Oddly, the main theme of last month’s Ivy preseason teleconference seemed to be the value of tough nonconference scheduling. Nearly every Ivy coach talked at length about how scheduling a challenging nonconference slate made teams better. We all know that strength of schedule becomes a major factor for teams in power conferences as Selection Sunday approaches, but that doesn’t apply to the 14-game tournament that is the Ivy League. Still, we’ll likely to learn a lot about our beloved Ancient Eight when they hit the road to take on some of the nation’s most powerful programs. At the very least, nonconference play can be exciting when we least expect it. Who expected Cornell to jump out to a 14-point lead at No. 8 Syracuse last November? Who expected No. 2 Michigan State to trail Columbia by seven in the second half at the Breslin Center and the game to swing for good on back-to-back phony shot clock countdowns?
I’m bullish on the Bears.
Yes, All-Everything Sean McGonagill is gone, and so is his ball distribution, three-point shooting, offensive potency from anywhere on the court and, well, everything! But the Bears will be better than last year because they’ll be more well-rounded in 2014-15 from inside out, the single-most underrated team in the Ivy League.
It’s hard to remember that Dartmouth exists sometimes, so consider this roster preview a reminder that the Big Green are still around. But who are they this year exactly?
Coach Paul Cormier alluded to the fact that this is a more experienced team than he has helmed in the past, and yet there are just two seniors on the entire roster. The presence of seven juniors makes up for that, though, namely co-captain Alex Mitola, who vastly improved his assist to turnover ratio as a sophomore and established himself as one of the most dangerous three-point shooters in the league. What’s most impressive is that Mitola kept improving in Ivy play even after 2012-13 All-Ivy second-teamer and fellow co-captain Gabas Maldunas tore his ACL shortly after Dartmouth entered its conference slate. And of course, Maldunas himself can be quite the beast, averaging 11.2 points and 8.5 boards per contest before his injury, which Cormier said at the teleconference had been just cleared for contact.
Now or never season for Jerome Allen? Now or never season for Jerome Allen.
That being said, this is a very young roster as seven of Penn’s top 10 scorers from last season are gone, which means that Penn’s nonconference play may not be as telling as it was a year ago when it was clear very early on – like, the season opener – that the Quakers were in trouble. This roster needs time to gel, and it will have to gel before the program starts stringing together wins with any consistency. So it’ll be a while before we can properly evaluate what pieces Allen is working with here.
The roster upheaval is starting to get disturbing for Columbia fans. First, senior guard Meiko Lyles and sophomore forward Zach En’Wezoh left the program earlier this month. Now, per the Columbia Spectator, Alex Rosenberg is out indefinitely after sustaining a Jones fracture in his right foot during practice Friday. As the Spectator notes, the usual recovery time for the injury is six to eight weeks, which would wipe out most of his nonconference season.
Predictions are a fool’s game … so let’s play!
HARVARD WILL LOSE AT LEAST THREE IVY GAMES
We all know this conference is loaded this season. Columbia, Yale, Brown and Dartmouth return nearly everyone. Even Cornell will be more dangerous with Shonn Miller back, so the Big Red will be poised for an upset or two. So what does that mean for prohibitive conference favorite Harvard?
Tough sledding, obviously, enough for Harvard to drop three conference games this season. Of course, all the Ivies will have to endure that tough sledding, meaning 11 league wins will be enough for Harvard to win a fourth straight conference championship, the same magic number that allowed Harvard into the 2013 Big Dance.
This preseason, Ivy Hoops Online will be running in-depth roster previews of all eight Ivy teams. We start with the squad projected to finish last in the conference this season, Cornell.
Is the glass half empty or half full?
Well, let’s start with half full. Braxton Bunce, Galal Cancer and 2012-13 first-team All-Ivy Shonn Miller return after missing all of last season, and Deion Giddens returns after missing most of last year as well. There’s presumably nowhere to go but up from 2-26, and sophomores like Darryl Smith and Robert Hatter will be well-seasoned after getting pressed into action early and often as rookies a year ago.
The Ivy basketball preseason media poll was released yesterday, and the results weren’t surprising, with Harvard garnering all 17 first-place votes.
Then Ivy League’s eight head coaches gave a lot of insight into their respective programs during yesterday’s Ivy preseason media teleconference. They knocked on a lot of wood too. Here’s a comprehensive look at what each coach had to say and what their comments actually mean going forward.
Columbia issued a statement from head coach Kyle Smith announcing the departure of senior guard Meiko Lyles and sophomore forward Zach En’Wezoh from the Columbia basketball program.
Smith’s statement reads as follows:
“Meiko Lyles and Zach En’Wezoh have decided to leave the program. They both will remain enrolled at Columbia. Meiko decided to take his last year and focus on his academics and securing a job after graduation. Zach’s situation is more medical. He has battled through a series of injuries since he’s been here and, despite his best efforts, does not believe his body can make it through the rigors of another season. Meiko and Zach have been great representatives of our program. We respect and support both of their decisions and wish them nothing but the best.”
While the sting of En’Wezoh’s departure will be mitigated by Columbia’s deep frontcourt, the loss of Lyles is a big one for a program universally thought to be on the rise following last season’s 21-13 finish. Lyles came on strong down the stretch in the regular season last year, hitting a game-winning three to give the Lions a win at Princeton, posting 21 points on 80 percent shooting from the field in a 70-68 win against Brown and providing solid perimeter defense on a consistent basis.
Lyles’s absence will put pressure on freshman guards Kyle Castlin and Nate Hickman to contribute in perhaps greater roles than previously expected, but Lyles’s tight defense will be missed regardless. His D was a factor in Miles Jackson-Cartwright and Tony Hicks’s combined 3-for-15 performance from the field for Penn at Levien Gym late in the season and he helped contain Armani Cotton in Columbia’s 16-point win over Yale.
But that win over Yale may also provide an answer for how replace Lyles going forward.
Steve Frankoski notched 17 points off the bench against the Bulldogs, and the senior guard will have to help fill Lyles’s shoes in 2014-15.