Yale 68, Columbia 56
I don’t care how much Columbia (6-11, 2-2 Ivy) has improved, or that Joe Jones is “revitalizing” the program. It took overtime for the Lions to beat Sacred Heart — a team Yale dominated earlier this season despite a poor game. Columbia also lost to Army (5-14), whose average game is a 12-point loss. Stick Matt Minoff ’04 on Matt Preston and see how much he scores.
Yale 70, Cornell 69
This game will be tough on paper. Cornell (9-8, 4-0) has the definitive advantage over Yale (6-11, 1-3), but the Big Red has played the three worst teams in the conference. The Elis will have to contain Ka’Ron Barnes — something they failed to do with Jason Forte against Brown. But Cornell’s bench is weak and the Bulldogs can get at it. Yale gets the win on home-court advantage — and I’d love to see Eric Taylor shooting two to try and tie the game up.
Like his older brother, Yale head coach James Jones, Columbia head coach Joe Jones has used a very deep rotation in his first year with the Lions. Jeremiah Boswell and Maurice Murphy have started all 17 games for the Lions in the backcourt. Neither one does a whole lot of scoring, though Murphy is shooting 43 percent from behind the three-point arc. Both have more assists than turnovers, but only Murphy is a real creator.
Tito Hill and Dalen Cuff are the backups. They don’t do much.
Columbia’s two best scoring threats, Matt Preston and Dragutin Kravic, are the two starting forwards. Preston is having a breakout season. He is an excellent foul shooter, and both are legitimate threats to shoot from outside.
At only six feet five inches, Preston is foul-prone and can probably be posted up. Kravic does not get enough rebounds for a power forward.
Those two weaknesses, however, are very much secondary to the glaring gap in the middle of the Lions frontcourt. Dodson Worthington starts at center, but backup Matt Land actually gets more minutes — it must be hard for Joe Jones to pick between the lesser of two evils. Both average 6.5 points per game; both secure less than three boards per outing; and Worthington leads the dynamic duo with three blocks — on the season.
Ka’Ron Barnes and Cody Toppert are arguably the most prolific backcourt tandem in the Ivy League this season. They are No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the Ancient Eight in scoring, at 20.8 and 17.9 points per game.
Barnes also leads the conference in assists and steals. Toppert is tops in three-pointers made per game. In short, Barnes is a Player-of-the-Year candidate. And while Toppert is not the best at creating his own shot or on the defensive end, he is a deadly shooter.
Lenny Collins is probably more a guard than a forward, but he still manages to average five rebounds a game. Combined with Eric Taylor and Gabe Stephenson, both of whom are amongst the top five rebounders in the Ancient Eight, Cornell has quite a good front line.
Taylor is also a good offensive player who is currently scoring in double figures. His weakness, however, is foul shooting. Last season, he disgraced the game with a 43 percent clip from the line. This year he has outdone himself by making only 30 of 79 freebies for a 38 percent batting average — I mean, free-throw percentage.