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Friday, November 9, 2012

Team-by-Team guide to the Ivy League

Princeton coach Mitch Henderson/ AP Photo

By NICK PERUFFO
nperuffo@gmail.com

The Ivy League could look a bit different this year than last, with some traditionally strong programs dealing with major loses. The Crystal Ball over at the Trentonian’s Perry Street headquarters has been murky lately and may need a software update, but this beat writer stared at it for a few hours anyway. Here are our predictions: (Listed in order of finish with last season’s record in parentheses).


1. Princeton (20-12, 10-4) — Voted number one in the preseason media poll, the Tigers appear to be the team to beat in the Ivy League this season. Explosive forward Ian Hummer is by all accounts the best player in the league and demands special attention from opposing defenses. Princeton also has plenty of depth up front, with last year’s tag-team duo of Brendan Connolly and Mack Darrow joined by the rangy Will Barrett, who missed all of last season with a foot injury, and freshman Hans Brase, who has earned rave reviews early on. The only question will be if the Tigers have enough depth at guard behind junior T.J. Bray.

2. Harvard (26-5, 12-2) — The growing juggernaut head coach Tommy Amaker is putting together in Cambridge took a major hit this offseason when seniors Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry were forced to leave the university due to an academic-cheating scandal. While no longer the league favorite, the Crimson will still be formidable, with established playmakers like junior Canadian sharpshooter Laurent Rivard and swingman Wesley Saunders returning. Harvard also continues to land monstrous recruiting classes, with 6-foot-8 Agunwa Okolie and 6-foot-10 Michael Hall headlining the current crop of freshmen.

3. Columbia (15-15, 4-10) — Though the Lions finished just 4-10 in the Ivy last season, they were able to shock Princeton in Manhattan and return all five starters. Senior guards Brian Barbour and Meiko Lyles provide plenty of scoring, and 6-foot-9 center Mark Cisco has been effective down on the block. Statistically, Columbia also had the second-best defense in the league last season, holding opponents to 62.1 points per game.

4. Penn (21-13, 11-3) — Despite losing three starters — including last year’s Ivy Player of the Year Zack Rosen — Jerome Allen’s squad has plenty of young talent, including top point guard recruit Tony Hicks. The big question for the Quakers is whether junior guard Miles Cartwright, the team’s leading returning scorer, can make the transition from being a nice complimentary player to a consistent number one option. Junior forward Fran Dougherty should also see his role increase.

5. Cornell (12-16, 7-7) — After winning the Ivy League in 2008, 2009 and 2010, the Big Red haven’t had the same success in Bill Courtney’s first two years as head coach. Things however, may be turning around in upstate New York, as Cornell returns last year’s Ivy Rookie of the Year, 6-foot-7 forward Shonn Miller. They’ll also get a boost out of the return of forward Errick Peck, who missed last season with an injury. The flip side is the Big Red backcourt, which doesn’t figure to have enough firepower to compete with the top teams in the league.

6. Yale (19-10, 9-5) — While James Jones is regarded as one of the league’s better coaches, it is difficult to see how the Bulldogs will be able to match last season’s 9-5 Ivy record. Gone are center Greg Mangano and wingman Reggie Willhite, the team’s two top scorers and rebounders. Senior guard Austin Morgan will try to pick up some of the scoring slack, but Yale will need some major off-the-radar contributions to be in the hunt at the end of the year.

7. Dartmouth (5-25, 1-13) — The Big Green suffered through last year’s 1-13 Ivy season as one of the youngest teams in the league. The nice thing about young players, however, is that they get older. Three of the team’s top four leading scorers — forwards Jvonte Brooks, Gabas Maldunas and John Golden — were freshmen last year, giving Dartmouth perhaps the Ivy’s best young frontcourt nucleus. The Big Green are thin at guard, but coach Paul Cormier has shown he’s not shy about playing youngsters, so don’t be surprised if newcomers Kevin Crescenzi and Alex Mitola get a shot if incumbents Mack McKearney or Tyler Melville struggle.

8. Brown (8-23, 2-12) — The Bears have a new coach this year, with former Penn assistant Mike Martin taking over for Jesse Agel. Martin does inherit a nice trio of guards, with Sean McGonagill, Stephen Albrecht and Matt Sullivan all capable scorers. The problem will be at the other end of the floor, as the Bears were the worst defensive team in the league last season. They also don’t have much down low after losing 6-foot-8 Andrew McCarthy to graduation. Senior Tyler Ponticelli will likely see the bulk of McCarthy’s minutes.

— For coverage of Princeton and Ivy League hoops this season follow Nick Peruffo on twitter @nickperuffo

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