After a spotlight grabbing week four, the Ivy League flew under the radar with a light schedule and a decent 4-2 record that allowed the league to creep back within four games of .500.
Princeton had the biggest week of the four Ivies in action, pulling away from UNC Greensboro down the stretch on the road to vault up the rating systems and establishing itself as a bonafide upper division Ivy team. The Tigers backed up the huge road win by forcing just enough turnovers and grabbing just enough offensive rebounds to overcome a cold shooting performance and slip past a woeful Monmouth squad 46-42 at home.
Columbia recorded its second-straight road win over a terrible team with a 69-57 win at Bryant. Dartmouth split it weekend contests, hanging with Army for 35 minutes before falling apart and allowing Division III Lyndon State to hang around for 25 minutes before blowing the Hornets out. Penn fell to 0-7 after a spirited but ultimately futile attempt to nab a road win at Monmouth.
With Cornell visiting Madison Square Garden this weekend for the MSG Holiday Festival, this week’s corresponding Power Rankings theme is “Events At The Garden.”
Mid-Week Regular Season Knicks Game
8. Penn (Last Week: 8)
Despite the loss to Monmouth, the bold move by the Penn administration was almost enough to vault the Quakers out of the Ivy cellar. But when you’ve got the third worst strength of schedule in the league and a record that’s at least a game and a half behind the next closest team, well, you have to earn it on the floor.
Penn’s problems right now are primarily defensive. At 93.8 points per 100 possessions, the Quakers offense isn’t good, but it’s hardly worse than last year’s 94.3 points per 100 possession mark. The defense, however, is 13 points per 100 possessions worse than last year (104.2 to 117.1). If a great deal of defense is effort and the effort level rises under interim coach Jerome Allen, this team could get much better quickly.
7. Dartmouth (7)
After scoring just 46 points on 62 possessions, the Big Green notched its sixth sub-85 offensive rating performance in seven tries against Division I clubs, while holding zero Division I clubs under that mark. Dartmouth’s 80.5 offensive rating is a full 4.5 points per 100 possessions worse than the 2004 squad that recorded just two Division I wins. The only thing keeping Dartmouth afloat at this point is its surprisingly average defense.
A not so bold prediction: Penn will finish the season with more wins than the Big Green.
New York Liberty Playoff Game
6. Brown (6)
The Bears are probably stuck in this spot for a couple more weeks, as their next Division I game is against Sacred Heart on December 30.
Surprise stat of the week: Matt Mullery is ranked in the Top 500 nationally in eight Pomeroy categories and none of them are offensive or defensive rebounding.
5. Yale (5)
The murderers row of Providence, Colorado and Colorado St. sits on the horizon over the next two weeks – the first three games of a five game road trip which concludes with tricky visits to Albany and Lehigh early in January.
Disappointing stat of the week: Alex Zampier is ranked in the Top 50 in possessions used and shots taken. But his offensive rating hovers around a very average 100 points per 100 possessions and his shooting percentage is outside the Top 500. It might be time to hand some of those possessions off to teammates.
4. Columbia (4)
The Lions continue to lead the nation in three-point shooting and Noruwa Agho continues to be the individual leader as well. If that cools off though, Columbia could be in some trouble, as the Lions are shooting just 44.8 percent from inside the arc and are being buoyed by above-average offensive rebounding despite being the 334th shortest team in Division I.
If the defense doesn’t improve rapidly, and soon, Columbia will likely begin a slow fade out of the Top 200 and into the pack with Brown and Yale in the Ivy race.
Rangers/Devils Playoff Game
3. Princeton (3)
The win over UNC Greensboro solidified Princeton as a Top 150 team and put the Tigers in great shape to lock up their first winning non-conference record since 2007.
Princeton has done it with a very consistent defensive performance that has the Tigers ranked in the top 50. If Princeton can get Douglas Davis going, more out of freshman Ian Hummer, and something out of struggling senior center Pawel Buczak, there’s no reason that the Tigers couldn’t make this a three team Ivy race.
Muhammad Ali/Joe Frazier Title Fight
2. Cornell (2)
Cornell gets its shot to reclaim its spot atop the poll if it can win the MSG Holiday Festival this weekend. St. John’s will still be without Anthony Mason, Jr., which should give the Big Red a very decent chance to knock off the Red Storm, if both teams can advance past Davidson and Hofstra in the first round, respectively.
Interesting stat of the week: All five Cornell starters are ranked in the Top 500 in at least two different Pomeroy categories. Jeff Foote leads the way with eight and Ryan Wittman follows with five.
1. Harvard (1)
The Crimson finally retakes the floor next Wednesday against Georgetown in Washington, D.C. before playing four games in seven days against MIT, George Washington, Seattle and Santa Clara. No one expects Harvard to sweep those games, but if it goes 3-2 or better, those 10 wins would set the school record for most non-conference wins in the Ivy League era.
Déjà vu stat of the week: Jeremy Lin sits in the Top 500 in 10 different Pomeroy categories for the second-consecutive year.