This Friday George Mason opens the season hosting Cornell, coached by former assistant coach Bill Courtney. Cornell dealt with a lot of injuries last season and only had one win against a Division I opponent. Statistically there were one of the worst teams in the country on defense but should be much improved this season.
To get some perspective I had a Q&A with a Cornell blogger:
What style of offense can we expect to see from Cornell this season?
“Cornell is very different than the rest of the Ivy League teams. The Big Red like to push the ball off of defensive rebounds and get into transition. In the half court, they run a dribble drive offense that feeds off the point guard attacking the basket. Cornell believes it is at its best in a faster tempo game.”
Kenpom predicts Cornell’s defense to be one of the worst in Division I in terms of efficiency, fair assessment?
“Cornell runs its own brand of havoc defense and will press at times. Kenpom does not fully take into the account two of Cornell returning players that did not play last season, Shonn Miller (1st Team All Ivy in 2012-2013) and Galal Cancer (starting point guard in 2012-2013). I’ll discuss them more later. The Big Red also bring in a 4-player recruiting class which includes freshman Wil Bathurst, one of six finalists for Mr. Basketball in New York. Bathurst is a 6’3″ athletic wing who can guard multiple positions.
Cornell is a vastly different team from a year ago.”
Who are the key players to watch on Big Red?
“Both Miller and Cancer, as well as senior 6’3″ wing Devin Cherry (12.3 pts, 4.3 rpg, 3.5 apg in ’13-’14). Miller is a 6’7″ power forward with elite level athleticism and could start on just about any team in the country. Miller stuffs stat sheets and averaged 11.5 pts, 6.8 rpg and posted 51 blocks in 2012-2013 as a sophomore. Cancer is a strong 6’3″ point guard who is very shifty and is adept at getting himself into the lane. Cherry is one of the quickest players with the ball you will see all year.
Cornell also likes two of its 6’2″ sophomore guards, Robert Hatter, a streaky but dangerous outside shooter and Darryl Smith, an explosive leaper who loves to attack the rim off the bounce.
Also important to Cornell’s success is 6’9″ post, David Onuorah. He is raw, but has high energy and contributed in the paint as a freshman. He turned down BCS offers to play at Cornell.
Of interest to GMU fans, keep an eye out for freshman Jordan Abdur Ra’oof, explosive 6’7″ forward from Gonzaga Collegiate in D.C. Reportedly was offered by both George Mason and George Washington.”
What would you say is Cornell’s biggest strength this season?
“Athleticism and quickness, especially among the shooting guards and small forwards. You didn’t ask, but weakness is shooting the basketball. Not many pure perimeter shooters on the roster. This team was designed to slash at the basket.”
In what area could we see the most improvement from last year’s squad?
“Cornell was ravaged a year ago by injuries. Just having the team healthy makes them more competitive in every aspect of the game. Are they an NCAA Tournament team? Probably not. But they could be a formidable opponent and it would a mistake for any team to treat them as just a ‘2-26 team.'”