Sunday, November 4, 2012 Previews Western Michigan at Cornell

Brian Persky Basketball Analyst

The Western Michigan University men's basketball team will square off against Cornell this Saturday, November 10th at 12:00 p.m. ET in Ithaca, New York.


Opponent Profile
Team: Cornell Big Red
Location: Ithaca, NY
Venue: Newman Arena
Capacity: 4,472

Conference: Ivy League
Last Year: 12-16, 7-7 (5th)
Home Record: 10-3
Away Record: 2-13
WMU vs. Cornell (all-time series record): 0-0

Bill Courtney is entering his 3rd season as head basketball coach at Cornell. Courtney is widely known as "always smiling" and a players-first coach. Courtney has a record of 22-34 overall in his first two seasons at the helm, with an in-conference record of 13-15.

Courtney has spent time as an assistant coach at Virginia Tech, Virginia, Providence, George Mason, and Bowling Green. At Bowling Green in particular, he was a part of Jim Larranaga's coaching staff that helped lead the Falcons to a 22-10 season, having claimed a share of the MAC regular season title and went on to play in the NIT.

The rest of the Big Red coaching staff is rounded out by assistant coaches Marlon Sears (3rd season), Mike Blaine (3rd season), and Arlen Galloway (2nd season).

Key Departures
Cornell loses two relatively insignificant contributors in guard Max Groebe and forward Anthony Gatlin. However, they lose starting point guard Chris Wroblewski and shooting guard Drew Ferry, who are both anything but insignificant losses for the Big Red.

Playing alongside Wroblewski, Ferry started all 28 games at shooting guard for the Big Red and averaged over 33 minutes per game. Ferry led the Ivy League in three-pointers made and attempted and shot 39% behind the arc. He averaged 11.3 points per game and 3.1 rebounds per game last season.

Wroblewski is the school's all-time assists leader (482), and led the Big Red last season in points per game (11.5), assists per game (5.3), steals per game (1.6), and free-throw percentage (85%). He became only the second player in Cornell history to record 1,000 points, 400 assists, 300 rebounds, and 100 steals, while finishing his career in the top 10 in program history in nearly every statistical category.

Key Arrivals
The Big Red bring in four freshmen; 6-foot-4 shooting guard Nolan Cressler, 6-foot-3 guard Robert Mischler, 6-foot-11 center Braxston Bunce, and 6-foot-9 forward Holt Harmon. None of which are expected to make an immediate impact during the 2012-2013 season. Cornell does not have any transfers going in or out of the program.

 Key Returners
Sophomore Shonn Miller returns as the likely starter at power forward for the Big Red after earning Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors last season. Miller set several new freshmen records at Cornell in rebounds and blocked shots, while also amassing five Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors, and finished 2nd overall in the league with 46 total blocks.

Johnathan Gray figures to start a majority of his time at the shooting guard position. He's a streaky scorer who is capable of putting up big numbers at any given time, as proven against Yale last season when he lit up the scoreboard for a game-high 29 points. He ended the season 6th in the conference in scoring averaging 12.3 points per game (in conference play), and earned honorable mention All-Ivy League.

Also expected to return is starting 6-foot-6 senior forward Errick Peck, who missed the entire season last year due to a knee injury. Peck was Cornell's second-leading scorer in 2010-2011 and averaged 11.0 points and 3.6 rebounds, and started 24 of the team's 28 games.

Easing the nerves of Cornell fans dreading the loss of prolific point guard Chris Wroblewski, sophomore Galal Cancer had a nice rookie season averaging 6.1 points per game, 2.7 assists per game, and just over 1 steal per game. Cancer averaged just over 21 minutes per game and played in all 28 contests (starting 6), as Cornell typically liked to play a combination of three guards throughout the season.

Senior Miles Asafo-Adjei has also had a nice preseason for the Big Red and could potentially start over Cancer because of his experience and strong defensive presence. Asafo-Adjei had a team-high 8 assists in the Annual Red vs. White scrimmage in October.

Josh Figini and Eitan Chemerinski are two returning, experienced big men that Coach Courtney will have to rely on to get minutes in the front-court during the 2012-2013 season. Chemerinski is probably the guy that makes the most impact in the interior and is probable to start at center, while Figini plays more of a European brand of basketball with the ability to shoot the three from the perimeter. The two combined to play approximately 30 minutes per game, averaging roughly 10 points and 5 rebounds per game.

Bill Courtney took over as head coach of a Cornell program that is coming off three straight NCAA Tournament appearances (2008-2010) and even more fresh off of a bracket-busting NCAA Tournament run back in the 2009-2010 season, having eventually lost to the one-seeded Kentucky Wildcats in the Sweet 16. Cornell was ranked as high as #17 in the country that season.

Following the end of their memorable run, the Big Red experienced a large drop-off graduating eight seniors (four of which started) and Cornell struggled to a 10-18 (6-8) finish during the 2010-2011 season. Last year, the team improved slightly to 12-16 (7-7) overall.

Although the Big Red are currently in the midst of rebuilding their program, they are believed by many to be a team back on the rise in the Ivy League. NYC Buckets and Athlon Sports have picked Cornell to finish second and third in the league respectively in 2012-2013. And in the Ivy League preseason media poll, the Big Red were predicted to finish fourth behind Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia.

Projected Starting Lineup
(PG) Galal Cancer
(SG) Johnathan Gray
(SF) Errick Peck
(PF) Shonn Miller
(C) Eitan Chemerinski


Anonymous said...

Kudos to Brian Persky for a well-researched article. The guy even quoted stats from the red-white scrimmage!

Although Persky's starting five projection is most likely accurate, I would prefer to see Miles or Devon Cherry start in place of Galal. Both illustrated a stronger command of the offense in the red-white game. There's no question that Galal is a gifted athlete, but he would clearly benefit from coming off the bench this season (this would enable him to observe the flow of each contest before setting foot on the court). Hell, it worked for James Harden.

This fan's starting five would be Miles, Gray, Peck, Miller, and Eitan, with Cherry, Cancer, and Tarwater the first off the bench.

Anonymous said...

Cornell is very deep this year, particularly upfront. In addition to what is listed above, I look for LaMore and Figini (situationally) to spell Eitan, and Cressler to get a shot along with Cherry in the 2G rotation.

With this kind of depth, it will be surprising if the last five minutes of games does not belong to us.

I will also say that the FT%s of our returning players look a little scary... and not in a good way.