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Know! Your! Foes! - Harvard & Dartmouth.

Two games this weekend and a double shot installment of the popular Know! Your! Foe! series. First up is writer Bruce Wood (above left), founder of Big Green Alert, who has been covering Dartmouth athletics for as long as I can remember.

Just another quiet, uneventful season in Hanover, Bruce. What the heck is going on up there?!

Good question. The word of the day is interim. Interim head coach. Interim athletic director. Interim dean of the college. All under a new president of the college.

I can't speak to the specifics of what happened with Terry Dunn (because I don't really know), but I can tell you he's a good man who sent me a thank you note for the writing I did about his team over the years. The note was tremendously thoughtful and greatly appreciated.

How has the team looked under interim head coach Mark Graupe compared to when they were playing for Terry Dunn?

They seem more relaxed and not as afraid of making mistakes. They are less likely to be yanked after a miscue, and that has led to a little more aggressive and inventive play at the offensive end.

Dartmouth is nearly last in the entire nation in Adjusted Efficiency and Effective FG%. What do the Big Green do well on offense?

The sample of games under Mark Graupe is small, so it's hard to get a read on where this team is offensively with Mark at the helm. Suffice it to say that apart from a couple of breakout games from Robby Pride, outside shooting has not been a strength. On the plus side, Pride is fearless going to the hole. Ronnie Dixon and freshman RJ Griffin can both slash and knock down the occasional jumper. Griffin is hitting 43 percent from outside the arc but needs to shoot more. Jabari Trotter can also knock down the occasional three. Clive Weeden is a terrific offensive rebounder who gets them second chances. While the pessimist might point out that no one is averaging double figures, the optimist would argue that there's a certain value to having four players averaging between 7.6 and 8.1 points. Who do you put your best defender on?

Two things stand out looking at Dartmouth's defensive numbers - their ability to force turnovers and their ability to guard the three point line.

That's what they have to do. David Rufful doesn't look as if he'd be a great defender but he leads the team in steals, and while they don't keep deflections, he's probably the team leader there as well. The defense up top, however, comes to an extent at the cost of defending inside.

Tell people about Robby Pride, Dartmouth's leading scorer and one of just two seniors on the roster.

Pride is a two-sport athlete who switches over to lacrosse when basketball is over. He wasn't recruited to Dartmouth for lacrosse and his lax didn't know what to expect when he came out, but he quickly became a key player for the Big Green, in no small part because of his toughness. He showed that toughness in the last home game against Harvard when he drove the paint three or four times in the final couple of minutes for layups in among the trees. He showed his shooting ability when he went 6-for-7 (including 3-for-3 from outside the arc and 6-for-6 from the line) while scoring 21 points in the win over St. Francis.

What needs to occur for Dartmouth to surprise the Tigers?

Pride or Griffin has to heat up outside and the Big Green has to do a better job defending the post.

What has to happen for Princeton to beat Dartmouth?

First, the Tigers can't let Dartmouth jump out to a lead and get any momentum. They've got to take care of the basketball and not let a team that is offensively challenged get easy baskets.

Take a moment to tell people about your web site, Big Green Alert!

It's the poor man's Actually, it's a full-time job from early August until the end of football season. I attend every practice, have a story every night, seven days a week, and write at least 8-10 stories a week during the year, all for a $65 subscription fee. I also cover spring football and recruiting. Glutton for punishment, I guess.

You spent time near central New Jersey before you found your way up north. Any good Princeton basketball anecdotes to close with?

I went to the Rutgers-Princeton NCAA game in Providence in 1976 when the undefeated Scarlet Knights slipped by Princeton, 54-53. These were different times for the NCAA Tournament. A friend who went to Rutgers had extra tickets he asked if we wanted to go. Imagine that today!

Anyway, I drove up to Providence in a car loaded with Rutgers fans - and one Princeton fan. Me.

Flash forward a couple of decades to the press conference that followed Dartmouth's last game at Princeton in Pete Carril's final year. I made a point after the press conference of thanking Pete for everything he meant to basketball (and to me as a fan). As a parting shot I told him I was at the '76 Rutgers game and that given how the bracket fell I've always believed the Tigers would have been in the Final Four that year if they could have just picked off Rutgers. He gave me his best Pete Carril hang-dog look and said something along the lines of, "I know. I know."

