Sunday, January 15, 2012

Men’s Basketball Power Rankings

Penn's Zack Rosen and Yale's Greg Mangano

The “14 game tournament” is in full force as Ivy League teams wrap up their nonconference schedule and begin their quest for the coveted berth in the NCAA tournament. From 1969 to 2007, Princeton and Penn won every title but 2, but with the league more competitive than ever, expect frequent shifts in the power rankings: Yale, Penn, and Princeton all have championship aspirations and look to vie with Harvard, the preseason favorites, for the Ancient Eight crown.

Harvard (15-2, 1-0) – After a lackluster start to 2012, Harvard got back on track with a resounding statement against George Washington, holding the Colonials to 48 points on 15-50 shooting. There is no doubt that the Crimson bring a talented corp of players to conference play, headlined by Brendan Curry and the surprising play of Harvard freshmen. However, outside of Lavietes, where they ride a 23 game winning streak, Harvard has often looked lethargic on offense and vulnerable on defense. The Crimson visit Hanover for a rematch of the Ivy opener next game.

Yale (11-4, 1-0) – Led by the Cerberus that is Greg Mangano, Reggie Willhite, and Austin Morgan, Yale escaped with a 68-64 victory over the Brown Bears to kick off their conference play. With one of the most talented squad assembled in Yale basketball history, head coach James Jones and Co. have the experience and depth to win the league. Greg Mangano (19.9ppg, 10.7rpg), who played for USA Basketball at the World University Games this past year, is a double-double machine churning out plays for the Bulldogs in the interior. They visit the upset-minded Bears next.

Penn (9-9, 2-0) – The Quakers are off to a quick start in the hands of Zack Rosen, who put up a clinic in the first half against Cornell, scoring 13 points on 6-7 shooting. Rounding out the impressive backcourt with Rosen is the equally stellar Tyler Bernardini, boasting an amazing 43% from beyond the arc. However, as evidenced by the 66-64 squeeze past Columbia, the Quakers are vulnerable in the paint despite the continued development of Freshman Henry Brooks. Penn finishes its nonconference schedule with a matchup against St. Joseph next week.

Princeton (10-8, 1-1) – With the Tigers trailing Columbia by 6 midway through the second half, veterans Doug Davis and Ian Hummer took over the game to will Princeton past the surprisingly competitive Lions. The defense also stepped up with an aggressive style of play, notching 15 TOs (to the Tigers 6). First-year coach Mitch Henderson inherits many of the pieces from last year’s Ivy League championship team, and with the emergence of sophomore T.J. Bray, Princeton will look to repeat in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. A huge matchup against Penn awaits in two week.

Cornell (6-10, 1-1) – After a resounding win over Princeton, Cornell failed to stop Penn’s blazing pace and hot hands from beyond the arc. Gone are the Donahue days when Cornell notched three straight championships, but Bill Courtney’s impressive recruiting, headlined by the stellar Freshman Shonn Miller (15 pts, 10 rbs against Penn), and the development of Drew Ferry have the Big Red continuing to compete against the top teams in the league. The Columbia Lions look to provide an early test for this young squad.

Columbia (11-7, 0-2) – Junior guard Brian Barbour’s consecutive 25 point performances and Meiko Lyles’ sure hands from beyond the arc (.440 season average) against Penn and Princeton kept the surprisingly competitive Lions in contention for much of the opening weekend of the Ivy League. With a mediocre bench, the Lions could not keep up with the relentless pace set by the Quakers and Tigers and faded late in the second half. Getting players like Mark Cisco and Alex Rosenberg involved early will be key to ease some pressure off Barbour. The Lions face Cornell next weekend.

Brown (5-12, 0-1) – Hoping to halt a 4 game losing streak, Brown constantly pressured the Bulldogs and connected on several clutch shots to nearly push Yale to an inauspicious start in conference play. However, the Bears faded late in the game, squandering a 6 point lead during a 13-3 run by the Bulldogs in the final 3:10. Despite a barrage of treys and strong guard play, led by Sean McGonagill’s 23 point performance (4-6 3FG), the lack of interior presence ultimately doomed the Bears to a late fade. They hope to respond next week and stop a 5-game skid in a rematch against Yale at home.

Dartmouth (4-13, 0-1) – The Big Green closed out its nonconference schedule with a tuneup against Longwood, cruising to an easy 83-67 victory. Dartmouth will have a tougher time replicating such success in the Ivy League when it hosts the Crimson next weekend in Hanover. Despite leading in the second half against Harvard, the Big Green failed to respond to Oliver McNally’s hot hands and Keith Wright in the paint. Gabas Maldunas will have to step up with another big game if the Big Green wants to stay competitive.

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