Checking in on… the Ivy LeaguePosted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2010
Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.
This season saw an unprecedented three teams reach the 20-win plateau in the Ivy League — a dominant Cornell team headed to the NCAA Tournament (expected); a young, but extremely talented Harvard team (disappointing); and a resurgent Princeton team (surprising). Hopefully the latter two have earned an invite to one of the myriad of lesser post-season tournaments. Here’s a look at the final standings:
- Cornell (13-1, 27-4): The final go-around for 10 seniors proved to be the best. Now the goal for Louis Dale, Jeff Foote, Ryan Wittman et al is to win a game or two in the tournament. A preview of their chances can be found below.
- Princeton (11-3, 20-8): Two tough losses to Cornell sealed their fate, but they earned runner-up honors with a couple of victories over Harvard. A bright future with their top five scorers returning.
- Harvard (10-4, 21-7): Beat everyone except the top two. Jeremy Lin’s loss via graduation will be felt, but in freshmen Brandyn Curry and Christian Webster, the Crimson boast a backcourt that can compete with the best nationally. Next year’s preseason choice.
- Yale (6-8, 12-19): An up and down Ivy season for the Elis. The lone bright spot was All-Ivy senior guard Alex Zampier. He leaves New Haven as the school’s all-time assist leader while scoring over 1000 points.
- Columbia (5-9, 11-17): The Lions earn the fifth spot over co 5-9ers Brown and Penn by virtue of their head-to-head sweep of both teams. Next year’s team will be built around sophomore Noruwa Agho, their only double digit scorer.
- Brown (5-9, 11-20): Little to separate the Bears from the Quakers other than a slightly better overall record, so they get the nod here. Stat machine Matt Mullery (team leader in points, rebounds, and assists) leaves after a fine career.
- Penn (5-9, 6-22): The record was something that Palestra fans (those that showed up) were not used to. Nor were early-season injuries and a mid-season coaching change. Sophomore point guard and Player of the Year candidate Zack Rosen is already a star.
- Dartmouth (1-13, 5-23): Not much to cheer about in Hanover. Hopefully Mark Graupe can breathe some enthusiasm into a program that has pretty much been the league doormat for a while. Most of the top players return.
Without fanfare we present you with the best of the 2009-2010 Ivy League basketball season:
- Ryan Wittman 6-7 Sr F—Cornell
- Matt Mullery 6-8 Sr. F–Brown
- Jeff Foote 7-0 Sr. C–Cornell
- Jeremy Lin 6-3 Sr. G–Harvard
- Zack Rosen 6-1 So. G–Penn
- Alex Zampier 6-3 Sr, G—Yale
- Louis Dale 5-11 Sr. G—Cornell
- Kyle Casey 6-7 F–Harvard
- Tucker Halpern 6-8 F–Brown
- Andrew McCarthy 6-8 F–Brown
- Ian Hummer 6-7 F–Princeton
- Brandyn Curry 6-1 G–Harvard
- Christian Webster 6-5 G—Harvard
- Points per game: Zack Rosen (Penn)–17.7
- FG %: Jeff Foote (Cornell)—62.3%
- FT %: Zack Rosen (Penn)—86.2%
- 3-point FG %: Jon Jaques (Cornell)—48.8%
- Rebounds per game: Jeff Foote (Cornell)—8.2
- Assists per game: Louis Dale (Cornell)—4.8
- Steals per game: Jeremy Lin (Harvard)—2.5
- Blocks per game: Greg Mangano (Yale)—2.0
Television has the Emmys, theater the Tonys, and of course movies have the Oscars (undoubtedly named for Robertson). We have decided to name the Ivy individual awards, the Bradleys – in honor of the greatest Ivy player ever.
Coach of the Year: A strong case could be made for Steve Donahue, who first recruited, and then led this ultra-talented Cornell team to three straight Ivy crowns, their best record ever, and that near miss against No. 1 Kansas. However, the Bradley goes to Sydney Johnson of Princeton. In ’07-08, the Tigers were 3-11 and 6-23; ‘08-’09, 8-6 and 13-14; and this year improved again to 11-3 and 20-8. They finished second, most assuredly will get a postseason invite, and will be favorites (along with Harvard) for the 2010-2011 season.
