Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cornell Basketball 2013-2014 Season Previews

Below, an index to the Ivy League's and Cornell's 2013-2014 season previews from various websites and annual print publications...

  •  Daily Dose of Hoops is picking Cornell to finish 7th in the Ivy and writes:

    "7) Cornell - Bill Courtney and the Big Red face an uphill climb in a muddled middle of the Ivy standings, but fortunately for Cornell, junior forward Shonn Miller; the team's leading scorer a year ago, is back for his third season in Ithaca. Sophomore guard Nolan Cressler will be the biggest focal point for Courtney this season as he looks to follow a rookie year that saw him shoot 40 percent from three-point range, as well as a young bench whose roles will need to be defined quickly as the season goes on."

  • Above, the Lindy's Sports College Basketball 2013-2014 Preview for the Ivy League and Cornell.  In the Big 10 and Purdue section, Lindy's writes of Errick Peck, "Cornell guard can guard opposing stretch 4s (9.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg)."  On the ACC and Boston College, Lindy's writes, "It has been a long march for Steve Donahue, even though he has only been at Boston College for three seasons.  The former Cornell boss took a program that had little ACC-caliber talent and built something that should be strong enough to make some waves in the conference."  The Lindy's preview for the Ivy League was authored by long time Princeton basketball beat writer, Craig Haley.
  • Above, the Sporting News 2013-2014 College Basketball Preview for the Ivy League and Cornell.  In the Boston College preview, the Sporting News writes, "Boston College has always relied heavily on player evaluation and development.  So, too, has [Steve] Donahue, who constructed a Sweet 16 team at Cornell before leaving for Chestnut Hill."  On Purdue, the Sporting News writes, "Errick Peck is a sturdy 6-6, 223-pound wing  from Cornell who averaged 9.7 points and 4.8 rebounds last year.  He has a good long-range stoke."
  • Above, the brand new USA Today Sports 2013-2014 College Basketball Preview.  The USA Today conference previews were authored by local bloggers and fans.  The Ivy League preview was authored by Harvard alumnus and Rush The Court contributor, Michael James.
  • Below, the Athlon Sports 2013-2014 College Basketball Preview.

  • Below, the NBC Sports preview for the Ivy League:

  •  Blue Ribbon Yearbook:
Predicted Order of Finish
1.    Harvard
2.    Yale
3.    Penn
4.    Princeton
5.    Brown
6.    Dartmouth
7.    Columbia
8.    Cornell

Preseason All-Ivy Team
Denton Koon, Princeton (Jr., F)
Shonn Miller, Cornell (Jr., F)
Wesley Saunders, Harvard (Jr., G/F)
Miles Jackson-Cartwright, Penn (Sr., G)
Sean McGonagill, Brown (Sr., G)

Player of the Year
Wesley Saunders, Harvard (Jr., G/F)

Newcomer of the Year
Tavon Blackmon, Brown (Fr., G)
One of the upsides of waiting until the 11th hour to write the Ivy League cheat sheet is leveraging some of the information that emerges just prior to and during the annual media conference with the league’s eight coaches.
Such as the news that Cornell junior forward Shonn Miller is still not recovered from a shoulder injury that plagued him late last season.
Miller, a first team all-Ivy performer as a sophomore, will miss a minimum of the out of conference portion of the Big Red schedule and perhaps the entire campaign — according to various reports.
It also appears that Jeremiah Kreisberg’s injury-plagued career at Yale will come to an unceremonious end. Never fully recovered from back surgery in the summer of 2012, the 6-foot-9 Kreisberg will not play for the Bulldogs this season, according to Coach James Jones.
So while Cornell and Yale suffer losses, unanimous preseason favorite Harvard experiences gains in the form of Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey. The duo, who sat out the 2012-13 season after being caught up in an academic scandal that rocked the institution, return for their postponed senior season after being reinstated in August.
Casey and Curry join an already strong Crimson squad that includes 2012-13 All-Ivy selections Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders for coach Tommy Amaker.
Penn, Princeton, Yale and perhaps darkhorse Brown would seem mostly likely to mount a challenge to Harvard’s dominance with Columbia, Cornell and Dartmouth making up the league’s bottom tier.
So without further ado, here are some preseason predictions that take into account some of the recent developments on the injury front.

