Brown Season Preview – Get Out and Run

Coach Mike Martin enters his fourth season at the helm for the Bears, looking to improve on last season’s 4-10 Ivy record. With Martin’s early recruits coming of age and the addition of some under-the-radar talent, there’s reason for optimism in Providence.

First and foremost, this is Cedric Kuakumensah’s team, as the imposing senior center and captain looks to build upon the greatest defensive reputation in the league. Outside of Kuakumensah, the Bears will look to replace the contributions of reliable big man, Rafael Maia, and they’ll look to a young cast to do so. Watch out for Travis Fuller, the 6-9 freshman from Encinitas, Calif.  The early returns are positive on Fuller, as the skilled big man looks to fill Maia’s void in the frontcourt.

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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.

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Season Preview: Cornell Big Red

This year, Cornell will look to improve upon last year”s 5th place finish. The Big Red open their season at home against Western Michigan on November 10th.

In 2011-12: 12-16, 7-7, 5th place

A Look Back

Two steps removed from the historic Sweet 16 team and the first season that Bill Courtney had his own recruits to work with, the 2011-2012 campaign served as a building block for Courtney and his program. A 5-9 non-conference record coupled with 7-7 in Ivy play defines

the word mediocrity, but did so in a way that provides promise for the future. An overtime win over future NCAA Tournament darlings, Lehigh, looks a lot better now than it did in early December. Near misses on the road against BCS foes, Illinois, Penn State, and Maryland showed the potential this team had. Road woes and inconsistent play kept the Red out of the league’s top half, but a win over Princeton and a thrilling overtime defeat of Yale showed what this team is at its best. Returning a decorated freshman class, including the league’s rookie of the year will allow Cornell to keep building. What won’t be easy to replicate is the production and leadership of Cornell’s starting backcourt. Drew Ferry led the league in three point shooting and Chris Wroblewski departs East Hill as the school’s all-time assist leader.

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Season Preview: Yale Bulldogs

A win-probability chart of Yale”s most exhilarating victory last season, a 20-point comeback at Columbia. Yale will need more of that magic this year after losing Greg Mangano and Reggie Willhite to graduation. (Chart from KenPom.com)

In 2011-12: 19-10, 9-5 in “11-12, 4th place.

A Look Back: The 2011-12 season was a year that Yale had been building towards for quite a while with all-league big man Greg Mangano becoming a senior and a strong supporting cast having formed around him. A successful run through the non-conference slate and the emergence of Reggie Willhite as a team leader and all-around stat stuffer made this Bulldogs team a trendy dark horse pick entering the Ivy season. A comprehensive dismantling of a good Vermont team and a victory at Rhode Island had Eli fans dreaming of dancing for the first time in Coach Jones” tenure. The Bulldogs got safely through the home-and-home with Brown unscathed, setting up perhaps the most highly anticipated hardwood version of “The Game” in decades. A raucous atmosphere awaited the Crimson favorites as they entered John J. Lee on January 27th, 2012. Unfortunately for Yale fans, Harvard put forth an utterly dominating defensive performance, holding Yale to 35 points and coasting to a 65-35 thumping. The Bulldogs were not yet ready for primetime it seemed.

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Season Preview: Columbia Lions

The Lions will only go as far as All-Ivy guard Noruwa Agho can carry them. (Photo credit: gocolumbialions.com)

The good news for Columbia is that they return a proven backcourt duo in Noruwa Agho and Brian Barbour. The pair made for a dangerous tag-team last year, dominating foes that allowed them to get to the rim and take high percentage shots. The Lions lived and died by Agho and Barbour, as the pair accounted for 47.9 percent of Columbia’s points during the conference season. Despite this backcourt dependence, Columbia could very easily have finished last year in the top half if they had held on to late-season leads at Princeton and against Yale. In games where the Lions weren’t outmanned in the frontcourt, they performed extremely well, pulling out sweeps of Cornell and Dartmouth, and splits with Penn and Brown. It all starts with the two guards though, and there’s no reason to think that this season will be very different.

