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January 29, 2014

Men's Basketball Preview for January 31-February 1

Complete Men's Basketball Weekly Release in pdf format

Photo courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications

PRINCETON, N.J. -- The gauntlet begins.

The signature portion of the Ivy League men's basketball schedule takes center court this weekend with the first of the six back-to-back games that comprise the most difficult portion of The 14-Game Tournament.

Research has shown that starting the conference schedule with an early loss or two creates a hole that is hard to dig out of as the Friday-Saturday match ups mount. Of the 66 teams that have laid claim to the Ivy title, only 13 did so by bouncing back from a 1-1 or 0-2 start. Princeton's 1983-84 Tiger squad was the last team to start with two losses and come back to win the Ivy title. Penn has won the League crown five times after a 1-1 or 0-2 start and was the last team to do so in 2001-02 when the Quakers began the Ivy slate 1-1 and came back to post an 11-3 record to tie Princeton and Yale for the League title.

Harvard (15-3, 2-0 Ivy) and Columbia (13-6, 2-0 Ivy) come into the weekend in the preferred position of being atop the standings after sweeping their respective travel partner games. The League's top two teams has led a season that so far as seen solid offensive output from seasoned upperclassmen and first-year rookies alike.

Junior guard/forward Wesley Saunders has been the key to Harvard's recent title run and its current 17-game home winning streak, which is tied for the seventh-longest streak in the nation. Saunders ranks in the League's top 10 in nine statistical categories: scoring (15.0 ppg, 5th), assists (3.5 apg, 2nd), steals (2.3 spg, 1st), blocks (0.9 bpg, 8th), field goal percentage (.483, 10th), free throw percentage (.779, 6th), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3, 6th), defensive rebounds (3.9 pg, 10th) and minutes (33.0 mpg, 5th).

Columbia has its eyes on starting 4-0 in Ivy play for the first time since the 1994-95 season. The Lions' success so far has come from its points-producing trio of sophomore guards Maodo Lo (14.1 ppg, 6th) and Grant Mullins (13.2 ppg, 9th) and junior forward Alex Rosenberg (14.1 ppg, 7th) who all rank in the League's top 10 in scoring.

Penn (4-11, 1-0 Ivy) rebounded from suffering five non-conference losses by six points or less, including one in overtime, to steal a critical home win to open League play. The Quakers are poised to build upon that win with a healthy lineup that includes its low-post presence of sophomore center Darien Nelson-Henry (12.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg in 11 games) and scoring duo of sophomore guard Tony Hicks (15.5 ppg, 2nd) and senior forward Fran Doughtery (11.9 ppg, 10th).

Brown (9-7, 1-1 Ivy) and Yale (7-9, 1-1 Ivy) split their season series and now have their sights on big weekends to establish an early foothold in the top half of the standings.

The Bears have enjoyed infusion of youth with quality play from its freshmen guards Tavon Blackmon (8.5 ppg, 3.3 apg), Norman Hobbie (7.0 ppg) and Steven Spieth (6.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg) to go along with sharp-shooting senior guard Sean McGonagill (19.3 ppg, 1st). The Bulldogs, however, have seen their top production from players with a season or two under their belts in sophomore forward Justin Sears (15.2 ppg, 4th) and junior guard Javier Duren (13.5 ppg, 8th).

Princeton (12-3, 0-1 Ivy), Dartmouth (7-9, 0-2 Ivy) and Cornell (1-15, 0-2 Ivy) look to get into the win column in conference play and kick start their respective pushes to be contenders in the title race.

Princeton is off to his best start since the 1997-98 season, fueled by its scoring average of 75.4 points per game which is the program's best through 15 games since the 1971-72 season. The Tigers do not have a player in the conference's top 10 in scoring due to the fact that senior guard T.J. Bray (17.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg) has not yet played 75 percent of his team's games having played in 11 of 15 so far. Senior forward Will Barrett (11.8 ppg, t-11th) and sophomore forward Hans Brase (11.7 pgg, 13th) have been consistently providing a consistent scoring options for a team that ison pace to break the program record for three-pointers made in a season.

