Coming into the season the question about the Ivy League was: What team is the second best behind Harvard? There were arguments to be made for almost every team in the league. Have we come any closer to settling that debate two and a half weeks in? Nope. Still, let’s take a look at a way too early Ivy League Power Ranking with some observations from the first set of games.
1) Harvard (4-1) – The Crimson have basically been everything we expected of them coming into the season. They summarily dispatched three mid-majors and then got a shot at Colorado, which didn’t end too nicely. Still, Kyle Casey is back and playing well and Brandyn Curry got a chance to play again against the Buffaloes. This team is now heading to Alaska where they have a chance to get a tournament title and beat some other talented teams. Another good sign for Harvard? Two of the mid-majors they’ve already beaten – Holy Cross and Bryant – look like they might be better than expected. Harvard is the class of the Ivy League. It’s not particularly close at the moment.
2) Brown (4-1) – Raise your hand if you thought Brown would have the same record as Harvard this far into the season. Alright, put your hand down Mike Martin. Sure, Brown hasn’t beaten any “great” teams per say, but the wins have been convincing. In fact, they’ve been so convincing that the Bears have moved all the way to 137th in the Pomeroy rankings. They’re doing it by being extremely stout defensively. Freshman Leland King and sophomore Cedric Kuakumensah have block rates that rank them amongst the national leaders and they’ve helped Brown hold opponents to just 41.1% shooting on two-point attempts. Those two are also helping the team maintain an excellent defensive rebounding rate. Right now Martin – Brown’s head coach – has been leaning on Sean McGonagill to make sure the offense scores just enough. If Brown can find another efficient scorer this team could be more than an early season flash in the pan.
3) Princeton (3-1) – What’s most impressive about the Tigers’ start is that one of their best players, senior guard T.J. Bray, has been limited by injury and didn’t appear in a game until this weekend’s contest at Rice. Bray only scored eight points in his return, but they were super efficient possessions. He should add another offensive weapon for Mitch Henderson to utilize. Right now the offense is being carried by Denton Koon, who looks like an All-Ivy candidate, and sophomore center Hans Brase, who has doubled his scoring from a season ago. The one loss doesn’t even look that bad. The Tigers went to Hinkle Fieldhouse and played Butler tight, losing 70-67. Of course Princeton also pulled out a close win over Lafayette in overtime. We’ll learn a lot more about Henderson’s team this week as they play George Mason and Bucknell.
4) Yale (2-3) – When the Bulldogs can impose their will on mid-majors they’ve had a lot of success, but they’ve struggled in steps up in competition this season. Yale almost won at Rutgers, losing by a single point, but James Jones’ team most recently got smacked by Mercer, 81-54. Now, Mercer is a pretty talented, veteran team that defeated Seton Hall in overtime, but this was sort of ugly. There’s obviously talent here, but they haven’t shown the ability to step up in competition. Yale has four straight games against mid-majors coming up, they should be big tests.
5) Penn (1-3) – I’m not quite sure what Jerome Allen was thinking when he put together his non-conference schedule, but the Quakers have struggled against a schedule full of talented major conference teams. The one win was at Monmouth. The other three games have been marked by struggles on offense against major conference competition (Temple, Penn State and Iowa). The Quakers are turning the ball over on 22.8% of their possessions, 322nd nationally. One bright spot has been the play of sophomore center Darien Nelson-Henry. The 6’11” center is drawing fouls, blocking shots and crashing the glass. He’s also committing 5.1 fouls per 40 minutes. He’ll need to cut down on those miscues in order for Penn to compete against this elite competition. The Quakers do have two opportunities for wins this week with a home game against Niagara and a visit to Lafayette. Wins in both of those would certainly show that this is just the case of playing some talented teams early instead of Penn taking an unexpected step down the Ivy League pecking order.
6) Columbia (3-3) – In Kyle Smith’s fantasy world the Lions are 5-1 and Michigan State isn’t No. 1 in the nation anymore. Two close losses to Manhattan and the Spartans have knocked the Lions down the rankings a bit. What’s interesting is that it’s Columbia’s defense that is carrying the team early in the season. Even MSU only scored 0.99 points per possession against the Lions. Grant Mullins has stepped into a lead guard role in name at least, but the Lions scoring load is best when it’s balanced and Maodo Lo, Alex Rosenberg and Corey Osetkowski are helping out. The Lions will need to cut back on their turnovers as the season progresses in order to really put a scare into the teams at the top of the league.
7) Dartmouth (1-3) – There’s not much to really judge the Big Green by this season. They’ve played exactly three games and none since Nov. 16. What’s crazier is that Dartmouth doesn’t play again until Dec. 1. Blame exams, which don’t end until Nov. 27. We’ll learn a lot more about Dartmouth during a busy month of December in which they play eight games.
8) Cornell (0-6) – The Big Red are struggling. That much is obvious. They’re 0-6 and have found a myriad of ways to lose games. When Shonn Miller was lost for the season though we knew this season had the potential to spiral. Cornell’s defense has been the worst in Division I this season! Part of that has to do with playing Louisville, but Binghamton, Colgate and Siena have all scored more than 1.20 points per possession against Cornell too. The plus side is that the offense hasn’t been awful. Nolan Cressler isn’t shooting great, but considering he’s taking 38% of Cornell’s shots when he’s on the court (eighth in the country) it’s impressive that he’s got an offensive rating over 100. Also, freshman Robert Hatter has struggled lately, but he showed some bright spots early in the season. Having both of them develop can only help Bill Courtney’s team build for the future. Now they just need to find a way to get a win.