BtB 2009-10 Ivy League Preview

 

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It was a relatively quiet offseason in the Ivy League, the lone Division I conference that forgoes a postseason tournament and sends its regular season winner to the NCAA Tournament.  Cornell begins this season in great position to cement itself as the league's new dynasty.  (Well, as cemented as any team with five senior starters can be.)  The Big Red have their third straight league crown firmly in their sights, and a non-conference schedule that could help them win their first tournament contest in that span.  

Meanwhile, former league bullies Penn and Princeton look to be in position to challenge.  The Tigers return all five of their starters from a team that finished last season in a second place tie with Yale. The Bulldogs' eternal rivals, Tommy Amaker-led Harvard, are looking for a breakthrough. Meanwhile, Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, and the aforementioned Elis appear to be in various stages of rebuilding. 

I'll go into more specifics for each Ivy team after the jump.

Let's first take a look at last season's Ivy League standings.

Ivy League Standings

(updated 3.11.2009 at 4:11 AM EDT)

Conf Overall
W L W L
Cornell Big Red 11 3 21 9
Princeton Tigers 8 6 13 14
Yale Bulldogs 8 6 13 15
Columbia Lions 7 7 12 16
Dartmouth Big Green 7 7 9 19
Harvard Crimson 6 8 14 14
Penn Quakers 6 8 10 18
Brown Bears 3 11 9 19

Now, here are my picks for the 2009-10 Ivy League season, presented in reverse order.

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Dartmouth (last NCAA: 1959) The Big Green have to begin life without Alex Barnett, last year's ivy League Player of the Year, who averaged almost 20 points per game.  With him, Dartmouth only managed a .500 mark in the league and won only two games outside of the league.  Without him, the team could struggle mightily.  While Jerry Dunn returns a boatload of players, led by PG Jabari Trotter, offense and rebounding are issues.  Trotter is the leading returning scorer, and he only averaged 7 points per contest.

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Brown (last NCAA: 1986) The Bears return three double-figure scorers from the team that earned the Ivy League's Wooden Spoon last season, senior F Matt Mullery (16.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg), junior F Peter Sullivan (14.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg), and junior G Adrian Williams (11 ppg).  Despite this, the Bears offense was more inept than you'd expect a team with three double-digit scorers to be last season, averaging 57.5 ppg in Ivy League contests. That's probably because Jesse Agel's team lacked an established point guard, a situation that hasn't been addressed.

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Columbia (last NCAA: 1968) The Lions get two transfers to replace the graduated Jason Miller and Joe Bova in froutcourt, 7-foot C Max Craig from Loyola Marymount and 6-7 F Brian Grimes from LaSalle. Grimes actually would have been eligible last season, but a knee injury cost him the year. who sat out last year with a knee injury.   Columbia's backcourt has plenty of experience, as Patrick Foley (10.9 ppg, 2.5 apg), who battled injuries last year, Kevin Bulger (5.3 ppg, 2.1 apg), and Noruwa Agho (9.1 ppg) all return.  If the new frontcourt can pack a punch, expect to see the Lions higher in the standings.

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Yale (last NCAA: 1962) The Bulldogs will be hard-pressed to repeat their first division finish this season, as they lost three starters: Ross Morin, who averaged 13-plus points and nearly 6 boards a contest, Travis Pinick (10.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg), and PG Chris Andrews (3.1 ppg, 2.8 apg).  The good news for the Elis is that SG Alex Zampier and his 13.2 ppg is back.  The Bulldogs have a good stable of frontcourt players, including Jordan Gibson, Greg Mangano, Paul Nelson, and Michael Sands.  However, none of them averaged more than 4.1 ppg in 2008-09. The Bulldogs could face UConn in the second round of the North Region of the NIT, but they'd have to get by Hofstra in round one first.