In Agho, Columbia has a true scorer. As much as some critics disparaged his efficiency numbers last year (and the All-Ivy First Team selection certainly did take his fair share of shots), Agho shouldered a bigger load than any other player in the league because the Lions lacked another consistent scoring option on the wing or down low. With little help surrounding him, Agho coasted to the conference scoring title. Meanwhile, Barbour quickly emerged as one of the league’s best point guards, posting the conference’s second-best offensive efficiency numbers behind Harvard’s Oliver McNally. First-year coach Kyle Smith leaned heavily on his young point guard, as Barbour played the third-greatest share of minutes for his team of anyone in the Ivy at 86.9 percent (Agho was fourth at 85.5 percent).

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Around the League: 11.3.11

Check out these Ivy basketball links you may have missed from the past few days:

The statistical wizard, Mike James, released his preseason player insights over at one of our favorite blogs, . The entire article is certainly worth reading as James goes into detail explaining his picks for an All-Freshman Team, All-Ivy candidates, and finally All-Ivy First and Second Teams. One pick against the grain was his prediction that Keith Wright drops to the All-Ivy Second Team from his POY perch:

“Surprise, surprise.

This is how stacked the Ivy League is at the post position. It”s not really a commentary on Wright, but more a fact of the circumstances. The Crimson”s 6″8 post won”t be required to eat up as many possessions this year with support from a healthy Kyle Casey and a presumably strong bench, which will likely hurt the counting stats that voters so often cite.

Wright”s improvement from his sophomore to junior year was monumental. While some of that was merely being healthy all year, his passing also improved and he became a more consistent force on the boards. The biggest jump, however, came in free throw rate. Wright”s most successful split prior to last season was his freshman year Ivy campaign, when he posted a FT Rate of 41.3% and his only adjusted offensive rating over 100 (102). He spent all of last season in the 40s and the results were clear – all three splits showed offensive ratings in the 110s.

Maintaining that rate will be the key to Wright matching last year”s breakout performance.”

Many sources, including NERR”s Adam Finkelstein writing for ESPN Insider”s College Basketball Recruiting blog, reported that Yale received a commitment from sought-after 6″7″ forward Justin Sears in the Class of 2012. Sears sounds like an athletic wing scorer, just what Yale could use. Finkelstein”s got the details:

“Yale scored an equally important pledge from  (Plainfield, N.J./Plainfield), a highly athletic 6-7 forward who took an official visit to Stanford earlier this month.

Sears was widely recruited by the vast majority of the Ivy League throughout the summer and saw his recruitment continue to escalate as he proved himself to be a dynamic two-way player. At Yale, his biggest impact may be on the defensive end of the floor where he’ll not only be able to defend multiple positions but also be able to serve as a dominant weak-side shot-blocker. “

Over at the DP Buzz Blog, Jack Eggleston “11 weighs in from the German ProB League, giving us a little insight on how he deals with losing.

“People often say that losing builds character, that you learn more from a loss than a win. I never bought into that idea. I”m more of the George Brett school of thought when he says, “If a tie is like kissing your sister, losing is like kissing your grandmother with her teeth out.” Whether it”s a game against Princeton in the Palestra or a “friendly” game of Blokus with my roommates, losing has never sat too well with me.”

And to wrap up, we point you back to the Ivy League”s most entertaining player blog, Mid Major Chillin. This week, the crew posts about their marketing efforts with their website (business cards), as well as an environmental campaign in which the players participated that produced the following iconic image:

Yale's frontcourt is serious about the environment. (Photo Credit: midmajorchillin.blogspot.com)

 

Season Preview: Brown Bears

Co-captain Tucker Halpern will try to instill some consistency to a talented team that struggled to put together back-to-back forty minute efforts last season. (Photo Credit: brownbears.com)

The Brown basketball team showed last year that it was talented enough to beat anyone in the league when it knocked off tournament-bound Princeton and held double-digit leads twice against co-champion Harvard. Harnessing that talent and executing a game plan for a full forty minutes is the next step for a young Bears squad that looks to leap into the top half this season. Brown is a dangerous offensive team with proven weapons in the backcourt and on the wing, not to mention the help arriving on the interior. Last year though, the Bears struggled on the defensive end, ranking last in the league in adjusted defensive efficiency, giving up 1.09 points per possession (adjusted for opponent). On several occasions, the Bears failed to generate stops in key situations, including a 46-point half surrendered to Harvard in a head-scratching game at Lavietes. This season, the Bears will look to buckle down and get serious about defending their bucket.