Freshman of the Year: The Bradley goes to Kyle Casey of Harvard (who would also win 6th Man of the Year). The 6-7 local forward averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds per game while shooting over 50% from the field and 80% from the line. However, look out next year for Casey’s freshmen teammates Curry and Webster, who will form the most lethal backcourt in the league.
Player of the Year: Ok, so all those who followed Ivy hoops (even just a little) figured this one was easy. Jeremy Lin has been a star at Harvard, lit up UConn on national TV, and has attracted more than just a little NBA interest. However, he had a lot of help this year (see the three freshmen above) and to be honest, Harvard would have finished third without him. Or maybe you were leaning toward Ryan Wittman, the highest profile member of the Cornell team – but he too had a strong supporting cast. So in an upset, the Bradley for Ivy Player of the Year goes to Zack Rosen of Penn. We can hear the chants of “homer” and “you bleed red and blue” but consider the facts. Rosen led the league in scoring (17.5 and nearly 19 in Ivy play) and free throw percentage, he finished in the top five in field goal percentage (fourth), 3-point field goal percentage (fourth) and assists (third). We have a feeling that this won’t be the last “trophy” this sophomore hoists at the Palestra.
Musings on the Madness (or Crying 96 Tears)
It wouldn’t be a March column of any note without chiming in on what many feared might happen and what now looks like a done deal – an expansion of the NCAA tournament to 96 teams. By now you already have heard the arguments against or have your own pet peeves – why mess with a good thing, it waters down the tournament, makes the regular season and for the most part, conference tourneys, meaningless, smacks of greed etc. All valid and true points and it rankles my March hair. Let’s look at some of the ramifications:
- As of this writing, the bidding is still up for grabs between ESPN (who once upon a time did a GREAT job of covering the tourney) and CBS and their new partner (gulp) Turner. A collective cringe imagining Ernie Johnson in studio and Chip Caray doing the National Championship game.
- Think of how Norm Roberts will feel when St. John’s is the only Big East team NOT invited to the Big Big Dance
- With games tentatively scheduled for six days during that first week (Tuesday-Sunday) it has already been calculated that divorce rates will now soar to 87% and 71% of all males between 16-86 will have a DUI on their record. And there will be no new births in December.
- Gus Johnson will be unable to speak for six months.
- The relatives of Bill Veeck will suggest a tournament for the bottom 96 teams.
- A Chevy commercial, with Howie Long, will appear 1024 times during media timeouts.
- DIRECTV will charge $922 for their Mega March Madness package.
- The outcry from teams left out, claiming they are indeed one of the top 96, (thinking Poulin/Weedeater Bowl here) will be deafening and those that sneak in will shout “unfair” as their teams are relegated to one of the 32 play in games. So….
- In 2012 the tournament will expand to a fair and equal 128 teams (yes that is Norm Roberts still seething as SJU is 129 in RPI). I can just hear it now “You know Clark, no # 32 has ever beaten a #1” and “That 16-17 game (Northern Illinois/Furman?) ought to be barn-burner.”
Seriously, since we are powerless to stop this nonsense, at least let’s offer the NCAA some advice as how to make this reasonable. First, limit the amount of bids one conference gets to 50 percent of the member teams. Second, no team with a below .500 record in conference play gets an at-large bid. And third, automatic bids go to regular season champs as well as conference tourney champs. That way, the regular season will have some meaning, conference tournament Cinderellas can still play their way in, and more deserving teams from mid-majors (do I hear three from the Ivy League?) get to play. No one wants to see No. 10 from the Big 12 play No. 14 from the Big East. But this will only be a stopgap, because for all of you under 50, look forward to the 2040 Tourney when all 347 teams (including St.Johns and interim coach LeBron James) are invited to March/April/May Madness.