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Pennsylvania (last NCAA: 2006) Being relatively close to Philly, I made the trip to the Palestra to see a couple of Penn games last season, and I can tell you that Quaker fans weren't happy with Glen Miller in the middle of the season.  They can't be any happier after Penn finished with its first losing Ivy record since 1990-91.  If the Quakers can stay healthy, they should be improved this season.  Miller has a solid backcourt featuring sophomore PG Zack Rosen and junior SG Tyler Bernardini, that should be even better with the return of senior as SG Darren Smith from a knee injury.  However, the Quakers biggest health issues last year were in the frontcourt  Jack Eggleston (9.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg) should receive significant support from Swede Andreas Schreiber (2 ppg, 1 rpg in 08-09, 5.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg in 07-08), who missed all but two games last year with a shoulder injury, along with Larry Loughery (who featured in only seven contests), and Justin Reilly (who played in 11).

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Harvard (last NCAA: 1946) Tommy Amaker's team seems to be good for one good non-league win a season (Michigan in '07-'08 and Boston College in '08-'09); however, translating those wins into consistent Ivy success is a different story, as the 6 wins recorded last year will attest.  Guard Jeremy Lin (17.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg) can do  a little bit of everything, and the Crimson will need him to after losing Drew Housman (9.6 ppg, 2.8 apg) and Andrew Pusar (6.4 ppg) from backcourt.  Lin should get valuable help from sophomore guard Oliver McNally, who averaged 5.9 points a contest last year and looks to be ready to take on a bigger role this time around.  Harvard's frontcourt could be a difference maker as 6-7 Pat Magnarelli and 6-10 Andrew Van Nest return after injuries. They'll join two players who performed admirably last season in their absence, 6-8 Keith Wright (8 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and 6-7 Doug Miller (6.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 70.4% from the field). 

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Princeton (last NCAA: 2004) The Tigers finished second last year (even if it was three games behind Cornell) and look to be back after some lean years.  Head coach Sydney Johnson loses no starters from last year's squad.  The Tigers will trot out a backcourt featuring the Ivy's highest scoring freshman, Douglas Davis (12.3 ppg), three-point sharpshooter Dan Mavraides (10.3 ppg, 42.6 from outside), and reliable PG Marcus Schroeder (4.9 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg).  The Princeton frontcourt, meanwhile, returns starting center Pawel Buczak (7.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and forward Kareem Maddox (5 ppg, 3.5 rpg), along with two key reserves, 6-9 C Zach Finley (4.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and swingman Pat Saunders (5.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg)

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Cornell (last NCAA: 2009) Like the team that should be their closest rivals, Steve Donahue's Big Red also features five returning starters, all seniors.  Ryan Wittman (18.5 ppg, 2.8 apg) and Louis Dale (13 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.6 apg) form a truly formidable starting backcourt, made even moreso by the presence of Chris Wroblewski who average 6.7 ppg off bench, while shooting 44.1% from beyond the arc.  The frontcourt is equally strong, as seven-footer Jeff Foote (11.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg), F Alex Tyler (6.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg), G/F Geoff Reeves (9 ppg) are all back.  Donahue even has newly eligible transfers Mark Coury, a F/C who started at Kentucky, and G Max Groebe (from Massachusetts) at his disposal. The Big Red will need the help in the non-conference part of the schedule, which features road trips to Syracuse, Massachusetts, and Kansas and a home game against Seton Hall.

So, heading into the season, I am picking the Big Red to take their third straight Ivy League crown.  You'll see them in my 2009-10 Final Preseason Bracket on November 9.  Now, to wrap up this preview, here is my preseason All-Ivy League team, featuring the best returning players from last season.  

Preseason All-Ivy League Team

Player of the Year: Ryan Wittman, 6-6 F, Sr. (Cornell)

Remainder of the Team
Louis Dale, 5-11 G, Sr. (Cornell)
Jeff Foote, 7-0 C, Sr. (Cornell)
Jeremy Lin, 6-3 G, Sr. (Harvard)
Matt Mullery, 6-8 F, Sr. (Brown)

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