This Weekend's Top Performers (11/20/11)

Penn's Zack Rosen is averaging 23 ppg through four games. More importantly, the Quakers are out to an encouraging 3-1 start. (Photo Credit: penngazettesports.com)

The Ivy League shook off its sluggish start to the season this weekend, going 6-1 and improving to 10-13 against Division-I opponents. This weekend also saw Brown, Dartmouth, and Princeton pick up their first D-1 wins of the season, while Harvard continues to roll over inferior opponents, no matter what coast the Crimson is playing on.

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Game Preview: Cornell at Buffalo

Cornell's breakout freshman, Shonn Miller, put on a show against Binghamton. WIll he continue his success against Buffalo? (Photo Credit: Simon Wheeler, pressconnects.com)

Game 3: Cornell (1-1) @ Buffalo (1-0) – November 16 – Alumni Arena – Buffalo, NY
By Sam Aleinikoff & Jake Mastbaum

Cornell looks to continue rolling after picking up their first win of the season over Binghamton Monday night in impressive fashion. For now, some of the questions that were raised after Friday’s loss to St. Bonaventure have been answered, but long term viability remains a question. Can Eitan Chemerinski continue to be a threat offensively? Is Shonn Miller the real deal? Big Red fans will be able to take another early look at Bill Courtney’s squad Wednesday night as Cornell take their act back to the road, looking to make it two straight against the Buffalo Bulls.

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Game Preview: Cornell vs. Binghamton

Cornell looks to avenge a one-point loss to Binghamton a year ago. (Photo credit: cornellbigred.com)

Less than 72 hours after a tough loss at St. Bonaventure, the Big Red opens up at Newman Arena in search of its first win of the year. Friday night’s game raised more questions than it answered: Can Cornell shoot the three-ball with consistency? Who will play the 4 in Peck’s absence? Have Jake Matthews and Max Groebe gotten the short end of the stick with new freshmen arrivals in the backcourt? Will Chemerinski and Figini be able to hold their own in the post?

The Big Red hopes to begin to answer all of these questions and more as it takes the floor against Binghamton tonight.

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Game Preview: Cornell vs. St. Bonaventure

Cornell opens the season in Olean, NY against Andrew Nicholson and a highly-rated St. Bonaventure squad. (Photo Credit: gobonnies.com)

Cornell starts the 2011-2012 season in the same place Jeff Foote began his college career five seasons ago.  If the Big Red want to progress in year two of the Bill Courtney era the same way Foote progressed when he traded maroon for bright red, the crew from Ithaca is going to have quite the early test.  The 2011-2012 campaign kicks off in Olean, NY as St. Bonaventure boast their best squad in recent memory.  The Bonnies return four starters from a team that posted its first winning season in eight years, highlighted by preseason first team A-10 pick, Andrew Nicholson.  Nicholson, a rare legitimate NBA prospect out of St. Bonaventure is coming off a year in which he averaged over 20 points and 7 rebounds a game.  The forward who is comfortable setting up on either block and who can finish on both sides of the rim, will provide a major challenge to Cornell’s unproven front court.

Cornell, a team who will look to play fast this season, relying on their depth, will have to dial it back Friday night due to a collection of preseason injuries. Most notably riding the pine is junior swingman Errick Peck.  Peck, who averaged 11 points per game last season is “questionable” for Friday, but will most likely sit this one out, recovering from off-season knee surgery.  On the flip side, early reports indicate that St. Bonaventure is fully healthy for this matchup.

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Composite Schedule by Metro Area

Scroll down to see all the games in your metropolitan area involving an Ivy League team this season.

The Ivy League has a broad fan base scattered all over the country. With that in mind, we created the lists below for fans looking to catch a piece of live action this season.

The following is a composite Ivy League schedule of every basketball game involving an Ivy League team within approximately 90 minutes of NYC, Philly, Boston, Syracuse, and Los Angeles.

Enjoy!

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Preseason Teleconference: Coaches Say the Darndest Things

Ivy coaches around the league phoned in to share their thoughts on the upcoming season. (Photo credit: Google Images)

If you took everything said in the preseason media teleconference at face value, then you’d think every team has a shot to win the Ivy League title this year. Here are a few of the best sound bites from Wednesday, taken beyond face value.

Yale head coach James Jones on the Bulldogs’ preseason No. 2 ranking: “Every year for the last I don’t know how many, we’ve always been picked lower than we’ve finished. We’re picked second; there’s only one more spot to go to, so hopefully it works out for us.”

In the middle of a vanilla interview, Jones whips out this nugget. That’s a suspiciously juicy factoid for a coach—I’m guessing the SID gave it to him. For the record, the last time Yale failed to surpass its preseason ranking was 2007-08. By the way, looking through old preseason rankings is a hoot: last year Cornell got a first place vote; in 2009-10, Penn was picked third; the 2008-09 Tigers were chosen dead last. I wonder if the previous season is a better predictor of preseason polls than the end of year rankings.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson on the Tigers’ scheduling difficulties: “When you’re in a position like ours—we like being in a situation like this—where teams don’t want to play you, especially this year with a good group coming back, it’s a little more difficult to get your phone calls returned.”

Humblebrag! “They hate me cuz they ain’t me,” Henderson added.

Paul Franklin, The Trenton Times: “It hasn’t been that long, obviously, since you played…or maybe it is. [Pause for laughter]. Sorry about that.”

Penn head coach Jerome Allen: “It’s OK.” 

