Archive for the ‘Week in review’ Category

OBW Ivy League Power Rankings, v10

Friday, February 28th, 2014

This is how Monday’s media session with Brandyn Curry and Steve Moundou-Missi of the Harvard men’s basketball team began:

Reporter: Did you guys get a chance to see the Yale game yesterday at all?

Curry (confused): No?

Reporter: But obviously you heard what happened? (Awkward silence) That Columbia beat Yale?

Curry: They beat ‘em?

Reporter: Yeah.

Curry: They played yesterday?

Reporter: Yeah. They played on Sunday.

Curry: Why on a Sunday?

Reporter: For TV. They had it for NBC Sports.

Curry: Oh nah. I didn’t even know that.

(Laughter from the media,)

Reporter: OK, well, now that you’re hearing the news first time, how does it feel to be a game clear in the standings?

Curry: Oh dang. I mean, that’s cool.

In case you, too, spent your Sunday recovering from back-to-back wins in front of hostile crowds—completing your program’s first-ever season sweep of Penn and Princeton—and the ensuing five-hour bus ride up I-95 in the wee hours of the morning, or, for whatever other reason, weren’t sitting on your coach Sunday afternoon watching NBC sports, here’s the deal: after upsetting Harvard two weekends ago to pull even in the Ivy League standings—and then keeping pace with the Crimson through three more games—Yale slipped up at Columbia on Sunday, leaving Harvard, with four games left, in sole possession of first place.

Here’s how the rest of the league shakes out: (more…)

OBW America East Power Rankings, v9

Monday, February 17th, 2014

With just a handful of games remaining in the regular season, the America East is solely a two horse race, with only Vermont and Stony Brook realistically in contention for the regular season title. The 10-1 Catamounts have looked a like a juggernaut heading into the home stretch, and hold a one-game advantage over the suddenly sputtering 9-2 Seawolves. But with one head-to-head matchup remaining between the two schools – Feb. 27 at Vermont – with Stony Brook already having won the first showdown a season-sweep would give the Seawolves the tie-breaker in the event both schools ended the season even in the standings.

In simple English: It’s still anyone’s ball game – at least, if by anyone, you’re talking about the top two schools in the standings.

If you are a fan of a school not-named Vermont or Stony Brook, there is still the America East Tournament, the one-weekend in March (plus one game the following Saturday) for all the marbles and the coveted NCAA Tournament auto-bid.

However, if you’re reading this site, you’re a big-enough boy or girl for me to be real with you and not sugar coat things. The reality is, there are really only two America East teams – plus one long shot dark horse – who can realistically win two games in two days and three games in a week and go to The Big Dance.

It’s either going to be Vermont or Stony Brook, with a seriously struggling Albany squad as the only other team in the league with an outside chance, simply because Great Danes head coach Will Brown is an outstanding X’s and O’s guy who has a knack for elevating his game in the big game.

I’d put the odds at about 90 percent that it’s going to be either the Catamounts or the Seawolves who punch their ticket to the NCAAs.

Anyways, here’s how the league is looking (here’s a hint, it won’t be crowned Best in Show anytime soon).

1. Vermont Catamounts (15-9, 11-1 in AE)
W 83-58 vs UMass Lowell; W 76-52 vs UMBC
This week: Feb. 19 at UNH; Feb. 23 vs Hartford.
The Catamounts are hitting on all cylinders, basically rank first or second in conference play in every single meaningful statistical category, and aren’t just beating America East opponents, they are destroying them by roughly 20 points per game. The Catamounts have gotten a massive lift and a new dimension from sophomore forward Ethan O’Day. The athletic 6’9” has finally rounded into form after missing most of the non-conference slate with a broken hand and is currently leading the league in blocked shots in conference place (2.1 bpg) while scoring with both hands and imposing his will on the low blocks. Freshman guard Dre Wills has also begun to establish himself as a lock-down defender and human highlight reel. And, of course, senior point guard Sandro Carissimo is playing the best ball of his life – running the offense, getting to the hoop and knocking down open three’s – senior Brian Voelkel is being Brian Voelkel and dominating every aspect of the game that doesn’t involve scoring (we here he drives the team bus like he’s in the Indy 500 and makes a mean Chicken Parm for pre-game meals, but we digress)… But the biggest factors for the Catamounts may be freshman Kurt Steidl and senior Candon Rusin. Steidl, a 6’5” wing, is shooting 54.5 percent from behind the arc in league play, tops in the league. Rusin has also found his stroke during the conference slate and is playing the best basketball of his career. Vermont currently ranks first in the league in 3-point field goal percent in AE play at 43.4 percent (second-ranked Hartford is shooting 37.7 percent). Last season, the Catamounts ranked second to last in the league in 3-point shooting at just 29.4 percent from downtown.