How much have things changed since then? I got free tickets for the game against Rutgers in '76. Or maybe they cost me $5. I forget. What I can't forget is that in 1998 I spent $100 for nosebleed tickets to watch Princeton knock off UNLV in Hartford. And I thought it was worth every penny!

Thanks so much, Bruce! I'll catch you at halftime in Hanover.

Let's move from Saturday night's opponent to the team Princeton will play to start the weekend and bring in Michael James, editor of Basketball-U, the finest Ivy League message board around.

The Crimson are coming off a deflating 36 point loss at Cornell in THE BIGGEST IVY GAME OF ALL TIME EMOTICON EXCLAMATION POINT FONT SIZE=5. Besides the Big Red being very good at basketball, went wrong in Ithaca?

Harvard got burnt by a combination of its Achilles heel from this year (turnovers) and last year (defensive rebounding). The Crimson turned the ball over on 38 percent of its possessions, essentially handing Cornell 17 free possessions over the course of the contest. Add to that the Big Red's 14 offensive rebounds (to Harvard's six), and it's pretty clear how Cornell managed 30 more shots than the Crimson over the course of the contest, despite both teams shooting an equal number of free throws.

It was almost a carbon copy of the Army game earlier this year, where Harvard coughed it up 30 times, except the Black Knights were bad enough that the Crimson could hang around.

Is there concern about what that game might do to the team's psyche?

Let's see. The last time a competitive Harvard team lost a crushing game in Ithaca (2006), they bounced back nicely with a six-or-so point win over Princeton at home the following Friday. (You'll have to pardon me. I don't remember the exact score because I left to study for an Econ midterm with about a minute left to go that night. Let me look it up. Give me a second. OH. MY. GOD.)

Despite being an incredibly young team (almost 70 percent of the team's minutes come from freshmen and sophomores), Harvard has handled adversity well this year. I don't think you'll see any ill effects on Friday. Now, if the Crimson drops the game to Princeton, that could really test this team's mental makeup.

Harvard in a nutshell - they shoot the ball well, especially from inside the arc, when they can hold onto the ball. Is that fair to say?

The Crimson gets a ton of easy buckets because it has guards who can create and posts who can finish. This isn't a team that happens to shoot the lights out from 12 to 18 feet (or beyond for that matter, but we're only focusing on two-pointers for the moment). Harvard takes the ball to the basket and dares you to foul or find a way to rack up some blocks.

As I just mentioned, however, this team shoots horribly from behind the arc, meaning it's imperative for it to attack the rim, but that helter-skelter approach to offense is often what leaves the Crimson vulnerable to huge turnover nights. The best defensive strategy is to get really physical with Harvard and hope the referees let you play. Georgetown did this to great success in the Verizon Center in December, and Dartmouth almost sprung the upset at Leede taking quite the same approach.

Jeremy Lin gets most of the media attention, but who is a player people should be watching on Friday night?

I'll go a little off the radar here and throw out both point guards - Oliver McNally and Brandyn Curry. While neither is going to light up the scoreboard with points, both players are steady ball handlers who can burn you if given the option, convert free throws at a nice clip and rebound well defensively. Both struggle with turnovers (who doesn't on this Harvard team), but for a sophomore and a freshman, they do an admirable job running an up-tempo offense that demands quick, smart decision making.

Freshman Kyle Casey has come off the bench to record a couple of impressive scoring performances in the last five games. Is he as good as advertised?

I think you'd have to go back to Ugonna Onyekwe to find someone in this league with Casey's combination of athleticism and basketball ability. But he just can't stay on the floor. He has a certain magnetism for fouls (7.1 per 40 minutes which leads Ivy regulars by a mile), primarily due to his youthful exuberance, which pushes him to make plays on the defensive end of the floor. Sometimes it helps - he drew a key charge in the waning moments against BC - and sometimes it hurts - he picked up two fouls in a minute at Cornell and his third before the end of the half to be an utter non-factor.

