Men's Basketball: League plagued by turnovers in early play
One month into the season, no Ivy League men’s basketball team has truly excelled so far. The conference as a whole is weaker than some past editions, with an aggregate record 15 games below .500. Still, when league play starts in January, there should be plenty of excitement. We break down the Ancient Eight here: (Teams ranked in order of the preseason poll)
1. Princeton (3-5) Fans are probably frustrated with the Tigers’ start, which has included four losses in games in which Princeton has led by nine points or more. The biggest problem has been turnovers — as expected, the Tigers’ thin backcourt has struggled, committing miscues on 23 percent of its possessions. Their defense has been excellent, however, and their defeats have been close, all coming against solid opponents. Don’t panic yet — unless Princeton loses at 1-8 Fordham on Saturday.
2. Harvard (5-4) Another team with a young backcourt has also had turnover problems, throwing the ball away even more often than the Tigers. But aside from ball-control questions, Harvard has looked strong so far on both ends of the court. Rookie point guard Siyani Chambers has been a revelation, leading the league with 5.1 assists per game and adding 12.6 points while playing nearly every minute.
3. Cornell (4-5) On paper, the Big Red has recovered from its four-game losing streak by winning three of its last four — but the teams it beat have combined for only four Division I wins on the season. Trips to Vanderbilt, Duke and Boston University in the next 10 days will tell a lot more about Cornell, which has played at the league’s fastest pace by far but ranks only third in points per game.
4. Columbia (5-4) The Lions have posted the Ivy League’s best single game of the season — a 75-57 drubbing of Villanova on the road — but are just 2-4 in other games against Division I opponents. Led by senior guard Brian Barbour, Columbia has had no trouble holding onto the ball, unlike many other Ancient Eight teams, and an improved defense should keep it in the Ivy League title hunt.
5. Penn (2-7) Perhaps the league’s most disappointing team so far, Penn has posted just two victories — coming against teams with one Division I win apiece. The loss of 2012 Ivy League Player of the Year Zack Rosen has hurt in more ways than one, as the Quakers have turned the ball over on nearly a quarter of their possessions and struggled to shoot from three-point range. With only a month before a visit to Jadwin Gymnasium that kicks off league play, Penn needs to figure things out quickly.
6. Yale (3-7) Like Penn, Yale lost several key seniors from last year’s fourth-place squad — and like Penn, the Bulldogs have had trouble adjusting to their new lineup. Yale got off to an inauspicious start, blowing a 24-point lead to Sacred Heart in its season opener, and only Dartmouth has shot worse from the field to date. The Bulldogs need Austin Morgan, a career 40 percent three-point shooter who is under 30 percent so far, to return to his old self.
7. Yale (3-7) Like Penn, Yale lost several key seniors from last year’s fourth-place squad — and like Penn, the Bulldogs have had trouble adjusting to their new lineup. Yale got off to an inauspicious start, blowing a 24-point lead to Sacred Heart in its season opener, and only Dartmouth has shot worse from the field to date. The Bulldogs need Austin Morgan, a career 40 percent three-point shooter who is under 30 percent so far, to return to his old self.
8. Dartmouth (2-5) Despite a surprisingly solid defense, the Big Green has struggled in its first seven games, due to an offense that has scored only .86 points per possession, easily the league’s worst mark. The culprit has been plain old shooting — Dartmouth has made just 36 percent of its attempts, worse than all but five teams nationally. With little experience — all but one member of its rotation is an underclassman — the Big Green has also been one of the country’s most foul-prone squads.