1. Harvard
2. Penn
3. Yale
4. Princeton
5. Brown
6. Dartmouth
7. Cornell
8. Columbia
 8. Cornell (13-18, 5-9 Ivy)
Coach: Bill Courtney–4th season, 35-52 (.402)
Postseason: None
RPI/KenPom: 243/265
Starters Returning: 3
Key Loss(es): Jonathan Gray (10.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Errick Peck (9.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Eitan Chemerinski (5.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
Name to Know: Nolan Cressler. The Pittsburgh native and Plum HS graduate was a two-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week honoree and finished fourth on the team with a 9.3 ppg scoring average. His .403 mark from 3-point range was tops on the team, as were his 54 made 3-pointers, and at 6-4 he’s got great size for a perimeter player. He closed the season strong, averaging 15.0 ppg over the final six games even when factoring in a one-point performance against Princeton.
The Skinny: Cornell would have been the fifth overall team in our preseason rankings were they fully healthy. Alas, it seems that junior Shonn Miller’s shoulder could keep him out for the entire season; the 6-7 forward averaged 11.5 ppg and 6.8 rpg, to go along with 1.9 spg and 1.9 bpg as an all-around force. Without him, the Big Red will have to replace its top three scorers and a lot of size inside; the player 6-6 or taller with the most returning experience is senior Dwight Tarwater, who scored 1.6 ppg in 6.7 mpg last year.
Though CoBL knows quite a bit about the Ivy League, we admit that there are some who know the league better–namely, the coaches in the league itself. So we called up a number of assistant coaches from several schools within the Ancient Eight, to get their thoughts on the teams they would be competing with in the 14-game round-robin competition for the league’s NCAA Tournament berth.
(Note: Each “…” separates one coaches’ thoughts from another’s, and they’re all in random order. For the CoBL/BAB Ivy League primer, click here)...
Cornell Big Red
“To be honest, I think they’re in a little bit of disarray. If they’re losing [Shonn Miller], that’s a disaster. They’ve already lost a bunch of other guys that were pieces for them…Cornell lost a lot of guys, they’re going to struggle this year…Not having Shonn Miller, having a first-team guy sit out the whole year, I think they could struggle as well. Along with Columbia, Cornell might be the biggest unknown in the league…Cornell is always tough because they play a little bit of a different style than the rest of the league. It’s always hard to score against them.”
8) Cornell (13-18, 5-9 Ivy League) – Even before the news that Shonn Miller might miss the entire season, the Big Red were already paper thin upfront. Losing Miller to injury and veteran forward Errick Peck to Purdue has left Cornell undermanned in the paint. The focus then has quickly shifted to building for 2014-15, when Miller will presumably healthy and Cornell’s young guards will have another season of valuable experience under their belts. Expect to see Nolan Cressler, Devin Cherry and Galal Cancer to get even more opportunities to make their mark this season. The Big Red though need to figure out how to contain teams on the defensive end. This is where the loss of Miller (and his excellent block and steal rates) might have the biggest impact. Cornell allowed the worst effective field goal percentage in conference play at 55.4% last season. If it’s that bad again this could be a long season Bill Courtney’s crew.
Cornell - 92 ORAT, 104 DRAT; 0.2127 Pythag; No. 299 Nationally

For a brief, fleeting moment, the Big Red had everything for which to play. At 5-3 in the Ivies, with four of its final six at home, it had reason to believe it could hang around in the title chase. At 13-12 overall, it needed just a .500 finish to be eligible for the postseason for the first time since making it to the Sweet 16 in 2010.

Then, Penn launched a 24-9 second-half run to hand the Big Red its fourth Ivy loss, and everything unraveled quickly from there. Point guard Galal Cancer, who had been struggling offensively himself but demonstrably pushed Shonn Miller and Nolan Cressler's ORAT/DRAT lineup splits much higher, left the team, and Miller, Devin Cherry and Johnathan Gray couldn't complete the season due to injury.

The result was a six-game losing streak, and despite that being in the past, it's what has been carried forward to the present that has done the most damage. Cancer never returned to the team, senior swingman Errick Peck chose to play as a graduate at Purdue rather than take a fifth undergraduate season, and Miller's injury will likely keep him out for the entire 2013-14 season. That leaves Cressler, Cherry and senior guard Dom Scelfo as the only three returning players to see more than 10 percent of team minutes for Cornell last season.

Cressler has the makings of an offensive star, as his top Ivy comps are to the freshman and sophomore seasons of Ryan Wittman and Laurent Rivard. The Big Red was clearly better off with him on the floor than off, as Cornell posted a 104 ORAT and 105 DRAT with Cressler on court versus a 93 ORAT and 107 DRAT with him on the bench. Digging deeper, however, things get a little bit troubling. Cressler spent almost 60 percent of his possessions on court with Miller. On those possessions, the Big Red posted splits of 109 ORAT and 94 DRAT. In the other 40 percent of Cressler's on floor possessions, the Big Red had an ORAT of 98 and a DRAT of 119.

Wading into the world of small samples is a dangerous game, but looking at Cressler and Cherry together with and without Miller, an even more stark difference occurs. In 330 Cressler-Cherry possessions, Cornell scored and allowed 1.01 points per possession (101 ORAT and DRAT). In the 119 of those possessions that didn't include Miller, the Big Red scored 0.89 points per trip while yielding 1.29. To put that in perspective, the worst team in Division I last season (Grambling St.) scored 0.76 points per possession while allowing 1.21.

Some of that might fall on the shoulders of Cherry, who took a boatload of shots but struggled to score from everywhere on the floor. He took 40 percent of his shots at the rim and made just 44 percent of those tries, while 31 percent of his shots were two-point jumpers and he made just 28 percent of those. There might be room for growth in his jumper strike rate, both inside the arc and outside it, but finishing at the rim tends to be a more consistent skill. That's where Cherry needs to show what would be relatively surprising improvement if he ever wants to be an efficient scorer.