The Catamounts are also the current holders of the OBW America East Championship Belt — We’re sure head coach John Becker does a mean Macho Man Randy Savage in the locker room before games. (more…)

OBW Ivy League Power Rankings, v9

Friday, February 14th, 2014

First there was talk of Harvard running the table. Then there was talk of Harvard running the Ivy table. Now we have a race for the league championship. Yale beat Harvard 74-67 on Saturday at Lavietes Pavilion and now the archrivals are tied atop the league standings with the mid-point of conference play approaching.

There are a couple ways of looking at this. The first is that going undefeated in Ivy League play is nearly impossible given the league’s back-to-back Friday-Saturday grind of games during the conference slate, and even dominant teams tend to slip up once or twice on their way to the title. The second is that Yale is a damn good team that matches up well with Harvard—and gets home-court advantage when the teams meet next. It’s still too early to tell, but this weekend’s game should be a good indication. If Yale can top Penn and Princeton then Harvard might need to get concerned.

1. Harvard (18-4; 5-1 Ivy)
W 52-45 vs. Brown; L 74-67 vs. Yale
This week: Friday at Columbia; Saturday at Cornell
Harvard’s offense decided to take a break last weekend. In Friday night’s matchup against Brown the Crimson shot 32.1 percent from the field and 22.1 percent from three. One night later against Yale Harvard was 39 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from deep. Brown’s ineptitude matched the Crimson’s on Friday, allowing Harvard to escape with a win. Yale, though, played the Crimson tough for 40 minutes and controlled the majority of the game. With Columbia next, Harvard will need to get its offensive rhythm back fast to avoid dropping two in a row.

2. Yale (11-9; 5-1 Ivy)
W 67-54 at Dartmouth; W 74-67 at Harvard
This week: Friday vs. Penn; Saturday vs. Princeton
Even though Harvard had an uncharacteristically bad shooting performance on Friday, Yale’s win was by no means a fluke. Yale is good. Forward Justin Sears is one of the league’s top five players. Guard Javier Duren is one of the league’s most underrated players. The Bulldogs have a deep bench. And coach James Jones has his team playing physical defense. Sounds to me like a recipe for success in the Ivy League. This weekend, though, will be a huge test. If Yale takes care of business, this will become a two-team race for the Ivy League championship. (more…)

OBW America East Power Rankings, v8

Thursday, February 6th, 2014
Vermont head coach John Becker knows the deal. OBW File Photo / Sam Perkins

Vermont head coach John Becker knows the deal. OBW File Photo / Sam Perkins

It’s already been a long season, and there’s still another month to go before the one week in March that decides it all. Vermont and Stony Brook have already lapped the rest of the field in the America East, but both have also proved to be mortal in AE play. Albany is a roller coaster (would we expect anything less from the at times fighting, at times falling Will Browns?). Lowell is a terrific story and the never-say-die Little Engine that Could, but it’s also a Division II team and a pretty damning statement of the rest of the league that the River Hawks have been so competitive. Hartford is Hartford, UMBC is tough to watch but easy to get excited about (long term), Chris Pelcher is giving UNH one of the gutsiest performances the AE has ever seen, Binghamton has young talent and Xavier Pollard has been great for the cluster… that is Maine basketball.

How’s that for trying to put a positive spin on things? Anyways, here we go.

1. Vermont Catamounts (13-9, 9-1 in AE)
L 67-64 at Stony Brook; W 72-39 vs Binghamton; W 67-60 at Hartford; W 55-45 at Albany; W 93-65 vs Maine.
This week: Off
In conference play, Vermont currently ranks first in the league scoring offense, scoring defense (by a very wide margin), scoring margin (their 19.9 point differential is nearly twice that of the next team), free throw percent, field goal percent, 3-point field goal percent, rebounding defense, rebounding margin, blocked shots, assists, steals and assist-to-turnover ratio. They rank second in the America East in conference play in field goal percent defense, rebounding offense, turnover margin and made 3-pointers.