Paul Franklin of The Trenton Times stole the show on Wednesday. Reporter chumminess is an especially awkward variety of male flirting, but in the hands of a skilled veteran like Mr. Franklin, it’s borderline magical.

“1995 was like so long ago, AMIRITE?! ROFL!!!”

Jerome was unfazed, and in his chocolatey, midnight DJ voice he gave a courtesy chuckle and forgave the age crack.

Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker on 2009-10: “Jeremy made so many other people better. I think that’s always the mark of a special player, which Jeremy was for us.”

The Jeremy Lin narrative has taken a slightly disappointing turn, as he’s become one of those NBA bench players that fans cheer for ironically. Well Tommy Amaker is not going to let that spoil his legacy in Cambridge: JEREMY LIN IS THE BEST PLAYER IN HARVARD HISTORY. THAT’S THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS.

Dartmouth head coach Paul Cormier on the Big Green’s inexperience: “One good thing about having freshmen is sometimes that lack of experience doesn’t affect their confidence and they just feel that they’ve been successful at whatever level they’ve been at and hopefully that some of that success can carry over.”

What Cormier is trying to say is that freshmen don’t have the Dartmouth stink yet. The Dartmouth stink doesn’t wash off. One season in Hanover and you’re permanently stinky. It sounds like his plan is to quarantine every member of last season’s 5-23 team by keeping them on bench rest and to start anew with this freshmen class. It’s like the plot of The Walking Dead.

Paul Franklin, Trenton Times: “Playing a little devil’s advocate with you here: if I’m a hardcore Cornell fan and I start harassing you with, ‘Hey coach, when are we going back to the Sweet Sixteen?’, what’s your response?”

Cornell head coach Bill Courtney: [Laughs] “I’ll tell you what, it’s funny because you get a lot of that when I go to the grocery store or the movies or something like that… We’re working towards that and we’ll continue to work until we get back to that point.”

Franklin: “Alright, you’ve got five years then I’m coming after you.”

Courtney: [Laughs] “I hear you.”

More gold from Franklin. The question is legitimate—when will the Big Red climb back to the top of the Ivy League?—but I wonder what he means by “coming after you.” I can only assume that Mr. Franklin has some ferocious tickling in store for Courtney if he can’t lead the Big Red back to March Madness by 2016.

Columbia head coach Kyle Smith, on senior guard Noruwa Agho: “I just feel he’s one of the best all-around players in the league and one of the best all-around players I’ve ever been around… I don’t know if that will show up as much in the stats, but it’s certainly showing up with his leadership.”

The Myth of Noruwa Agho lives on, but Smith at least seems to acknowledge that Agho’s raw stats hide his inefficiency. Thankfully for Columbia, Agho might lead the league in leadership, so they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.

Brown head coach Jesse Agel: “This league is really, really good. There are no nights off. There are no more weekends where, you know, Penn and Princeton would go somewhere and say, ‘Well, we’ve just got to get through this weekend and we should win two.’ I don’t think anyone’s thinking that anywhere now.”

Franklin: “No more sightseeing, huh?”

Agel: [Laughs] “I don’t know what you could see on some of those rides. Having lived up in the deep Northeast, not much sightseeing in the winter.”

Franklin: [Laughs] “Alright, thanks.”

Agel: “Sure.”

Franklin does it again! It might be the preseason, but Mr. Franklin is in rare form. He forced a chuckle out of Jesse Agel, who might be the most humorless coach in the Ivies. But Agel snaps back into his sour mien with a terse “sure” to close out a riveting, if hardly informative, hour and a half teleconference.

Season Preview: Cornell Big Red

Cornell will rely heavily on its dynamic senior point guard, Chris Wroblewski, to lead a young, banged-up team into battle this season. (Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Nineteen months have passed since Cornell was in the national spotlight, knocking off highly-ranked NCAA Tournament foes. Seventeen months have passed since Bill Courtney set up shop above the court at Newman Arena, attempting to fill the rather large shoes of the departed Steve Donahue. Sixteen months have passed since the seniors of 2010 crossed over from student-athletes to alumni, and the only remnants of the fairy-tale run were role players. Seems like it’s time to accept the baby-faced Red for who they are instead of comparing them to Cinderella.Let’s take a look at Cornell heading into year two of the new era:

Key Losses

Adam Wire (3.8 ppg, 5 reb, 1.8 ast, 1.3 stl), Mark Coury (5.3 ppg, 3.8 reb) and Aaron Osgood (6.9 ppg, 4.3 reb)

Statistically speaking, Wire, Coury and Osgood aren’t huge losses for the Red. Realistically speaking, the trio of departed seniors leaves a gaping hole in the paint. Wire, Osgood and Coury were the only true post players of note on last years squad and with the three gone, the Red will be forced to rely on younger, thinner, less experienced players in the frontcourt.

Key Additions

Galal Cancer (Guard), Devin Cherry (Guard), Nenad Tomic (Forward), Dave LaMore (Forward/Center), Shonn Miller (Forward), Deion Giddens (Forward/Center), Dominick Scelfo (Guard – Sophomore, missed entire Freshman year due to injury)

To replace the departed seniors in the lane, the Red has added four potential impact frontcourt players. Reports from Cornell’s annual Red-White scrimmage indicated that Tomic was the most impressive of the new bigs. LaMore and Miller missed the game with injuries and Giddens is seen as a raw prospect who is still developing. LaMore is expected back within a matter of weeks and Miller is expected back by the end of November.