Including sophomore center Braxston Bunce, Cornell has brought in a deep class of six rookies to plug some of the holes left by the loss of four starters and three more rotation players. While the extra experience might serve these players well down the road, the issue of today is a scary one. The Big Red will either have to start a lightly used senior or one of four completely unrrated freshman recruits at the point, and have no players above 6'6 who have ever seen more than 12 percent of team minutes in a single season. At least in the post, Cornell has both Bunce and freshman David Onuorah, who each come in with solid interest from quality Division I programs. That being said, the list of successful rookie post players in the Ivy League isn't exactly a long one (only of the 167 players over 6'7 to see some time as freshman since 1997, only 12 have seen 50 or more percent of team minutes).

The result is likely to be an incredibly ugly season for the Big Red, and it's not one that having Miller would have necessarily fixed. If the rookie bigs are as good as advertised, and Cornell can find a serviceable point guard, the Big Red might be able to forge some hope from this lost season, but the odds are against even that beacon serving as a silver lining to an otherwise forgettable campaign.
With the 2013-2014 Men's Hoop Season ready to kick-off, with official games starting in less than 3 weeks we have complied our Ivy League pre-season predictions. This conference looks to be wide open with many returning starters top to bottom. Harvard once again lands on top of the Ivy League. Yale, Princeton and Cornell are our sleepers for the Ivy.
2013-2014 Ivy League Predictions
1. Harvard
2. Yale
3. Pennsylvania
4. Princeton
5. Cornell
6. Brown
7. Dartmouth
8. Columbia
Ivy League All Conference First Team
Sean McGonagil, 6'1'' G  Brown
Miles Cartwright, 6'3'' G  Pennsylvania
T.J. Bray, 6'5'' G  Princeton
Shonn Miller, 6'7'' F  Cornell
Wesley Saunders, 6'5'' F  Harvard
Ivy League All Newcomer Team
Zena Edosomwan, 6'9'' F  Harvard
Hunter Myers, 6'7'' F  Harvard
Anthony Dallier, 6'6'' F  Yale
Tony Bagtas, 5'11'' G  Pennsylvania
Conor Voss, 7'1'' C  Columbia
Ivy League Player of the Year
Wesley Saunders, Harvard
      • One Bid Wonders projects Cornell to finish 6th in the Ivy League and writes:
      Projected starting lineup
      G – Darryl Smith, Fr., 6’2” 180
      G – Devin Cherry, Jr., 6’3” 185
      G – Nolan Cressler, So., 6’4” 198
      F – David Onuorah, Fr., 6’9” 230
      C – Braxston Bunce, So., 6’11” 250
      “We’ve been hit by the injury bug a little bit,” Cornell men’s basketball coach Bill Courtney said in what may have been the biggest understatement of the 2013 Ivy League
      Men’s Basketball Teleconference on Oct. 23.
      Last season, Shonn Miller did it all for the Big Red, leading the team in scoring, rebounding, blocks, and steals. The performance was good enough to land the sophomore on the All Ivy First Team.
      But it’s looking like the shoulder injury that landed him on the bench late last season is going to keep him there — for a while.
      “There’s no timetable of when he’s going to come back,” Courtney said.
      With Miller out—possibly for the entire season—it’ going to be a difficult year for the Big Red, a team that returns few contributors from a squad coming off a sixth-place finish.
      Don’t expect Cornell to move any higher in the standings this season.
      That being said, the Big Red still has a number of intriguing, young pieces that will make this team worth keeping an eye on in the coming year.
      Sophomore Nolan Cressler is the No. 1 reason. Last year, Cressler averaged 9.3 points per game on 40.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc. But more than that, Cressler did much of his damage late in the season after Miller had gone down with injury. With Miller on the bench, Cressler posted double-figures in the final four games of the season, going for 22, 19, 14, and 12.
      Even if Cornell is out of the title picture by mid February, it will at the very least be entertaining to see what kind of numbers Cressler can put up.
      The Big Red’s only other proven returning scorer is junior Devin Cherry. A 6’3” guard, Cherry averaged 6.3 points per game as a sophomore.
      “We’ve always been a perimeter based team,” Courtney said. “I think that will certainly be the case this year.”
      That being said, Cornell has some intriguing post prospects in 6’11” sophomore Braxston Bunce and 6’9” freshman David Onuorah.
      It could be a long season for the Big Red, but—looking back on it 12 months from now when Miller is back on the court—it could also prove to be a critical one.
        Cornell Big Red (13-18 overall, 5-9 league)

        Projected starting five:

        Fr. G JoJo Fallas
        Jr. G Devin Cherry
        So. G Nolan Cressler
        Jr. F Shonn Miller
        Jr. F-C Deion Giddens
        Important departures:

        Among starters, G Miles Asafo-Adjei (2.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.6 apg), G Jonathan Gray (10.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.0 apg), F Eitan Chemerinski (5.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg) and F Errick Peck (9.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.6 apg) (transferred to Purdue) are gone, along with key reserve Galal Cancer (5.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.7 apg).

