Wednesday, October 23, 2013

News and Notes: Wednesday Edition

Below, news and notes for Wednesday...

Shonn Miller missed the final four games of the 2012-13 season with a shoulder injury. Despite having the summer months to get healthy, the same shoulder continues to nag Miller, and there’s a strong chance he will miss the entire 2013-14 season.
From Cornell’s preseason prospectus which was released last week: “…[R]eturning first-team All-Ivy League forward Shonn Miller continues to recover from an injury that has left him sidelined throughout the preseason.”
Miller is a menace on both ends of the floor and a real stat-stuffer. In fact, Miller accomplished something that only one other player in college basketball did last season:
It’s easy to see what a game-changing type of player Miller is and how important he is to the success of Cornell; he was named to the First Team All-Ivy in 2012-13 and the Rookie of the Year in 2011-12. In fact, the Big Red lost the final four games of last season with Miller watching from the sidelines.
Given the recurring injury and the fact he has missed practices, it is almost a certainty that Miller will miss the non-conference portion of Cornell’s schedule. Based upon reports from the Cornell Basketball Blog, there’s a strong chance Miller will miss the entire season:
Embarking on his fourth season at Cornell, Bill Courtney has yet to finish above .500, and if he was to have any shot at eclipsing that mark, Miller needed to be healthy for season. However, Courtney is bringing in some highly touted recruits, and should have a team that will be in line to contend for the Ivy League title in 2015-16, especially if Miller elects to redshirt and return for two more seasons.
Hypothetically speaking, if Cornell looked like a true contender in the Ivy Legaue this season, perhaps Miller would try and return once league play begins. Yet, with the next two seasons shaping up as good ones for Cornell, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Miller redshirts for 2013-14 and has two years left of eligibility remaining.
While losing Miller is devastating for the coming season, it actually may work to Cornell’s advantage in subsequent seasons.
 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.”
[B.C. commit, Matt] Farrell already had upwards of two dozen offers when Boston College head coach Steve Donahue and associate head coach Nat Graham paid a visit to Point Beach for an open gym in early September. The Eagles had already been heavily involved with 6-foot-8 Garnet Gulls wing Dominique Uhl, who wound up pledging to Iowa earlier this month.Donahue and Graham came away impressed with Farrell, who fit the mold of the tough, heady, high-IQ guards they had at Cornell before arriving at Boston College prior to the 2010-11 season. With those type of players, Donahue coached the Big Red to a 29-5 record and berth in the Sweet 16 in 2010.
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


Anonymous said...

Eighth sounds about right, but there's no real moral victory finishing sixth this year -- the 6-8 teams are all among the worst in the country.

The stat that was most surprising to me was Devin's poor finishing rate at the rim -- 44%. Ouch.

On the bright side, things can only get better next year.

Anonymous said...

With the expectations so low, perhaps we'll be pleasantly surprised with some strong performances from some returning players and the new guys.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article that includes Ivy asst coaches thoughts on the league. Sadly, one coach calls our program in "disarray." Another calls our style of play unusual and a tough matchup. It's all hearsay, but still...

Anonymous said...

A team that could barely beat Binghamton while at full strength (if it can be called strength) goes on to lose 75% of its minutes? This year is gong to be such a joke. Not even sure we could win a Div3 game. I'm not even kidding. Shonn's injury is now another excuse for Bill Courtney to avoid responsibility for how ugly this team has been under him.

Anonymous said...

Bill Excuseney.

Unknown said...

Is it possible to finish 9th? So agree with comments on the unfortunate free pass Bill is about to get because of Shonn's injury. Same as end of last season. Good teams and good coaches/programs can overcome injuries. If Cornell does better than expected, that will be an endorsement of Bill's tenure. Let's hope, but I'll be amazed if it happens.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is, even with Shonn Miller, we would have lost the most minutes of any team. We essentially would have been a rebuilding team all over again, which is amusing, because what did we even build in the meantime? What has Bill Courtney accomplished? How did he end up entering his fourth year with only two guys (Miller, Cressler) -- and now, only one -- after all this time?

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

You two guys can continue to rip at B.C., but the facts remain unchanged...

Cornell was without its best offensive gun, Jon Gray, the last 6 games of the season, when Cornell was 5-3 headed into the pivotal P weekend.

During the final 4 games, Bill also lost out on Cancer, Miller and Cherry.

This season, he has to deal with the loss of arguably the league's best player (Shonn). And the program did not realize it was losing Errick until January 2013 and did not plan for it ahead of time.

You guys may not want to here excuses, but the facts are the facts. Bill's roster has been decimated by injury and aside from Wroblewski and Peck-- Donahue did not leave BC with any All Ivy level talents in the upper classes.

Cornell and BC needed to start from the ground zero.

BC tried to win with Donahue's holdovers rather than cleaning house like Amaker and cutting kids left and right.

BC wanted to do things the honest, ethical and right way. Well, we lost a lot of games with vastly inferior talent to the likes of Harvard and Princeton.

Now, 3 years later, Donahue's recruits are nearly out of the system.