To an already deep backcourt rotation, the Red adds Cancer, Cherry and Scelfo. The trio will allow Wroblewski to play off the ball more frequently this year. Cancer does everything on the court – he had seven rebounds and five assists in the Red-White scrimmage

– while Cherry appears to be more of a scorer. Scelfo was expected to see the court last year as a freshman before it became apparent that he would miss the entire year. Expect him to break into the rotation this year as well.

Overall, the seven newcomers will be expected to produce. The class is talented and, if healthy, should provide immediate help to a team on the rise.

Key Games

November 11th – @ St. Bonaventure – In the season opener, the Red will face Andrew Nicholson, a legitimate NBA prospect in the paint. At 6’ 9”, he gave Cornell fits last year with his inside-outside game putting up 19 points and 10 rebounds. Demitrius Conger also returns at the small forward position for the Bonnies, one year removed from a 22-point, 14-rebound performance at Newman Arena. Backcourt play kept the Red in the game last year and this one should be a sign of things to come. If the frontcourt can slow down St. Bonaventure enough inside, the Red have a chance both on opening night and in the Ivy League conversation. Nicholson and Conger may be as tough of a frontcourt pair as the Red see outside of Harvard – yes, the Crimson are that good upfront.

December 19th – @ Illinois – Replacing the annual Syracuse game on the slate is a pair of Big Ten games (also @ Penn St. on December 22nd). Last year a young Cornell team put a scare into Minnesota – then ranked 13th in the country. If the Red can break through and get a win over a major conference team in the non-conference it could be a big confidence booster as the season progresses.

January 3rd – @ Maryland – Same goes for this one.

January 13th – vs. Princeton – The Tigers should be a top-half team if they find a way to fill the huge hole that is left by the departure of Kareem Maddox. It’s the Ivy opener for Cornell and should be an indicator of how the Red match up with Ancient Eight squads lacking a dominant big man (everyone other than Harvard and Yale).

January 21st – @ Columbia – The Red was swept by it’s travel partner last year and looks to get back on track versus the Lions in the first of their two matchups of the year.

February 3rd – @ Harvard – Can Cornell compete with the elite? On paper, Harvard shouldn’t lose a league game this tapscott year. On hardwood it’s never quite that simple. Keith Wright and Co. should be the season’s biggest test for a young and thin frontcourt.

A Look at the Roster

With the backcourt rotation including as many as nine different players, expect to see three or four guards on the floor at times. Anchoring the crew will be seniors Chris Wroblewski and Drew Ferry. Both will likely predominantly play off the ball – which will be somewhat new to Wroblewski – as Jake Matthews, Miles Asafo-Adjei, Galal Cancer and Dominick Scelfo should all wow gold kaufen billig see some time at the point.

Senior Max Groebe is working on a pulled hamstring. Injuries have hampered Groebe throughout his career online casino nederlandsegokken in Ithaca and if he is finally healthy he has the potential to score 20 points any time he steps on the floor.

Former manager, Jonathan Gray will likely round out the guard rotation. He can play any position one through three and was perhaps the biggest surprise of last year. Expect him to continue to be the utility man for Cornell.

Overall, Wroblewski-Ferry and Co. should challenge Curry-McNally in Cambridge and Rosen-Cartwright in Philadelphia for the title of top backcourt in the Ancient Eight. The guard play is clearly the strength for the Red and will carry the team throughout the year.

Guards will likely play substantial minutes on the wing, but expect to see Anthony Gatlin (when healthy) and Manny Sahota find a few minutes at the three. Peter McMillan could play in spots too (see Minnesota last year for evidence that he can provide a big boost in a pinch). If Errick Peck and Dwight Tarwater are on the floor together, one of them will likely play on the wing as well. Gatlin came on strong down the stretch last season and could push for increased playing time as a senior, but the perpetually-injured Texas native has been sidelined since knee surgery in September. His return may take some time.

At the 4, Errick Peck will likely see most of the minutes – he was moved to the power forward position in the second half of last season – with Tarwater and Tomic also seeing time. Tarwater is slightly undersized but provides explosiveness and perimeter play that Tomic lacks. Tomic gives more size and rebounding in the post. When healthy, Peck has the ability (as shown in league play last year) to be an all-Ivy pick but right now the timetable for his return is unclear. He’s still recovering from minor knee surgery in July and is not yet back at 100%. Peck did not see action in the Red-White scrimmage.

Tarwater missed most of his freshman season with mono and could be a huge addition to the undersized Red – especially if Peck is not ready for opening night. Courtney and his staff are reportedly excited about his improvement and are very high on Tarwater this year.

Freshman Shonn Miller may have to wait to carve out time in the rotation. Currently hampered with a stress fracture, Miller’s return won’t come any time soon. When he does return, Miller’s size at 6’ 7” could be an asset to the Red.

In the post, Josh Figini and Eitan Chemerinski will be looked to for production on both ends of the court. With the trio of Coury, Osgood and Wire departing, the sophomore and junior will be asked to take on expanded roles. Reports indicate that both have put on weight and have improved over the summer, although the Red failed to finish inside effectively in their pre-season scrimmage.

Adding depth in the middle will be freshman Dave LaMore. LaMore is expected to return from an ankle sprain in the coming days, and at close to 230 pounds, LaMore has the ability to provide some girth against bigger posts.

Rotation

Expect the rotation to go as deep as 13 or 14 on opening night, and potentially 15 or 16 if players return quickly from injuries. The combination of having too many bodies in the backcourt and not enough in the frontcourt may leave everybody with fewer minutes than expected. Early on Courtney may struggle with the rotation (as was the case last year), but expect him to find the answer more quickly than in his opening campaign. Energy will likely trump skill for the opening tip and the starting five once again may not be the top five for the Red.