        47 percent of scoring and 43 percent of rebounding

        Fr. G JoJo Fallas
        Fr. G Desmond Fleming
        Fr. G Robert Hatter
        Fr. F David Onourah
        Fr. G Darryl Smith
        Schedule Highlights:

        Six home games are on tap in a tough non-league slate that begins at Syracuse and later includes trips to Louisville, Notre Dame, Stony Brook and St. Bonaventure. Early in league play, they play four straight on the road before coming home for consecutive weekends.
        Projected finish and outlook:

        Like their fellow New York school, Cornell will look very different this season and it may feel to some like they’re starting over as they lose a lot from last season’s team. Although some of the losses were expected, Cancer’s loss hurts as he projected to be the starting point guard this year and next. As if that’s not enough, reports have indicated that Miller’s shoulder injury late last season has not healed well, and redshirting is a possibility. Now the Big Red must make do with a younger guard crop where the likes of Cressler and Cherry to get better. The Big Red also need some other holdovers to emerge, or else the other freshmen will get chances right away to supplant them. Injuries hurt the early development of a couple of Miller’s potential supporters up front, Holt Harmon and Braxston Bunce, so they will come in a little behind where they could be. Defense is the biggest area for improvement, and from that vantage point it might not be so bad that there is a lot of newness with this team. The Big Red forced some turnovers, but other than that they were a bad defensive team, and with the lack of proven scoring punch on this team even before Miller’s status didn’t get better, improvement at that end of the floor will be even more paramount. In all, the Big Red might be best off long-term if Miller redshirts, but no matter what, it appears that it could be a long season in Ithaca.
        This year’s Ivy League race can be summed up very simply: if Harvard does not win, it will be nothing short of a stunning upset. There is more to the league, naturally, but that’s the starting point. 
        The Crimson’s story has been well-chronicled to date, so there’s no need to go over the details here. They have an embarrassment of riches that no team in the Ivy has had in a long time, and if they do well in non-league play they could be in the conversation for a high NCAA Tournament seed. The Crimson have a number of players who could contend for All-Ivy honors, and their freshmen are good, too, but won’t get enough minutes or enough of a role this year to have a chance at winning the league’s rookie honor like Siyani Chambers did last year.

        Looking beyond Harvard, however, there are plenty of storylines. Princeton is probably their best challenger, but really, the race for third should be great – and even for second as any of these teams could potentially topple Princeton along the way. Penn should be much-improved after being young and ravaged by injuries last season, and they add some good newcomers as well. Brown is clearly on the rise under second-year head coach Mike Martin, as the Bears now have an identity and Sean McGonagill has a lot to work with as they have a solid inside tandem of Rafael Maia and Cedric Kuakumensah, the latter of whom won the league’s Defensive Player of the Year honors as a freshman last season. Dartmouth has a few good recruiting classes put together now and could be ready to make a leap. Yale could surprise and be in the mix as well, although losing two key guards that they relied on for a lot is reason for pause. The only two teams not likely to be aiming for that spot are rebuilding Columbia and Cornell, the latter of whom may be without their best player this season.

        In any normal year, the race in the Ivy would be exciting. There would be a great deal of anticipation for it as the league is in a good place as a whole. But Harvard simply has too much talent and experience, and it wouldn’t be a complete shock if the Crimson rolled through the league undefeated.

        Predicted order of finish

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

        Player of the Year: Wesley Saunders, Harvard
        Top Newcomer: Anthony Dallier, Yale

        Preseason All-Conference

        T.J. Bray, Sr. G, Princeton
        Siyani Chambers, So. G, Harvard
        Miles Jackson-Cartwright, Sr. G, Penn
        Sean McGonagill, Sr. G, Brown
        Wesley Saunders, Jr. G-F, Harvard

        PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Harvard, 2. Princeton, 3. Yale, 4. Penn, 5. Brown, 6. Cornell, 7. Dartmouth, 8. Columbia


        CORNELL: The Big Red have fallen a long way since being crowned three-time Ivy League champions from 2008-10, culminating in a disappointing 13-18 season (4-10 Ivy) in Bill Courtney's third season as head coach in 2012-13. They will need to overcome the loss of several key players, including Johnathan Gray (10.0 ppg) and Errick Peck (9.7 ppg), but the good news is that they welcome back one of the league's best forwards in Shonn Miller, who not only put up 11.5 points per game on 47.6 percent field goal shooting, but contributed across the board with 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.9 steals per contest last year. Nolan Cressler (9.3 ppg) drained 40.3 percent of his 3-point attempts in mostly a bench role last season, and will be expected to carry a larger portion of the scoring load as a starter. Devin Cherry (6.2 ppg) and Dominick Scelfo (5.1 ppg) are also back in the mix for Cornell.
         7. Cornell (13-18, 5-9): The Big Red could be the toughest team in the league to predict this season, as their one true known quantity — junior forward Shonn Miller — is electing to sit out the season while recovering from shoulder surgery. That’s a major loss, as Miller led the team in scoring, rebounds, steals, blocked shots and minutes played. They are expected to start two freshmen in guard Robert Hatter and forward David Onuorah, with sophomore guard Nolan Cressler the only returner to have averaged more than seven points a game. Still, Cornell’s high energy and line-shift tactics make them a hard opponent to prepare for, especially on trips to Ithaca.
         6. Cornell- Bill Courtney’s team was hit hard by the injury bug late last season, as the Big Red dropped their final six games. This season, they should end stronger, although things could be rough early as Cornell attempts to recover from some considerable personnel losses. Guys like Johnathan Gray and Eitan Chemerinski will be missed, but there are still some real good players on this Cornell team, like Shonn Miller, Nolan Cressler, and Devin Cherry. The Big Red will also be…well… big, which could allow Courtney to employ a halfcourt, grind it
          ITHACA, N.Y. – The Cornell men's basketball team was picked to finish in a sixth place tie when the 2013-14 Ivy League preseason media poll was announced today during the annual conference call with the league's eight head coaches.

