Friday, January 17, 2014

ECAC Mid-January Power Rankings

By: Anton Khodakov

The Crimson have a critical stretch of games in front of them, starting with tonight’s matchup against their hated rivals—Cornell. Before the Beanpot begins, Harvard will face four consecutive conference opponents, a stretch that will leave only 30% of the ECAC schedule remaining. Now, and not February, is the time to move into the middle four slots in the conference table and earn that first-round bye.  It won’t be easy, however, as the first three of those opponents fall into the top five of our mid-January power rankings. All national rankings per

1. #6 Union (9-2-0, 13-4-3)

Despite falling to the Bobcats in Hamden, the Dutchmen claim the top spot thanks to a scintillating 9-game winning streak that included a victory over then-#1 St. Cloud. Shayne Gostisbehere is third in the fan section of the Hobey Baker vote.

2. #5 Quinnipiac (8-2-3, 17-3-5)

The Bobcats ended Union’s unbeaten run with a 2-1 home win. No one will be surprised if this team, leading the nation in goals allowed per game at 1.80, makes it back to the title game.
3.  #8 Yale (3-2-3, 8-3-4)

On one hand, the Bulldogs have still yet to prove themselves against the best ECAC teams, in part due to the vagaries of the schedule. On the other hand, they looked every bit the defending champs while demolishing the Crimson in Manhattan. Just wait until Jesse Root starts finding the back of the net again.

4. #12 Cornell (4-3-2, 8-4-3)

The Big Red only have one win since November 30th. However, they’ve posted a series of impressive performances that have just fallen short—two ties against good teams and a one-goal loss to Boston University. They might be turning the corner…

5. Colgate (5-3-1, 9-9-3)

A tie against top-ranked Minnesota? In Minneapolis? Followed by wins over #2 Ferris State and #18 Vermont? The young Raiders are playing their best hockey of the season. All five players with double-digit points are sophomores.

6. #14 Clarkson (6-2-0, 13-7-2)

Just when I thought it was time to start believing in the Golden Knights, they’ve gone on a streak that has seen one victory from six games. An ugly 4-0 home loss to Merrimack will leave a bad taste in your mouth.

7. RPI (3-5-3, 8-10-4)

Four straight losses, albeit three to top-10 teams, have finally confirmed that this Engineers team will not make good on the preseason hype. Jason Kasdorf’s injury is a big part of that disappointment, but the truth is that they are weaker defensively as a team overall this year. The good news: seven more games against the teams ranked above them in these rankings to make up ground.

8. Brown (3-4-1, 6-6-3)

Four straight games with three goals or more for the offensively-challenged Bears, unbeaten in the last five. Brown has made it to .500, an achievement in itself, but can they keep scoring enough to give their competent goalies and decent penalty kill a chance to keep a top-8 berth?

9. St. Lawrence (2-4-2, 8-10-2)

Sixth in the nation at 3.55 goals scored per game. Eighth from last at 3.70 allowed. That’s been the story all year for the Saints, who haven’t won a game since November despite the talent all over the roster.

10. Harvard (2-6-3, 5-8-3)

Another thrilling win over Boston University, followed by a hard-fought tie against the Bobcats have the Crimson in position—oh, what’s that? I’m sorry, you say they played Yale on Saturday? At Madison Square Garden, on national television? Let’s not talk about that.

11. Dartmouth (2-8-0, 3-12-2)

The Big Green have finally started playing up to their potential (and pre-season expectations). At the same time, they’ve managed to make a habit of blowing winnable games in the third period. But there’s still time before the playoffs to put it all together, especially if a few of their defensemen or goaltenders actually start playing like they belong in Division 1 NCAA action.

12. Princeton (3-9-0, 4-15-0)

There are four teams nationwide that rank in the bottom ten in both goals scored and goals allowed. Army, Sacred Heart, Alabama-Huntsville… and the Tigers. Like the Crimson last year, they’ll at least be able to look back at a one-goal win over Quinnipiac that will likely prove meaningless in the overall picture.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Ivy League Basketball Power Rankings

By: Ben Zauzmer

The non-conference games for Ivy League basketball teams are far from scrimmages. They affect March Madness seeding, they give teams a chance at an at-large tournament bid, and they can raise the profile of Ivy League basketball.

