Summer School in the Ivy LeaguePosted by Brian Goodman on August 9th, 2010
Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.
Around The Ivy League
- Coaching Carousel: Everything began when Steve Donahue left Cornell for his new home in Chestnut Hill, replacing Al Skinner as the new head man at Boston College, a considerable leap up in competition. Donahue’s leaving could not have come as a shock to the Cornell hierarchy. His stock was never higher thanks to the run his Big Red team made in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. In a bit of tit-for-tat, Cornell AD Andy Noel looked to the ACC for a replacement for Donahue, and found one in Bill Courtney, recruiter extraordinaire, who has had stints at Virginia, Virginia Tech, VCU and most notably George Mason, whom he assisted to an improbable Final Four run in 2006. Can it be too long before Cornell, with a lot of rebuilding ahead, is once again loaded? The Columbia Lions went clear across the country and hired Kyle Smith, the longtime right-hand man to Randy Bennett at St. Mary’s. That school enjoyed much success the past few years with a roster composed of Australian imports. Finally, the Big Green of Dartmouth found a familiar face to take over the reins in the person of Paul Cormier. Cormier spent a few seasons in the NBA after a mediocre string as head man at Fairfield, and if you go further back, a rather successful run at — you guessed it — Dartmouth. The most recent hoop success in Hanover came way back when Cormier was the head guy. Good luck, Paul; while we applaud you giving it another shot, your team is light years away from being able to recruit and compete with the top dogs in the league.
- Ivy Controversy: Normally, recruiting violations and sanctions are reserved for the bigger programs, but Harvard may find itself in hot water. Tommy Amaker never made it to the Big Dance while at Michigan, but he cleaned up a program that was rife with violations. Now, on the verge of taking Harvard to its first NCAA appearance since 1946, he’s had to answer to what the NCAA calls “secondary violations.” It seems former Duke chum Kenny Blakeney did some circuitous traveling to play in summer pick-up games with potential Crimson recruits, including current Harvard players and Penn POY candidate Zack Rosen. Amaker later hired Blakeney as an assistant coach. These allegations aren’t as reprehensible as those allegedly committed by John Calipari, Tim Floyd, or Jerry Tarkanian; nor will they lead to any meaningful sanctions. But a hint of impropriety in a program that gained prominence because of their national recruiting success does raise some eyebrows.
- On Another Level: Two former Ivy stars are making news on the pro level tradition. First, former Harvard star Jeremy Lin signed a two-year contract with the Golden State Warriors. Lin became a YouTube sensation after holding his own against top overall pick John Wall when the two went head-to-head during the fourth quarter of a Summer League game. Off the court, former Yale star and 14-year NBA vet Chris Dudley just received the Republican nomination for Governor from the state of Oregon.
Power Rankings (predicted league record in parenthesis):
- Harvard (12-2): Yes, they lose Jeremy Lin, but they return three ultra-talented sophomores, including Freshman of the Year Kyle Casey. The 6’7 forward began last season as the 6th man but started the last ten games, averaging ten points and five rebounds per game. They also boast a sophomore backcourt that we see as a potential top-10 duo in the country in Brandyn Curry and Christian Webster. The latter scored 24 points in only 28 minutes in Harvard’s postseason loss to Appalachian St. Sprinkle in another prized recruiting class that includes a few players in the top 150 and you have all the ingredients for an Ivy Championship.
- Princeton (11-3): They were six points away from hoisting the conference championship trophy last season, as two heartbreaking three-point losses to eventual champion Cornell did them in. Most publications project the Tigers as 2010-11 champs, as this is another team that returns a talented trio in top scorer Doug Davis, leading rebounder Dan Mavraides and late-blooming freshman Ian Hummer. We see a nip and tuck race with the depth of the Crimson being the deciding factor.
- Penn (10-4): Don’t be surprised if Penn projects itself into the Ivy race this season. And if they do, it will be most assuredly on the back of last year’s RTC Ivy POY Zack Rosen. The 6’1 junior was at or near the top in five key stats, including leading the league in scoring. If he continues to mature as a player, he very well could receive a lot of national recognition, a la Jeremy Lin and Ryan Wittman last season. Now, if only the rest of the roster can remain healthy — a difficult task the past two years — the Quakers can take aim at what they consider their rightful place at the top of the league.
- Cornell (9-5): How the mighty have fallen; Is the reign of the Big Red over? Maybe not, despite huge losses via graduation. They return four players who saw considerable action during last year’s championship run (Chris Wroblewski, Errick Peck, Adam Wire, and Mark Coury), and thus have enjoyed and expect success. While this year’s freshman class was recruited by Steve Donahue, who is no longer with the program, they come with promising credentials. Should our projections hold true, the future in Ithaca should be bright. Remember, it was new leader Bill Courtney who recruited most of the George Mason NCAA Final Four team in 2006.
- Brown (5-9): The bad news: the graduation of All-Ivy Matt Mullery, who led the Bears last season in several offensive stats. The good news: the next six scorers all return, led by Peter Sullivan and All-Ivy freshman Tucker Halperin. Brown could improve by leaps and bounds; They went 4-4 over their final eight league games, which included an almost unheard of weekend road sweep of Penn and Princeton. We would not be surprised to see the Bears make a run.
- Columbia (4-10): One would have to consider the now-concluded Joe Jones era a disappointment. At times showing promise during his seven-year tenure (one top four finish), the bottom line is that the Lions were 20 games below .500 in Ivy play during that period. Enter Kyle Smith, the former associate head coach at St. Mary’s of California. He was responsible for running the offense and coordinating all recruiting activities. And lest you forget, St. Mary’s reached the Sweet 16 in last year’s tournament. Admittedly, it is not easy to build a program and win at Columbia — one has to go back to the Jim Macmillan/Heyward Dotson days. Maybe Smith, a master recruiter, is exactly what the Lions need.
- Yale (3-11): There is still one Jones left in the Ivy League: James at Yale. And to offset the loss of All-Ivy swingman Alex Zampier, Jones brought in a national recruiting class, with players from California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and New York, all of whom were 1000-point scorers in their high school careers. Additionally, the Elis return six players who averaged more than ten minutes of playing time per game, led by second-leading scorer Michael Sands. If the class of 2014 can contribute immediately, Yale could be one of the deepest teams in the league.
- Dartmouth (2-12): Hope in Hanover? Paul Cormier, who returns for his second tour of duty at Dartmouth, must think there’s some. The basis for such optimism lies in the fact that the Big Green, who amazingly had no player average in double figures last year, returns five of their top six scorers and eight players who averaged double figures in minutes played. This group is led by 6’1 Ronnie Dixon, the best shooter on the team. If the rest of the returnees can show some improvement, perhaps Cormier can lead his team out of the cellar.
- Last season, the Ivy League sent three teams — Princeton, Harvard, and Cornell — into postseason play. The success Cornell had in the NCAA Tournament did not come as a surprise to RTC after a near-upset of Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. This led many teams in the league to put together an aggressive nonconference schedule. This could turn into a double-edged sword; if the top teams can’t knock off tough nonconference opponents and later on beat each other up while the lesser teams of the Ivy improve, we could see a league champion with an overall record in the neighborhood of .500. But that’s looking at the glass half-empty.
- How long will it take new Big Red coach Bill Courtney to return Cornell to the NCAA Tournament? They lost their core of Ryan Wittman, Jeff Foote and Louis Dale, making the decision of former coach Steve Donahue to leave the program a considerably easy one.