          Harvard, last year's league champion, was the unanimous preseason favorite, picking up all 17 first-place votes and 136 points total. Penn was picked second with 100 points, followed closely by Yale (third, 96 points) and Princeton (fourth, 93 points). Brown was chosen fifth (74 points), while Cornell was tied with Dartmouth with 38 points. Rounding out the field was Columbia in eighth with 37 points.

          Two media members from each school and one national representative voted in the poll.

          Cornell returns six letter winners from last season's 13-18 squad that finished sixth in the Ivy League with a 5-9 record. The Big Red opens the 2013-14 campaign when it visits Central New York foe Syracuse on Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Carrier Dome.

          First-Place Votes in Parentheses
          Rank School Points
          1. Harvard (17) 136
          2. Penn 100
          3. Yale 96
          4. Princeton 93
          5. Brown 74
          6. Cornell 38
          Dartmouth 38
          8. Columbia 37

            Top Storylines

            Best Ivy Team Ever? Every league preview from this summer and fall seemed to start with the assumption that Harvard would not only cruise to the Ivy title, but that it could very well end up as the best team the league has ever seen. Putting aside the great Penn teams of the 1970s – one of which reached the Final Four and two others which finished third in the final AP poll – it’s extremely tenuous to predict that the Crimson will even end up as the best Ivy team of the 64-team era. The 1998 edition of the Princeton Tigers set that bar, finishing the regular season with just one loss and nabbing a #5 seed before falling to Michigan State in the round of 32. While that’s the best known example, five other Ivy teams spent some time in the national polls, including Princeton’s 1991 squad, which lost by two to Villanova as a #8 seed in the first round. Two Penn teams from the mid-90s cracked the Top 25 and one scored an NCAA win as a #11 seed, while Harvard and Cornell recently rode appearances in the Top 25 to #12 seeds with the latter advancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen. Given that most pundits have the 2013-14 Crimson as a fringe Top 25 team, it would seem that the hype about Harvard possibly being the best Ivy ever is mostly indicative of how soon most have forgotten the very good Ivy teams of the recent past.

            Going Digital – Just two years ago, the Ivy League office took a ton of flak as it struggled to farm out its premier basketball properties to television or even specialty streaming channels like ESPN3. Only six Ivy League contests were picked up that season, despite a dramatic race which ended where Princeton defeated the rival Quakers to send Harvard to its first NCAA Tournament in over 65 years. Last season, that number crept to nine broadcasts with the new league television deal with NBC Sports Network, but still the only way to watch Brown defeat Princeton to send Harvard back to the Big Dance was via a grainy web feed. Shortly after the season ended, however, the league announced a massive new infrastructure project to merge all of the web feeds into one Ivy Digital channel and provide professional, multi-camera, high-definition broadcasts of all events for the league’s revenue sports. Now, simply by paying one flat fee (roughly $100 for all sports), fans can watch any Ivy home contest and all league games without having to buy each individual school’s package and could access every game in one place. Add in features like quad view, which can allow viewers to watch four games at once, and the Ivy basketball fan has everything he or she needs to keep live tabs on the league race as it unfolds on Friday and Saturday nights in February and March.
            Stability in an Unstable World – While the Ivy League and its core eight institutions weathered the conference realignment storm without even a joking rumor about possible new arrivals or departures, pardon the players and coaches if they stumble over the new affiliations of some of their non-conference foes this season. The four conferences that the Ivies have played the most over the past two seasons (America East, Patriot, NEC and the Atlantic 10) all underwent varying levels of changes, and that’s before considering the six games the league will play against the American Athletic Conference, which didn’t even exist last season. The result of all the chaos is a composite schedule with a diverse set of non-conference opponents, as Ivy teams will play members of 23 different leagues this season.

