What Happened Last Week: Yale held off Brown and Columbia edged Cornell. Harvard and Dartmouth each won a couple games, while the P’s rested.
1. I don’t think many people would mind if the Yale-Brown game tape was somehow ‘misplaced’ from the ESPN3 and ILDN archives. It took two hours and 17 minutes, including a nine-minute delay to review one technical foul on Justin Sears. Two of the best players fouled out on very questionable calls. Both sides combined for 36 turnovers, and the winning team didn’t make a shot in the final six minutes. (Ray was lucky enough to witness the action live.)
Yale looked mortal at home for the first time this season. The hosts were frightening on both ends in a 21-4 start, but then they made characteristic errors (18 turnovers), and Sears was scoreless in a foul-plagued second half. Credit Brown — which has punched above its weight against Yale recently — for uglifying the game and closing much of the deficit, but the Bulldogs will have to develop more effective counters for Ivy play. Yale won on the glass (46% offensive rebound rate) and at the foul line (31 free throw attempts), and even ugly wins count in the standings.
2. Columbia looked a lot like Yale in its Ivy opener. The Lions were outshot by a Robert Hatter-less Cornell, posting a 43% effective field goal percentage, but they had a decisive advantage at the foul line (29 FTAs to 11) and on the glass (29% offensive rebound rate to 13%). An 11-point lead in the final four minutes shrunk to two as Cornell’s pressure caused havoc, but Columbia escaped with a victory.
Alex Rosenberg returned to the lineup after missing five weeks with a foot injury, and he immediately looked like his old self, stabilizing the Lions’ offense with a team-high 14 points. Maodo Lo shot just 3-13 from the field — after going a combined 4-18 in two Cornell games last year — but he contributed six assists and seven rebounds. Columbia will have to shoot better at Newman Arena this week.
3. So where does that leave the Ivy League standings? Right where we expected. All four favorites won their openers, though none of them covered the spread. Princeton had the closest call, but it’s the only team with a road win so far. Harvard, Yale and Columbia return their road trips this weekend, and I’ll gladly bet at least one falls.
Player of the Week: Nick Victor, Yale — The Bulldogs’ stars were inconsistent in their Ivy opener, but Victor’s steady hand helped them hold off the Bears. He scored 15 points, one off his career high, with 11 coming after halftime. The senior added 11 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and two steals (along with five turnovers). The last time we saw a full season from Victor, not only was he just a 28% three-point shooter, but he made the same percentage of his free throws. Now he’s shooting 52% from distance, second-best in the league (behind, even more improbably, Patrick Steeves), while helping the Bulldogs in all other areas.
Rookie of the Week: Matt Morgan, Cornell — The Big Red had a big hole without Robert Hatter — who currently has the nation’s fourth-highest usage rate (36.4%) — and Morgan filled most of it himself, using 43% of Cornell’s possessions in his 35 minutes. Morgan shot 10-23, but five of those makes were three-pointers, including several of high difficulty. He set his career high with 29 points, adding three assists (with six turnovers) in a close road loss.
The Week Ahead: Penn hosts St. Joseph’s late Wednesday night, but the main action takes place in three league games Saturday. Columbia won this week despite matching Cornell’s style (76 possessions) and efficiency (both teams under a point per possession); if the Lions do so again on the road, they won’t be as lucky. Yale will be a solid favorite at Brown, but the Bears seem to know how to get under the Bulldogs’ skin. And Harvard caps the night at Dartmouth, a dangerous trip given both teams’ trajectories.
- Yale — Some have been concerned with the Bulldogs’ depth this season, and their bench scored only six points Saturday even with starters in foul trouble. But I’m not really buying it. Even without Khaliq Ghani, Yale has four solid guards/wings to cover three spots; Harvard won the league that way last year. (Hell, Harvard won in 2013 with four guards/wings to fill four slots.) And the Bulldogs have three valuable big men; nobody in the league really has more.
- Princeton — The Tigers were off this week for “fall” exams. I wasn’t the type of student to stress about school over the holidays, so I never minded the weird schedule much. But it seems to me it would be better to start the fall semester earlier and move exams back to December (as Harvard did a few years ago), and add a true J-term in some form during January.
- Harvard — The Crimson looked shaky at Howard (which was without its leading scorer), needing an 11-0 run to break a tie game in the last eight minutes. Corey Johnson was sidelined with illness, and Agunwa Okolie was scoreless (right after I sung his praises!) amid foul trouble. That cut down Harvard’s offensive options, leading to 25 turnovers. The Crimson scored enough to win, but they won’t shoot 52% on threes every night.
- Columbia — Remember Kyle Castlin? He was one of the league’s top rookies last year, but the return of Grant Mullins and Alex Rosenberg has cut into his role in Columbia’s offense. He scored double figures in just four of the first 17 games, but his 12 points were huge on Saturday, including this explosive sequence:
- Dartmouth — The Big Green looked fantastic on Tuesday, blowing out Canisius in the second half for an 80-69 win. Evan Boudreaux continued his stat-stuffing ways (19 points, six rebounds, four steals, three assists), and the hosts held a very good offense to barely a point per possession despite surrendering tons of offensive rebounds. Dartmouth has its next three Ivy games at home, and I’ll bet it’s 2-2 at month’s end.
- Cornell — The Big Red is now the fifth-ranked Ivy team in KenPom’s ratings, after rising nearly 100 spots since the beginning of the year (313 to 220). Darryl Smith was a perfect 5-5 on Saturday; on a team full of inefficient scorers, the junior has the Ivy’s second-highest offensive rating (127) and should try to shoot more often.
- Penn — The Quakers’ game with St. Joseph’s on Wednesday won’t tip until 9:30 or later, an odd start for an East Coast tilt. It’s the second half of a doubleheader at The Palestra (following La Salle-Temple), commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Big Five.
- Brown — Visiting players usually get hostile treatment from student sections, but Travis Fuller got a warm welcome at Yale this weekend — from his sister Karlee, a senior on the Bulldogs’ volleyball team.