Here’s the second in our series of power rankings, breaking down the six Division 1 teams in Massachusetts (Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Holy Cross, Northeastern, UMass) and the University of Connecticut. While UConn could likely beat every other team in the region 95 teams out of 100, we’ll try to keep the rankings interesting by taking into account how teams have been playing lately, a team’s chances at making the NCAA Tournament and any other mitigating factors. Yes Holy Cross fans, that means even the Crusaders can make some major moves in our rankings.
1. UConn Huskies (4-0): UConn is one of a handful of teams in the nation that can boast three or more players on the Naismith preseason watch list (national player of the year), yet it’s been a player left off the list, that’s made the biggest impact thus far. Shabazz Napier has taken over as the team’s playmaker on offense with just under half the team’s assists, and leads all guards in rebounds and is second on the team in scoring. If Jim Calhoun can continue getting contributions from guys like Napier and Tyler Olander and the anticipated production from Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond, UConn could be a top five team all season long.
2. Harvard Crimson (3-0) The Crimson have cruised through their first three games and now have a chance to open some eyeballs this weekend against top-flight competition. Assuming they knock off Utah out of the PAC-12, as expected, Harvard will have a real chance at playing for the Battle 4 Atlantis Championship with potential matchups against Florida State, UMass and UConn. It’s hard to sleep on a Crimson team that has four players averaging in double-digit scoring and 10 players getting regular minutes. Harvard’s biggest problem this weekend could be controlling the boards against bigger squads; it should be a chance for Harvard’s lone Naismith watch candidate Keith Wright to shine.
3. UMass Minutemen (4-0) Derek Kellogg may be the coach in the region with the most to be thankful for heading into Thanksgiving: he’s has the best point guard, a roster full of athletic wing men who get it and everyone’s producing, factor in a fully healthy roster and he can’t stop smiling. A trip to the Bahamas where his team will be tested has got to make him even happier, especially if the team can come away with at least two wins. The Minutemen are the sleepers of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament with a game against a ranked Florida State Seminoles team in which they will be underdogs. This is not only a chance to get better on the court for UMass, but with several young players, the trip could be instrumental in bonding as a roster.
4. Northeastern Huskies (2-1) Thus far the Huskies have flown under the radar as a team that doesn’t have any big wins or big losses but is slowly improving. Jonathan Lee and Joel Smith have done everything Bill Coen could have hoped for when he selected them as co-captains. The two juniors are the team’s leading scorers, lead the team in assists and have been active on the glass combining for 8.7 rebounds per game. Coen expected that kind of production out of Lee and Smith; the fact that three big men (Reggie Spencer, Kashief Edwards, Alwayne Bigby) who didn’t play in the second half of last season lead the team in rebounding and are among the top scorers on the squad is an added bonus.
5. Holy Cross Crusaders (2-3) Yup seventh to fifth, I told you Crusaders fans, we’ll shake up these rankings whenever we think a team has deserved it. Holy Cross has won two of three since our last power rankings included their first win against Boston College since 2002, we’ll get to you later Eagles fans. Devin Brown and R.J. Evans have been fantastic for Milan Brown thus far this season, averaging over 31 points per game and shooting over 51 percent from the field apiece. When you factor in the fact that the team has been in all but one of their games thus far and have two winnable games in their next three, Holy Cross could continue to climb in our rankings.
6. Boston University Terriers (0-3) I may have attended Boston University but this placement isn’t an example of being a homer or a mistake. The Terriers are still winless, but fell just one basket shy against Northeastern and Cornell of sitting at 2-1. Even more importantly, after a dismal performance against Texas a week ago, Boston University showed major progress in their game against the Big Red. Several of the team’s most talented players struggled through the first two games and showed signs of breaking out in the second half at Cornell and for the first time in three halves the offense had a pulse and a rhythm. If the Terriers continue to lose they’ll occupy the bottom spot, but they’ve earned the six spot, at least for this week.
7. Boston College Eagles (1-2) Yes, Boston College has a win, but that win came against the New Hampshire Wildcats. The Wildcats are a middling America East team at best and Boston University has beaten them nine of the past 11 times and the past five times at home. An Eagles win over the Wildcats isn’t enough to prove that this young Boston College team is better than the Terriers, just that they’ve played easier competition. It’s not all doom and gloom for Boston College though, Patrick Heckmann’s return signaled good things for an offense that has struggled thus far, Dennis Clifford has been consistent and Matt Humphrey at least has stayed out of foul trouble. Don’t expect big things this weekend as the Eagles travel to Anaheim for the 76 Classic.
Starting Five (Top 5 Players of the Region Thus Far)
Devin Brown-G-Holy Cross