A Look Ahead
It is hard to believe that not only is this our last Checking In column of the year, but that Selection Sunday is only a couple of days away. So it is with the disclaimer that we are writing this without the benefit of seeing the brackets that we present our fearless forecast on what to expect from the Ivy representative – the Big Red of Cornell.
Why they will succeed: The important factors to consider are these: 1) The Big Red have been here before as ten seniors are playing in their third straight NCAA tournament. 2) They won’t be intimidated, regardless of opponent. They went toe-to-toe with Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse and along with Memphis and Cal are the only teams to have played both Kansas and Syracuse – considered by most to be likely the choices to be cutting down the nets in April. 3) They have the talent in the trio of shooter Ryan Wittman, seven-footer Jeff Foote, and point guard Louis Dale, as well as a strong supporting cast.
Why they will fail: Cornell lost only four games all year – Kansas, Seton Hall, Syracuse, and Penn. What do all four losses have in common? Incredible 3-poing shooting by the opposition coupled with turnovers by Cornell. In those four games the opposition shot almost 48 percent from behind the 3-point line and in each of those games, Cornell turned the ball over more than their foes. Admittedly, defense and taking care of the ball has been the Achilles’ heel for the Big Red all season – but it doesn’t usually matter against weaker Ivy opponents.
Prediction: First let us remember this – before the loss to Penn, Cornell had risen to as high as No. 22 in the polls. For most ranked teams (i.e. Texas who has lost eight of their last 14 games and remarkably remains in the Top 25) one loss is not damaging. Not so when you are a mid-major. Had they not lost, you would be looking at an 8 or a 9 seed instead of the 12 or 13 they are likely to receive. Still, we firmly believe that Cornell can hang with any possible first-round opponent. We also believe that Las Vegas will agree and Cornell will be only a slight underdog to a 4 or 5. And as incredible as it may seem, look for Cornell to not only win one game, but to become this year’s Cinderella and wear the glass slipper all the way to the Sweet 16.
Four weeks ago we thought that if Lewis Jackson could return at full strength to Purdue, the Boilermakers had what it took to cut down the nets. He did, and they were rolling into the top 5. The injury to Robbie Hummel effectively ended that dream. So instead of trying to find another team to root for, we decided to look at the field objectively and scientifically and see what we would come up with. Here is our theory:
Statistically, a team has to do well in the following four categories: Shoot the three, defend the three, rebound, and make their free throws. Furthermore, they need to have at least three go-to guys and at least two potential pros. There is only one team in the country that is in the Top 40 in the four statistical categories and qualifies in the other areas as well. Reluctantly, we present you with the Duke Blue Devils. We say reluctantly because while we believe this is the best and most balanced Duke team in a while, the ACC is weak and their non-conference schedule was as well. And let’s face it: unless you are a Dookie, Coach K and his crew are difficult to root for. Duke has lost to tourney-bound Wisconsin and Georgetown and has only beaten one team out of conference (Gonzaga) that will be dancing. (Note: that number could become three if UConn – unlikely – and Arizona State – probable – make the field). However, that being said (to quote Omar Minaya) lets look at the numbers. Duke ranks No. 1 in 3-point FG% defense, No. 21 in 3-point FG %, No. 8 in FT %, and No. 18 in rebound margin. Their three go-to guys are the S-Men – Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer, and Kyle Singler – each of whom are averaging over 17 points per game and the latter two, along with possibly some combination of the Plumlees (Mason and Miles) and Brian Zoubek, will be NBA draftees. By the way, for those of you looking for an edge in your office pool, there are only two teams in the Top 40 in three of those categories – Xavier and St.Mary’s – so look for those two to outlive their seeding.
So there you have it. We hope you have enjoyed our bi-weekly Ivy chatter as well as our occasional overall college basketball perspectives. Even though our heart lies with Penn, we will be rooting hard for Cornell to win a game or two and have the nation talking Ivy hoops along with us.