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.

Around the League: 10.12.11

A couple interesting mid-week links that you may have missed:

 

Coach Tommy Amaker spoke yesterday at the inaugural Massachusetts College Basketball Media Day at Boston University. (Photo Credit: gocrimson.com)

 

  • “Reggie Willhite also had a unique basketball experience, training with former Duke stars Christian Laettner and Grant Hill…” (yalebulldogs.com)

 

Penn will face Canadian champion Carleton University in exhibition

  • “Based in Canada, Carleton is a member of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference and last year won the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championship for the seventh time in nine years. During the months of August and September, Carleton went 5-4 in the Cross-Border Battle, including wins over Saint Louis, Niagara and UC-Santa Barbara as well as a two-point loss to La Salle.” (pennathletics.com)

 

Amaker, McNally, and Joe Jones discuss college basketball”s opportunity for increased exposure during the NBA lockout

  • “[Amaker]: Although I would love to see the NBA season, given how things are shaping up it could be something that college basketball could benefit from. With how popular and great the Celtics have been, not to have part of their season, maybe it will be an opportunity for college basketball to gain some traction and momentum.” (bostonherald.com)

 

 

Season in Review: Harvard Crimson

Fans celebrated at Lavietes Pavilion when Harvard knocked off Princeton, 79-67, on March 5th, 2011 to capture their first share of an Ivy League crown. (Photo Credit: gocrimson.com)
This is the fourth piece in a series looking back at how each Ivy League squad fared during the 2010-11 season. The Harvard Crimson ended the year at 23-7 (12-2), finishing in a tie for first place and earning an NIT bid.

 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. 2010-11 was Harvard basketball’s most successful season to date and its most heartbreaking. The Crimson won 23 games and earned its first-ever share of an Ivy League title, but, thanks to a Doug Davis leaner, it failed to punch a ticket to the Dance, and, like every other year since the Truman administration, it was on the outside looking in on the Madness.

Still, the final result—an NIT bid—was not an insignificant achievement for a team that began the season with serious question marks. The departure of jack-of-all-trades guard Jeremy Lin left an enormous void across the board in Harvard’s production. Lacking a star of Lin’s stature, the team would need to rely on all of its players to collectively compensate for the loss of the Golden State guard. But before the season even began, that task grew more difficult when reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year Kyle Casey suffered a broken bone in his foot, sidelining the big man for eight weeks and hampering him throughout the season.

Harvard began its schedule with a lackluster road performance against a very strong George Mason team, which ran away from the Crimson in the second half en route to a 66-53 victory. Two weeks later, Harvard labored throughout a three-point win over a lowly Bryant squad that went 1-29 the year before. But the Crimson hit its stride a few days later when it defended Lavietes, 82-66, against a Colorado team that featured future first-round pick Alec Burks. Although Harvard coughed up a 12-point lead in a loss to Michigan and got run off the court by eventual national champions UConn, the Crimson picked up a win over another BCS school at the end of non-conference play with its third straight victory over Boston College, 78-69.

By the time January rolled around, it was clear that the Crimson was an improved team over last year and, without juggernaut Cornell in the picture, it was a frontrunner for the league title. Part of its success came from expected sources: the team got superb guard play out of sophomore Brandyn Curry and junior Oliver McNally, reliable wing scoring from sophomore Christian Webster, and versatility mixed with athleticism from Casey. Perhaps unexpected, though, was the immediate impact of Canadian sharpshooter Laurent Rivard, who posed a serious threat from deep, and, most importantly, the development of forward Keith Wright.

Wright changed from a big body with bad hands into a beast on the block. His ability to finish and willingness to pass made him virtually indefensible, for beefy BCS bigs and brainy Ivy defenders alike. He carried the Crimson with 12 double-doubles on the season, and he finished the year with a stat line of 14.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. Wright’s performance was good enough to earn him Ivy League Most Valuable Player (though not without controversy, as evinced by Greg Mangano’s Twitter outburst), just the second Harvard player to win that distinction.