            Predicted Order of Finish:

            Harvard (13-1)
            Penn (9-5)
            Yale (9-5)
            Princeton (9-5)
            Brown (5-9)
            Columbia (4-10)
            Cornell (4-10)
            Dartmouth (4-10)

            All-Conference First Team:

            Sean McGonagill, G, Brown – A wildly undervalued skill in any sport is the ability to perform at a level slightly below greatness, but for a period of time so far extended that merely being able to remain in the game is impressive in and of itself. McGonagill is precisely one of those players. The 6’1″ senior guard managed to consume 24 percent of his team’s possessions and still post an offensive very near the national average, while playing 92 percent of his team’s minutes (12th nationally). His assist rate dipped a bit last season, as he took on even more of a scorer’s role, and he will have to step up even further this season, as he will most likely be flanked by two freshmen in the backcourt.

            Nolan Cressler, G, Cornell – Projecting any All-League awards requires understanding not only the talent of the player in question, but also the opportunity. Cressler was arguably the most talented freshman scorer among a deep class of rookies in the 2012 class. More importantly, however, with the Big Red decimated by roster turnover and injuries, he should have the green light to hoist shots until his arms get tired throughout the 2013-14 campaign. He might not match his 110 offensive rating that he posted as a freshman (in fact, he might not even hit triple-figures), but he will have every opportunity to post the gaudy points-per-game mark that gets the coaches’ attention in voting for these awards.

            Wesley Saunders, G/F, Harvard – The 6’5″ Crimson swingman developed a credible enough jumper to keep defenses from sagging off and pressed that advantage perfectly, racking up the 44th highest rate of free passes to the line in the nation. Saunders took half of his shots around the rim last season, and when he wasn’t getting fouled, was able to finish 64 percent of his chances. His absolute numbers might decline given the increased number of weapons around him, but his offensive efficiency should rise as defenses now must focus more on his supporting cast.
            Fran Dougherty, F, Penn – After struggling with turnovers and being a liability at the line during his first two seasons with the Quakers, Dougherty turned it all around to become a legitimate First Team All-Ivy candidate through 10 games as a junior. Injuries and illness caused him to miss almost all of the remainder of the season, but it would be foolish to discount what a fully healthy Dougherty could accomplish. The 6’8″ senior forward must stay productive and injury-free for the Quakers to have any hopes of catching Harvard for the Ivy title.
            Justin Sears, F, Yale – If Sears can avoid foul trouble and stay on the floor close to 30 minutes per game, he should easily post the numbers necessary to be in the All-Ivy conversation. As a rookie last season, Sears showed an uncanny knack for getting to the rim and finish at an astounding rate (69 percent). He was a menace on the offensive glass, grabbing 15 percent of available boards, good for 29th in the nation and best on a team that finished 63rd nationally in that category. If he can convert more of his opportunities from the charity stripe and find a way to create offense when being forced out of the paint, he could go from a contender for the Ivy First Team all the way to a contender for Player of the Year.

            Sixth Man:

            Brandyn Curry/Siyani Chambers, G, Harvard – The reality is that neither the reigning Rookie of the Year Chambers nor the two-time Second Team honoree Curry will likely come off the bench and be a true sixth man, but both will be sharing the point guard role that was once exclusively their own. Curry is an average shooter, but is a playmaker off the dribble, especially in end-of-shot-clock situations. Chambers displayed a lethal lefty jumper as a freshman, while getting to the line at a 50 percent rate (209th nationally). While the sophomore Chambers might have the advantage offensively, Curry has made a name for himself as a defensive stopper, forcing numerous five-second calls and posting the third-highest steal rate in the Ivy League as a junior. The two will likely form a dynamic backcourt tandem, but probably won’t be able to do enough individually to crack the All-Ivy First Team.

            Impact Newcomer:

            Zena Edosomwan, F, Harvard – The safest bet for Ivy Rookie of the Year is that a Northfield Mount Hermon alum will take home the title. That should be of little surprise, since the northwestern Massachusetts prep school sends four players to the Ivies this season as part of its robust pipeline which has funneled roughly 20 student athletes to the league over the past six years. Edosomwan will have to fight hard for minutes on a competitive Crimson squad, but as a Top 100 recruit, he might just have enough game to get solid playing time as a rookie. If the rotation proves too tough to crack, look for fellow NMH alums Anthony Dallier (Yale) or Pete Miller (Princeton) to leverage their shots at greater playing time to post the numbers necessary to take home the Rookie of the Year honors.

            Predicted Champion:

            Harvard (NCAA Seed: #11): The Crimson’s dreams of wearing white in the NCAA Tournament likely died with its anemic scheduling, but Harvard should have a good shot of garnering the best seed for a league team since 2003 Penn (#11 seed), if not since 1998 Princeton (#5 seed) – the standard bearer of the modern-era Ivies. Harvard isn’t entirely without chances to impress, as it faces two potential Top 25 teams on the road (Colorado in Boulder and Connecticut in Storrs). Otherwise, it will have to hope for positive outcomes from a deceptively tricky Great Alaska Shootout field and the first visit from Boston College since 1991. The Crimson is poised to rack up a gaudy number of wins during the 2013-14 campaign, but the lack of many of the quality variety will likely be what keeps Harvard stuck on the double-digit seed lines.