Because of Courtney’s unorthodox lineups from last season, a starting five won’t be much of an indicator of the overall rotation (although for the record I expect Cancer, Ski, Asafo-Adjei, Peck – if healthy – and Figini to take the floor for the tip on opening night). That being said, here’s a projected minute breakdown:

Guys Playing Projected Starter’s Minutes (25 min): Wroblewski, Ferry, Peck

Major minutes in Major Spots (15-25 min): Figini/Chemerinski, Tarwater, Cancer

Sure to Find Key Minutes (7-15 min): Groebe, Gray, Matthews/Asafo-Adjei/Scelfo

Could Work into the Mix (2-7 min): LaMore, Gatlin, Cherry, Tomic, Sahota, McMillan

How They’ll Finish

Ceiling: Cornell finds the right chemistry early, gets Peck, Groebe and the rest of the infirmary back from injury on the early side and between Chemerinski and Figini find an offensive touch in the paint that they didn’t get from the bigs last year. On the defensive end they do enough to limit the opposition on the low block. Overall, this is a run and gun team and they simply outscore people.

A deep rotation keeps legs fresh against more athletic major conference teams (they manage to knock off Illinois, Penn St. or Maryland in addition to a couple of decent mid-majors) and allows the Red to run most league teams off the floor on grueling Ivy weekends. They manage a 10-win Ancient Eight slate, garnering second place behind only an undefeated Crimson squad. Overall, the Red win 20-games and set themselves up for a shot at knocking off Harvard the following year with a solid recruiting class.

Floor: The Red struggle to gel after an inconsistent pre-season due to a string of injuries. With a larger roster than last year, the coaching staff takes even longer to come to a consensus on a rotation. Cornell looks like the Penn teams under Glenn Miller, losing disenchanted players who were promised playing time that they never see, and lose games by large margins along the way. They strike out against all decent opponents in the non-conference season and can’t seem to get it going in league play either.

Somehow, the Red fall at Dartmouth and get swept by Columbia for the second straight year. They steal a win each from Penn, Dartmouth and Brown (all at home) and fall to 7th place in the Ivy League. Overall they win just 7 games, including one against Division-III Albright College. Meanwhile they cement a spot in the Ivy cellar for the coming year, losing recruits who see the quickly self-destructing Red as a “bad fit.”

Projection: The Red manage a close miss at Penn St. in the preseason after getting revenge against Binghamton, BU and Lehigh at home. Taking the momentum of improvement into league play, the Red start quickly by knocking off Princeton and Penn at home. Cornell sweeps Dartmouth and Brown but also gets swept by Harvard. Overall they finish 4th in the league at 8-6 (14-14 overall) behind the undefeated Crimson, 10-4 Yale and a surprise Columbia team that finds a top-half finish. Penn and Princeton find their way back into the Ivy basement finishing above Brown and Dartmouth to round out the league.

The Great Debate: Cornell 2009-10 vs. Harvard 2011-12


Who would win a hypothetical one-game playoff between 2009-10 Cornell and 2011-12 Harvard? (Photo Credit: gocrimson.com)

Ed Note: Our Cornell and Harvard writers participated in a debate over how a one-game playoff between the 2009-10 Cornell squad and the 2011-12 Harvard team would play out. This was a hypothetical game pitting the teams against each other. The debate was not meant to compare what each team has accomplished because Harvard, despite the lofty expectations, has done nothing yet this year. The point of this exercise was to compare how these teams would match up with one another and perhaps determine a ceiling for this heralded Crimson bunch if their unprecedented Ivy recruiting class lives up to the hype. With that out of the way, Sam Aleinikoff (SA) represented Cornell and C. River Banks (CRB) wrote in support of Harvard.


SA:

A year removed from a gut-wrenching finish to Ivy play for the Crimson, we’re putting Harvard back in another one-game playoff at Ivy Hoops Online, fictionally pitting this year’s Crimson against the 2009-2010 squad from Cornell. Let’s start by taking a look at the rosters before we get the debate going.

Cornell Big Red

G – Louis Dale – 5-11, 180 lbs – Senior
Accolades: Three-time First Team All-Ivy, 2008 Ivy League POY, 2008-2009 AP All-American Honorable Mention, 2010 Mid-Major MVP (awarded by collegeinsider.com)
Stats: (2009-2010) 12.8 ppg, 4.7 ast, 2.9 reb, 1.4 stl, 39% 3pt, 85% FT
Currently: Playing his second pro-season in Germany. Nicknamed “The Solution” by ESPN during the 2010 NCAA Tournament, Dale is terrorizing the likes of “The Answer” (Allen Iverson) overseas.
Hit List Includes: Outplaying John Wall in the Sweet Sixteen to the tune of 17 pts, 4 reb and 2 ast; torching Trevon Hughes and Jordan Taylor of Wisconsin for 26 pts, 3 reb and 3 ast; dominating Juan Fernandez and Temple with 21 pts and 7 ast.

G – Chris Wroblewski – Sophomore
Accolades: 2008-2009 Ivy League ROY, 2009-2010 All-Ivy Honorable Mention, 2010-2011 Second Team All-Ivy
Stats: (2009-2010) 9 ppg, 3.2 ast, 2.7 reb, 46% 3PT, 87% FT
Currently: Trying to help the Red recapture the glory during his senior year at Cornell.
Worth Noting: Ski was named Third-Team Academic All-America and was honored as one of the top 15 student-athletes in college basketball.

