Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ivy League Preview from the Sports Network and Fox Sports

OUTLOOK: The Ancient Eight gets set to embark on another campaign, and last year's dramatic end to the season could be foreshadowing more great things to come. Princeton and Harvard shared the Ivy League title, setting up a one-game playoff to see which team would move on to the NCAA Tournament. In one of the more thrilling bouts of the season, the Tigers prevailed (63-62) thus earning a date with Kentucky in the first round of the Big Dance, and sending the Crimson to the NIT.

Regardless of records, the members of the Ivy League typically play each other hard each and every time they meet, and this year should be no different as it appears that as many as four or five teams could vie for the league crown. Harvard is clearly at the head of the class, as Tommy Amaker's club returns every player from last year's team, including a few All-Ivy performers. Perennial contenders Princeton and Penn will surely be in the mix once again, as both boast talented rosters, while Yale and Cornell could also figure into the equation if they catch some breaks.

The bottom tier is expected to consist of Brown, Columbia and Dartmouth, but any one of them could pull an upset or two so there will likely be plenty of dramatic moments before the 2011-12 season comes to a close.



1. Harvard, 2. Princeton, 3. Penn, 4. Yale, 5. Cornell, 6. Brown, 7. Columbia, 8. Dartmouth


HARVARD: The Crimson are coming off a record-setting season, as they went 23-7 overall and 12-2 in conference to earn a share of the Ivy League title with Princeton. Unfortunately, an NCAA Tournament bid eluded the team for the 65th straight year as it lost a one-game playoff to the Tigers. Harvard did earn its first-ever invite to the postseason NIT, and coach Amaker has his team poised for another run at the Ivy crown as 12 players return to the fold, including senior co-captains Keith Wright (14.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and Oliver McNally (10.1 ppg, .926 free-throw percentage to rank second in the nation). Support is expected to come from juniors Kyle Casey (10.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Brandyn Curry (9.3 ppg, league-best 5.9 apg) and Christian Webster (13.0 ppg), and a talented crop of newcomers should also help the Crimson win significantly more games than they lose this year. Expect another special season in Cambridge.

PRINCETON: The Tigers claimed their Ivy-best 26th league title and earned their 24th NCAA Tournament bid in 2010-11, and things continue to look up for Princeton, despite the fact that it comes into this season under the tutelage of a new head coach in former alumnus Mitch Henderson. A total of four starters return, including double-digit scorers in junior forward Ian Hummer (13.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and senior guard Douglas Davis (11.9 ppg). Junior center Brendan Connolly and senior forward Patrick Saunders were both regulars for the Tigers a year ago, but neither produced on a consistent basis so they will need to step up their games considerably. Harnessing the raw talent of some of the newcomers will be paramount to the team's overall success, and honing the skills of a couple of big men in 6-10 center Bobby Garbade and 6-11 forward Brian Fabrizius will be beneficial as well.

PENN: The Quakers had an up-and-down season in 2010-11, and they finished 13-15 overall and 7-7 in the Ivy. Penn coach Jerome Allen is optimistic his team can challenge for the league's top spot this time around, as three starters return, including senior guards Zack Rosen and Tyler Bernardini. Rosen (team-leading 14.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.4 apg) is a two-time First-Team All- Ivy selection, and Bernardini (12.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg) was the league's Rookie of the Year back in 2007-08. Sophomore guard Miles Cartwright (11.7 ppg, 3.0 apg) is the only other returnee who averaged double digits in scoring last season, and production at both ends of the court could be a concern, especially when you consider the Quakers fell into the negative in scoring differential (-1.4), rebounding (-1.6) and turnovers (-0.1) last season.

YALE: The Bulldogs went 15-13 last year, and they won eight of their 14 Ivy League bouts. The return of junior center Greg Mangano (16.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 3.0 bpg), who became just the sixth Ivy League player to earn a spot on a USA Basketball roster when he played in the 2011 World University Games this summer, is huge and he is just 25 blocked shots away from taking over the top spot on the school's all-time list. Last season, Mangano became the first Ivy player since 1995-96 to average a double-double. Big things are also expected from senior guard Reggie Willhite (9.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg), and last year's Yale Rookie of the Year, sophomore forward Jeremiah Kreisberg (7.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg). Mangano and Willhite are both seniors, so it's apparent that this is the year that coach James Jones is hoping his club climbs to the top of the Ivy League ladder.

CORNELL: The Big Red enjoyed a tremendous run in the Ivy for the three years preceding last season's disappointing 10-18 overall mark (6-8 Ivy League). Despite the poor record, it's important to note that Cornell was competitive even in defeat, dropping 10 games by five points or less. Now in his second year at the helm, coach Bill Courtney welcomes back four starters, including three double-digit scorers. Senior guard Chris Wroblewski (14.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 5.7 apg, 1.5 spg) is the heart and soul of the team, while supporting mates in senior guard Drew Ferry (11.9 ppg) and junior forward Errick Peck (11.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg) will help shoulder the burden of getting the Big Red back to the top of the Ivy standings. For that to happen however, Courtney is going to need someone, or a few guys to raise their level of play, particularly on the glass as only one player averaged as many as five rebounds per game in 2010-11.

BROWN: The Bears suffered through a rough season in 2010-11, going 11-17 overall and 4-10 in conference. Still, there were some bright spots, particularly the emergence of the Ivy League's Rookie of the Year, guard Sean McGonagill (11.8 ppg, 5.7 apg). Adding to Brown's arsenal is the return of All-Ivy junior forward Tucker Halpern (12.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg), and coach Jesse Agel is hoping that guys like junior forward Andrew McCarthy (6.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and sophomore forward Dockery Walker (5.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg) will elevate their games in an effort to get the Bears at least into the top half of the Ivy League standings. Brown adds six freshmen to the mix, and with just one senior on the roster it will be interesting to see if the team's relative inexperience will be a hindrance to its overall goals.

COLUMBIA: At 15-13 and 6-8 in the Ivy last year, the Lions weren't to be taken lightly. Still, it was another championship-free campaign for Columbia, but coach Kyle Smith hopes this new season brings a renewed sense of optimism. It's easy to think positively when you know the league's top returning scorer wears your uniform, as senior guard Noruwa Agho (16.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.3 apg) is back for his final season. Add junior guard Brian Barbour (13.3 ppg, 3.2 apg) to the mix and the Lions are likely to have as good a one-two punch as there is in the league this season. The key will be getting production from guys who haven't done it in the past. The Lions outrebounded the opposition by 3.5 rpg in 2010-11, but those same foes shot nearly 46 percent from the field. With a glaring lack of a rebounding presence this season, it will be up to a guy like junior center Mark Cisco (6.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg) to make a splash right away.

DARTMOUTH: The Big Green have taken their lumps in recent years, and they are coming off a dreadful 5-23 campaign in which they won only one of their 14 Ivy League bouts. Unfortunately for Dartmouth and its fans, brighter skies don't appear to be on the horizon as this year's club will feature six freshmen and four sophomores. The Big Green didn't have one double-digit scorer last season, and a glaring lack of offensive production will likely haunt the team once again this year. Veteran leadership will come from 6-4 swingman David Rufful (8.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg), who has played in every game (66) since arriving on campus. Junior guard R.J. Griffin (9.4 ppg) and sophomore backcourt mate Tyler Melville (7.3 ppg, 54 assists) could make significant strides, and both will be integral to the team's overall success, or lack thereof depending on their level of play.

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