Thursday, October 27, 2011

News and Notes: Thursday Edition

Cornell assistant coach Mike Blaine was all smiles before tip off of last Saturday's Red-White Game. His Red Team was hammered by Marlon Sears' White Team which featured Chris Wroblewski, Andrew Ferry and Galal Cancer. Below, some news and notes for Thursday...

Cornell is counting on a big production year from junior forwards, Eitan Chemerinski and Josh Figini.

  • If you missed the news, Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports has leaked information on Cornell's two secret scrimmages. Cornell hosts Lafayette on October 29 and then visits Siena on November 5. Per NCAA Rules, BOTH SCRIMMAGES ARE CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC. In historical regular season action, Cornell faced Siena during the '07-'08 and '09-'10 seasons. Cornell has not played Lafayette since the '05-'06 season.
  • Cornell will have at least four games televised during the 2011-2012 season including at Stony Brook (Cablevision 118), at Maryland (ESPN3), at Illinois (ESPN3) and at Penn State (Big Ten Network). Time Warner Cable, VerizonFios1, and Comcast Sports are among other networks that may also pick up Cornell games against Ivy League opponents such as Columbia, Princeton and Penn.
  • Interesting point on the last page (page 192) of the Athlon Sports College Basketball 2011-2012 Preview issue. Athlon notes that Butler has more NCAA Tournament wins than any other Division I program over the last two seasons despite the fact that the Bulldogs' roster does not include a single player ranked in the Scout.com top 100. In ten Butler wins in the NCAAs, reaching the national title game in consecutive years, the Bulldogs defeated eight teams boasting at least one top 100 player and five teams featuring at least three top 100 players. The lesson with Butler is that recruiting rankings can mean very little in terms of actual on court success. This argument is bolstered further by Cornell's dominating run between 2008-2010 wherein Cornell achieved more feats than than any other Ivy League school in the last 30 years despite the Big Red never once featuring the Ivy League's top ranked recruiting class. Cornell remains the only Ivy League school in the last 30 years to advance as far as the NCAA Tournament's Sweet Sixteen and to finish the season ranked in the national top 25. The Big Red reached these peaks through stellar coaching and team chemistry, similar to Butler.
Cornell will rely heavily on its dynamic senior point guard, Chris Wroblewski, to lead a young, banged-up team into battle this season.

Season Preview: Cornell Big Red

Nineteen months have passed since Cornell was in the national spotlight, knocking off highly-ranked NCAA Tournament foes. Seventeen months have passed since Bill Courtney set up shop above the court at Newman Arena, attempting to fill the rather large shoes of the departed Steve Donahue. Sixteen months have passed since the seniors of 2010 crossed over from student-athletes to alumni, and the only remnants of the fairy-tale run were role players. Seems like it’s time to accept the baby-faced Red for who they are instead of comparing them to Cinderella.Let’s take a look at Cornell heading into year two of the new era:

Key Losses

Adam Wire (3.8 ppg, 5 reb, 1.8 ast, 1.3 stl), Mark Coury (5.3 ppg, 3.8 reb) and Aaron Osgood (6.9 ppg, 4.3 reb)

Statistically speaking, Wire, Coury and Osgood aren’t huge losses for the Red. Realistically speaking, the trio of departed seniors leaves a gaping hole in the paint. Wire, Osgood and Coury were the only true post players of note on last years squad and with the three gone, the Red will be forced to rely on younger, thinner, less experienced players in the frontcourt.

Key Additions

Galal Cancer (Guard), Devin Cherry (Guard), Nenad Tomic (Forward), Dave LaMore (Forward/Center), Shonn Miller (Forward), Deion Giddens (Forward/Center), Dominick Scelfo (Guard – Sophomore, missed entire Freshman year due to injury)

To replace the departed seniors in the lane, the Red has added four potential impact frontcourt players. Reports from Cornell’s annual Red-White scrimmage indicated that Tomic was the most impressive of the new bigs. LaMore and Miller missed the game with injuries and Giddens is seen as a raw prospect who is still developing. LaMore is expected back within a matter of weeks and Miller is expected back by the end of November.

