November 17, 2011

MEN’S BASKETBALL | Ivy League Preview: ‘Renaissance of League’

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After Princeton junior Doug Davis’ buzzer beating 12-footer found the bottom of the net, the 2010-11 Ivy League champion was finally crowned. The fact that it took literally every last second of the regular season to decide who would make it to the NCAA Tournament just goes to show the strength of the Ancient Eight in recent years.

“We are on an unprecedented run of quality basketball,” said Cornell head coach Bill Courtney. “You’re talking about a renaissance of the Ivy League, where every team in the league is playing well.”

From top to bottom, each team has a strong crop of players, with eight of the league’s Top-10 leading scorers returning this year. With this in mind, the 2011-12 season looks to be another highly competitive one in the Ivies.

BROWN BEARS

2010-11: 11-17, 4-10 (7th)

The Bears’ roster is devoid of seniors this season, with only five juniors on the 14-man squad; however, Ivy League Rookie of the Year Sean McGonagill returns along with leading scorers Tucker Halpern and Matt Sullivan, who totaled 26.8 points per game between the two of them. Head coach Jesse Agel — entering his fourth season with the Bears — will need to help his freshman class get accustomed to Ivy League play right away. Freshman Christian Gore — one of Agel’s recruits at the guard spot — averaged about 16 points and four assists per game his senior year in high school, and will likely find himself seeing time off the bench for the Bears.

COLUMBIA LIONS

2010-11: 15-13, 6-8 (T-5th)

A first-team All-Ivy selection and three-time conference player of the week in 2010-11, senior guard Noruwa Ago scored 27 and 21 points against Harvard and Princeton, respectively, even though his team was unable to come out on top in either game. With the return of Ago and senior guard Brian Barbour, who averaged 13.3 points per game last year, the Lions have a menacing backcourt that should be able to compete with any in the Ivy League. However, in order to make a serious run, the Lions need 6-9 center Mark Cisco to provide quality minutes in the paint. Cisco showed signs of dominance last year, scoring 10 points and grabbing four rebounds against the Crimson’s intimidating backcourt, and he will need to continue that in order for the Lions to have a successful season.

DARTMOUTH GREEN

2010-11: 5-23, 1-13 (8th)

The Green finished its 2010-11 season on an 11-game losing streak, falling by double digit points in seven of those final contests. Fortunately for Dartmouth, the Green returns its Top-3 scorers, including leading scorer R.J. Griffin, who averaged 9.4 points per game last year and scored 15 points in the team’s Nov. 14 season opening loss to Rutgers. The Green may also have a rising star in freshman Jvonte Brooks, who earned Ivy League Co-Rookie of the Week accolades — along with Cornell forward Shonn Miller — for his eight-point performance against Rutgers. Still the Green lacks an explosive player that can consistently score to pull the Green out of the Ancient Eight cellar.

HARVARD

CRIMSON

2010-11: 23-7,

12-2 Ivy (T-1st)

The Crimson may have endured a shocking end to its season in the Ivy League playoff game, but this year’s squad is considered a frontrunner to take the conference title. All six of Harvard’s leading scorers from last season return, including senior forward and co-captain Keith Wright. Wright led the team with 14.8 points per game and was a menace on the glass, grabbing 249 total rebounds. Joining Wright in the frontcourt is 6-7 junior Kyle Casey, who averaged 10.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. Senior co-captain and 3-point specialist Oliver McNally, who shot 44 percent from beyond the arc last season, also returns for his final season with the Crimson. With the ability to work dangerously both in the paint — between Casey and Wright — and from the field — with McNally and sophomore guard Laurent Rivard — head coach Tommy Amaker’s squad is making a serious bid for its first NCAA tournament appearance in 65 years.

PENN QUAKERS

2010-11 : 13-15, 7-7 (4th)

When Oliver McNally’s jump shot with 11 seconds left sealed the double overtime win for the Crimson, the Quakers thought it was only one heartbreaking loss in a long season. Unfortunately, the game turned out to be the first of three straight overtime losses for the Quakers, exemplifying the disappointing and unlucky nature of their season. With three of their leading scorers returning for the 2011-12 campaign, the Quakers may have a chance to turn that luck around. With the return of leading scorer senior guard Zack Rosen — who scored 27 points in the team’s Nov. 14 overtime loss — and senior guard Tyler Bernardini, the Quakers are not lacking in offense. If Penn’s young forwards can hold their own in the paint and on the boards, the Quakers have a good shot at recording their first overall record above .500 season in the past four years.

PRINCETON TIGERS

2010-11: 25-7, 12-2 (T-1st)

After a jumpshot by senior Dan Mavraides tied the game, 55-55, in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year, it looked like the Tigers might upset No. 4 seed Kentucky; however, a floater by freshman Brandon Knight with two seconds left on the clock shattered those hopes. Despite their first round exit from the tournament, the Tigers enjoyed a dominant season, including a last second win in the Ivy League playoff game against Harvard. Guard Doug Davis, who was the hero in that game, returns as a more experienced senior. Davis is joined by junior forward Ian Hummer, who earned second-team All-Ivy honors last year, averaging 13.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Despite the loss of leading scorer and rebounder, Kareem Maddox, the Tigers still pose a significant threat with Davis and Hummer.

YALE BULLDOGS

2010-11: 15-13, 8-6

(3rd)

After finishing 12-19 in 2009-10, the Bulldogs were able to rebuild last year to climb above the .500 mark. The Bulldogs also return a solid crop of players, including first-team All-Ivy selection, Greg Mangano, who averaged 16.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. The 6-10 senior leads the Bulldogs alongside captain Reggie Willhite, who compiled a career-high 9.4 points per game average last year. The Bulldogs pulled off a one-point win over Harvard last year at home, and played Ivy League champion Princeton to two close contests. While the Bulldogs will likely feel the loss of Porter Braswell’s 10.9 points per game from a year ago, head coach James Jones’ team will have a good shot at pulling off a few more upsets this season.

Original Author: Scott Chiusano