Dartmouth has the tough task of bouncing back from the loss of junior forward/center Gabas Maldunas (11.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg) to a season-ending knee injury. The Big Green turns to its top three scoring options -- sophomore forward Connor Boehm (11.1 ppg), sophomore guard Alex Mitola (9.8 ppg) and junior forward John Golden (9.0 ppg) to pick up the slack.

Cornell comes into the weekend in search of its first win over a Division I foe this season with its own triple threat of sophomore guard Nolan Cressler (15.5 ppg, 3rd), junior guard Devin Cherry (11.0 ppg, 17th) and freshman guard Robert Hatter (10.1 ppg, 20th).

Cornell (1-15, 0-2 Ivy) at Brown (9-7, 1-1 Ivy)
Date: Friday, January 31 – 7 p.m.
Location: Pizzitola Sports Center • Providence, R.I.
Live Broadcast: The Ivy League® Digital Network
Cornell-Brown Series: Cornell leads, 73-46
Last Meeting:Brown 84, Cornell 65 • 3/1/13 • Ithaca, N.Y.
Live Stats | Cornell Game Notes | Brown Game Notes

Columbia (13-6, 2-0 Ivy) at Yale (7-9, 1-1 Ivy)
Date: Friday, January 31 – 7 p.m.
Location: John J. Lee Amphitheater • New Haven, Conn.
Live Broadcast: The Ivy League® Digital Network
Columbia-Yale Series
: Columbia leads, 123-101
Last Meeting: Columbia 59, Yale 46 • 3/1/13 • New York
Live Stats | Columbia Game Notes | Yale Game Notes

Penn (4-11, 1-0 Ivy) at Dartmouth (7-9, 0-2 Ivy)
Date: Friday, January 31 – 7 p.m.
Location: Leede Arena • Hanover, N.H.
Penn-Dartmouth Series: Penn leads, 148-57
Live Broadcast: The Ivy League® Digital Network
Last Meeting: Dartmouth 69, Penn 64 • 3/1/13 • Philadelphia
Live Stats | Penn Game Notes | Dartmouth Game Notes

Princeton (12-3, 0-1 Ivy) at Harvard (15-3, 2-0 Ivy)
Date: Friday, January 31 – 7 p.m.
Location: Lavietes Pavilion • Cambridge, Mass.
Live Broadcast: The Ivy League® Digital Network
Princeton-Harvard Series: Princeton leads, 129-41
Last Meeting: Princeton 58, Harvard 53 • 3/1/13 • Princeton, N.J.
Live Stats | Princeton Game Notes | Harvard Game Notes

Columbia at Brown
Date: Saturday, February 1 – 6 p.m.
Location: Pizzitola Sports Center • Providence, R.I.
Live Broadcast: The Ivy League® Digital Network
Columbia-Brown Series: Columbia leads, 67-64
Last Meeting: Columbia 61, Brown 58 • 3/2/13 • New York
Live Stats | Columbia Game Notes | Brown Game Notes

Cornell at Yale
Date: Saturday, February 1 – 7 p.m.
Location: John J. Lee Amphitheater • New Haven, Conn.
Live Broadcast: The Ivy League® Digital Network
Cornell-Yale Series: Cornell leads, 110-104
Last Meeting: Yale 79, Cornell 70 • 3/2/13 • Ithaca, N.Y.
Live Stats | Cornell Game Notes | Yale Game Notes

Princeton at Dartmouth
Date: Saturday, February 1 – 7 p.m.
Location: Leede Arena • Hanover, N.H.
Live Broadcast: The Ivy League® Digital Network
Princeton-Dartmouth Series: Princeton leads, 144-61
Last Meeting: Princeton 68, Dartmouth 63 • 3/2/13 • Princeton, N.J.
Live Stats | Princeton Game Notes | Dartmouth Game Notes

Penn at Harvard
Date: Saturday, February 1 – 9 p.m.
Location: Lavietes Pavilion • Cambridge, Mass.
Television: NBC Sports Network
Penn-Harvard Series: Penn leads, 129-35
Last Meeting: Penn 75, Harvard 72 • 3/2/13 • Philadelphia
Live Stats | Penn Game Notes | Harvard Game Notes