With half of the Ivy League men’s basketball season over, it only means one thing: Progress reports. The News grades how the members of the Ancient Eight have fared so far.
Brown (9-11, 2-4 Ivy)
After finishing in a surprising tie for second place with Penn last year in the Ancient Eight, the Bears have already dropped as many Ivy games as they did all of last year. Pre-season All-American Jason Forte, who leads the league in scoring (17.3 ppg) and is third in assists (4.25 apg), has been one of the bright spots for the squad. Senior Luke Ruscoe, who has started all 20 games this season, has also provided a spark, averaging 11.5 points per game along with six boards a contest. The team kicked off the Ivy season with four straight games on the road, going 2-2, but has since dropped two games at home to Harvard and Dartmouth. In those two losses, the Bears shot a horrid 27.7 percent from the field. If these shooting woes become a trend, the Bears may be in for a long Ivy season.
Columbia (12-9, 3-5)
The Lions have seemingly fallen back to earth after a 10-4 start and a 3-1 start to begin the Ivy season. Senior forward Matt Preston is the team leader in points (15.2 ppg), but no one else on the team averages double-digits. Columbia must be given credit for its strong start and gutsy effort in narrow losses to N.C. State and Penn, but a team that is second-to-last in the league in both field-goal percentage (.419) and turnovers per game (17.2) will have a tough time finishing in the top half of the Ivies.
Cornell (10-11, 5-3)
Standing in sole possession of second place, the Big Red has definitely opened some eyes in the Ancient Eight. Picked to finish sixth in the preseason Ivy poll, Cornell is one win away from equaling its league total of last year. The team snapped a 19-game losing streak at Jadwin Gymnasium with a 66-58 win over Princeton Feb. 11 and led Penn at halftime the following night until succumbing in the second half. Cornell leads the league in field-goal percentage (.459), is second in three-point shooting (.382) and has three players averaging over 10 points per game, led by junior Lenny Collins (14.1 ppg). While the Big Red must improve its road record (4-7) to remain in the top half of the standings, the team seems to have the tools to do just that.
Dartmouth (6-15, 3-5)
Despite its dismal overall record, the Big Green has managed to hang around the middle of the pack in the Ivy League after eight games. Inconsistency has defined the team’s Ivy season so far, as key wins over Harvard and Princeton have been offset by ugly losses against Columbia and Penn. The team is last in the league in field goal percentage (.413) and scoring margin (-7.7), and its leading scorer, Mike Lang, does not even start. These signs may all lead one to think that Dartmouth is a squad without a clear identity, but one thing is for certain: For a team that went 1-13 in the Ancient Eight last year, three league wins at this point in the season is a marked improvement.
Harvard (9-12, 4-4)
The Crimson are turning out to be this season’s Columbia. No one expected Harvard to be 4-4 at this point, with wins over Princeton and Brown. Seven-foot center Brian Cusworth and forward Matt Stehle have emerged as two of the best big men in the league, and along with sharpshooting guard Kevin Rogus, combine to form a formidable inside-outside force. A 54-53 loss at Yale is the only thing keeping Harvard now from second place in the conference.
Penn (14-7, 7-0)
No Schiffner, no Chubb, no Copp. This was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Quakers. So much for that. Seven games into Ancient Eight competition, Penn is halfway to perfection. Senior guard Tim Begley, who is averaging 16.2 points per game in league play, has been nothing short of outstanding, as have sophomores Ibby Jaaber (10.0 ppg), Steve Danley (13.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Mark Zoller (8.6 ppg). The Red and Blue spend most of the latter half of the Ivy season on the road, but barring a complete meltdown, the crown is theirs.
Princeton (11-10, 2-5)
With All-Ivy first teamers Judson Wallace and Will Venable returning, Princeton was a virtual lock for a second straight Ivy League championship. But the Tigers, who were picked to finish first in the league, are now sitting pretty in last place after an abysmal first half of the conference season. The low point for Princeton and first-year head coach Joe Scott came in a 70-62 overtime loss to rival Penn, in which the Tigers gave up an 18-point lead with less than eight minutes to play. Grade inflation is the only thing keeping the Tigers from failing.
Yale (7-12, 3-3)
After a rough start to their season, including losses at Penn and Princeton (which would be acceptable any other season), the Bulldogs have won three of their last four. Dominick Martin ’06 has begun to find his form in the paint while Eric Flato ’08 and the Holmes twins have provided sparks off the bench. Next to Penn, Yale is playing some of the best basketball in the league, but even with the hardest part of their schedule behind the Elis, it’s going to be hard to catch the Quakers.