Mano a mano | Biggest surprise in Ivy League basketball?

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Princeton men's basketball has struggled early on this season after the graduation of leading scorer and point guard T.J. Bray. The Tigers hit rock bottom when they lost to Incarnate Word at home.

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Ivy League basketball has seen some surprises early in the 2014-15 season. Harvard lost to Holy Cross on a neutral court. Columbia lost its top scorer from a year ago before the season began and hasn’t missed a beat. Cornell has already won more games than last season.

Senior Sports Editor Steven Tydings and Sports Editor Holden McGinnis talk about what has been the biggest surprise in the Ancient Eight this year.

Steven Tydings: I’d say Harvard’s early defeat, but the Crimson bounced back. What has thrown me off guard has been Princeton’s early season struggles. The Tigers lost a lot with the graduation of T.J. Bray but with freshman Amir Bell coming in to run the point and other players like Spencer Weisz set to step up, most people expected Princeton to hold it together.

But so far, the Tigers surely haven’t. After taking down Rider to start the year, they lost five straight games before a win on Sunday. Those losses included some stronger opponents like UTEP but there is one loss that is truly inexplicable: Incarnate Word.

Seriously, Incarnate Word? A program that has been in Division I for just two years won at Jadwin Gym. This was a shocker to say the least. Princeton may bounce back but the Tigers early season struggles are pretty surprising, at least to the extent they’ve been hurting so far.

Holden McGinnis: Sure, Princeton’s loss to Incarnate Word was surprising, but the Tigers weren’t particularly a title contender to begin the year — placing 4th in the preseason poll. The Tigers were a bit of a wild card, particularly after the graduation of Bray and a strong crop of seniors, and they could very well turn things around.

For me, I think the biggest surprise has to come from Columbia. When we heard that Alex Rosenberg was going to miss the season and withdraw from school due to injury, it seemed clear that Columbia was no longer going to be the same threat to knock off Harvard and Yale as it was last year. It’s tough to replace an elite scorer like Rosenberg, especially given the talent the Lions graduated, but Columbia has barely missed a step.

Sure, Tuesday’s loss to lowly Loyola (Md.) was ugly, but this is a team that most analysts wrote off a few weeks ago, yet its started the season 4-2. They may not have the chops to hang with Harvard and Yale atop the conference, but the Lions aren’t a team to sneeze at this season. When you lose a first-team All-Ivy talent and can still pull off some nonconference wins in the aftermath, it says a lot about the coaches and the program.

ST: The Lions simply haven’t played a very tough schedule so far. I have a tough time seeing Columbia excelling in Ivy play without Rosenberg to draw fouls on every opponent and take the final shot. There is an awful lot riding on the shoulders of junior Maodo Lo and I’m not sure he’s up for the task.

HM: They may be unable to handle the very top of the conference, I grant you that, but Columbia is still ahead of around half the Ivy League. For something that’s supposed to be a lost season, that’s more than enough. Princeton never had the preseason hype to begin with, a few bad nonconference losses is just par for the course.


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