Dartmouth and Harvard have started what Ivy League basketball fans have dubbed the “14-game tournament.” The two teams, both of whom are expected to finish near the bottom of the league, split their two games against each other.
Harvard picked up impressive victories over two Patriot League squads (Lehigh and Colgate), but did little else to show that this will be a breakout season for the Cantabs. Nevertheless, their duo of big men — forward Matt Stehle and center Brian Cusworth — have made them a far more dangerous squad than they were last season. The two combine for an average of 29 points per game and 19 rebounds per game, splitting both of those numbers almost down the middle.
Dartmouth looks like it could be headed for a repeat of last season, when the Big Green finished 3-25 with only one conference victory. After their one bright spot from last season — Ivy League Rookie of the Year Leon Pattman, the team’s leading scorer — unexpectedly quit the team, it would be pretty surprising to see Dartmouth make a statement this year.
Penn ended a five-game losing streak with a romp over Siena but the point is that the Quakers are definitely beatable. Penn also lost the only freshman on its squad that had made an impact this year. Michael Kach was the first guard off the bench until he left the team near the end of December.
The other perennial favorite, Princeton, will not take the court again until Jan. 24, against Haverford. Judson Wallace is not off to the incredible start he was off to last season, but the senior center is still one of the best players in the Ivies. Will Venable continues to pick pockets with amazing dexterity, but shooting remains the athletic guard’s Achilles heel.
As the only team in the Ivy League with a winning league record, it is no longer impossible to ignore Columbia. Matt Preston was selected this week’s Ivy Player of the Week off the strength of a double-double against Cornell. Preston has provided consistent double-digit scoring for the Lions and is the team’s best rebounder. The team’s second-leading scorer is Jeremiah Boswell, who is making almost 60 percent of his three-pointers and is also second in rebounding.
Here are the Ivy players who performed best over Christmas Break:
C Dominick Martin ’06, Yale — Martin is second in the league in scoring and rebounding. The junior center is committing 25 percent less fouls per minute than he did last year and the result has been more minutes and more production. Martin is scoring roughly four more points per game and snagging three more rebounds. He needs two more blocks to equal his total for all of last year.
F Lenny Collins, Cornell — Simply put, he does everything for Cornell. Collins is one of only four players in the conference to average 15 or more points per game. He is in the top 10 in the league in (deep breath here): rebounding, field goal percentage, assists, free throw percentage and three-point field goal percentage. He also leads the Big Red in steals.
G Edwin Draughan ’05, Yale — Yale’s perennial high scorer (he has been every season since arriving as a freshman) had two strong games in the Elis’ past two outings. Against American, Draughan dropped 19 on 7-for-12 shooting to lead the Bulldogs. He also had three assists and three steals. In the next game against St. Peter’s, Draughan again led the way with 16 points and also had seven assists. Yale lost both games, but it would be hard to say Draughan wasn’t pulling his weight.
G Jeremiah Boswell, Columbia — Joe Jones plays a lot of guys for the Lions, but Boswell stands out. I cannot deny a nod to a guy who is knocking down 60 percent from downtown and making 84 percent from the free throw line. Good shooting is hard to come by, and when said shooter also gets almost four rebounds per game and has a 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio, he makes this list.
G Luke Ruscoe, Brown — There is someone else in Providence, R.I. who gets a lot of press, but this guy is a pretty solid player, too. Ruscoe has started all 14 of the Bears’ games (remember that captain Jason Forte was suspended and has started only 11). Ruscoe leads Brown with almost six rebounds per outing. He shoots the three-ball as well as Forte and has a better field goal percentage. Ruscoe has also racked up 26 steals, good for fifth in the Ivy League in steals per game.