The Crimson’s hot start to league play did little to temper the optimism surrounding the team, as Harvard breezed through its first four conference games before facing Princeton at Jadwin. The Tigers outplayed the Crimson, especially in the final 30 minutes, earning a 65-61 victory and putting an end to Harvard’s eight-game winning streak. But the Crimson had little time to wallow in the loss. The next night they played an epic double overtime game against Penn. After giving up a 15-point lead, Harvard was tied with Penn and had a chance to win at the buzzer, but an apparent foul that would have sent Curry to the line with no time left was waved off, and the game was sent into overtime. In the first extra period, the Crimson had a two-point lead in the waning moments. Penn guard Zack Rosen drove into the lane, hung in the air, and connected on a shot that video later indicated came after the buzzer. The referees didn’t have the luxury of instant replay though, and we were heading into another overtime. A McNally baseline drive gave Harvard a one-point lead in the final seconds, and this time Casey blocked Rosen’s last-ditch attempt. After the game, Wright correctly observed, “We beat that team three times.”

The rest of the season had its share of memorable games: a 3-point barnburner versus Yale, 24- and 15-point comebacks against Brown. A Princeton loss to the Bears meant the Crimson controlled its own destiny for the final two weeks, but Harvard squandered the opportunity by faltering in a 70-69 loss to the Bulldogs at John J. Lee Amphitheater. The defeat set the stage for a showdown with league-leader Princeton on the final Saturday of the regular season. The atmosphere in Lavietes was electric. After a back-and-forth first half, the Crimson began to control the game in the second frame. Casey, whose baseline drive and jam ignited the second-half run, led his team in scoring with 24 points, all the while hobbling on a broken foot that would require surgery after the season. When the final seconds ticked off the 79-67 victory, Harvard students rushed the court to celebrate at least a share of the school’s first-ever Ivy League title.

Of course, the story of the 2010-11 Harvard basketball team has a bitter ending. Princeton earned a one-game playoff after beating Penn, and the two teams squared off at JJLA for a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. You already know what happened, so spare me the misery of reliving it. 2.8 seconds.

There was some noise about the Crimson receiving an at-large bid to the Tourney, but, to be honest, the team didn’t deserve it. They had their chance. The NIT was a nice consolation, but, given the emotional defeat just days earlier, no one expected Harvard to do much damage. Indeed, Oklahoma St. throttled the Crimson, 71-54, ending what was the greatest season in school history.

Thankfully for the Harvard faithful, the future is bright. The team returns all of its players as well as head coach Tommy Amaker, and it will benefit from another much-heralded freshman class. If it plays its cards right, come this March, Cambridge might just party like its 1946.

Ivy League POY Keith Wright among Wooden Award Preseason Top 50

 

Harvard's Keith Wright was honored as a Wooden Award Preseason nominee. (Photo Credit: gocrimson.com)

Reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Keith Wright added another honor to his resume on Monday when he was included on the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list. The Wooden Award is given to the nation’s most outstanding basketball player who also maintains a minimum 2.0 GPA and demonstrates strength of character both on and off the court.

Wright acknowledged the recognition in a tweet earlier today, “Truly honored & blessed to be on such a prestigious list w/ so many talented players. Wouldn’t be there without my teammates & the man above.” He was the only Ivy League player to make the list.

Looking ahead, the Preseason Top 50 list will be whittled down to 20 student-athletes by college basketball media members around midseason. Those voters will mark their ballots, and choose the Top 10, who will then be named to the Wooden All-American team during the weekend of the Elite Eight in March.

Over-Unders on Season Projections

I recently read a great statistical preview of the upcoming season on . Definitely check it out for an interesting read. Essentially, using some Pomeroy-level formulas, which I am going to take at face-value, the mastermind behind T14GT generated some very intriguing numbers and projections based on player-level and team-level statistics from past seasons. The resulting formulas generated the following projected win totals for 2011-2012:

“1. Harvard – 12.0
2. Yale – 8.5
3. Princeton – 8.4
4. Penn – 6.8
5. Cornell – 6.3
6. Columbia – 5.6
7. Brown – 5.5
8. Dartmouth – 2.8″

My initial reaction to these standings is that the order seems to generally fall in line with how I see this season proceeding. Nevertheless, I wanted to chime in with some quick thoughts on the projections and where I see things playing out differently since it”s tough to quantify the impact that a great recruiting class or a departing coach might have on a team. I”ll take the above projections to be each team”s season win total over/under and go team-by-team with my picks.

Harvard- 12.0 wins (IHO says: right on) Harvard is everyone”s runaway favorite and rightfully so, given that they return everyone and add the league”s best recruiting class. Not much to argue with there.