To an already deep backcourt rotation, the Red adds Cancer, Cherry and Scelfo. The trio will allow Wroblewski to play off the ball more frequently this year. Cancer does everything on the court – he had seven rebounds and five assists in the Red-White scrimmage – while Cherry appears to be more of a scorer. Scelfo was expected to see the court last year as a freshman before it became apparent that he would miss the entire year. Expect him to break into the rotation this year as well.

Overall, the seven newcomers will be expected to produce. The class is talented and, if healthy, should provide immediate help to a team on the rise.

Key Games

November 11th – @ St. Bonaventure – In the season opener, the Red will face Andrew Nicholson, a legitimate NBA prospect in the paint. At 6’ 9”, he gave Cornell fits last year with his inside-outside game putting up 19 points and 10 rebounds. Demitrius Conger also returns at the small forward position for the Bonnies, one year removed from a 22-point, 14-rebound performance at Newman Arena. Backcourt play kept the Red in the game last year and this one should be a sign of things to come. If the frontcourt can slow down St. Bonaventure enough inside, the Red have a chance both on opening night and in the Ivy League conversation. Nicholson and Conger may be as tough of a frontcourt pair as the Red see outside of Harvard – yes, the Crimson are that good upfront.

December 19th – @ Illinois – Replacing the annual Syracuse game on the slate is a pair of Big Ten games (also @ Penn St. on December 22nd). Last year a young Cornell team put a scare into Minnesota – then ranked 13th in the country. If the Red can break through and get a win over a major conference team in the non-conference it could be a big confidence booster as the season progresses.

January 3rd – @ Maryland – Same goes for this one.

January 13th – vs. Princeton – The Tigers should be a top-half team if they find a way to fill the huge hole that is left by the departure of Kareem Maddox. It’s the Ivy opener for Cornell and should be an indicator of how the Red match up with Ancient Eight squads lacking a dominant big man (everyone other than Harvard and Yale).

January 21st – @ Columbia – The Red was swept by it’s travel partner last year and looks to get back on track versus the Lions in the first of their two matchups of the year.

February 3rd – @ Harvard – Can Cornell compete with the elite? On paper, Harvard shouldn’t lose a league game this year. On hardwood it’s never quite that simple. Keith Wright and Co. should be the season’s biggest test for a young and thin frontcourt.

A Look at the Roster

With the backcourt rotation including as many as nine different players, expect to see three or four guards on the floor at times. Anchoring the crew will be seniors Chris Wroblewski and Drew Ferry. Both will likely predominantly play off the ball – which will be somewhat new to Wroblewski – as Jake Matthews, Miles Asafo-Adjei, Galal Cancer and Dominick Scelfo should all see some time at the point.

Senior Max Groebe is working on a pulled hamstring. Injuries have hampered Groebe throughout his career in Ithaca and if he is finally healthy he has the potential to score 20 points any time he steps on the floor.

Former manager, Jonathan Gray will likely round out the guard rotation. He can play any position one through three and was perhaps the biggest surprise of last year. Expect him to continue to be the utility man for Cornell.

Overall, Wroblewski-Ferry and Co. should challenge Curry-McNally in Cambridge and Rosen-Cartwright in Philadelphia for the title of top backcourt in the Ancient Eight. The guard play is clearly the strength for the Red and will carry the team throughout the year.

Guards will likely play substantial minutes on the wing, but expect to see Anthony Gatlin (when healthy) and Manny Sahota find a few minutes at the three. Peter McMillan could play in spots too (see Minnesota last year for evidence that he can provide a big boost in a pinch). If Errick Peck and Dwight Tarwater are on the floor together, one of them will likely play on the wing as well. Gatlin came on strong down the stretch last season and could push for increased playing time as a senior, but the perpetually-injured Texas native has been sidelined since knee surgery in September. His return may take some time.

At the 4, Errick Peck will likely see most of the minutes – he was moved to the power forward position in the second half of last season – with Tarwater and Tomic also seeing time. Tarwater is slightly undersized but provides explosiveness and perimeter play that Tomic lacks. Tomic gives more size and rebounding in the post. When healthy, Peck has the ability (as shown in league play last year) to be an all-Ivy pick but right now the timetable for his return is unclear. He’s still recovering from minor knee surgery in July and is not yet back at 100%. Peck did not see action in the Red-White scrimmage.