            Top Contenders

            Penn (CIT/CBI): Just one season without a major injury would be nice. For the Quakers’ postseason dreams to come true, it will be a necessity. Penn could have some future stars in guard Tony Hicks and center Darien Nelson-Henry, who will both pair nicely with Quakers senior guard Miles Cartwright and forward Fran Dougherty. The problem lies in who will play the remaining minutes. The most pressing need would be a competent swingman, but Penn really only returns one such player (Dau Jok) who has played significant minutes and fits that mold. More likely, the Quakers will either need to go too big with forwards Henry Brooks and Greg Louis or too small with guards Patrick Lucas-Perry, Steve Rennard or Jamal Lewis. Penn’s relatively solid 2013 recruiting class could yield one or more contributors, which, if combined with an injury-free run from the team’s stars, could be enough to keep the Quakers competitive with Harvard down the stretch.
            Yale (CIT/CBI): Had the Bulldogs opted against playing a non-conference schedule ranking among the Top 50 teams nationally last season, they might be going for three-straight postseason appearances during the 2013-14 campaign. Yale hasn’t posted four Top 200 caliber seasons in a row in the modern era of the Ivies, but with over 60 percent of its minutes and four starters returning from a team that swept preseason favorite Princeton en route to a third-place league finish, the Bulldogs seem poised to achieve that mark comfortably. Yale hasn’t eased up too much on its scheduling, as it still projects to have the third-toughest non-conference slate in the Ivies, but it should find enough wins to be postseason eligible for the third time in four seasons.
            Princeton (CIT/CBI): After winning three games in the CBI over two different trips flanking their NCAA Tournament appearance in 2011, the Tigers opted to take a year off from the postseason in 2013. That move was a surprising one, as it unexpectedly made Princeton’s 71-58 victory at Penn the final appearance in a Tigers uniform for star forward Ian Hummer. Now, Princeton must move forward without the player which led it in possession usage rate every season since the 2008-09 campaign. The Tigers always seem to have a deep bench of quality shooters, so Princeton should figure things out on the offensive end of the floor. Given that Princeton’s four best defensive rating seasons all came with Hummer on the floor, the biggest question is whether the Tigers can generate enough stops without the 6’7″ forward anchoring the defense.

            The Year of the Rookie

            Of the 37 Ivy players to see the floor for half or more of their team’s minutes last season, over a third have either graduated or are expected to miss the 2013-14 campaign due to injuries. That doesn’t even include the myriad rotation players seeing limited, but still significant, time off the bench who won’t be back this season either. The result is a league which lost over 30 percent of its minutes, although that stat even obscures the problem a bit, as Dartmouth and Penn bring back 90 and 100 percent of their on-court time and Harvard clocks in just behind at 83 percent. The remaining five teams have anywhere between a third and two-thirds of their minutes up for grabs, making it a near imperative that they leverage their incoming rookie talent.The ironic news is that the Crimson and Quakers brought in arguably the two best Ivy classes with Harvard reeling in the Top 100 forward Edosomwan as well as three-star forward Hunter Myers and Penn nabbing three, three-star prospects in guards Tony Bagtas and Matt Howard and forward Dylan Jones. Those weren’t the only quality players in a deep 2013 Ivy class, however. Brown managed to wrest forward Aram Martin from a variety of strong mid-majors while Cornell brings in a pair of frontcourt players in David Onuorah and Braxston Bunce (a second-year player who missed his freshman year with an injury) who each had offers from high-major schools. Princeton and Yale each brought in the aforementioned NMH alums in Miller and Dallier, respectively, to join deep and potentially underrated classes. Finally, Columbia and Dartmouth both brought in five freshmen with each including a solid point guard (Kendall Jackson and Mike Fleming, another NMH alum, respectively) and few intriguing prospects at the forward spots.

            The Ivies need to make a big splash with this class, as many league teams have struggled to find a lot of quality recruits from this year’s high school senior cohort. While a team can overcome one weak class, stacking two poor ones back-to-back can prove deadly down the road.

            Spotlight on… Coaches on the Hot Seat

            When it comes to job security, few leagues have historically provided longer leashes to their coaches than the Ivies. Over the past handful of years, that patience has given way to a quicker trigger finger, as just one Ivy team has the same coach as it did at the end of the 2006-07 season (James Jones, Yale). Several schools either fired coaches over that span (Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard and Penn) or presented an immediate threat that pushed the coach to jump to a lesser opportunity (Columbia and Princeton).

            While in the past it might have been ludicrous to suggest a coach like Bill Courtney at Cornell would be on the hot seat after just three seasons in Ithaca and having posted double-digit wins in every season, it’s not as crazy in the current Ivy landscape. After finishing above .500 in league play in each of Steve Donahue’s final six seasons, Cornell hasn’t gone better than 7-7 since with 2013-14 shaping up to be a complete disaster. Courtney might get a pass if star forward Shonn Miller misses the season as expected, but even if he survives, the pressure will mount considerably heading into 2014-15.