Yale- 8.5 wins (IHO says: over) This Yale team is set to turn some heads this year. I was excited to see the projections backing up what I”ve seen on the court; this team may be the only squad capable of taking down the Crimson this year. We saw last year how evenly these teams matched up and how seriously they take the rivalry in two classic battles. Both home teams narrowly prevailed in “10-“11 and we can expect the same type of thrilling contests this year, as Yale has added some serious height in their incoming freshman class (6″11″ Will Childs-Klein, 6″7″ Matt Townsend, and 6″ 7” name-of-the-year candidate Armani Cotton) to back up Mangano and Kreisberg. This year though, if we”re lucky, the winner of The (Basketball) Game may also determine the league champion.

Princeton- 8.4 wins (IHO says: under) Princeton clocks in with between 8 and 9 wins in this projection, good for third in the league, I don”t see them putting it all together that quickly. Losing Mavraides and Maddox is a big blow for the defending champs, but losing a head coach is devastating. It takes more than a summer for a head coach to lay down his system, and I just can”t see the Tigers responding this quickly with a top 2 or 3 finish. Not saying it”s impossible, but in a league that relies heavily on good coaching and scheming, it would be a remarkable accomplishment for Princeton to compete for a league title again this year. I have them landing in the middle of the pack with a .500 record.

Penn- 6.8 wins (IHO says: over) Penn is a team with a void to fill with the departure of Jack Eggleston. Despite that, the trio of Miles Cartwright, Zack Rosen, and Tyler Bernardini will see how far they can lead this year”s Penn team. Those three players combine to make up as good a backcourt as you”ll find in the Ivy League this year, but they can”t do it alone. It”ll be very interesting to see how quickly Penn can bring their front-court up to speed. The Quakers might be able to get away with their lack of depth on the offensive end, but established big men like Mangano and Wright are surely licking their chops looking at the freshmen and bench players they”ll be matched up with against Penn. Still, IHO thinks the terrific trio of guards will be enough to take down the bottom half of the league and steal a game or two against the big boys.

Cornell-  6.3 wins (IHO says: under)  Chris Wroblewski put the Big Red on his back last year, shooting the lights out and leading Cornell to a respectable finish in the middle of the pack, one year removed from the team”s legendary Sweet 16 run. Consider that Cornell had an unbelievable 13 players make at least one start last year, and you”ll realize that this is a team that is still figuring out its identity. We know they can shoot the ball, but there are too many question marks to think they can contend with the top echelon this year. IHO wants to see how the Big Red freshman class fares in non-conference play before committing to a number, but for now, we think Cornell has a lot to prove.

Columbia- 5.6 wins (IHO says: under) As is often the case in this league, the lack of an effective big man presence inside will leave Columbia relying on their guard play. Last year, Noruwa Agho proved himself as one of the league”s most explosive scorers–though T14GT recently put forth a compelling argument that he may be the . Brian Barbour”s quickness on the ball will be helpful and his 2:1 assist to turnover ratio is impressive, but it won”t result in many points unless the Lions have added a few knockdown shooters. Last year, Columbia finished dead last in 2-point shooting and 3-point shooting. Besides that, over 72% of their shots last year came from Agho, Ampim and Brian Grimes. Agho found a way to score–albeit by putting up a lot of shots, but Ampim and Grimes clocked in far below average on KenPom”s Offensive Efficiency index. It”s simple: the Lions will need to find a way to get better shots and knock them down if they want to improve upon last year”s finish.

Brown- 5.5 wins (IHO says: over) It might surprise some people, but there”s a lot to be excited about in Providence. The Bears return Rookie of the Year point guard Sean McGonagill who will most likely start alongside transfer Steve Albrecht, who sat out last year after an impressive freshman campaign at Toledo. The Bears also return Tucker Halpern on the wing who showed signs of brilliance last year, including a 29 point performance in a near-upset of Harvard last year. Dockery Walker returns from a great freshman campaign in which he proved he was capable of being a much-needed inside presence, an energy guy, and a monster on the defensive boards. With the addition of a solid freshman class, including Brazilian center 6″9″ Rafael Maia, the Bears have the ability to make the jump into the top half for the first time since the days of Mullery.

Dartmouth- 2.8 wins (IHO says: under) The Big Green have only won two games in the past two years, and they didn”t have a single player average double figures in points per game. That being said, they return Jabari Trotter who shot the ball over 40% from deep last season, as well as R.J. Griffin who put up 20 against Harvard last season. The Big Green will be counting on a solid class of freshmen to step in and contribute immediately if they want to be competitive in the league this year. Their top priority this offseason should be holding onto the ball–Dartmouth doesn”t return a single player with an assist-to-turnover ratio over 1.