- Harvard team report-"After three years of playing second fiddle to Cornell, Harvard began the 2010-11 season looking like a team ready to elbow the Big Red aside and take over as the team to beat in the Ivy League...One factor that sets Harvard apart from the stereotypical Ivy League team is its size inside. Much like Cornell in the past three years was led by legitimate 7-footer Jeff Foote in the middle, Harvard has a number of post players who would easily get minutes even at a bigger institution."
- Princeton team report-"After three years of being the underdog, the 2010-11 Princeton team is adjusting to life as one of the hunted. The Tigers returned to postseason play a year ago, and with Cornell’s graduation losses and early-season struggles there is a clear void atop the Ivy League. Princeton was the preseason pick to end the Big Red’s reign, and some of the signs this early season are promising."
December 1, 2010
Cornell has spent the past three years atop the Ivy League. But at the end of November, the Big Red found itself at the bottom of the standings with a 2-5 non-conference record.
It’s not surprising that one of the issues has been the Big Red’s performance in close games. Though Cornell was blown out by Big East rivals Seton Hall and Syracuse, its other three losses in November were by two points to St. Bonaventure, by three points to Lehigh, and by five points to Boston University.
Whereas previous teams have had multiple options to turn to late in games, like Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale on the outside and Jeff Foote on the interior, the current squad is still struggling to find itself.
Chris Wroblewski, the lone returning starter and the player who is perhaps most important to the team’s fortunes this year, was slowed early by a sprained ankle. Errick Peck, probably the best of the freshmen a year ago, struggled with his shot in the first two weeks of the season. Aaron Osgood, one of the stars early in the campaign, now is out temporarily with a knee injury.
It’s hardly an ideal situation for first-year coach Bill Courtney. He has all of the disadvantages of coaching perhaps the highest-profile team in the Ivy League, in that he gets opponents who know they can earn an impressive win by beating a program that reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament a year ago. But with most of those players gone, the players he has on hand haven’t been able to rise to the challenge early.
Fortunately for him, there’s still time to correct mistakes before the start of conference play. Improvements were already apparent at the start of December, and once the players get more familiar with each other, the talent level alone should carry the Big Red a long way. The only question is whether that will happen soon enough to give the Big Red a chance to defend its crown.
• One of the bright spots of Cornell’s loss to Syracuse was the performance of Errick Peck.
Peck had been counted on to take on more of a scoring role in his sophomore season, but had an awful time finding his shot in the first six games. But against the Orange, he led the Big Red with 14 points and went 5-9 from the floor, a big improvement from his 23.1 percent shooting performance in the previous games.
• Adam Wire has been the king of giving the Big Red second chances. Through the season’s first seven games, he had 49 total rebounds, 25 of which came on the offensive glass.
Keep An Eye On: The lineup during crunch time. Cornell has a deep and talented roster, thanks to the recruiting that three consecutive conference championships made possible. But one of Bill Courtney’s early tasks is to find which combination of players is the right one for his team late in games. That is something that proved elusive early in the season.
Strengths: This roster still has a lot of talent, and it has enough shooters to give opposing coaches nightmares. There are still multiple 3-point options on the court nearly all the time. Chris Wroblewski is a legitimate Player of the Year candidate and is as steady a guard as there is in the Ivy League. The defense has looked better since struggling in the first week of the season.
Weaknesses: Cornell had great chemistry a year ago, thanks to a veteran roster that had played together, in some cases, for four years. This squad doesn’t have that yet, considering all of the newcomers and veterans that now have to take on greater roles. That has been an issue so far, especially late in games. The Big Red has been a better shooting team from 3-point range than from inside, and it doesn’t seem to get many easy baskets.
Quote To Note: “We’ve had a lot of open looks, and the shots just aren’t falling. We can’t get discouraged by that. I think as the year goes, on we’re going to get more comfortable playing with each other, and those shots are going to fall.”—G Chris Wroblewski, to the Cornell Daily Sun.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Recruiting Returns: Coach Bill Courtney got a trio of verbal commitments early, with shooting guard Galal Cancer, forward Shonn Miller and center David LaMore all agreeing to join the program beginning in 2011-12. Look for him to continue to bring in players in the spring, since this is going to be another offseason of significant losses, especially in the frontcourt.
December Outlook: Cornell has a light December, with two weeks off following a Dec. 4 trip to Minnesota. That’s good news for coach Bill Courtney, who could use the time to regroup and get the Big Red in a better frame of mind before it comes time to defend its three consecutive Ivy League titles.
• PG Chris Wroblewski sprained his ankle in early November and missed the next two contests against Albany and Seton Hall. He was able to return to action at the end of the month against Syracuse, but he was at less than full strength.
• PF Aaron Osgood suffered a knee injury during practice on Thanksgiving Day, and he was expected to be sidelined for at least most of December.
• F Peter McMillan was slowed by a concussion suffered during preseason practice, but he was cleared to return to the court by late November.