Ivy League Weekly Roundup: Jan. 26

What Happened Last Week: Dartmouth upset Harvard with a furious second-half comeback. Yale edged Brown on Javier Duren’s late jumper. And Cornell topped Columbia behind suffocating defense, leaving Yale alone atop the league at 2-0.

Three Thoughts:

1. As Ray likes to say, #RoadGamesAreHard. But someone forgot to pass that message along to the Ivy League, where visitors are 5-2 so far in conference play with two close losses. The away teams swept the Harvard-Dartmouth and Cornell-Columbia series, and Yale-Brown was a few bounces from the same fate. Home-court advantage should play a bigger role now that the back-to-backs and late-night Friday road trips begin — but with more parity than ever, even home games for the league’s best teams aren’t gimmes.

2. Siyani Chambers is simply fascinating. Ken Pomeroy calculates similarity scores for every player, comparing them to others of the same class across different years. Last year, Chambers’ most comparable sophomores included Langston Hall, Ryan Boatright, Jerian Grant and Shabazz Napier — future conference Players of the Year and All-America candidates. Suffice to say, Chambers’ career hasn’t progressed the same way. His turnover rate is up, his shooting percentages are down, and his offensive rating has cratered from 105 to 82.

And yet, Chambers is still indispensible to Harvard’s offense. He sat for five minutes of Saturday’s game, during which time the hosts were outscored 8-3 (including a 5-0 run early in Dartmouth’s comeback). The Crimson were outscored 12-7 without Chambers at Bryant on Tuesday, and 6-2 at Boston College last week. In its last three games, Harvard has managed just 12 points on 24 possessions without its point guard on the court.

Two years ago, Chambers played more than 38 minutes per game for the thin Crimson en route to an Ivy title. He needs to do the same this year, because Harvard’s offense doesn’t function without him.

3. After Saturday’s upset, Dartmouth is now the third-highest Ivy team in KenPom’s rankings, narrowly ahead of Columbia and Cornell. If the Big Green can stay afloat in their next four road games, they’ll be in good shape for their first top-half finish this decade.

GIF of the Week:

Javier Duren downs the Bears. (Video via Ivy League Digital Network)

Weekly Awards:

Player of the Week: Justin Sears, Yale — The Bulldogs’ star forward was in top form Saturday, scoring 27 points on 8-14 shooting to go with nine rebounds. Sears was active on post-ups, drives from the top of the key, and the offensive glass, and he played 36 minutes in a whistle-happy game without fouling out. Sears’ free-throw woes continued early on — he was 4-12 in the first half after going 7-16 last week — but he made his final seven to help Yale close out a close game.

Rookie of the Week: Miles Wright, Dartmouth — Wright missed his first six shots at Lavietes Pavilion, but he made the last two count. The freshman hit two three-pointers from the right wing, turning a close game into a comfortable Dartmouth lead and closing a 26-2 run. Wright also had two of Dartmouth’s 13 steals, helping hold the Crimson to .87 points per possession.

The Week Ahead: Conference play shifts into gear with the first of six back-to-back weekends. Yale visits Columbia Friday and Cornell Saturday, while Harvard attempts to rebound at Princeton (on ESPNU) and Penn. See keys for each team below.

Power Rankings:

  1. Yale — The Bulldogs are atop the league, but they have to make possibly this year’s most difficult road trip, a Columbia-Cornell series separated by a late-night, four-hour drive. The latter matchup might be more worrying: Yale can’t be sloppy against Cornell’s pressure, and Sears needs to stay out of foul trouble against a relentless series of Big Red drives.
  2. Harvard — Before last year’s victory, the Crimson had lost 23 straight games at Princeton; if the Jadwin magic returns on Friday, Harvard could fall into a precarious 1-2 hole. To avoid that, the Crimson needs to shut down the perimeter: Only six teams nationally get a higher share of points from three-pointers than the Tigers, who are especially lethal at home.
  3. Columbia — The Lions can pull back into a first-place tie (at least in the wins column) when they host Yale Friday night, but they’ll need more from Maodo Lo on offense. Columbia must score points to beat the well-rounded Bulldogs, and it’s hard to see that happening without a solid game from its top scorer.
  4. Cornell— When Yale visits Newman Arena on Saturday evening, it will be playing its second game in 22 hours, having spent much of the intervening time on a bus. With a deep rotation and home-court advantage, the Big Red’s pressure will be critical against the somewhat turnover-prone Bulldogs.
  5. Dartmouth— Both Penn and Princeton have a high percentage of their shots blocked, and Gabas Maldunas has the second-best block rate among qualified Ivy Leaguers. If Maldunas controls the paint and the defensive glass, Dartmouth’s offense won’t need outstanding road performances to win at the Palestra or Jadwin.
  6. Princeton — To upend Harvard and stay squarely in the Ivy title race, Princeton needs to play small as much as possible. Tommy Amaker has shown that he will counter small lineups with his own four-guard sets, which have not been very effective, and the Tigers are deeper on the wing but thinner in the frontcourt. When Hans Brase is the lone big man, he’ll have a matchup advantage on the perimeter — and he’ll draw Harvard’s shot-blockers away from the rim, opening up space for backdoor layups.
  7. Brown — A visit to Cornell won’t be fun for the turnover-prone Bears, but they’ll have a good matchup Saturday at Columbia. The Lions don’t get many steals, and they draw very few fouls, which will be a welcome respite for Brown after two whistle-filled contests against Yale. (Update: Brown will be without Leland King, who left the team this week.)
  8. Penn — The Quakers have played best in big games this year, such as a competitive loss to Villanova and this week’s win over Saint Joseph’s in a packed Palestra. That means they should get up for Saturday’s game against Harvard, where an improved defense should give them a fighting chance if a few shots drop. But can Penn bring that same energy Friday, when its tempo might be more important against the plodding Big Green?

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