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College Basketball Preview - Ivy League

11:36 AM, Oct 29, 2012   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -

OUTLOOK: Last season, the Ivy League was split into two distinct tiers, with four teams winning 19 or more games and four teams winning 15 or fewer, but with some of the league's best players from 2011-12 graduated, the balance of power could be up for grabs.

Harvard had a spectacular season, spending part of the year ranked in the Top-25 en route to earning it's first-ever outright Ivy League title, and although it experienced a large turnover in the offseason, it expects to be in the championship hunt once again. Penn finished just one game behind the Crimson for the league crown, but the Quakers too may have lost too many pieces to earn a berth in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Of the top teams from a year ago, Princeton (20-12) appears to be in the best shape as the Tigers return four starters, including arguably the league's best player in Ian Hummer.

The middle of the pack consists of a pair of overachievers from last season in Yale (19-10) and Columbia (15-15), and an underachiever in Cornell (12-16). The Bulldogs rode 6-10 forward Greg Mangano to their best season in a decade, but with him now gone it's hard to imagine an improved campaign. Columbia seems likely to take the leap into the elite as the Lions return all five starters from a year ago.

Dartmouth was very young last season, and finished with only five wins. With a year of schooling under their belts, the youngsters for the Big Green could be poised for noticeable improvement.

Brown has some playmaking potential at the guard position, but it did not help much last year as the team posted just eight wins. If the promise of Dartmouth's young players prevail, the Bears could be bringing up the rear of the league standings.

CONFERENCE CHAMPION: Princeton

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Princeton, 2. Harvard, 3. Penn, 4. Columbia, 5. Dartmouth, 6. Yale, 7. Cornell, 8 Brown

TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS:

PRINCETON: Although at 10-4 in league play the Tigers finished two games behind first-place Harvard, they still had a successful season in 2011-12, winning 20 games for the third consecutive year. Mitch Henderson's squad seems poised to accomplish that feat once again thanks to the return of one of the league's most dynamic players in Ian Hummer. The 6-7 senior filled up the stat sheet last year, ranking in the top-10 in the league in scoring (16.1 ppg), rebounding (7.3 rpg), field goal percentage (.467), assists (3.2 apg), steals (1.4 spg) and blocks (1.2 bpg). Playing alongside Hummer would make any player better, and the fact that Princeton returns three other starters will mean a lot in terms of on-court chemistry. The offense will once again run through point guard T.J. Bray (7.2 ppg, 3.7 apg), while Mack Darrow (7.0 ppg) and Brendan Connolly (5.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg) bring valuable experience to the front court. The team only has three freshmen on the roster, but 7-1 center Edo Lawrence has the potential to make an impact right away.

HARVARD: The Crimson are coming off their best season in program history with 26 wins and its first outright Ivy League title, earning it a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1946. Repeating their spectacular run may prove difficult however, as they return just one starter from that championship squad. Laurent Rivard (10.1 ppg) has 127 three-pointers in his career, which ranks seventh in program history, and his 40.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc is fourth-best. Steve Moundou-Missi (4.9 ppg) and Christian Webster (4.5 ppg) are the only other returning players that logged significant minutes a season ago. Wesley Saunders (6-5) and Jonah Travis (6-6) will likely be thrust into the starting lineup, and Harvard hopes to have at least a few immediate contributors among its five incoming freshmen.

PENN: The Quakers put together a great season in 2011-12, winning 20 games for the first time in Jerome Allen's three-year tenure as head coach. But at 11-3 in conference they lost out to Harvard for the chance to represent the Ivy League in the NCAA Tournament. Penn did accept a bid to the CBI Tournament, where it won its first-round matchup with Quinnipiac, 74-63. There will be major shakeups in the lineup this season as the Quakers will be without three starters from a year ago, including unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year in Zach Rosen (18.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 5.2 apg). The top returning performer is Miles Cartwright, who scored 10.8 ppg and ripped down 2.9 rpg in a supporting role last year, and those numbers are expected to rise as he ascends to the team's go-to guy. As a freshman last season, 6-8 forward Henry Brooks saw regular playing time and averaged 4.6 ppg and 2.5 rpg. Fran Dougherty (4.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg) will join the starting lineup this season, and 6-11 Darien Nelson-Henry is one of four talented freshmen.