            When it comes to pressure, no Ivy fan base puts more of a spotlight on its coach than Penn. Coming off a streak of seven league titles in nine seasons, the Quakers haven’t claimed even a share of an Ivy crown since 2007. While current coach and former Penn guard Jerome Allen has brought the program back from the depths of an 0-10 start in the 2009-10 season, the moral victories might need to start turning into real ones soon for Allen to enjoy as long a tenure as his coach, Fran Dunphy, did in West Philadelphia. No one expects the Quakers to take home a title this season, but anything less than a strong run as a credible contender will likely ratchet up the intensity of the concerns from the Penn faithful.

            Final Thoughts

            Over each of the past four seasons, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale have finished in the top five every year and have finished 1-2-3-4 twice during that span. Despite winning some battles on the recruiting front and making a bit of noise in recent seasons, the bottom four in the Ivy is shaping up to be Brown, Columbia, Cornell and Dartmouth in some order, once again. With the Crimson and Quakers finishing 1-2 in the recruiting rankings from 2009 to 2013, it is of little surprise that those two teams seem locked into the top four for the near future. With the Bulldogs having consistently played at a top four level since the turn of the century and the Tigers stacking two-straight solid recruiting classes on the heels of losing their star Ian Hummer, it will be difficult to unseat those teams in the Ivy’s upper division as well.

            That is the new Ivy League in a nutshell. Twice in the last three seasons, a Top 200 team has failed to crack the top four and no teams outside the Top 200 have been able to post an above-.500 record during that span. For one or more of Brown, Columbia, Cornell and Dartmouth to climb the Ivy ladder, they will need to focus on what it takes to build their programs to that Top 200 level. The Lions and Big Red have each posted a recent season inside the Top 200, while the Bears rose all the way to No. 224 last year. Of the four, Cornell and Brown have had the most luck on the recruiting trail, but both teams’ injury woes have kept them from turning that success into results on the court. Dartmouth continues to progress and add talent to its roster, but given that last year’s No. 275 finish was a record in the Pomeroy era for the Big Green, the team still has a very long way to go to be competitive. Finally, Columbia has had the most success in making the Top 200, but went just 8-20 in Ivy play over the last two seasons despite Pomeroy ratings of 187 and 192. In the very near term, none of those four teams seem poised to knock any of Harvard, Penn, Princeton or Yale from their perch in the Ivy upper division.


            Anonymous said...

            I don't know what those guys at The Sporting News are smoking but, if they're right about Princeton edging Harvard for the title, there will seven happy Ivy League basketball programs.

            The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

            Seems to me the Sporting News does not realize Casey and Curry are back.

            But even without those guys, Harvard would have to be the slight favorite.

            In any event, Princeton looks like a potential lower division team to me.

            Anonymous said...

            Harvard should once again win the Ivy League and, given their potent recruiting, should continue to until Coach Amaker decides to leave.

            Yale has a steal in Makai Mason and Princeton may land a great get in Alec Brennan, but Harvard's recruiting has been at another level.

            The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

            Harvard's only recruit for the class of 2014 had only Division III offers.

            At the end of the season, Harvard loses Kyle Casey, Brandyn Curry and Laurent Rivard.

            In other words, Harvard might still be good, but they are losing talent and not replacing it.

            Cornell has a great get in Jordan Abdur Ra'oof, at the moment, easily the best athlete entering the Ivy in 2014.

            Overall, the class of 2014 is very below average around the league.

            Anonymous said...

            Abdur Ra'Oof is the best athlete but is he the best player?

            Sometimes you can't judge a player on athleticism alone. A 42 inch vertical does not a superstar make. Remember Wrobo and Witt.

            Let's try to be objective about the recruits we are getting, shall we? I know how hard this is for you, CBB, but fellow Big Red fans would appreciate it.

            The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

            Ask Steve Turner at Gonzaga Prep how good Jordan is...

            Gonzaga produces roughly 5 kids per year to D-I. Turner was adamant that this is a big time kid.

            Jordan was only interest in Ivies or high academic BCS schools like Northwestern.

            He is a steal for an Ivy and should be as good as Shonn Miller.

            Anonymous said...

            Let's be clear.

            So you're saying that Abdur Ra'Oof is a ROY and a first-teamer as a soph?

            The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

            No, I am not saying that. Let me make my statement again.

            "[Jordan Abdur Ra'oof] is a steal for an Ivy and should be as good as Shonn Miller."

            Anonymous said...

            And Princeton lands Alec Brennan (who we also reportedly offered). That's a major get for them, and with Amir Bell, a very strong class.

            The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

            Good get for them. Not a super athlete, but very skilled big man. Sort of a Jeff Foote type, but 3" shorter. Great footwork. Will be All Ivy and fits their system.

            The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

            While Brennan is a huge pick-up (Cornell didn't recruit him), I have heard very mixed evaluations of Amir Bell. Some have even said he is a very average Ivy recruit, perhaps even overrated like Max Kenyi.

            He's a slashing guard with a below average perimeter game.

            Anonymous said...

            Any news on the recruiting front for Cornell?

            harvardfan94 said...

            Cornell Basketball blog, what class of Harvard's are you referring to? Their class this year features Zena Edosomwan, a consensus top-100 power forward. Hunter Myers also and offers from teams like Cal and BC. And their classes for upcoming years all feature three to four star prospects, so I don't know where you got your information.