Season Preview: Dartmouth Big Green

A young Dartmouth squad showed flashes of progress last year. They’ll try to take another step forward by moving out of the basement this season.

In 2011-12: 5-25, 1-13, 8th place

A Look Back: Dartmouth has been treading water for a while now, and the last three seasons have been eerily similar: a few non-conference wins, an Ivy home win towards the middle of the season and a whole lot of defeats. The Big Green has won just five games in each of the past three seasons and hasn’t won an Ivy road contest since February 21, 2009, when Ivy Player of the Year Alex Barnett led Dartmouth to victory at Princeton.

Dartmouth opened 1-2 before heading across the continent for the Great Alaska Shootout, falling to San Francisco and

Central Michigan but nabbing a win over DII Alaska-Anchorage. Wins against Elon and Longwood were the only other highlights from a losing non-conference season that mostly featured games against local competition – a 65-47 loss at Notre Dame on Dec. 10 being the notable exception.

The Ivy opener at No. 22 Harvard served as a microcosm of Dartmouth’s last few years in the Ancient Eight, as the Big Green struggled to put together two good halves of basketball. After Dartmouth led early in the second half, Harvard closed out the game on a 33-11 run to turn a close game into a comfortable victory. Dartmouth did grab one league win, against Brown on Feb. 18 and played second-place Penn close both times, losing by a combined six points. The first one was particularly tough to swallow, as the Big Green was denied at the Palestra by a Zack Rosen three-pointer with three seconds to play.

Though the eventual outcome was the same last season, there were a few bright spots that will give Big Green fans reason for optimism this year. In his first season, in 2010-11, head coach Paul Cormier often talked about how he would look to his first recruiting class to start rebuilding the program, and once they arrived in Hanover last fall, Cormier was true to his word, playing his freshmen early and often. Forward Jvonte Brooks, swingman John Golden and forward Gabas Maldunas ranked 1-2-3 on the team in minutes last season as freshmen, and they figure to

form the core of an extremely young team that features just one junior and one senior. All three flashed potential over the course of the season, combining for 10 Ivy Rookie of the Week awards, but expectations will be higher this year: instead of just getting their feet wet, Cormier will be expecting the trio to start winning games.

Players to watch: Jvonte Brooks, Sophomore – Brooks led Dartmouth with 9.4 points per game last year and also helped out with rebounding duties, snagging 6.6 per game. Though Brooks is a talented player, he was asked to do much more than a typical freshman, leading the team in minutes while also being asked to be one of the team’s main playmakers. Brooks is particularly adept at getting to the line (he had the top FT Rate in the nation), and he’s not too shabby once he’s there (79% on 154 FTAs last year).

Gabas Maldunas, Sophomore – A 6’9”, 225-lb forward from Lithuania, Maldunas helped address a size problem that has been a thorn in the Big Green’s side for some time. He ranked fifth in the Ivy League in rebounding last year, hauling in 7.2 per game.

John Golden, Sophomore – Golden is the Big Green’s top returning three-point shooter, nailing 38% of his attempts last season. His 7.3 points per game ranked fourth on the team in 2011-12.

Alex Mitola, Freshman – A combo guard, Mitola played last year at Gill St. Bernard’s, where he led all New Jersey players by making 119 three-pointers (at a 44% rate). The problem with Mitola, and one shared by the Big Green’s other top freshman guard, Malik Gill: size. Mitola stands just 5’11” and weighs just 165 lbs; Gill is heavier at 185 lbs, but is just 5’9”.

Connor Boehm, Freshman – Boehm was named honorable mention all-state in Illinois the last two years and averaged 20 and 10 at the forward position last season. He presents multiple options for the Big Green on offense, as he can both post up and shoot the three.

Key Non-Conference Games: November 10 vs. Maine; November 27 at Bucknell; December 12 at Vermont; December 15 at Arizona State; December 31 at Boston College.

Prediction: Cormier knew he was taking on a massive rebuilding job when he signed on as coach two years ago, and with two classes of his recruits now in Hanover, he can start to shape the program in his own image. Still, this is one of the youngest teams in the country, and the Big Green almost certainly needs another year to develop before they can think of contending. That doesn’t mean that the season is without hope, however, as there are plenty of tangible goals out there, such as avoiding a fourth consecutive last-place finish and winning an Ivy road game for the first time since 2009. If Dartmouth can accomplish those things and show demonstrable progress after three years of stalling, then the winter in Hanover may not seem so cold.

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