Saturday started Ivy League play for half the league, while the other four teams wrapped up their non-conference schedules and will begin later this week.
The newly instituted four-team playoff seems to give every team more hope throughout the season and puts each school only a couple games away from a postseason berth.
In other words, bottom-half teams now have a chance to sneak into postseason play. So at this point, don’t count anybody out.
- Harvard Crimson
Record: 7-5 (1-0)
Best Win: Dec. 23 @ Houston Cougars
Worst Loss: Nov. 22 v. Holy Cross Crusaders
There really haven’t been any overly successful teams in the Ivy League thus far. Even though Harvard sits at the top, the first three teams in this week’s power rankings can be shuffled however you like.
The Crimson have faced a relatively challenging schedule, with no glaring losses. They beat a good Houston team, which trampled fellow league mate Cornell by 30, and easily handled Steve Donahue’s former school and ACC foe, the Boston College Eagles.
Three of their top five scorers are freshmen, which may have contributed to a slow 4-4 start. In their Ivy League opener last night, Harvard handled surging Dartmouth by forcing 17 turnovers and limiting them to 38 percent shooting from the field. The Crimson must take advantage of a league-wide weak front court if they want to stay on top.
This Week: 1/10 v. McGill
- Princeton Tigers
Record: 8-6 (1-0)
Best Win: Dec. 22 @ Bucknell Bison
Worst Loss: Nov. 20 @ Lehigh Mountain Hawks
The Tigers came into the season as the league favorite, but to the casual eye, the 8-6 record makes it look as if they have failed to meet expectations. But, if you a take closer look, Princeton has faced the toughest non-conference schedule in the Ivy League and has only lost to one team below 500.
The Tigers, as it turns out, have given up about 66 points a game, which ranks 59th in Division I. On offense, they share the ball well and take high-percentage shots. In their Ivy League opener, they beat a good Penn team by double digits. Look for Princeton to reclaim the top spot in the coming weeks.
This Week: 1/13 v. Brown; 1/14 v. Yale
- Yale Bulldogs
Record: 8-5 (0-0)
Best Win: Nov. 13 @ Washington Huskies
Worst Loss: Nov. 30 @ Bryant Bulldogs
Just days before the season was set to begin, the Bulldogs’ star and NCAA Tournament standout Makai Mason broke his foot, which ended his season. After the injury, many folks thought that Yale would fall with Mason, their one returning starter from last year’s tournament team.
Yale looked at the injury differently: as an opportunity. In their first game, freshman standout Miye Oni netted 24 points to help knock off Washington and launch his breakout campaign.
The Bulldogs’ uncanny ability to share the ball has carried them throughout their non-conference slate. In assists per game, they currently rank 16th in the nation, averaging 17.8.
If Yale continues to pass as well as they have, and turn up the aggression grabbing rebounds, this could be the top team in the Ivy League.
This Week: 1/13 @ Penn; 1/14 @ Princeton
- Penn Quakers
Record: 6-6 (0-1)
Best Win: Dec. 12 @ UCF Knights
Worst Loss: Nov. 26 @ Navy Midshipmen
The Quakers let their defense dictate games. Up-front, freshman forward AJ Brodeur, the blocks per game leader in the Ivy League, could use a little help, especially against bigger teams like Harvard.
That being said, Penn has a lot to work out on the offensive side. They desperately need more scoring and a player who can get a bucket on command, or close that anyway.
Such an offensive development is crucial if Penn wants to stay in the top half of the League and earn the school’s first ever playoff berth.
This week: 1/13 v. Yale; 1/14 v. Brown
- Columbia Lions
Record: 6-7 (0-0)
Best Win: Nov. 21 @ Quinnipiac Bobcats
Worst Loss: Nov. 23 v. Army West Point Black Knights
The Lions have played tough teams well, which should serve as a leading indicator heading into league play. Veteran forward Luke Petrasek will provide needed leadership down the stretch.
The key to success should be freshman point guard Mike Smith. If Smith not only improves his own game, but also that of his teammates, Columbia could challenge Penn for the last play-off spot.
This week: 1/14 @ Cornell
- Brown Bears
Record: 9-7 (0-0)
Best Win: Nov. 28 v. Bryant Bulldogs
Worst Loss: Nov. 19 v. Marist Red Foxes
Brown has been stuck in the Ivy League cellar for the past two years. With no expected turnaround, Brown has surprised a lot of people with their strong start to 2016-17. While they still haven’t beaten a single team with a record over .500, nine wins are still nine wins.
The Bears are carried by their offense, and lead the Ivy in points per game. These points come from leading the League in free throws attempted and free-throw percentage. They have gotten to the line almost twice as much as the next best team in the Ivy.
If Brown can limit turnovers– they lead the League– this team is one no other Ivy would want to face.
This Week: 1/13 @ Princeton; 1/14 @ Penn
- Cornell Big Red
Record: 4-11 (0-0)
Best Win: Nov. 30 v. Northeastern Huskies
Worst Loss: Nov. 16 v. Colgate Raiders
The Big Red boast the Ivy’s leading scorer Matt Morgan (18.7ppg) and most improved player candidate, Stone Gettings. Cornell’s high-powered offense is much improved from last year’s but the defense has taken a huge step back.
Freshman Josh Warren has been another bright spot putting up significant numbers in less than 20 minutes per game.
Cornell has had some bad losses, mainly due to zero post presence and a sub-par defense. Like Brown, Cornell must do what they do best to stay in games. In Cornell wins, expect a lot of points to be scored.
This Week: 1/14 v. Columbia
- Dartmouth Big Green
Record: 3-11 (0-1)
Best Win: Dec. 31 v. New Hampshire Wildcats
Worst Loss: Nov. 26 v. Marist Red Foxes
It’s no secret that the Big Green are in rebuild mode. After nine straight losses to open the year, they finally turned around, winning three straight games, a stretch that included a one-point win over New Hampshire. Since then, Dartmouth has opened up League play with a loss against Harvard.
This year, the Big Green should focus on sophomore star Evan Boudreaux. Boudreaux leads the Ivy in rebounds per game and ranks second in points per game. Continuous development is key to Dartmouth’s success in the long term. The Big Green should aim to win at least three more games in upcoming conference play.
This Week: None
– M. Roitman