What Happened Last Week: The top of the league held its own, as Yale, Columbia and Harvard went a combined 7-0. Cornell continued to exceed expectations, beating Colgate and taking Penn State and Drexel to the wire. But that was the extent of the good Ivy news, as the other four teams fell to a combined 0-11 since Opening Day.
- We’re still only 10 days into the 2014-15 season, but the Ivy League picture is starting to look a little bit clearer. As expected, Yale is Harvard’s top challenger, having swept three games in convincing fashion this weekend. Despite personnel losses, Columbia could be a third contender, with strong showings at Stony Brook and Lehigh. Princeton was originally expected to be in the hunt, but depth issues have marred the Tigers’ outlook considerably. Neither Brown nor Dartmouth has been inspiring thus far, but there is one other dark horse…
- From 2003-04 to 2012-13, there were 22 D-I teams that won two or fewer games over a full season; just three of those 22 were above .500 in the following year (Jacksonville in 2006, Bryant and Towson in 2012). The Big Red stands at 2-4 now, but they led Penn State most of the way before a final-second giveaway, and they saw another lead disappear the next day against Drexel. With several winnable non-conference games coming up, Cornell may threaten the .500 mark this season — and with lingering questions elsewhere in the Ivy League, the Big Red is now a real contender for a top-half finish.
- Most people may associate Thanksgiving with football, but this week is a great time for Ivy fans to see their teams on national broadcasts. Brown’s visit to Illinois tonight will be shown on ESPN3, as will Penn’s game against Temple tomorrow. All three of Princeton’s games at the Wooden Legacy tournament will be on the Worldwide Leader’s networks, starting with a Thursday afternoon tilt against UTEP on ESPNU. Yale faces Providence Friday on Fox Sports 1, followed by Harvard-UMass on ESPN3 the following day.
The graph above shows the scoring distribution for all eight Ivy League teams so far this season, roughly arranged from the deepest to the shallowest. Wesley Saunders has scored 29% of Harvard’s points, more than any Ivy player except Brown’s Leland King (30%), but the rest of the Crimson’s roster is quite balanced, with seven other players each contributing at least 8% of its scoring. Columbia and Dartmouth are also rather deep, while Cornell, Yale and Brown have relied heavily on their top four, but no team has been shallower than Princeton — just seven players have accounted for all but one of the Tigers’ points.
Player of the Week: Justin Sears, Yale — Sears was his usual stat-stuffing self this week, racking up 45 points, 26 rebounds, 11 assists, and eight blocks in three D-I games, all Yale wins. Other players will certainly have their say, but the Sears-Wesley Saunders battle for Ivy Player of the Year might be almost as entertaining as their teams’ fight for the championship.
Rookie of the Week: Mike Auger, Penn — Auger gave the Quakers a huge spark off the bench in each game this week; he had 10 points and eight rebounds against Rider, followed by 18 points and nine rebounds in just 14 minutes against Lafayette. Nearly half of his rebounds came on the offensive end, and he was efficient in his scoring, making 12 of 17 shots in all.
The week ahead: A trip to 5-0 Providence will give Yale a great quality-win opportunity on Friday, but the Bulldogs’ game against Lafayette two days earlier might be just as interesting, featuring a juicy frontcourt battle between Sears and the Leopards’ duo of Seth Hinrichs and Dan Trist. Harvard will be tested this week, possibly by Houston and certainly by UMass on Saturday. Princeton will play three games in four days against good teams on the West Coast, which may force the Tigers to hunt deeper into their bench.
- Harvard — I swear, I predicted before the season that Harvard would start a Fraschilla-Chatfield-Okolie-Edosomwan-Anastasi lineup at least once this year, but WordPress swallowed that draft. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
- Yale — Forward Matt Townsend had a pretty good weekend, scoring 12 points on perfect shooting to help the Bulldogs beat Kent State. Oh, and he was also named a Rhodes Scholar on Saturday.
- Columbia — If you find yourself in a three-day-long turkey coma this week, Saturday’s American-Columbia game should be the right tempo for you. American is the slowest-paced team so far this season, while the Lions are the fourth-slowest; Ken Pomeroy’s projected score is a blistering 49-45.
- Brown — Leland King put up big scoring numbers this week — 17 points against Northwestern, 25 against Holy Cross, 25 more against Indiana State — but he did so with even bigger usage numbers, launching 49 shots and committing 13 turnovers across three games. King has taken more than 40 percent of Brown’s shots while on the floor, per kenpom.com, which is a major asset for a Brown team that lacks other natural scorers; at that usage, however, even a slight uptick from his current offensive rating of 94 would have an outsized impact.
- Cornell — The Big Red can credit their defense for both victories so far, but this isn’t their high-pressure system of 3-4 years ago; Cornell has forced turnovers on just 15% of possessions. Instead, they have limited opponents’ shooting percentage, in large part due to David Onuorah and Shonn Miller’s blocked shots.
- Princeton — For years, Princeton has had an outsized home-court advantage at Jadwin Gymnasium — so it was shocking to see the Tigers lose at home to Incarnate Word, which was in Division II just 18 months ago. The Cardinals are much better than most teams who have jumped divisions (they went 9-5 in the Southland last year), but that’s damning with the faintest of praise.
- Dartmouth — Through two games this season, the Big Green have committed 38 turnovers while forcing 17. Dartmouth’s offense shot accurately enough against Hartford, including Gabas Maldunas’ 5-for-5 performance, but they just couldn’t get enough shots.
- Penn — The Quakers’ performance against Lafayette was encouraging, even in an 83-77 loss. The Leopards’ offense is lethal in any circumstance, especially when shooting 9-for-16 on threes, but Penn scored nearly enough to keep up. Tony Hicks dropped 13 assists against two turnovers, something he can show those who doubt he can be a True Point GuardTM (as long as he omits the part about taking 18 shots).