But let’s be realistic. Probably, no matter what happens in non-conference play, the Ivy League champion will be relegated to a low seed. Probably, there will be no at-large bids. Probably, the Ivy League will forever remain a second-tier conference.

So the time of year that really matters is now. Starting on Saturday, January 11, conference play begins. Known as the “14-game tournament” (a sorry excuse for not having an actual tournament like every single other conference), every Ivy teams plays every other one twice, starting with defending champion Harvard tipping off against Dartmouth. Where do the teams rank heading into Ivy League play?

1. Harvard (13-2)

The Crimson have done exactly what they were expected to do, beating the teams they’re supposed to beat and losing to the teams they’re supposed to lose to. You can’t fault them for falling by 8 on the road to #15 Colorado or by 5 on the road to Connecticut. But, they certainly haven’t proven themselves either, with their only top-100 win coming at a neutral site against Green Bay. Still, just looking at a highly experienced roster featuring Wesley Saunders, Siyani Chambers, and Kyle Casey, it’s hard to pick any other squad to finish first in the Ancient 8.

2. Princeton (11-2)

With only a slightly easier schedule than Harvard, the Tigers have picked up right where they left off after Ian Hummer’s graduation, with only two losses to start the season. And those losses are to Butler and Portland – both top-100 teams (note: we are using Sports Reference’s Simple Rating System, rather than the less mathematical RPI system). However, their only top-100 win is by 2 points over Penn State, not exactly a Herculean task. But, T.J. Bray is a true star who was overshadowed by Hummer last year, and he definitely has what it takes to lead the Tigers to a surprise Ivy title.

3. Columbia (10-6)

Surprised to see the team that came in dead last in the preseason poll up at third? Not me. The only surprise was Columbia’s ranking in the preseason poll, especially after their 78-63 dismantling of Harvard last year. The Lions played with #5 Michigan State (#1 at the time) right up until the last minute when the Spartan home crowd fooled the visitors on the shot clock not once but twice. When you put big men like Alex Rosenberg, Isaac Cohen, Cory Osetkowski, and Maodo Lo against a diminutive Ivy lineup, expect the Lions to outrebound everybody and make it look easy.

4. Brown (7-6)

Everyone beyond this point has only a negligible chance of going to the tournament. The high point of the Bears’ season was a 5-point win over American – their remaining six wins were against some truly awful teams. They also fell to Niagra, a team that’s worse than every Ivy squad save for Cornell. Sean McGonagill is averaging an impressive 19.4 points per game and Rafael Maia sits at 8.3 rebound per game, so there is a core here that could make some games close. But they just don’t have the raw talent of the top three teams on this list.

5. Yale (5-8)

Bulldog hopes were buoyed by the arrival preseason Ivy freshman of the year Anthony Dallier. And while Dallier may one day emerge as an Ivy League star, for now he’s averaging just 12.5 minutes per game and 2.7 points per game, not exactly numbers that will improve upon a 14-17 record from the year before. Justin Sears leads the way as expected, but he’s not going to do enough to save a team whose best win is against Hartford.

6. Dartmouth (7-6)

Without a single win over a top-300 team (and there are only 350 teams in Division I), the Big Green has earned their wins as a bottom feeder. They did come within 7 points of #23 Illinois, proving they can at least play close to some of the top teams. And with Tyler Melville being the only senior on the roster, look for Dartmouth to make a legitimate title run in 2014-2015, led by Gabas Maldunas and Alex Mitola.

7. Penn (2-10)

Is it fair to penalize the media’s preseason #2 by 5 spots just for playing the league’s toughest schedule? Yes, when they hardly even compete with that schedule. Their only two opponents with true merit, #8 Villanova and #20 Iowa, crushed the Quakers. You don’t get bonus points just for scheduling great opponents if you don’t even make it close. Their only two wins – Monmouth and Niagra – are nothing to write home about. There was probably a lot of speculation that the return of Fran Dougherty would be enough to vault the Quakers to glory, but for now they’re more of an upset special than a true contender.

8. Cornell (0-13)

Of the 350 Division I teams, the Big Red are in serious consideration for the ignominious title of worst team in basketball. They are the only team left in the nation without a single win. Even cellar dwellers like Grambling, Southern Utah, and Maryland Eastern Shore have scraped together a single win. Now that Shonn Miller’s shoulder injury might keep him out for the entire year, there’s no way Nolan Cressler can do it all by himself. I’m not seeing any light at the end of this tunnel.