No disrespect to Donahue (his staff knows the CBB respects the hell out of them), but their last 2 recruiting cycles at Cornell were stinkers.

3/4 of the roster is now Bill's and he has some talent, albeit very young talent.

WE ALL KNOW this year will be painful. Let's just move on, shall we?

We are in rebuilding mode and 2014-2016 looks like it could be bright.

For now, let's see what the young guys look like.

Maybe if 2-3 young guys look like All Stars (e.g. Cressler, Cherry, Onuorah, Hatter, Smith), there might be a title hunt in '14-'15 with Miller's return and the addition of a solid frosh class.

BTW on the next class, Jordan Abdur Ra'oof is very much a BCS player, like Peck. Ask his coach, Steve Turner, who knows quite a bit about what BCS players look like.

If Jordan was 6'8"---- he'd be in the ACC. At 6'6"--- in the Ivy, he'll be a 1st Team All Ivy guy multiple years. Freakish athlete... just as athletic as ANYONE at Harvard. Period.

This will be a tough year, but Cornell looks very good the following year.

Anonymous said...

There has to be a statue of limitations on how long you can keep blaming 2010 for present results. It was four seasons ago now. Amaker, Cormier, Donahue at Boston College ... all sorts of people who had to gut their teams and start from scratch showed huge improvements in season 3 with two full classes on the floor. Courtney, on the other hand, simply got worse year after year, and this year looks like it will be no exception.

Even before Shonn Miller got injured, Cornell was dead last among the Ivies in KenPom rankings, barely able to defeat several 300+ ranked teams like Longwood and Binghamton, shellacked by good mid-majors in the AE and Patriot League, and downright humiliated on national television by good BCS schools. They started 5-3 in the Ivy because two teams that had been stronger the previous year, Penn and Yale, were legitimately rebuilding from very recent personnel losses (Mangano, Willhite, Rosen, Bernardini, etc). So Cornell beat them because they were far weaker than they had been the year before, not because Cornell was stronger than it had been; the non-conf season had proven that Cornell was certainly not stronger at all. Not to mention Yale and Penn both got stronger over the course of the season -- Yale went on to sweep Princeton, and Penn smoked us while Shonn was still healthy. You LOVE to just forget that. You love to forget it was over before Shonn got injured.

Also, you're basically saying that Donahue's leftover players were inferior, but Courtney kept giving them the lion's share of minutes because he's a nice guy, not like Amaker or Cormier who just got rid of all the former coach's players and gave their own the minutes. Not only did Courtney rack up losses as a result of his nice guy routine, he also left his own recruits with no experience, so that he would enter his fourth season with barely any returning minutes, hence basically forfeiting this season as well. Really? Really? He'd rather be nice and lose for years than rack up wins and prepare for the future? Really??

How about this? Since looking back it turns out that Courtney's 1st year was actually his best so far, how about this explanation: he kept playing Donahue's players because he was a poor developer of talent who couldn't develop many of his own recruits, not because his players were better but he played worse players to be "nice". What coach leaves better players on the bench and keeps losing to be nice? Where on earth does that ever happen? The more of Coach D's players he lost, the worse the team got, period. Last year they officially became cupcakes.

It does not take 5 seasons for a coach to start showing improvement. Stop acting like it's normal; it isn't. Every other team in the league has shown that it isn't. I hope Bill Courtney does not make as many excuses for himself as you do for him because he will be seriously out of touch with reality.

Anonymous said...

A few thoughts:

- I don't think it's necessarily an either/or (Steve/Bill) situation with the coach. Bill has had bad luck with health, but so have many other programs (e.g. Penn losing Fran). It's definitely hurt Cornell, but it doesn't excuse the horrible performances before the injuries (ie against Longwood, Bing, the D3 game).

- The downward trend is particularly disturbing, and Bill's kids have played a larger and larger role on the team. We've had a kid who went to Purdue and another All-Ivy kid and have continued to struggle.

- I agree it doesn't take five years to rebuild a college program -- there are many, many examples of coaches turning around programs in less time. That said, I'm willing to give Bill the time because the Ivy League is a weird basketball situation, with its admission issues, etc. What I'm most concerned about is the lack of a half court offense (that's the coach) and undisciplined defense. You can be aggressive without trying to trap at the top of the key with 30 seconds left on the shot clock. You can have a dribble drive offense that flows. This team has looked lost and has become easily rattled on offense since Chris W. left the program. It's not surprising that another Ivy coach called the program in "disarray."

- Our recruiting this year has been a big disappointment, which is a problem when your team is going to focus on athletic (ie not as under the radar) players. Jordan was a nice get, but we need a pipeline of really good kids to consistently contend. Harvard is doing it. Last, Jordan's coach said that he has high major athleticism, not that he was a BCS player.

- In the end, despite these concerns, I'm willing to give Bill through next season before calling for a change. I'm disturbed by the trend lines, but also see some good things with the program. I also think it's disruptive to make quick coaching changes, especially with respect to recruiting.

This season is going to be rough (if Bill plays Matthews, Tarwater, and Scelfo over the freshman all year, I'll be disturbed and may change my opinion). The real and final test in my mind will be 2014-15.