What Happened Last Week: Harvard and Yale stayed atop the Ivy League at 7-1, 2.5 games ahead of the field. The Bulldogs swept a road trip to Penn and Princeton, while the Crimson edged Columbia on Siyani Chambers’ jumper and beat Cornell. Elsewhere, Dartmouth beat the Lions at home, while Penn was swept by big margins.
Tempo-Free Update: With one full round-robin complete, here’s a look at the tempo-free standings:
|Record||KenPom||Off. PPP||Def. PPP||Margin|
By any metric, Yale and Harvard deserve their places atop the Ivy standings. They’ve gotten there differently — the Bulldogs with the league’s best offense, Harvard with the stingiest defense — but both are outscoring conference opponents by at least .13 points per possession, and both are now in the top 70 of the Pomeroy rankings. (The Ancient Eight has never had two teams finish in the top 70; its previous best came in 2011, with #69 Harvard and #75 Princeton.)
Yale’s road sweep this weekend reduced a slight schedule disadvantage for the Bulldogs. Both league leaders now have four of their last six games at home, and the March 6 rematch at Harvard will almost certainly determine at least a share of the title.
Behind the league’s second-best offense, Princeton has a minor edge on the New York duo among the Ivy’s middle tier. However, the Tigers have had one of the league’s easiest schedules so far, playing five of seven in Jadwin Gym, where they get a particularly strong home-court advantage. With five road games remaining, they may fall back toward Columbia and Cornell. The Big Red has one of the league’s worst offenses (including a brick-tastic 42% eFG), but only Harvard has been better on the other end.
Of the two-win group, Dartmouth was best in non-conference play, and the Big Green will likely improve on their Ivy efficiency of 0.93 ppp going forward. A bounceback seems less likely for the Quakers, who have four straight road games coming on the heels of big losses to Columbia (27 points), Yale (27 points), and Brown (16 points).
Player of the Week: Justin Sears, Yale — The Bulldogs’ star forward was ultra-efficient at Princeton on Saturday, scoring 25 points on 15 shooting possessions. Midway through the second half, he blocked a Hans Brase three-pointer, tracked down the ball and finished it for a three-point play on the other end, turning the tide of a 26-12 Princeton run. The previous night, Sears blocked five shots in a rout at Penn (and thought he should have been credited with even more).
Rookie of the Week: Miles Wright, Dartmouth — The Big Green guard continued a breakout month, leading his team in scoring in both games. Wright dropped five three-pointers in an overtime loss to Cornell on Friday, finishing with 19 points on 7-11 shooting; then followed with two more treys and 16 points on Saturday. Wright totaled 11 rebounds (seven offensive) and four steals for the weekend.
The Week Ahead: Harvard and Yale will both be considerable favorites in all of their home games this weekend. The Crimson hosts Penn Friday and Princeton Saturday, while the Bulldogs take on Cornell and Columbia.
- Harvard (7-1) — After playing some unusual lineups in recent weeks, Harvard coach Tommy Amaker mostly stuck with his best alignments this weekend. The improved health of Andre Chatfield and Kenyatta Smith has boosted the Crimson’s depth, allowing them to avoid going too deep into their bench or fitting players into unfamiliar roles. The exception was an early stretch with four guards against Cornell, in which Harvard was outscored 8-3 over six minutes — but with two big men on the floor for the rest of the game, the hosts put the Big Red away 61-40.
- Yale (7-1) — Rookie Makai Mason had a very strong weekend, scoring a total of 25 points off the bench on 10-12 shooting. With point guard Javier Duren graduating this summer, Mason is likely the Bulldogs’ ballhandler of the future.
- Princeton (4-3) — Like Columbia, the Tigers couldn’t quite overcome their slow start against a league leader. Princeton was scoreless for the first seven minutes of Saturday’s game and trailed Yale by as many as 16 points, but it exploded out of halftime to take a seven-point lead. A 1-3-1 zone helped the hosts slow down Yale, but the real difference came on the other end, where they scored 24 points on their first 10 possessions of the second half. Henry Caruso flummoxed the Bulldogs’ bigger frontcourt for 25 points on 13 shooting possessions.
- Columbia (3-5) — The Lions were seen as Harvard and Yale’s top challenger entering the season, so a 3-5 start to conference play is disappointing. A pessimist would say their efficiency is boosted by two blowout halves against Brown and Penn. Columbia should play better down the stretch, but it needs to take better care of the ball than it did at Dartmouth, committing 17 turnovers in a dispiriting 61-49 loss.
- Cornell (4-4) — The schedule did Cornell no favors, as a snowstorm forced them to play Harvard at 4 p.m. the day after an overtime game at Dartmouth. That turnaround is some excuse for a 28% eFG at Lavietes Pavilion, but the Big Red’s impatient offense was always going to struggle against the Crimson.
- Dartmouth (2-6) — With 11 points against Columbia, Gabas Maldunas topped 1000 for his career (as did Maodo Lo in the same game, also with 11). The senior struggled offensively early in the season as he worked his way back from a torn ACL, but his defensive numbers are as stout as ever, and his putback forced overtime against Cornell on Friday.
- Brown (2-6) — The Bears’ offense hasn’t regressed much since losing top scorer Leland King, but they are now asking a lot of their starters. In Saturday’s win at Penn, Brown’s starting five scored 67 of its 71 points. Fortunately for the Bears, they have balance within that quintet; after Rafael Maia, Tavon Blackmon and Cedric Kuakumensah scored in double figures at Princeton, the others (JR Hobbie and Steven Spieth) combined for 40 points at Penn.
- Penn (2-5) — In its disastrous 1-13 season, last year’s Cornell team was outscored by .22 points per possession — same as the Quakers so far in 2015. The last Ivy team with a worse efficiency was Dartmouth in 2010, which was outscored by .23 ppp en route to a 1-13 finish. Things are not rosy in Philadelphia.