F – Ryan Wittman – 6-7, 215 lbs. – Senior
Accolades: 2006-2007 Ivy ROY, Three-time unanimous first team All-Ivy, Unanimous 2009-2010 Ivy POY, 2009-2010 AP All-American Honorable Mention
Stats: (2009-2010) 17.5 ppg, 4 reb, 1.8 ast, 43% 3PT, 83% FT
Currently: After a year bouncing between Italy and the NBA D-League, Wittman is currently unsigned for the 2011-2012 season.
Ryan Wittman “Facts”: The UN Security Council has determined that Ryan Wittman’s jump shot is a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Poor shooters can’t hit the broad side of a barn; Ryan Wittman hits all sides with a single shot (Courtesy of ryanwittmanfacts.com).

F – Jon Jaques – 6-7, 220 lbs. – Senior
Accolades: Tri-captain with fellow senior Jeff Foote and Alex Tyler, burst onto the scene as a Senior after seeing limited time over the first 3 years
Stats: 8 ppg, 3.4 reb, 1.2 stl, 1 ast, 48% 3 PT
Currently: A year of pro-ball in Israel was enough on the other side of the pond for Jaques who will now turn to coaching and join the staff at Stevens Tech in New Jersey.
Clutch Moments: The first meaningful minutes of his career came when he stepped onto the floor to sink game-icing free-throws vs. Drexel. Just a few games later, scored 20 pts to lead Cornell over St. John’s in MSG.

C – Jeff Foote – 7-0, 265 lbs. – Senior
Accolades: 2-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year, 2009-2010 First Team All-Ivy, two-time second team All-Ivy
Stats: 12.4 ppg, 8.1 reb, 2.3 ast, 1.9 blk, 63% FG
Currently: Unsigned after playing his first professional year in Israel and Spain.
Poster Collection Includes: Kyle Singler (Duke – 2010 NBA Draft), Jon Leuer (Wisconsin), Arinze Onuaku (Syracuse), Wes Johnson (Syracuse – Lottery Pick), JaMychal Green (Alabama).

Head Coach – Steve Donahue – 10th Year with Cornell
Bio: Donahue won the Ivy title in each of his final three years with the Red. After a run to the Sweet Sixteen to close the 2009-2010 season Donahue jumped to the ACC, accepting the job at Boston College.

Bench
In the rotation: Alex Tyler (captain, 2 year starter), Geoff Reeves (2 year starter, lock-down defender), Max Groebe (UMass transfer, deadly shooter), Adam Wire (inch-for-inch likely the top defender on a team that included the Ivy League Defensive POY), Mark Coury (starter at Kentucky, relegated to the bench at Cornell, known for his toughness and defense), Errick Peck (Freshman Phenom)

The Case for the Red
The glass slipper never quite fit for the Red during the 2009-2010 season because Cornell was no Cinderella. Legitimately one of the top 25 teams in the country, the Red were thrown onto the national scene after a near-miss at top-ranked Kansas. The non-conference slate included wins over St. John’s, Alabama, UMass, St. Joe’s and La Salle. The conference schedule was a 13 game victory lap (with a 1-game hiccup) that made the rest of the league look like a group of high school teams. Highlights included a 36-point blowout of a 21-win Harvard team, a 14-point average margin of victory in league play and carrying the league back to national prominence with the Ancient Eight’s first Sweet Sixteen appearance in 30 years.

Harvard has an uber-athletic, highly-experienced squad returning this year, but the depth, talent, cohesion and intangibles just don’t match up. Anything short of a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament should be a disappointment for the Crimson this year, but in a one-game playoff there’s no question that 2009-2010 Cornell comes away victorious. Let’s just remember how clutch Harvard is in one-game playoffs…

CRB:

Harvard Crimson

G – Oliver McNally – 6-3, 180 lbs. – Senior
Accolades: Two-year co-captain
Stats: 10.1 ppg, 3.3 rebs, 3.1 ast, 49.1% FG, 44.2% 3PT, 92.6% FT
Worth Noting: Playing in the shadow of somewhat flashier company, McNally is the heart and soul of the Crimson, often supplying the biggest buckets in the biggest moments, like his game-winning runner at the Palestra last season or his last second free throw to force overtime at Yale in 2010.

G – Brandyn Curry – 6-1, 195 lbs. – Junior
Accolades: 2010-11 Second Team All-Ivy, 2010-11 Academic All-Ivy
Stats: 9.3 ppg, 5.9 ast, 3.8 rebs, 2.3 A-T ratio, 73.3% FT, 42.3% FG
Worth Noting: A crafty lefty and a sizzling ball-handler, Curry is the Crimson’s quarterback on offense and a lockdown perimeter defender.

F – Christian Webster – 6-5, 205 lbs. – Junior
Accolades: 2010-11 Honorable Mention All-Ivy
Stats: 13.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.5 ast, 89.4% FT, 43.5% FG, 39.9% 3PT
Worth Noting: Webster is a slasher from the wing, who is often tasked with jumpstarting the Crimson offense by attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line.

F – Kyle Casey – 6-7, 225 lbs. – Junior
Accolades: 2009-10 Ivy League ROY, 2010-11 Second Team All-Ivy, 2009-10 Honorable Mention All-Ivy
Stats: 10.7 ppg, 6.0 rebs, 1.1 blks, 50.5% FG, 78.6% FT
Worth Noting: An athletic scorer, Casey improved on a stalwart freshman campaign despite being hampered by a broken foot for much of last season.

