Blog Entry

Ivy League playoff preview

Posted on: March 12, 2011 11:22 am

Some say the Ivy League misses out on the fun and exciting of championship week because it lacks a conference tournament. Well, not this year. Harvard and Princeton finished the regular season knotted at the top of the league standings, with both going 12-2 in Ivy play. The two will battle in a one-game playoff at Yale to determine the automatic bid from the conference. It is the eighth playoff in league history – Princeton has been involved in all eight.

Harvard (23-5, 12-2) has been consistent all season, beating Colorado and Boston College in the non-conference season and then rolling through Ivy League play with only two losses. The Crimson suffered a road defeat at Princeton in early February, but avenged it with a 12-point win the season finale. Harvard’s two losses in conference play were by a combined five points.

The Crimson are a highly-efficient offensive team, ranking eighth in the country in effective field-goal percentage. They shoot it well from behind the arc, but are at their best when driving to the basket and drawing fouls or finishing. Harvard has six players averaging at least 9.5 points per game, led by the frontcourt duo of Keith Wright and Kyle Casey. Casey had 24 against Princeton last week. Brandyn Curry is a terrific playmaker and distributor, while Christian Webster and Laurent Rivard can shoot.

Princeton (24-6, 12-2) was the preseason favorite in the conference, and it looked like the Tigers might fulfill those expectations after starting 8-0 in Ivy League play. However, a 10-point road loss at seventh-place Brown on February 19 opened the door for Harvard. As mentioned, the Crimson stormed through that opening by beating Princeton last weekend. The Tigers forged a playoff with their road win at Penn on Tuesday.

The Tigers are solid at both ends of the floor, using a balanced offense and a tough half-court defense to win games. They are effective from inside and outside the arc offensively, while their defense is predicated on controlling the defensive glass. Princeton is led by the forward tandem of Kareem Maddox and Ian Hummer, two rugged forwards who do their damage around the rim. Dan Mavraides and Douglas Davis are the team’s perimeter shooters, with Mavraides also the team’s best distributor and playmaker.

For Harvard, the key will be limiting Princeton’s forward tandem of Maddox and Hummer – the Crimson did a good job when the two teams played a week ago. Offensively, they need to use their balanced offense to get points inside the arc, where the Tigers are vulnerable. Second chances could be key. Princeton needs to play disciplined defensively, not allowing Harvard to get easy points from the free-throw line. The Tigers also need to knock down perimeter shots.

The atmosphere at Yale on Saturday afternoon should be tremendous. Tickets to the game sold out within four hours and both teams are prepared for a battle. The frontcourt match-up between Harvard’s Casey and Wright and Princeton’s Maddox and Hummer should be tremendous. The difference could be the playmaking ability of Brandyn Curry – he is averaging 11.5 points and 12.0 assists in his last two games. How will Princeton counter?

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Jeff Borzello

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