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Season Preview: Yale Bulldogs

Junior Ivy League POY candidate Greg Mangano will lead the Yale Bulldogs on their championship quest this season. (Photo Credit: ivyleaguesports.com)
The 2011-2012 Bulldog squad comes into this season with significant hype and expectations. Yale returns arguably the league’s best player in Greg Mangano (feel free to check out his Twitter if you want to hear his opinion on the subject) and is losing only one major contributor from last year’s squad in point guard Porter Braswell. In fact, the preseason optimism in the Elm City feels quite similar to four years ago, when the team found itself in a somewhat similar place as it does now.The 2007-2008 Yale squad was coming off a surprising 10-4 season the year before, in which junior point guard Eric Flato had a breakout (though not quite 2011 Mangano-esque) season, as that Bulldog team rode its junior class and underclassmen to 10 league wins, including a home upset win against Penn, which resulted in an amorphous mob of Ivy title dreaming fans at center court after the final buzzer. Things were looking up for Yale, and with Princeton down and Penn losing Zoller and Jaaber, there was an opening for a program that was not traditionally a powerhouse to step up and take control of the conference. That program was… Cornell. I won’t go too much further into the 2007-2008 season, as that isn’t the point of this piece, and moreover, it wasn’t a particularly exciting season for Yale and its supporters. Let’s just say the preseason buzz proved a bit unwarranted.

Anyway, this Yale team shares some similarities with the squad that returned in the fall of ‘07: a couple of players who had breakout seasons the year before (‘11: Mangano, Morgan; ‘07: Flato, Pinick), a split with the previous season’s champion or co-champion, and high expectations. It seems, though, that the resemblance ends there and history may not repeat itself.

Here is a close look at who the Bulldogs are going to put on the hardwood this year.

Backcourt:

When the Bulldogs traveled to Chestnut Hill to face BC in the third game of last season, junior guard Austin Morgan quickly became a household name (at least among the households of people who read this blog… Or households of BC fans maybe). It was quite a performance: Morgan dropped 25 with six threes and the Bulldogs led the game from start to finish. Austin went on to average 12.6 points per game last year and provided backcourt stability and balance for the team. This balance was critical to combat opponents who started to game plan against Yale’s interior strengths. This year, Morgan looks to play a major role for the Bulldogs once again.

Reggie Willhite, the senior captain this year, will be an interesting player to watch. Reggie played limited minutes as a freshman and started just four games the next year, but began to develop a penchant for getting steals, nabbing 27 during his sophomore campaign. When he worked his way into the starting lineup this past year, he continued his work on the defensive end, finishing third in the league in steals with 40, while also shooting just under 45 percent from the field on the year, good for top ten in the Ivy League. Willhite made the leap last year, starting all 28 games for the Bulldogs. This Yale team doesn’t need to replace significant scorers, and the Bulldogs will look to Reggie to average around ten points per game once again, while continuing to be a force on the defensive end.

One player who will play a large role in whether this team can challenge for the league title will be junior Mike Grace. Grace saw significant playing time as a freshman, finishing third on the team in assists, but was hampered by an injury through much of last year. He could step into the role of starting guard with the graduation of Porter Braswell, and form a strong backcourt with Willhite and Morgan. Given this team’s strength in the frontcourt, some consistency at the guard positions could bump this team from slightly above average to legitimate challenger for a league title.

Junior Sam Martin, who almost never saw the floor his freshman year, saw increased action last year, as he developed into a three point shooter. Martin shot the ball very well and earned a lot of praise for his play on the team’s China trip this summer, and Coach Jones has been vocal about how high he is on Martin’s shooting ability.