Pretty hard to argue with just how dominant their numbers have been.

Yep, they sputtered through their non-conference season, struggling mightily at times, and yes, Vermont lost their first head-to-head matchup against Stony Brook on the road in a game in which they were thoroughly dominated for the first 20 minutes. But given some perspective, even with two games against non-DI squads (a cardinal sin in the eyes of OBW), Vermont survived the toughest non-conference slate in the America East. A 3-point loss to Stony Brook, the Catamounts chief rival for America East supremacy, on the road at Pritchard Gymnasium (the biggest home court advantage in the AE) also was hardly unexpected and certainly not damning of the Catamounts’ place in the AE hierarchy (it stands to reason that two teams in close contention would hold serve at home).

Vermont is getting back to Vermont basketball, with a renewed defensive intensity leading to more offensive opportunities. The return of sophomore center Ethan O’Day has given the Catamounts a jump start on both ends of the court, and the continued progression of freshman Kurt Steidl – who may be the best shooter in the league – and renewed aggression of senior point guard Sandro Carissimo has super charged Vermont’s offensive attack. (more…)

OBW Ivy League Power Rankings, v8

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Things are about to get real, real fast. The Columbia-Cornell and Harvard-Dartmouth appetizers were meh, but now Ivy League play is getting serious. Columbia has to play two solid teams—Yale and Brown—on the road, and Harvard gets a well-rested and hungry Princeton team and a talented and (finally) healthy Penn team. If you’re just dropping in on the 2014 Ivy League season, here’s how the teams have shaken out thus far:

1. Harvard (15-3)
Results: W 80-50 at Dartmouth
This week: Friday vs. Princeton; Saturday vs. Penn
Dartmouth’s Leede Arena has typically given the Crimson problems. But not this year. Harvard shot 65.9 percent from the field and 10 of 14 from beyond the arc, and the Crimson rolled to its first 30-point win since Dec. 1. Brandyn Curry provided 14 points off the bench, and Laurent Rivard scored 15. It’s a good time for the Crimson to hit its stride with Princeton and Penn next up on the schedule. Harvard has split the season series with both Princeton and Penn each of the last two seasons, and this year’s series should prove similarly challenging. Outside of Cambridge, the Tigers likely boast the Ivy League’s best team while the Quakers boast the most talented starting lineup. And with 6’5” senior TJ Bray starting at point guard for Princeton, the Tigers pose a particularly difficult matchup challenge for the Crimson as well. (more…)

OBW America East Power Rankings, v7

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

There are only so many ways you can describe just how bad the America East has been this year before people start to tune you out, but, without dwelling on it, let’s just say that first-year DI UMass Lowell with an entire roster of Division II players — the same team that finished eighth in the Division II Northeaster-10 conference — outplayed Vermont for a half and took Stony Brook to the wire on the Seawolves’ home court. Yes, a glorified Division II team took the America East’s two best squads to the wire.

Ugh. Anyways, Stony Brook and Vermont are looking very respectable as of now. Albany has potential if they can get healthy and get their swag back. The rest of league should just go stand in the corner and think about what they’ve done.

1. Vermont Catamounts (10-8, 5-0 in AE)
W 83-46 at Maine; W 73-47 at UMBC; W 57-40 vs UNH
This week: Jan. 24 at Stony Brook; Jan. 26 vs Binghamton
So here we are – Vermont is back at the top spot in the OBW Power Rankings (at least for a few days), the Catamounts are defending the heck out of the ball and their offense is clicking – the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Vermont passed the first of its two biggest tests of the regular season by sweeping three games in six days in what was the worst road trip in the league, playing at Maine, then at UMBC two days later, then back up at home against UNH. The Catamounts kicked the tar out of the Black Bears in Orono, playing their starters less than half the game – but not before senior forward Clancy Rugg threw down the hammer of Thor over Maine center Christian Ejiga (seen here at the 37-second mark). Vermont followed that up by walloping UMBC, with Jekyll-and-Hyde senior Candon Rusin exploding for 22 points. In the final leg of the Odyssey, the Catamounts appeared road weary and trailed a UNH team that suited up only seven players (and only six of them scholarship) 30-20 at the half. Then freshman Kurt Steidl caught fire, scoring 13 of his 16 points after half, and Vermont outscored UNH 37-10 in the second half. With sophomore forward Ethan O’Day doing work in the paint, Steidl coming into his own as perhaps the best shooter in the league, and the Catamounts sharing the ball on offense and defending every inch of the court on D, Vermont is looking like the team we expected from Day 1.

