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Crimson To Face Lions, Big Red

By Timothy J. Walsh, Crimson Staff Writer

During Shopping Week, it takes me roughly the first five minutes of a class to decide whether or not I’ll take the course. The rest of the class time is what Shopping Week is really all about: watching everybody else in the room.

It’s only natural. If I decide not to take the course, then I’d obviously rather scout the crowd for underclassmen talent than listen to the professor lecture on “bore-ophyll.” And if I do choose to take the class, it’s only the first week, so the material is not as important as whether any Kirkland queens might potentially be in my section.

All the important information that Shopping Week ostensibly exists to supply is actually online weeks in advance. By the time the semester begins, I’ve already spent hours crunching numbers in the Q Guide—highest ratings, lowest workloads—to uncover gems like “Tangible Things.” So when that first week rolls around, I need only to make sure the course meets expectations. Beyond that, I spend my time people-watching and imagining how the semester will play out.

Ivy men’s basketball has its first Friday-Saturday matchups of the season this weekend in what amounts to the Ancient Eight’s Shopping Week. Right now, the numbers—the Basketball Qs—say that Harvard is the favorite to win the league, Princeton’s chances are slightly lower, and Yale has an outside shot at the title.

Of course, it’s too early to crown a champ. Last Saturday, a lousy Dartmouth squad built a 12-point second half lead against the Crimson before choking it away. But that game and, perhaps more so, this weekend’s contests, help to gauge these initial expectations and offer a chance to check out the other teams.

A couple questions as I look around the league: Will Princeton, who has yet to play a league game, show up as the conference favorite that many pundits predicted? Will Columbia emerge as a legitimate contender after its 2-0 Ivy start? Will Yale keep rolling and challenge for the crown? Will Penn’s record match its talent?

It’s Shopping Week, which means it’s time to find out.

COLUMBIA (11-5, 2-0 Ivy) at HARVARD (13-3, 2-0 Ivy)

The Lions boast the third-best record in the conference and have won eight of their last nine games, but they still represent a big question mark. Playing mostly weak competition in its non-conference schedule, Columbia’s best win came against a then-.500 Maine team.

The Lions have some nice pieces though, particularly at guard. Junior Noruwa Agho leads the league in scoring, and sophomore Brian Barbour has come on strongly since New Years, averaging 18.8 points per game in that span.

But Harvard shouldn’t lose. The Crimson has the league’s best offense; Columbia has the league’s worst defense. With sophomore guard Christian Webster likely making his return and Lavietes Pavilion rocking, Harvard should prevail. Columbia’s last 11 games have been decided by single digits, and I don’t see why tonight will be any different.

Pick: Harvard 78, Columbia 69

CORNELL (4-12, 0-2 Ivy) at DARTMOUTH (4-12, 0-2 Ivy)

We saw Dartmouth’s ceiling in the first 25 minutes of last Saturday’s game. The Big Green was making shots and grabbing rebounds at a ridiculous rate before it went frigid against the Crimson’s zone. Dartmouth is definitely capable of winning some Ivy games, and perhaps its best chance comes tonight against Cornell.

The Big Red of this year is certainly a far cry from the wonder teams of the past three seasons, but Cornell’s record does not do the team justice. Eight of its 12 losses have been by five points of less, and the Big Red has legitimate offensive threats in juniors Chris Wroblewski and Andrew Ferry, and sophomore Errick Peck.

I believe Cornell’s talent trumps the Big Green’s, and the Ithacans will get their first Ivy win of the season.

Pick: Cornell 61, Dartmouth 54

BROWN (7-9, 0-2 Ivy) at PRINCETON (12-4, 0-0 Ivy)

Brown has been up-and-down all season. It’s the type of team that could beat the best team in the league one night and lose to the worst the next. With a bevy of weapons—forwards Peter Sullivan and Tucker Halpern, and guards Garrett Leffelman and Sean McGonagill—the Bears could go into Jadwin and tame the Tigers like they did last season.

It’s unlikely though. This Princeton team has four players averaging more than 13 points per game—forwards Ian Hummer and Kareem Maddox, and guards Dan Mavraides, and Douglas Davis—that can match up with Brown’s best and pull out a win at home.

Pick: Princeton 70, Brown 61

YALE (9-7, 2-0 Ivy) at PENN (6-8, 0-0 Ivy)

The Bulldogs and the Quakers round out Friday’s games in perhaps the weekend’s most even matchup. Yale has a monster down low in junior Greg Mangano, who averages a double-double at 14.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and leads the league in blocks. But Penn has its own star in guard Zack Rosen, a unanimous All-Ivy first-teamer last year.

The theme of the Ivy League this year is a return to parity after Cornell’s dominant three-year reign. In that spirit, I’m picking the Bulldogs in a slight upset at the Palestra.

Pick: Yale 68, Penn 65

COLUMBIA at DARTMOUTH

Dartmouth could really, really use a win this weekend, if not over the Big Red, then against Columbia on Saturday. Without a victory, the Big Green will head on the road to face the Killer P’s and almost certainly be looking at an 0-6 Ivy record to start the season.

Unfortunately, I don’t see Dartmouth picking up a win against a hot Lions team. Let the spiral begin in Hanover.

Pick: Columbia 65, Dartmouth 50

BROWN at PENN

The Bears are similarly in need of a win this weekend. Already sitting at 0-2, Brown would be relegated from a contender to a spoiler if it were unable to capture a victory here.

The Quakers, like the Bears, have been wildly unpredictable this season, with baffling losses to a 4-17 Marist team and a 3-17 Manhattan squad. But I look at Penn’s roster and see a team that, on the surface, should be able to compete for the Ivy title.

If I had to stake my reputation on one of these teams, I would have to choose the Quakers. So for now I’ll take another quaff of the Penn Kool-Aid.

Pick: Penn 67, Brown 58

YALE at PRINCETON

Without a doubt, this will be the best matchup of the weekend. This game epitomizes why Ivy basketball is so special. Nowhere else in the college basketball universe does a conference game carry title implications this big before February. Princeton and Yale are supposed to be two of the top three contenders. Let’s see who makes a statement tomorrow. I like Princeton.

Pick: Princeton 66, Yale 64

CORNELL at HARVARD

A not-so-small part of me is really looking forward to this game. Cornell was such a headache for the other Ivies over the last three seasons, I have a great sense of schadenfreude watching its demise. I hope the Crimson can embarrass the Big Red as badly as the 86-50 curb-stomping at Newman last year, but I think Harvard would settle for a win.

Pick: Harvard 73, Cornell 61

—Staff writer Timothy J. Walsh can be reached at twalsh@fas.harvard.edu.

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