Ivy League Notebook
Donald Rumsfeld should have a clandestine meeting with Yale coach James Jones. Not that Jones should be leading a black ops team into Kandahar, but his Elis have somehow, someway, climbed into first place in the Ivy League, vitrually unnoticed. Impossible, you say? Go ‘head, check out the standings. I’ll wait. Hey, I’m with you. I picked Yale to finish middle-of-the-pack at best. But Yale has slayed dragons in this topsy-turvy college hoops season to get to where they are.
All I can say is, “It figures.” Defending champ Princeton scheduled Cal, St. Joe’s, Maryland and Kansas, but the beef-up hasn’t really helped the Tigers. They lost to all those impressive programs, plus GW, Penn and the mighty Yalies. (They also fell to Florida International at the beginning of the season, a team often mistaken for a preseason exhibition team.)
Then there’s Penn. The Quakers might be the only team in the history of this league to win 20 games, not win the conference and not make the NCAA’s. Their victories over local bullies Temple, St. Joes’, Villanova and LaSalle are mere morning crust on the eyes of the Quakers puzzling season.
Brown returned the pre-season player of the year in Earl Hunt, as well as inside he-man Alaviaa Nuualiitia, and were poised to make their most prolific run in Glenn Miller’s 3 -year stint as coach. The Bears are currently sitting in fourth place at 6-4 (Ivy) and probably won’t even get a sniff for the NIT.
Harvard has been the warm and fuzzy story this season. The Crimson, who haven’t made it to the dance since the dawn of nuclear power, scored big with early wins over Penn and Brown this year. But the Boys from Cambridge gave a few back to the softies of the league and are currently wincing at the syringe of a 3-game losing streak.
At 17-7 overall and 9-1 in the Ivy, Yale has capitalized on the rest of the league’s undoing. They have no top 25 opponents on their schedule but no pushovers either. They have beaten comparable competition but have not dipped under the .500 mark since November 24. Yale has been steady – not dynamic – but steady, and this year, that’s enough to win a conference with no post-season tournament.
Yale offers no single player that can make a game his own. There are no players on the roster that grace the Top 5 Ivy scoring list and only 4 times has a Yale player scored above 20 points this season. Junior guard Ime Archibong netted a season-high 23…and that was in a loss to Colgate on December 3. What the Elis lack in scoring, however, they make up in rebounding. They are slaugthering Ivy foes with an average of 37 rebounds a game, 4 more than Harvard and 5 more than Brown; two teams that had gotten bigger and stronger in 2001-02. Yale’s Paul Vitelli leads the league in indvidual boards, at 8 a pop.
But Yale shouldn’t be punching their dance card just yet. Jones’s club faces two big tests on the weekend of February 22. On Friday, it’s a showdown at Princeton. The Tigers are only a game out of first, so the Jadwin will be jumpin’. That game could very well decide the Ivy title. Saturday, it’s down to Philly to face Penn, another team desperate for wins and hopeful that they can somehow slide to the top.
Yale beat both Princeton and Penn the weekend of February 7. Those were top secret wins in the circles of NCAA basketball. You probably never heard about them.
Coach Jones, how would your team like a field trip to Central Asia? It’ll be…educational. Oh, and bring that Vitelli kid.