November 15, 2012

2012 M. B-BALL | Ivy Preview: Tigers Lead the Pack

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Although it looked like Harvard was a runaway favorite for the Ivy League championship last year, Penn surprised many Ancient Eight fans by coming within one game of forcing a tiebreaker to decide who would wear the crown. The Crimson may have escaped with an NCAA tournament bid, but the magic of a Top-25 ranking and first bid in almost 70 years evaporated with a first round exit. This year, the Ivy League — with the Crimson’s roster rocked by a cheating scandal at the start of the academic year — looks to be wide open and full of surprises once again as the teams head into the season.

Brown Bears

2011: 7-3, 4-3 Ivy

The Bears finished second to last in the conference and last in scoring defense, allowing just under 70 points per game to Ivy opponents last season. Nevertheless, Brown returns its top two scorers in junior guard Sean McGonagill and senior guard Stephen Albrecht. The Bears’ lineup is guard heavy, though, with only one player on the roster — sophomore center Rafael Maia — taller than 6-8. Maia did not play a single game as a freshman, and will have to become accustomed to being a big man on the collegiate level very quickly in order to compete with the frontcourts of teams like Princeton and Cornell.

Columbia Lions

2011: 1-9, 1-6 Ivy

Though the Lions struggled with only four wins in the conference last year, the squad returns all three of its top scorers in senior guard Brian Barbour, junior guard Meiko Lyles and senior center Mark Cisco. The trio combined for 36 points per game last season, with Barbour leading the attack with 15.5 points. Cisco was fifth in the league in rebounding with 7.2 per game. The Lions are the only team in the Ancient Eight to return this much offense. Combine this with the fact that the team was second in the league in scoring defense — only allowing an average of 62.5 points per game — the Lions have an opportunity to quietly climb up the ranks of the Ivy League this season.

Dart­mouth Big Green

2011: 5-5, 4-3 Ivy

Dartmouth had a dismal 2011-12 campaign, finishing in the cellar of the league with just one conference win. The sole bright spot for the Green was the play of freshman Jvonte Brooks, who led the squad in scoring with 9.4 points per game. He was a four-time recipient of the Ivy League Rookie-of-the-week and was the team’s MVP. Freshman guard Alex Mitola has also shown some promise in early on this season, scoring 17 points in a loss to in-state rival UNH this week. Brooks and Mitola will need to provide a significant chunk of the Green’s offense if the team wants to improve at all this season, and relying on two underclassmen could be the squad’s downfall.

Harvard Crimson

2011: 9-1, 7-0 Ivy

Caught up in a school wide cheating scandal, the Crimson lost its co-captains and leading scorers in Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey coming into this season. After being implicated in the scandal, both players withdrew from the school in order to retain eligibility to play one more year of college basketball. Casey and Curry combined for 19 points per game last season, and Curry led the team with 4.9 assists. This shock comes side-by-side with the loss of the Crimson’s formidable big man, Keith Wright and craft point guard Oliver McNally to graduation. Wright and McNally tore up their Ivy competition in their senior campaign, combining for an average of 18 points.  Wright was also named to the All-Ivy first team and ranks first in school history and eleventh in Ivy League history in blocks with 149 in his career. After suffering these losses, in order to repeat as Ivy champions, the Crimson will need production out of junior guard Laurent Rivard and sophomore guard Wesley Saunders, who were both important role players for the squad last year.

Penn Quakers

2011: 5-5, 4-3 Ivy

The Ivy runner-ups from last season have a lot of offense to make up for if they want to compete at the top of the conference again. The Quakers lost top two scorers in Zack Rosen and Tyler Bernadini. Rosen — an explosive offensive player who averaged 18.2 points per game — finished the season as the Ivy League’s leading scorer. Bernadini was not far behind at seventh in the league with 12.2 points per game. The Quakers do have the return of junior guard Miles Cartwright, who chipped in with 10.8 points per game last year. With a roster devoid of seniors, Cartwright will have to be a leader both on the floor and in the locker room, if the Quakers are to make some noise in the league.

Princeton Tigers

2011: 1-9, 1-6 Ivy

The most decorated Ivy League basketball team, with 26 Ivy titles and 24 tournament appearances are the Tigers, who have the good fortune of returning the league’s third leading scorer and fourth leading rebounder from last season — senior forward Ian Hummer. Hummer averaged 16.1 points and 7.3 boards per game, and remains one of the league’s top big men. The Tigers have suffered the loss of guard Doug Davis, though, who graduated as the second-leading scorer in program history. Hummer is joined by junior guard T.J. Bray — who is averaging 5.5 assists so far this season — and 6-11 center Brendan Connolly, the Tigers have the length and speed to return to the top of the conference this season.

Yale Bulldogs

2011: 5-5, 4-3 Ivy

The Bulldogs had a solid 2011-12 campaign with nine wins and a fourth place finish in the Ivy League. However, the squad also said goodbye to its top two scorers in Greg Mangano and Reggie Whillite. Mangano — a lanky 6-10 center — was second in the league in scoring with 18.2 points per game and first in rebounding with 9.7 boards. Senior guards Michael Grace and Austin Morgan — who combined for 17 points last year — will have to use quickness to generate offense without the presence of Mangano as a go-to option in the paint.

Original Author: Scott Chiusano