One guy I am interested in watching is sophomore Isaiah Salafia. He struggled a bit from the field in his limited minutes last year, but shined in helping Yale pull out a hard-fought overtime victory over Dartmouth. I’ll pick Isaiah as a sleeper contributor for the Bulldogs this year.

Frontcourt:

Greg Mangano has certainly been the talk of the town in New Haven, as the New Haven area native put forth a monster junior year, making him a serious candidate for Ivy League POY last year, averaging a double-double and also providing three blocks per game on the defensive end, highlighted by a seven block effort against Brown in an early conference victory. After declaring for the NBA Draft then retracting his name and playing with some of college basketball’s finest players on the World University Games team, Mangano comes in as the Lindy’s pick for this year’s Player of the Year, anchoring a Bulldog frontcourt that matches up favorably with every other frontcourt in the conference.

Mangano and sophomore Jeremiah Kreisberg give this team a lethal 1-2 punch down low. The 6-10 Kreisberg was the rookie of the year for the Bulldogs, shooting 55.6 percent from the field last year while averaging 7.2 points and 4.5 board while starting every Ivy League game. Kreisberg played on Israel’s U-20 team over the summer, getting some valuable international experience in the off-season. If these two can stay healthy and out of foul trouble, this team features two dominant players down low and at the high post who will be a very difficult matchup for other Ivy squads.

Aside from these two, the Bulldogs will likely rely on a pair of impressive freshman. One Bulldog who will be fun to watch is 6-6 forward Brandon Sherrod, who was Connecticut’s high school Player of the Year last year, sporting six triple doubles and averaging 16 points, 14.5 rebounds and 6 blocks. It could be fun to see if Coach Jones throws the three of these guys out on the floor together to see how high the blocked shot tally will go. Meanwhile, 6-11 freshman center Will Childs-Klein will also likely be called on to step in and provide some key minutes when the Bulldogs have their top big men on the bench. If the Bulldogs are in foul trouble down the stretch in key games this year, these two frosh may go a long way in determining whether this is a middle of the conference team or a legitimate title contender. In a league with effectively no margin for error, every league game will prove vital, and it’s almost a certainty the Bulldogs will turn to these two youngsters late in a close game during the Ivy campaign.

Yale’s depth is one of their greatest strengths this season. There are other names I haven’t yet mentioned here who could very well end up playing big roles for the ‘Dogs. Rhett Anderson stepped in early last year and started the team’s first seven games, and we could see the veteran big man play some important minutes off the bench. Freshman name of the year candidate Armani Cotton averaged over 20 points per game in high school. As a 6-7 guard, his length could be a disastrous matchup for some teams. Sophomore Greg Kelley will finally see the floor after missing his freshman year to an injury and if his game is half as good as his blog (midmajorchillin.blogspot.com), the Bulldogs will be extremely deep at every position except point guard.

The backcourt and perimeter play will be key for the Bulldogs. Will they be able to knock down the big shots when teams double down on Mangano? Can they keep up with a team that tries to push the pace? Will they be able to avoid the pitfalls of the 14-game tournament without dropping a game to team in the bottom half like they did to sharpshooting Cornell (and almost at home to Dartmouth)?

Final Thoughts:

This team is capable of winning the title. If Michael Grace (or someone else) develops into a consistent point guard, Mangano and Kreisberg stay healthy and one or more of the freshman bigs can step in and play right away, this team will be a nightmare matchup for most Ivy teams. It’ll be interesting to see the combinations that Coach Jones puts together when he wants to, for example, “go big”, and the pace that he employs (you have to assume he’s going to want to slow it down). The non-conference schedule will help us answer many of these questions.

Will the Bulldogs win the league and go to the tournament for the first time since that tough 1962 overtime loss to Billy Packer and the Demon Deacons? It’s certainly going to be a tough task for anyone to top Harvard. But if anyone is going to do it, it’ll be the boys from New Haven.