Which brings us back to second massive test for the Catamounts: Friday night’s showdown on Long Island with Stony Brook – the 1A to Vermont’s 1 as it were. The Seawolves should be favored on their home court, but if Vermont pulls out the W they will have established themselves as the clear-cut favorite. (more…)

OBW Ivy League Power Rankings, v7

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

If last week’s loss at UConn wasn’t already the nail in #TwoBidIvy’s coffin, Tuesday’s loss at Florida Atlantic—Florida Atlantic!—surely was. The Crimson will have to get to the dance the old fashioned way. But if they keep playing like the team that shot 23 percent against 7-12 Florida Atlantic, the Crimson won’t be dancing at all. Here’s how the league shakes out:

1. Harvard (14-3)
Results: L 68-53 at Florida Atlantic
This week: Sunday at Dartmouth
The good news: Wesley Saunders is back. The bad news: Wesley Saunders shot 3 of 14 against Florida Atlantic. The rest of the Crimson’s starters went 5 of 25. Besides Saunders’ return, the only other bright spot for Harvard was the play of rookie Zena Edosmwan, who recorded 11 points and 9 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench.

2. Princeton (11-3)
Results: N/A
This week: Sunday vs. Kean
The Tigers have yet to play since last week’s tight loss at Penn. Princeton will play Div. III Kean on Sunday, but the Tigers next real test will be their trip to Lavietes Pavilion on Jan. 31.

3. Columbia (12-6)
Results: W 71-61 vs. Cornell
This week: Saturday at Cornell
The Lions made it five wins in a row with a 10-point victory against Cornell. Columbia led by just three, 29-26, at the half, but outscored the Big Red, 42-35, in the second. Alex Rosenberg continues to have the hot hand for the Lions: the junior went for at least 20 for the fourth time in Columbia’s last five games. The Lions should pick up another win Saturday at Cornell. (more…)

OBW America East Power Rankings, v6

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Stony Brook is at the top, Vermont takes a step up, the River Hawks soar, Maine is on the move and UNH goes down, down down down, down down down down, down…

The America East conference slate is in full swing and the league is starting to fall in line with some of our own preseason predictions (mostly teams 3-5, the rest of it, welp, we tried): Stony Brook and Vermont are playing their best basketball while looking like clear favorites. Albany continues to show star talent, but gave a lackluster effort in a double-OT thriller against UMBC and plain didn’t show up in a beat down at the hands of the Catamounts. The Great Danes were also physically beaten up by Vermont, suffering several injuries to key players.

Hartford is exactly who we thought they would be: when Mark Nwakamma is on the floor and the Hawks three’s are falling they can beat anyone, but when either doesn’t happen (a frequent occurrence) they can lose to anyone.

UMBC has show reDunkulous athleticism, but inexperience, lack of outside shooting, and lackluster upperclassmen continue to handicap their potential. Maine has been surprisingly half-decent as of late, destroying Binghamton at home and nearly knocking off UMBC on the road. The Bearcats, meanwhile, continue to show explosive young talent, with equally heaping doses of inexperience and a dire lack of depth.

For the last 12 games, New Hampshire has looked like the worst team in league history – it’s been that bad.

The surprise of the season: The UMass Lowell River Hawks. The fighting Pat Duquette’s have had the most heart and hustle in the league all season, but with the return of senior forward Antonio Bivins, the River Hawks now the legitimate talent and athleticism to compete with anyone in the league.

Of course, the addition of the transitional River Hawks to the America East – and lack of apparent awareness of these issues by the America East, its member schools and the college basketball world as a whole created possible NCAA bylaw violations by both Vermont and Maine in regards to scheduling too many non-Division I schools. The storm clouds were rapidly forming overhead and the sky is darkening, but the league seems to have swooped in and saved the day. (We’re pretty sure when the film rights to this are sold, America East Commissioner Amy Huchthausen will be playing the role of the Dirt Harry-esque hero, while OBW’s Sam Perkins will be playing the bumbling villain… Can you say blockbuster hit?)

