The issue of identity in Ithaca

Early in last Saturday’s broadcast of the Penn-Cornell game, Big Red announcers Barry Leonard and Eric Taylor recounted a recent conversation with coach Bill Courtney in which the coach was unsure of the identity of his team. After 22 games and in the throes of a four-game losing streak, what does this mean for the program going forward?

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Cornell Season Preview – Youth Must Be Served

This year”s 2015-16 Cornell season preview comes from Barry Leonard, who is looking forward to his 24th year providing top-notch radio broadcasting of Big Red hoops.

As he enters year number six as the head coach of Cornell basketball, Bill Courtney will embrace the phrase “Youth must be served.”

Eight freshman comprise the 19-man roster, and several will have to play immediate minutes for the Big Red.  The graduation of All-Ivy do-everything forward Shonn Miller, Galal Cancer and others has opened up playing time in what will be a spirited competition for minutes. Two returning starters, both juniors, will be counted on heavily.

Read moreCornell Season Preview – Youth Must Be Served

Alex Mitola to become graduate transfer, play final season elsewhere

According to several sources, including his high school coach, Dartmouth junior guard Alex Mitola will become a graduate transfer and play his final season at another school.

“Alex always wanted to see if he could play up at a little bit of a higher level,” Gill St. Bernard’s coach Mergin Sina told Jerry Carino. “Out of high school he didn’t have a chance to do it.”

The news represents a huge loss for Big Green coach Paul Cormier and the Dartmouth basketball program. Mitola averaged 12.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, good for seventh in scoring, first in free-throw percentage, 10th in assists, second in three-pointers made, second in assist/turnover ratio and second in minutes played.

“I’m disappointed and think he’s making a terrible mistake,” Paul Cormier said to the Valley News of Mitola. “He can’t get that (fourth year at Dartmouth) back. The decision that requires the most substance is staying here and following through with the teammates you came in with.”

The Valley News also reports that Mitola plans to play his final season of college eligibility with a higher-profile program and pursue a graduate business degree before playing professionally overseas.

“We’ve gone from nine victories to 12 to 14 since Alex has been here,” Cormier told the Valley News. “He could have left a real legacy. I hope this isn’t something he later regrets, because it’s not ending the way I think it should.”

“It was hard because I know the situation it puts them in, but I felt it was what was best for me and my career moving forwards,” Mitola said.

The Ivy League will miss Mitola’s potent long-range shooting, superior ballhandling and clutch play. Dartmouth would not have made its first postseason since 1959 this season without him. I discussed what I thought Mitola’s versatility meant to Dartmouth in an On the Vine in February, and One Bid Wonders correctly identified him as the “culture changer” in Hanover earlier this season.

2015 Outgoing Ivy Transfers

Denton Koon

Shonn Miller

Kenyatta Smith

Rafael Maia

Cam Crocker

Galal Cancer

Alex Mitola

Princeton has itself a wacky Empire State weekend

Bill Courtney said "Stop" to Princeton's 50-37 lead in the second half. Cornell responded with a 25-2 run to defeat the Tigers. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Bill Courtney said “Stop” to Princeton’s 50-37 lead in the second half. Cornell responded with a 25-2 run to defeat the Tigers. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Another wild and wacky weekend in the Ivy League began for the Tigers in the recently friendly confines of Levien Gym at Columbia. The typical back and forth of the first half quickly gave way to a Tiger offensive outburst turning a close game into something of a rout. Spurred by super-sub Ben Hazel’s second-half heroics, the Tigers cruised to a relatively easy 74-62 victory. A Harvard win in New Haven on Saturday together with the anticipated Tiger success over a demoralized Cornell quintet reeling from Penn’s come-from-behind victory would create a three-way race for the Ivy title with Princeton very much a contender. The Crimson did their part, but the Tigers self-destructed in Ithaca.

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What's your Ivy team's New Year's resolution?

New YearIt’s New Year’s Eve, and that means New Year’s resolutions abound. If the Ivies could have one doable New Year’s resolution each, here’s what they would be, along with the likelihood of each team making good on that resolution (Ivy power rankings included).

8. Penn (3-7)Get the freshmen substantially more minutes

Sam Jones is averaging 6.1 points in just 15.1 minutes per game so far this season and has proven himself to be the kind of sharpshooting threat Penn has been missing for a long time, shooting an eye-popping 45.9 percent from beyond the arc. Yet Jones logged just 10 minutes at La Salle last night. He must be in coach Jerome Allen’s doghouse, but he has to play more regardless.

Meanwhile, now that Mike Auger’s back from a foot injury, he has to play more too. He’s just seventh on the team in minutes per game despite being second in rebounds and third in points per contest. Freshman guard Antonio Woods is actually logging more minutes than anybody due to junior guard Tony Hicks’ chronic foul trouble, but he’s just one of many frosh that will have to pick up the slack if Penn is to make a run at the top half of the conference.