COLUMBIA: The Lions enjoyed a strong start to last season, and even won 11 of 12 games from late-November to early-January, but they faltered down the stretch to finish 15-15 (4-10 Ivy League). It was still a relatively strong season for second-year head coach Kyle Smith, who returns all five starters. Brian Barbour was one of the top scorers in the league a season ago (15.5 ppg), and while he was nearly automatic from the free-throw line (.901), an improvement upon his .394 field goal percentage would help the team greatly. Barbour also ranked fifth in assists with 4.4 apg. Meiko Lyles (10.6 ppg) is a trusty running mate for Barbour at guard as he drained 43.9 percent of his three-pointers last year, and Mark Cisco (10 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Alex Rosenberg (7.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg) provide a steady presence at the forward position. After averaging just 11 minutes per game as a freshman, Cory Osetkowski (6-11) will hope to make a larger impact this year for a team in need of a shot-blocker.

DARTMOUTH: It's been a couple of years of turmoil for Paul Cormier's bunch, as the Big Green have won just 10 games overall in the past two seasons and finished last in the Ivy League in 2011-12 with a 1-13 record. Things are looking up for Dartmouth however, as three of its top four scorers from a year ago were freshmen. Jvonte Brooks (9.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Gabas Maldunas (9.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.3 bpg) saw playing time from day one last year, and as sophomores they appear to be part of one of the best frontcourts in the league. John Golden (7.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg) only expects to get better in his second season as well. While they seem set at the forward position, the Big Green appear to be thin at guard once again and will need junior Tyler Melville and sophomore Mack McKearney to step up their game. We know that Cormier has no problem playing talented rookies, meaning we could see a breakout year from Tommy Carpenter (6-7), Connor Boehm (6-7), Kevin Crescenzi (6-3), Matt Rennie (6-8), or Brandon McDonnell (6-8).

YALE: The Bulldogs put together an impressive season in 2011-12, finishing 19-10 and 9-5 in the league, which resulted in an invite to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. It was their first postseason appearance since qualifying for the NIT back in 2002. Repeating last year's numbers will prove difficult however, as Yale will be without its top two performers, including Greg Mangano (18.2 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 2.2 bpg), the most physically imposing force in the league last season. It appears that the Bulldogs will shift from being forward heavy to guard heavy, with senior Austin Morgan (11.8 ppg) emerging as the new top threat in the offense. With an increased role, Morgan's volume of three pointers (61 treys, .386) is expected to rise. Jeremiah Kreisberg (7.7 ppg) and Michael Grace (5.4 ppg) return to the starting lineup, and sophomores Isaiah Salafia (3.4 ppg) and Jesse Pritchard (2.2 ppg) also have experience starting games.

CORNELL: Just a few years ago the Big Red were a perennial power in the Ivy League, but in Bill Courtney's first two seasons as head coach they have not lived up to the standard they set by winning the league title in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Cornell went just 12-16 last year (7-7 Ivy League) and Courtney is now 22-34 since taking the reins. It figures to be another difficult season in Ithaca as the team will be without it's two top performers from last season in Chris Wroblewski (11.5 ppg, 5.3 apg, 4.7 rpg) and Drew Ferry (11.3 ppg). In their absence, sophomore forward Shonn Miller (8.9 ppg) appears to be the new go-to guy on offense. Miller is also a force in the paint as he led the team in both rebounding (6.1 rpg) and blocks (1.6 bpg) last season. Johnathan Gray (8.8 ppg) and Galal Cancer (6.1 ppg) will be the starting guards, but neither shot better than 38.1 percent from the field in 2011-12.

BROWN: The Bears did not experience much success last season, going just 8-22 overall and 2-12 in league play, placing above only Dartmouth in the standings. This season marks the start of a new era for the program as former Penn assistant coach and Brown player Mike Martin was named the 31st head coach in school history. While the overall philosophy may be different, the Bears' catalyst will still be Sean McGonagill, who returns for his junior season. McGonagill was one of the league's best playmakers last year, ranking sixth in scoring (13.5 ppg), ninth in three-pointers made (56), 10th in steals per game (1.2), and first in assists per game (5.4). The team also welcomes back top performers in guards Stephen Albrecht (10.2 ppg, 60 3-pointers) and Matt Sullivan (9.8 ppg, 56 3-pointers). While the Bears figure to have depth out on the perimeter, they may struggle in the paint as the departed Andrew McCarthy was one of the strongest post presences in the league with 7.3 rpg and more than a block per game. Senior Tyler Ponticelli (6-8) will likely take McCarthy's starting forward spot.

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