C – Keith Wright – 6-8, 240 lbs. – Senior
Accolades: Two-time co-captain, 2010-11 Ivy League POY, 2010-11 Unanimous First Team All-Ivy, 2010-11 AP All-America Honorable Mention
Stats: 14.8 ppg, 8.3 rebs, 1.8 blk, 1.5 ast, 58.4% FG, 70.4% FT
Worth Noting: Wright made the leap last season from good big man to veritable paint monster; a willing passer and skilled finisher, he was a nightmare matchup for each opponent and the foundation of Harvard’s historically efficient offense.

Head Coach – Tommy Amaker – Fifth Year with Harvard
Bio: After stints at Seton Hall and Michigan, Amaker arrived in Cambridge, and, ever since, he has piloted Harvard’s meteoric rise to the top of the Ivy League standings. He is one of the most in-demand coaches for top college basketball programs.

Bench
In the rotation (projected): Laurent Rivard (standout sharp-shooter, looking to build on a superb rookie campaign), Wesley Saunders (much-heralded freshman who will try to crack the rotation), Kenyatta Smith (see Saunders), Steve Moundou-Missi (see Smith), Jonah Travis (see Moundou-Missi), Ugo Okam (giant center with developing skills and five-fouls to give), Matt Brown (energy guy and defensive specialist), Andrew Van Nest (serviceable big man who likes to launch the three), Jeff Georgatos (steady frontcourt presence who can hold it down in the post)

The Case for the Crimson

There is a growing trend among sportswriters to christen champions in the preseason. Considering the fates of the Miami Heat, the Boston Red Sox, and the Philadelphia Eagles, I don’t want to join that chorus and anoint the 2011-12 Harvard basketball team the successors to the 2009-10 Big Red. But for the sake of discussion (and out of enthusiasm for the upcoming season), I’m willing to consider a hypothetical one-game playoff between the two teams.

Can Harvard win? Yes. I don’t have the luxury of pointing to a list of accomplishments because, well, they haven’t accomplished anything as of yet. But Curry-McNally-Webster-Casey-Wright match up with Dale-Reeves-Jaques-Wittman-Foote at least as well as the Penn team that authored the lone blemish on Cornell’s league record and the Princeton squad that took the Big Red down to the wire twice. I’ll grant that those midseason games lack the urgency of a one-game playoff, and Cornell would likely be at its best in this imaginary playoff against Harvard. But I still think the Crimson has a decent shot. Here’s how I see it going down:

Foote is the Big Red’s big advantage (literally). His size was almost impossible to counter, especially with the Ivies’ lack of size on the bench. However, this Harvard team is unique in its ability to make Foote earn his points. It has at least eight different players that it can put on the big man—that’s forty fouls on a sub-60 percent free-throw shooter. On the other end, the Crimson has the offensive talent to challenge Foote in the paint and perhaps put him in foul trouble. In the backcourt, McNally and Curry are arguably the equals to Dale and Reeves (if that seems outlandish, please just wait to see the kind of year Curry has). That leaves Wittman and Casey. I know Wittman is a demigod in Ithaca, but, despite whatever memes you’ve created for him, he still missed 57.4 percent of his threes. I think a healthy Casey can bring as much to the table as the Big Red POY, though I guess this season will be the true test for that statement.

Of course, a Crimson victory is predicated on a lot of breaks falling its way, but none of them seem too farfetched, no? How do you see The Game playing out tactically and strategically?

One more question: Without trying to sound controversial, I personally think the Big Red dynasty has been overly mythologized. Of course, they won all of those games, advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, and they deserve every bit of the credit that has come their way. But other unheralded mid-majors have advanced beyond the first weekend—Richmond and VCU last year, St. Mary’s and Northern Iowa in 2010, Davidson and Western Kentucky in 2008, etc.—all of which were stellar teams, but these squads can easily be thought to have “outperformed” their expected result. Yet, for some reason, Ivy fans have taken it for granted that Cornell was exactly as good as its No. 17 ranking. Does even a little part of you think maybe the Big Red was fortunate to beat Temple and Wisconsin (despite the one-sidedness of those contests)? Are these just the sour grapes of a Harvard fan who still hasn’t gotten over that 36-point shit-kicking?

SA:

First of all, let’s take a look at that final point…”fortunate”?

Quite honestly, Temple and Wisconsin were both fortunate that the score didn’t truly represent how one sided those match-ups were. The shellackings that the 2009-2010 Red put on their NCAA tournament foes in the first two rounds were far from fortunate.

A comparison to 2010 Richmond (13-3 in the Atlantic 10, regular season wins over Purdue, Arizona State, Seton Hall and Wake Forest) is welcomed. Richmond looked like a Sweet Sixteen team and was a Sweet Sixteen team.

I’ll take the Northern Iowa comparison too. A team that lost just five games all year, was under-seeded because of the conference it plays in, had a seven foot center who gave BCS big men fits, knocked down shots from every part of the floor and played Kansas tight – sound familiar? Oh yeah. Cornell and Northern Iowa from 2009-2010 were comparable teams, were legit top-25 teams and would both beat 2011-2012 Harvard nine times out of ten.

Davidson 2008 – close calls against top-10 teams in the non-conference, dominate in their league, show their true colors against the big conferences in the Tournament. Davidson was also deserving of it’s spot in the final rankings.