Read moreWhat's your Ivy team's New Year's resolution?

IHO Awards of the Week – Dec. 1

The week that was in Ivy roundball, power rankings included:

8. Penn (0-5)

Sigh. More on Penn here, but suffice it to say that the Quakers’ loss to Wagner made their tangible improvements against Lafayette and Temple look like a mirage.

7. Dartmouth (1-3)

Meh. The Big Green let a four-point lead with 7:04 left slip away at home to New Hampshire, which trumped Dartmouth, 65-63, via a game-winning bucket by Daniel Dion with four seconds left. Dartmouth beat IPFW, 68-67, earlier in the week but entered the New Hampshire game with the lowest-scoring offense in the conference and second to last in turnover margin. This offense just isn’t very good and somebody besides Alex Mitola needs to step up as a consistent weapon. Prior to New Hampshire, Connor Boehm was shooting just 43.8 percent from the field, and his scoring was down to 6.7 points per game from 10.9 last season. Boehm was the Big Green’s leading scorer against the Wildcats and will have to be even more impactful going forward for this offense to lift itself up.

Read moreIHO Awards of the Week – Dec. 1

A Cornell comeback within a Cornell comeback

After Colgate’s Damon Sherman-Newsome scored the first eight points of the game against Cornell, the Big Red looked a lot like the 2-26 Big Red of 2013-14: sluggish and ineffective. Later, a 23-6 Big Red deficit had them looking like a carbon copy of that 2013-14 squad.

Then Devin Cherry kicked his game into high gear, turning in a career performance and almost single-handedly turning the game around for Cornell. Cherry finished with 21 points, five assists, four boards and three steals while shooting an efficient 8-for-15 from the floor. He scored 20 of Cornell’s first 49 points and made sure the Big Red didn’t fade completely in the first half. He played with passion and he was consistently rewarded for it.

To put Cornell’s win into proper perspective, the Big Red lost to Colgate by 23 last year. Cornell is making sure we all know this is not last year.

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Cornell Season Preview – “They’re Bad,” But How Bad?

It’s that time of the year. The leaves are changing colors, the Jets’ season is hopelessly lost, and gym floors everywhere are echoing with the sound of squeaking feet and whistles that have been missing for way too long. It’s the season of previews, where the optimists shine and everyone still has a chance.

Everyone except for Cornell, at least if you ask assistant coaches around the league.

“They’re bad. Pretty simply put, they’re bad.”

“Cornell is in trouble.”

“[I] just don’t see them winning many more games than last year.”

These are among the flattering remarks anonymous Ivy League assistant coaches dispensed about the Big Red in City of Basketball Love‘s “Coaches’ Thoughts” Ivy season preview. The media wasn’t any more impressed as the Big Red were projected to finish last in the preseason media poll by an overwhelming margin.

I get it. Coming off of a 2-26 season with only one Division I win, it’s hard not to automatically slot Cornell at the bottom of the pack. The climb up from the bottom is never as swift as the fall from the top and the Red haven’t done anything to prove that they are more capable than a season ago.

Read moreCornell Season Preview – “They’re Bad,” But How Bad?

Cornell Roster Preview – 2014-15 Edition

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.

Read moreCornell Roster Preview – 2014-15 Edition

Weekend Recap: Feb. 1-2

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A two-team race has developed pretty quickly in this year”s 14-game tournament, though the path that Harvard has taken to get to the top has been anything but easy.

The start of back-to-back Ivy weekends did not disappoint as we

were treated to some thrilling contests last night. Storylines abound at all levels of the league, so let”s just jump right in.

  • The biggest story of the weekend was Columbia crashing out of the title race after getting swept by the Ps, just like old times. The Lions put forth a valiant effort on national TV against Princeton, but couldn”t convert late and went down 72-66 at Jadwin, falling to 1-3 on the young season. Despite a career night from Maodo Lo (16 pts) and only three team turnovers, the Lions couldn”t stop a hot shooting Tigers squad. Princeton shot 51% from the field and a scorching 73% (8-11) from three. Hummer was just 2-8 from the field, but made his impact in other ways, getting to the stripe and knocking down 12-14, and dishing out seven assists to go with seven rebounds. TJ Bray had another great performance, hitting 6-10 including 3-3 from deep and committing zero turnovers. Brendon Connolly, who has seen his minutes dwindle as of late, knocked down a pretty running hooking shot to put the game away late. Princeton continues its perfect homestand and moves to 3-0. Brown and Yale visit Jadwin next weekend.

Read moreWeekend Recap: Feb. 1-2