He should be the Ivy Rookie of the Year. If he keeps fouling and chopping his playing time into bits, however, he won't be.

I know Keith Wright was someone the Princeton coaching staff coveted. Tell readers about his progress from his freshman year to his sophomore year.

At the midway point of the 2008 recruiting season, Wright was no better than the third-best forward in the class behind Andrew Van Nest and Frank Ben-Eze, according to the ratings agencies. Ben-Eze backed out to go to Davidson and Van Nest was never really a true post to begin with, so Wright went from a depth player to necessary starter for the Crimson. His primary faults which dogged him last season were his physical shape and his absolutely terrible hands. He also wasn't the best finisher, a problem which was compounded by the fact that he didn't draw all that many fouls.

He addressed the conditioning and the hands this year. He's much more agile and gets better lift, especially for blocks, though on the flip side, it's possible that being a slightly less massive body on the interior has hurt his rebounding numbers marginally. His hands are much improved in terms of corralling and maintaining possession of loose balls, and he has become an excellent finisher under the basket. Wright still doesn't draw many fouls, which severely impacts his value on nights when he can't get shots to drop.

What needs to occur for Harvard to get by the Tigers?

The Crimson must turn Princeton over and create points off those giveaways. This will do two things. First and most obviously, it will give Harvard easy points against a stout Tigers defense. Second and more importantly, it will push the tempo of the game to where the Crimson feels more comfortable (70+ plus possessions) and where Princeton does not (Tigers are 1-3 against Division I opponents in games with more than 62 possessions).

On the offensive end of the floor, Harvard has to limit its own turnovers. The Crimson is 3-3 when giving the ball up on 27 percent or more of its possessions and 10-1 (against D-I foes) when keeping its turnover rate under that mark. It will be extremely difficult for Harvard to get into any sort of an offensive rhythm if they go quick turnover, 30-35 seconds of defense, quick turnover, more extended periods of defense.

What has to happen for Princeton to get the "W" in Cambridge?

Make a bunch of goofy passes while running the three-man weave out near mid-court for 25 seconds and hit some timely shots in the final 10 seconds of the shot clock.

In all seriousness, Princeton's ceiling for points in this game is roughly equal to the total number of possessions and its floor isn't too far below that. The Tigers will win this game on the defensive end. They need to coax Harvard into settling for threes, which it can't hit consistently, and not hand the Crimson free passes to the line. Add some Harvard turnovers and Princeton could be halfway to the weekend sweep.

You are a man who loves his numbers. What individual and team numbers stand out when you compare Harvard and Princeton?

The pace disparity is the most severe, as the Crimson is the fastest tempo team in the Ivies by a significant margin and the Tigers are the slowest by a significant margin. I have a gut feeling that the team that keeps the pace closest to its comfort level will win the game.

I'm stunned by the defensive turnarounds for both teams from last year. Harvard is over 16 points per 100 possessions stingier defensively, while Princeton has improved its defensive over 11 points per 100 possessions. Both teams have improved slightly on the offensive end, but the improved defensive is almost entirely responsible for both teams' abrupt transformation.

Another huge difference between these two teams is in floor percentage (the percentage of a player's total possessions which wind up resulting in at least a point). Harvard has four of the 12 Ivy regulars with floor percentages above 50 percent (Lin, Casey, Wright and Magnarelli, who will not play). Princeton has zero. Yet, Princeton has almost as many guys with above average offensive ratings as Harvard (four to five, respectively). This indicates a strong contrast in styles - the Crimson likes to pick up its points one or two at a time more consistently, while the Tigers like to tally them two or three at a time on a less consistent basis.

Before you go, take a moment to tell people about the resurgent Basketball-U!

I'd definitely encourage your readers to stop by the revamped site. We cover the Ivy League with original commentary, statistical analysis, recruiting and commitment updates and have a message board to keep you connected with other Ivy fans.

Excellent stuff. Thanks, Mr. James! Do you cover a team the Tigers will face down the line? Let us know. We'd love to talk with you.

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