was hardly dominant: George Mason had a decided edge in turnovers and on the glass, only losing because it shot a woeful 31% from the field (and 11-for-21 from the free throw line). The Big Red’s opponents won’t miss that many shots too often.

3. The #2BidIvy hashtag should be short-lived this year. One weekend doesn’t mathematically eliminate anything, but after an opening-weekend loss, it will be hard for Harvard to put together a profile that could withstand a few Ivy League losses — and even harder for Yale, Princeton or Columbia to do the same. Just to keep faint hope alive, Ivy teams would have to upset several major-conference opponents and, just as importantly, stop losing close games.

Weekly Awards:

Player of the Week: Shonn Miller, Cornell — After missing all of last season with a shoulder injury, Miller showed no signs of rust in his 2014-15 debut. The forward went right back to being his All-Ivy self, leading the Big Red’s upset at George Mason with 21 points and 13 rebounds (including 4-6 three-point shooting), then scoring 20 points in an attempted comeback at Loyola (MD).

Rookie of the Week: Antonio Woods, Penn — The 6’1″ guard from Cincinnati came off the bench but saw the second-most playing time for the hosts against Delaware State, scoring 11 points in 36 minutes. Four of the eight Quakers who played Saturday were rookies (Woods, Darnell Foreman, Mike Auger, Sam Jones), so expect to see lots of Red and Blue here in the future.

The week ahead: Brown plays the two most interesting games this week, hosting Northwestern on Monday — a rare Ivy home game against an out-of-area major-conference school — and then visiting the Holy Cross team that just beat Harvard on Wednesday. The Bears are already the only unbeaten Ivy team; they’ll get some serious buzz if they’re 3-0 in three days. Cornell plays South Carolina on Thursday, while Princeton and Penn each face Patriot League contender Lafayette.

Power Rankings: (Note: Rankings based on my overall impression of each team, not just what happened this weekend.)

  1. Harvard — The Crimson aren’t out of the woods yet: In the coming weeks, they play Houston, UMass, Northeastern, and at Vermont, all games that could pose a challenge even before highly anticipated visits to Virginia and Arizona State.
  2. Yale — While the Bulldogs were in overtime against Quinnipiac, former forward Brandon Sherrod was singing with the Whiffenpoofs at the Yale Daily News banquet. Even without Sherrod, Yale looked very good for stretches on Friday, and the Bobcats should be a MAAC title contender.
  3. Brown — How will the Bears replace Sean McGonagill’s offense? If their opener is any indication, it’ll come from many places. Tavon Blackon, Cedric Kuakumensah and Rafael Maia each scored in double figures and flashed newfound three-point range.
  4. Columbia — After playing just 13 minutes as a freshman, Chris McComber more than doubled that mark as a starting forward on Friday. He was productive, too, scoring 13 points on 4-8 shooting (all from long range).
  5. Princeton — The Tigers could really use one of their patented out-of-nowhere breakout players to deepen their rotation, but Hans Brase has looked like an All-Ivy-caliber player so far, averaging 14.5 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists.
  6. Cornell — Shonn Miller isn’t the only returning player for Big Red fans to be excited about: Galal Cancer scored 19 points against Loyola, and he even did so efficiently (5-7 from the field, 9-12 from the line).
  7. Dartmouth — The Big Green only plays one more game before Thanksgiving, so it may take a while to get a good read on them. Gabas Maldunas committed five turnovers in his return, but he was back to his old rebounding self with nine boards in 24 minutes.
  8. Penn — Tony Hicks had a 42% usage rate in Penn’s opener, which is hilariously high, but his style is an asset for this particular Penn team. Hicks won’t score 31 points every night, but his volume shooting can keep the Quakers’ offense alive while they figure out who else can score.

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