Without further ado, here’s how we see the league right now. As a reminder, all records omit games against non-Division I schools (we count Lowell as a DI, even if the NCAA does not… or does… or, whatever…)

1. Stony Brook Seawolves (9-6, 2-0 in AE)
Results: L 68-63 at Columbia; W 73-50 at Hartford
This week: Jan. 15 vs Binghamton; Jan. 18 vs UMass Lowell.
Stony Brook hasn’t looked like last year’s Seawolves squad – putting up points in bunches, but statistically looking pretty pedestrian on defense – but their starting to resemble it a bit more, with Pikiell going from what had been a seven, and even at times six, man rotation back to his traditional 11-12 man shift against Hartford. Stony Brook lost to a hot shooting Columbia squad on the road, but they played them to the wire and carried themselves well (as an aside, how far has the league fallen that when the AE’s best squad loses to Columbia it’s taken as simply “business as usual”? But I digress). Jameel Warney is a monster, plain and simple, and demands double-teams every night. The problem for much of the non-conference slate was the Seawolves seemed incapable of making teams pay for selling out to stop Warney. They’ve now flipped the script, with senior guard Dave Coley beginning to round into form, Anthony Jackson’s sharp shooting, Eric McAlister cleaning up around the rim and Carson Puriefoy creating off the bounce. Red-shirt freshman wing Ahmad Walker has quietly found his stride as a high-energy athlete and freshman Chris Braley is starting to find his shooting stroke. Jackson missed the Hartford game due to a suspension for what was deemed a “violation of team rules,” and the Seawolves still won by 23. (more…)

OBW Ivy League Power Rankings, v6

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Harvard vs. UConn and Penn vs. Princeton—those were the matchups most Ivy League basketball fans turned their attention to this past week. Neither game disappointed. The Crimson, sans Wesley Saunder, had a shot—err, almost a shot—to tie the Huskies at the end of regulation. And in Round 1 of the Ivy League’s most historic rivalry, Penn edged the Tigers. This is all well and good. But I would like to make sure fans don’t overlook the significance of Columbia’s midweek win over Stony Brook. Sure, the Stony Brook program doesn’t have the same cache as, say, UConn, but the Seawolves entered the game with a 9-5 record and are on the border of being a top-100 team. Columbia’s 68-63 win proves that Lions—who threatened No. 2 Michigan State earlier this year—are for real. Brown and Yale’s December struggles also suggests that the gap between the league’s top three—Harvard, Princeton, Columbia—and the bottom five is widening. Then again, Penn’s performance against Princeton shows that 14-game tournament should be, as usual, full of surprises.

1. Harvard (14-2)
Results: L 61-56 at UConn; W 61-45 vs. Dartmouth
This week: N/A
The big news coming out of Cambridge this week was the injury to Ivy League POY-favorite Wesley Saunders. Saunders was a late scratch from the lineup before the Crimson’s highly anticipated matchup at UConn. Harvard certainly missed their star in the five-point loss. Harvard’s defense was on point, but—with the exception of a stellar performance from Siyani Chambers—the Crimson couldn’t get anything going on offense. Four days later, Harvard took down an improved-but-still-lacking Dartmouth team. The Crimson has some time off now for Saunders and starting center Kenyatta Smith to heal before its next Ivy matchup at Dartmouth on Jan. 25. (more…)

OBW Ivy League Power Rankings, v5

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

This is the last One-Bid Wonders Ivy League power rankings before the start of conference play. This seems like a good time, then, to take stock and look back on each team’s performance through the first half of the season. To help us along, I’m getting an assist from Kanye: each team will be matched with an applicable line from Bound 2, because why not?

1. Harvard (13-1)
Results: W 94-86 at Fordham; W 73-58 vs. BC; W 69-54 at Rice
This week: Wednesday at UConn; Saturday vs. Dartmouth
“Bound to fall in love.”
If you appreciate good basketball, you must be smitten by Harvard. I think one stat sums it up: against Fordham, Harvard had 24 assists on 30 field goals. That’s nuts. Tommy Amaker has his team playing unselfish basketball and not only is it beautiful (fast forward to the 1:15 mark of this video) it’s effective. Harvard’s only loss came against Colorado, a team with victories against Kansas and Oregon. If Harvard can beat UConn on Wednesday (a big if), talk of an at-large bid becomes realistic. (more…)