VCU went from a slightly above average CAA team to a Final Four participant. Yes, agreed, they outperformed in March (April finally brought them back down). Cornell was no VCU. There is no Final Four banner in the rafters of Newman Arena, but there were also no 11-loss regular season and no consistent slip ups against the likes of Georgia State, James Madison or Drexel. There should be no questions that Cornell 2009-2010 is no VCU.

Cornell was also no St. Mary’s. See the match-ups against a one-year-away Richmond team and an imploding Villanova squad if you want to understand what it means to be fortunate in March.

Western Kentucky? They needed OT to beat Drake and then got 13-seeded San Diego in Round 2. Again, see Western Kentucky’s 2008 NCAA Tournament for an example of fortune.

Cornell was not fortunate. March of 2009 was merely a continuation of what they had done since November.

Let’s digress from the Cornell – (insert successful mid-major team here) comparisons. The real debate is Cornell vs. Harvard.

In the frontcourt: Hack-a-Foote still gives the 7-footer a chance at the line and even a 60% FT shooter makes a majority of his shots. Also – suggesting Van Nest or Okam in the post against Foote? Please, please, Tommy Amaker, make that mistake again. On the defensive end, Donahue’s constant substitutions between Foote, Coury, Tyler and Wire – not to mention his man, 1-3-1, 2-3, 3-2 and match-up zones – and Wright and Casey would get nothing in the paint. Wright finds foul trouble much to quickly against lesser, smaller foes. Foote, with 4 inches and 25 pounds on him would be virtually unstoppable. Casey is a nice piece but he has neither the strength to match Coury or Tyler in the post, nor the perimeter play to match Jaques. Forget Wittman, Casey wouldn’t be tabbed with that responsibility.

On the wing: Webster on Wittman might be the best matchup Harvard would get. Webster’s length and athleticism could frustrate Wittman on the perimeter, but Webster is a glorified slasher and an overrated defender. Wittman would get his in transition or off a quick release from the Red’s ball movement. Best case for Harvard: Wittman puts up 15 points on 15 shots and Webster manages to get a few buckets in transition to make up for his lack of legitimate half court production against such a long, smart, athletically-underrated team.

In the backcourt: McNally on Wroblewski could be a toss up. McNally has more size. Ski has the passing ability. Both have stability, consistency. The only difference is that McNally is asked to take on a bigger role with his teammates around him faltering. Against Cornell’s best on ball defender he can’t get much.

Dale vs. Curry is almost a joke. Curry may have the quickness but in every other facet of the game Dale has the edge – shooting, off the dribble, on the boards, generally leading a team…the list goes on. If he puts up 17 on John Wall and 20 on the combination of Jeremy Lin, Curry (as a freshman) and anyone else the Crimson had in the backcourt, please, please bring on Curry on his own. Turn the TV on because Dale is about to go off.

On the bench: Talent, experience and cohesion (Red) vs. unproven, yet highly touted, underclassmen (Harvard). Good luck Harvard.

A neutral site keeps this game within 20 and interesting until midway through the second half. That’s when Wright is sitting with 4 fouls apiece, Van Nest and Okam have been thrashed for a few too many and the freshman are tabbed with fighting the top true center the mid-majors have seen since Andrew Bogut.

Yes, Harvard is talented and could steal one out of 10 from Cornell – that was better than Penn’s chances and they pulled it off in the Palestra – so maybe, just maybe, in Lavietes the Crimson could too. The Princeton comparison is ridiculous. A slow-it-down team that relies on steady coaching is a far cry from Harvard’s up and down style.

Keith Wright and Harvard look like a poor man’s Levoy Allen and Temple who the good-not-lucky Red beat handily in March. Cornell wins going away, 78-63.

CRB:

I only brought up the possibility that 2009-10 Cornell is remembered too fondly in the context of this playoff, not in order to besmirch the best Ivy team of this decade. But since I’m the lone wolf crying in the wilderness on this point, I guess we’ll drop the argument.

In the frontcourt: I witnessed Foote’s abuse of Van Nest in 2010—it wasn’t pretty. So believe me, I don’t have any delusions of Van Nest, Okam, or any of the freshmen somehow stopping “the top true center the mid-majors have seen since Andrew Bogut.” They are perfectly capable of fouling Foote though, and the visual of the 7-footer standing on the free-throw line does not inspire much fear in the heart of this Harvard fan. If the Crimson loses by Foote hitting his freebies, so be it. Also, I think you might be underrating Casey’s impact. Sure, you can say he doesn’t have Tyler’s strength or Jaques’ “perimeter play,” but I’d argue that Tyler doesn’t have Casey’s “perimeter play” and Jaques doesn’t have the big man’s strength. What’s to prevent Casey from exposing their weaknesses as opposed to the other way around? Lastly, to clarify, I didn’t mean to suggest that Wittman and Casey would be matched up in my initial Wittman/Casey comparison; I meant to contrast only their production.

On the wing: I’m glad you afford Webster as much respect as you do. He’s the least flashy of Harvard’s contributors and sometimes overlooked, but without Webster’s wing play, the Crimson’s inside-out offense becomes one dimensional. I’ve never considered Webster a great defender, and Wittman is so tall with such a quick release that I don’t see him being all that effective stopping the shooter. I’d hope for the kind of 15-point off night from Wittman that you’re describing.

In the backcourt: As pleased as I am over your feelings on Webster, I’m just as disappointed in your assessment of Curry. The kid can play. He’s not as essential to Harvard as Wright, but I think you could argue that he was the Crimson’s best player throughout league play last year. Your flippant dismissal of him as a “joke” really only conveys to me that you haven’t seen him play enough. A junior, his story is only half written at this point, but I would not at all be surprised if, when all is said and done, his mantel has some of the same hardware as Dale’s. I would absolutely turn on my TV and get my popcorn ready for the Dale-Curry matchup. I don’t think it would be nearly as one-sided as you imagine.

