Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ivy League Preview


Last year did not feature a close or exciting race in the Ivy. Penn finished 13-1, three games ahead of Yale. The Quakers had the league title wrapped up for weeks, and since there is no conference tournament in the Ivy, cruised to the finish line before the Big Dance. Penn then actually played tight against Texas A&M for awhile in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament before faltering late. This season will be wide-open, though, and could mark the first time since 1988 a team other than Penn or Princeton wins the league.

Favorites: Cornell might have the best chance to break that long stretch of repeat Ivy champs. The Big Red have the best trio in the conference in guards Adam Gore and Louis Dale and forward Ryan Wittman. Gore missed most of last season with a torn ACL, but should be back this year. Dale is a good scorer and all-around performer, while Wittman is one of the best shooters in the conference. USC transfer Collin Robinson and Jason Battle will fight for minutes. Jason Harford, Alex Tyler, and Brian Kreefer will fight for the two remaining frontcourt positions. Yale, coming off a second-place finish and returning four starters, will also be right in the mix all season. Eric Flato is arguably the best player in the conference, and will carry the Bulldogs from the backcourt. Twins Nick and Caleb Holmes are solid on the wing, while Alexander Zampier will fight for minutes in the backcourt. Ross Morin is a good rebounder; 6-10 Matt Kyle is an efficient finisher; and Travis Pinick is a versatile, all-around player. Those three will anchor the frontcourt. Penn is a team that can’t be counted out this year, despite its losses to graduation. Three starters, including stars Ibrahim Jaaber and Mark Zoller, are gone, leaving Brian Grandieri and Darren Smith as the lone returning starters. Grandieri is one of the best guards in the conference, and can do a little of everything, while Smith is primed for a big year. Kevin Egee and Michael Kach also return, while Harrison Gaines will push for time as a freshman. Brennan Votel and Justin Reilly will likely start in the frontcourt.

Contenders: Columbia returns all five starters from a team that went .500 in league play. John Baumann leads the way for the Lions, and is an all-conference selection. He is flanked in the frontcourt by Ben Nwachukwu and Mack Montgomery, with both starting every game last season. Brett Loscalzo returns at the point, but sophomores Patrick Foley and Niko Scott will push him in the backcourt. Justin Armstrong, K.J. Matsui, and Kevin Bulger also return as contributors. Brown is led by the high-scoring backcourt of Mark McAndrew and Damon Huffman. McAndrew is a very good scorer and a solid rebounder, while Huffman is a lights-out shooter. Up front, Chris Skrelja and Mark MacDonald will start, with Scott Friske providing depth.

Sleepers: Princeton finished last in the conference a year ago, finishing with the program’s worst-ever conference record of 2-12. Forwards Kyle Koncz and Noah Savage are looking to end their careers on a high note, while Kevin Steurer is also pushing for time up front. Michael Strittmatter and Zach Finley provide size down low. Marcus Schroeder and Lincoln Gunn will both start in the backcourt again, and should be better with a year under their belts.

Rounding out the Pack: Dartmouth is led by Alex Barnett, one of the best all-around players in the conference. He can do-it-all on the court, and is one of the better rebounders in the Ivy. DeVon Mosley and Johnathan Ball return on the perimeter, while Michael Giovacchini is a solid shooter. Elgin Fitzgerald and a host of newcomers will fight for time up front. Harvard did not finish strongly last season, but new coach Tommy Amaker is looking to turn things around. The Crimson have a solid frontcourt duo in Evan Harris and Brad Unger, but are led by their three-headed backcourt. Drew Housman is an all-conference candidate and a very good scorer, while Andrew Pusar is a decent guard. Jeremy Lin is a good shooter who will see more minutes this year.

Prediction: Will this be the year that a team besides Penn or Princeton wins the conference? I think it will be, and I think the team to do it will be the Big Red of Cornell. They have three of the best players in the conference, and legit playmakers on the perimeter—something the conference lacks as a whole. If Adam Gore is completely recovered from his ACL injury, expect Cornell to break the Penn-Princeton stronghold on the Ivy. Yale and Columbia are two other teams to watch outside of Penn.

Player of the Year: Eric Flato, G, Yale

All-Conference Team:
G- Eric Flato, Yale
G- Mark McAndrew, Brown
G- Brian Grandieri, Penn
F- Ryan Wittman, Cornell
F- John Baumann, Columbia

Second Team:
G- Damon Huffman, Brown
G- Drew Housman, Harvard
G- Adam Gore, Cornell
G- Louis Dale, Cornell
F- Alex Barnett, Dartmouth

Photo Credit: Yale Athletics

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I'm banking on Cornell winning the Ivy League as well, mostly because I go there. The one team that most concerns me is Penn. Penn swept Cornell last year (and the five years before that and that's as far back as the schedule archive goes). The Red lost by 12 on the road and 18 at home (although the home game was stupidly scheduled during Winter Break last year). But if Gore can return to freshman year form, I don't see why the Big Red can't make their first trip to the dance since the eighties. Besides, we need the basketball team to be good up here, because Cornell's traditionally strong winter sport (hockey) is looking at a major off year.

    Thanks for actually taking the time to write about the Ivy league.