Tarwater missed most of his freshman season with mono and could be a huge addition to the undersized Red – especially if Peck is not ready for opening night. Courtney and his staff are reportedly excited about his improvement and are very high on Tarwater this year.

Freshman Shonn Miller may have to wait to carve out time in the rotation. Currently hampered with a stress fracture, Miller’s return won’t come any time soon. When he does return, Miller’s size at 6’ 7” could be an asset to the Red.

In the post, Josh Figini and Eitan Chemerinski will be looked to for production on both ends of the court. With the trio of Coury, Osgood and Wire departing, the sophomore and junior will be asked to take on expanded roles. Reports indicate that both have put on weight and have improved over the summer, although the Red failed to finish inside effectively in their pre-season scrimmage.

Adding depth in the middle will be freshman Dave LaMore. LaMore is expected to return from an ankle sprain in the coming days, and at close to 230 pounds, LaMore has the ability to provide some girth against bigger posts.

Rotation

Expect the rotation to go as deep as 13 or 14 on opening night, and potentially 15 or 16 if players return quickly from injuries. The combination of having too many bodies in the backcourt and not enough in the frontcourt may leave everybody with fewer minutes than expected. Early on Courtney may struggle with the rotation (as was the case last year), but expect him to find the answer more quickly than in his opening campaign. Energy will likely trump skill for the opening tip and the starting five once again may not be the top five for the Red.

Because of Courtney’s unorthodox lineups from last season, a starting five won’t be much of an indicator of the overall rotation (although for the record I expect Cancer, Ski, Asafo-Adjei, Peck – if healthy – and Figini to take the floor for the tip on opening night). That being said, here’s a projected minute breakdown:

Guys Playing Projected Starter’s Minutes (25+ min): Wroblewski, Ferry, Peck

Major minutes in Major Spots (15-25 min): Figini/Chemerinski, Tarwater, Cancer

Sure to Find Key Minutes (7-15 min): Groebe, Gray, Matthews/Asafo-Adjei/Scelfo

Could Work into the Mix (2-7 min): LaMore, Gatlin, Cherry, Tomic, Sahota, McMillan

How They’ll Finish

Ceiling: Cornell finds the right chemistry early, gets Peck, Groebe and the rest of the infirmary back from injury on the early side and between Chemerinski and Figini find an offensive touch in the paint that they didn’t get from the bigs last year. On the defensive end they do enough to limit the opposition on the low block. Overall, this is a run and gun team and they simply outscore people.

A deep rotation keeps legs fresh against more athletic major conference teams (they manage to knock off Illinois, Penn St. or Maryland in addition to a couple of decent mid-majors) and allows the Red to run most league teams off the floor on grueling Ivy weekends. They manage a 10-win Ancient Eight slate, garnering second place behind only an undefeated Crimson squad. Overall, the Red win 20-games and set themselves up for a shot at knocking off Harvard the following year with a solid recruiting class.

Floor: The Red struggle to gel after an inconsistent pre-season due to a string of injuries. With a larger roster than last year, the coaching staff takes even longer to come to a consensus on a rotation. Cornell looks like the Penn teams under Glenn Miller, losing disenchanted players who were promised playing time that they never see, and lose games by large margins along the way. They strike out against all decent opponents in the non-conference season and can’t seem to get it going in league play either.

Somehow, the Red fall at Dartmouth and get swept by Columbia for the second straight year. They steal a win each from Penn, Dartmouth and Brown (all at home) and fall to 7th place in the Ivy League. Overall they win just 7 games, including one against Division-III Albright College. Meanwhile they cement a spot in the Ivy cellar for the coming year, losing recruits who see the quickly self-destructing Red as a “bad fit.”

Projection: The Red manage a close miss at Penn St. in the preseason after getting revenge against Binghamton, BU and Lehigh at home. Taking the momentum of improvement into league play, the Red start quickly by knocking off Princeton and Penn at home. Cornell sweeps Dartmouth and Brown but also gets swept by Harvard. Overall they finish 4th in the league at 8-6 (14-14 overall) behind the undefeated Crimson, 10-4 Yale and a surprise Columbia team that finds a top-half finish. Penn and Princeton find their way back into the Ivy basement finishing above Brown and Dartmouth to round out the league.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great preview. solid reporting, good depth