Thursday, January 31, 2008

Daily Pennsylvanian Previews Cornell

By Rob Gross
Daily Pennsylvanian
January 31, 2008

Cornell is not used to being in this position. In fact, no one is besides Penn and Princeton.

The Big Red (10-5, 2-0 Ivy) were picked to win the Ivy League by media members before the season began, and so far, their play has pretty much lived up to the hype. They cleared their first hurdle to the title by sweeping the two-game series with Columbia.

Steve Donahue's team has been most impressive on offense, where it leads the Ivy League in field goal percentage (.482), three-point percentage (.413) and scoring margin (+5.9). The Big Red have averaged 76.9 points per game - more than six points better than any other Ancient Eight team.

Cornell's success on offense begins and ends with its perimeter play, where coming into the season it boasted arguably the best group of guards in the league. Louis Dale acts as the team's floor general, but he's also a scoring option. The All-Ivy point guard leads the league with just under five assists per game and is second on the team in scoring average, at 13.3.

The group took a big hit when sixth-man Collin Robinson left the team shortly before its first win over Columbia. The University of Southern California transfer had been providing a huge boost off the bench, averaging over ten points and four assists.

Robinson's departure means starting guard Adam Gore may have to pick up some of the scoring slack. The junior has played fairly well after missing almost all of last season with a knee injury, but he has not lived up to the expectations that came with being named the 2006 Ivy Rookie of the year.

The most dangerous offensive weapon is not a guard, though he certainly plays like one. 6-foot-6 forward Ryan Wittman, thanks to a blistering .478 clip from three-point range, leads the team in scoring at 14.3 ppg.

Although the Big Red have looked superior offensively to their Ivy League competitors, don't anoint them champions just yet. They still have serious question marks on defense and in the interior.

Cornell is in the middle of the pack in points allowed and is second to last in rebounding margin at -3.1 per game. No player on the roster averages five rebounds or more.

The Big Red have also yet to establish a legitimate low-post scoring presence, despite the improved play of sophomore forward Alex Tyler.

With a team that depends on perimeter play to win, it is often hit or miss. If their long jumpers aren't going down, the Big Red are beatable. But if Wittman and Dale are dialed in, bringing an Ivy League title back to Ithaca - for just the second time - seems to be a strong possibility.


Q'nis said...

Looks like we have some conficting articles here. The Penn one claims that the big men are a weakness, while Sanford's article portrays them as a multi-dimensional strength.

I think it is certainly the latter. Most of that certainty comes from the addition of Foote. Without him, this is a decent-average IVY frontcourt (No Foote, I think Yale, Columbia and even Penn's frontcourts are better). With him, they're unquestionably top 2. I guess we will find out if they're top 1 this weekend.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

The D.P. is not the best (or even a reliable) source of insight into Cornell basketball. But we post anything we find about or beloved team. Go Red!

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how you can have 10 guys watch the same game and at the end of the game talk to them about it and they all see something completely different. Cornell's Bigs are playing well now and perfect timing for league play. A balanced attack wins championships and we'll see how we do this weekend. GO BIG RED

Anonymous said...

well, the word weakness is relative. compared to engineering or hotel administration, one could say our political science department is a weakness (not trying to be offensive, just making an analogy). this may be true within cornell, but our political science dept is prolly a lot better than at other schools. now back to basketball. compared to our excellent guards, our big men are not as talented or high-profile. therefore, if you bring up a weakness, i suppose the term works.

having said that, i dont think these guys have watched cornell play. the front court is chipping in 28ish points, 16ish boards a night. pretty good to me.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

I've been watching Cornell basketball for close to 20 years.

Cornell's current frontcourt is deeper than any of Cornell's prior frontcourts in those years.

We've had some pretty good individual players up front (Eddie Samuel, John McCord, Ray Mercedes, Eric Taylor, and Andrew Naeve) but never a solid group top to bottom like our current guys.