On the bench: I’ll concede any and all points in this area because, at this stage, the Harvard freshmen are a relative unknown.

Coaching: Amaker knows how to run a program, but, fairly or unfairly, his Xs-and-Os have always been called into question. Donahue’s bona fides are stronger, and he is more familiar with the 2009-10 team than Amaker is with his 2011-12 squad. Coach D probably has the edge in a game situation.

I’m surprised that you think Cornell would win nine of out ten times. If you wanted a number from me, I would have said two out of three and a mean outcome of Cornell 75, Harvard 71 (I hope commenters won’t hesitate to post their predictions below). That’s no slight to the Big Red, I just think this Harvard team can be that good. If the Crimson manages to live up to the expectations for this season, it would be interesting to revisit this argument again in the spring.

SA:

Curry is no joke. Watching him twice in person last year, I thought as a sophomore he was the most impressive member of a highly-talented Harvard squad. It is the Dale-Curry match-up that I think would be a joke. My memory of Dale may be tainted because his final three games in a Cornell uniform were likely the best three games of his career, but if Dale were to play in his NCAA Tournament form (which I’ll mention once again was good enough to outplay John Wall, Trevon Hughes and Juan Fernandez), then I think this is no contest.

Nonetheless, you bring up a good point. This analysis completely depends on the time of year that we’re talking about. Cornell in November 2009 was very different from Cornell in March 2010. I’m sure the same will be true for this year’s Harvard team. Cornell in March vs. Harvard in November is a no-brainer for me. Cornell in March vs. Harvard in March could be a very different story.

If the young bench develops and Wright, Casey and Co. continue to improve, I could easily see Harvard raising a Sweet Sixteen banner of their own in Cambridge. If the team is virtually the same as the one we saw last year, I see a quick exit from the tournament. Regardless, the fact that Harvard has the talent and experience to even warrant this discussion says something about the Crimson’s outlook for the year.

The one thing that struck me watching Harvard last year is that they looked like a BCS conference team minus a couple inches. Keith Wright at 6-10, Kyle Casey at 6-9, Christian Webster at 6-7, Oliver McNally at 6-5 and Brandyn Curry at 6-2 – that’s a scary starting five in any conference in America. The athleticism and talent is there at every position to compete with just about anyone in the country. They can score in bunches, defend and force turnovers, get up and down the floor like a major conference school. With a couple added inches this team would be a top-25 team all year.

The Cornell 2009 – Harvard 2011 should be an interesting argument in the Spring once we have a better sense of this year’s group in Cambridge. Who knows, maybe I’ll be eating my words if Harvard manages to run the table in the Ivy League and make a little noise in the nonconference.

Either way, basketball season is upon us. Midnight Madness publicly kicked off the season for Harvard earlier this weekend and Cornell faithful will get their first glimpse of their team in less than a week at the annual Red-White scrimmage. Regardless of who you root for, with the hardwood squeaking once again and slates wiped completely clean, its tough to complain this time of year.

CRB:

Absolutely. This frivolous comparison is just one of the many subplots in what should be a fascinating season. I wish you the worst of luck, my friend.

Breaking Down Rivals' Ivy League Preview

Rivals.com picked the Crimson to win the league title and Keith Wright to repeat as Player of the Year. (Photo Credit: 5-Star Basketball)

Rivals.com (Yahoo Sports) ranked the Ivy League 20th in their countdown of college basketball”s 32 conferences. The first half of the article consists of the usual praise for Cornell and Princeton”s recent postseason performance. The author, David Fox, seems to suggest that Harvard, this year”s prohibitive favorite, may have a different competitor to deal with at the top of the standings with Princeton losing Maddox and Mavraides. He cites Penn and Yale as the two squads with which the Crimson may have to contend, while suggesting Brown may make a leap from the bottom behind the youth movement led by McGonagill and Rafael Maia.

The rankings below the article though, at times, seem to be disconnected from the analysis. Princeton is left in the #2 spot, ahead of Penn and Yale even though Fox claimed Harvard would have different competition for the title. Additionally, Ian Hummer is given a spot on the league”s second team. If Hummer carries the Tigers to a second place finish this year after losing Maddox and Mavraides, I have to like his chances to make the first team.

The projected standings also show Brown staying put in the #7 slot despite the aforementioned praise and the prediction that Maia will be the league”s Rookie of the Year. While there are certainly minutes for Maia in the Bears” frontcourt that other freshmen may not see, a ROY season combined with last year”s ROY in the backcourt in McGonagill as well as All-Ivy Honorable Mention Tucker Halpern on the wing, who shot 40% from distance last year, and it seems like the Bears should be able to finish higher than 7th.

Other choices that deserve further examination include “Best frontcourt: Harvard,” which could also have been awarded to the Yale Bulldogs with the duo of Mangano and Kreisberg (with freshmen Sherrod and Childs-Klein coming off the bench). Best backcourt was given to Penn, though Brandyn Curry, Christian Webster, Oliver McNally, and Laurent Rivard may have something to say about that up in Cambridge.

Interestingly, in the “Coach on the hot seat” category, Rivals chose “None.” But if, as they predicted, the Bears fail to move up from the bottom this year, you have to think that things are going to get uncomfortably warm for Coach Agel in Providence.