Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ivy League Preview


The Ivy League finally saw someone break the Penn/Princeton stranglehold last season, as Cornell went 14-0 during conference play to end 20 years of domination by those two schools. Coincidentally, Cornell was the last school besides Penn and Princeton to win the league before last season – in 1988. Last year was not even close. Cornell jumped out to an early lead and finished three games ahead of Brown, six games ahead of Penn. As for Princeton, the Tigers finished tied for last place at 3-11. Once in the NCAA Tournament, Cornell was obliterated by Stanford in the first-round. This year, Cornell will look to start its own dynasty at the top of the Ivy League.

Favorite: Cornell dominated the conference last season, and returns four starters from that campaign. The Big Red have arguably the two best players in the league in guard Louis Dale, the reigning Player of the Year, and forward Ryan Wittman, one of the best shooters in the country. Adam Gore is another all-conference candidate. Up front, Jeff Foote and Alex Tyler hold down the fort in the paint.

Contenders: Penn looks to get back atop the Ivy League after falling to third last year. The Quakers are led by their talented frontcourt of all-conference forward Tyler Bernardini and big men Jack Eggleston and Andreas Schreiber. In the backcourt, Harrison Gaines and Kevin Egee lead the way. Brown was the surprise second-place finisher last season, and want to take the next step. The Bears own perhaps the toughest match-up in the league in Chris Skrelja, a 6-6 point guard who can do it all. He is flanked at guard by Peter Sullivan. Adrian Williams is a solid defender, while Matt Mullery and Scott Friske lead the frontcourt.

Sleepers: Harvard has the offensive options to be a real threat this season. The Crimson have one of the best forward tandems in the conference in Pat Magnarelli and Evan Harris, two solid scorers and rebounders. The perimeter also has plenty of skill, namely all-conference guard Jeremy Lin and double-figure scorer Drew Housman. Yale finished tied for fourth last season, but return just two starters. Ross Morin and Travis Pinick are a very good inside duo, while Alex Zampier could be poised for a bigger role this season on the perimeter for the Bulldogs.

Rounding out the Pack: Columbia was expected to be a title contender last season, but the Lions finished just 7-7 and now lose four starters. However, there is still some talent left on the roster. Patrick Foley is a solid point guard, while Niko Scott and K.J. Matsui can score. La Salle transfer Brian Grimes will make an immediate impact down low. Dartmouth will be carried by the league’s top returning scorer and rebounder, all-conference forward Alex Barnett. Outside of him, there is not much. Elgin Fitzgerald and Kurt Graeber are good frontcourt options, while Marlon Sanders is the top option on the perimeter. Was last season an anomaly for Princeton? The Tigers have been slipping in recent years, but they hit rock-bottom last season, going just 6-23 overall. They do have one of the league’s best big men in Zach Finley, an all-conference candidate, but Jason Briggs and Marcus Schroeder will have to step up on the perimeter.

Prediction: After 20 years of Penn and Princeton domination over the league, it looks like it will be time for a new dynasty to start – for two years, at least. Cornell ran roughshod through the Ivy last season, and return enough personnel to do the same this year. However, the league might be better as a whole than it was last season. Penn will always be in the mix, Brown has some serious height and Harvard has the guns offensively to hang with anyone. While I do expect Cornell to lose at least one game this season, the Big Red are too good at both ends of the floor to finish anywhere but first. The fact that they have perhaps the two best players in the league helps, too. The next step will be a first-round upset in the NCAA Tournament.

Player of the Year: Louis Dale, G, Cornell

All-Conference Team:
G- Louis Dale, Cornell
G- Chris Skrelja, Brown
F- Alex Barnett, Dartmouth
F- Ryan Wittman, Cornell

F- Tyler Bernardini, Penn

Second Team:
G- Jeremy Lin, Harvard

G- Adam Gore, Cornell
F- Pat Magnarelli, Harvard

C- Ross Morin, Yale
C- Zach Finley, Princeton

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