College Basketball Nation: Dartmouth Big Green

Look back, look ahead: Ivy League

April, 23, 2014
Harvard is no longer a one-year wonder, a trendy upset pick or a unique story in college basketball.

The Crimson have arrived as a regular.

[+] EnlargeTommy Amaker
Andrew Richardson/USA TODAY SportsTommy Amaker turned down jobs from power conferences to stay at Harvard.
Nothing can be taken for granted in the sport, but the Crimson are suddenly expected to produce winning teams that compete for the Ivy League title, get to the NCAA tournament and, yes, actually win a game once they get there.

The Crimson have won the automatic berth three years in a row, winning a tournament game the past two seasons as a 14-seed and a 12-seed, beating New Mexico and Cincinnati, respectively.

Harvard coach Tommy Amaker is in the renaissance of his career. He has transformed the sport on campus. He has made it cool to come to the games, to follow the team and alumni are relishing being able to travel to NCAA tournament games.

Amaker could have left for Boston College. Cal too, if he wanted the job. But the Crimson are working on a new contract and trying to take care of him. Harvard works at a glacial pace at this sort of thing, because it’s not used to competing for coaches the way in which it does for faculty. The commitment, however, is there. There are even plans to upgrade facilities.

And being the coach who put Harvard into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1946 and kept it there has enchanted Amaker enough to stay in Cambridge for the foreseeable future.

The normalcy of being a double-digit seed that wins has even been overshadowed.

"People forget we were a 14- and a 12-seed," Amaker said. “And it was the first time in 30 years that a team had won games in the NCAA tournament from the Ivy in back-to-back years. I was stunned when I saw that."

But breaking down barriers for Harvard is nothing new on campus and now in the Ivy.

This is the new normal. And Harvard will be the favorite again.

What we saw this season: The Ivy League had its best postseason run in its 58-year history. Five teams went to the postseason with Harvard (NCAA), Princeton (CBI) and Brown, Columbia and Yale (CIT), and the league had eight postseason wins.

Putting multiple teams in the postseason occurred for the fourth time in five years.

The last team to win consecutive NCAA tournament games was Princeton in 1983 and ’84.

Harvard won a school-record 27 games and a school-high 13 games in the Ivy League as well as the first undefeated road record in the Ivy in the school’s history.

Yale made it to the CIT title game before losing to Murray State. It was the first time an Ivy League team played for a postseason title since 1975, when Princeton played for the NIT title.

These tournaments might not resonate nationally, especially the CIT, but the results matter. The Ivy League is showing dramatic improvement, and the stronger it gets, the more its champ gets challenged, giving it a legitimate shot to advance in the NCAAs.

"We're trying to be a top-10 league next year," Columbia coach Kyle Smith said. "Watch out WCC, Missouri Valley and Horizon.

"We had five postseason teams, an 8-5 postseason record, Kenpom had us as the 13th-best league, Columbia had a buzzer-beater at Valpo, Harvard and Columbia played a double-overtime game at Columbia which was the best game in 2014 and only 3,200 people witnessed."

[+] EnlargeArmani Cotton
AP Photo/Jessica HillWith Armani Cotton, left, returning, Yale could challenge Harvard for the Ivy League crown.
What to expect next season: Yale coach James Jones said next season could be the best the entire league has ever been. He said five teams could reach 20 wins.

Harvard will be picked as the favorite, even with the departure of Brandyn Curry, Kyle Casey and Laurent Rivard.

The Crimson return a strong core of Wesley Saunders, Siyani Chambers and Steve Moundou-Missi, with the likely emergence of Zena Edosomwan, Corbin Miller, Agunwa Okolie, Jonah Travis and a healthy Kenyatta Smith.

"Their inside game will be very formidable," Smith said of the Crimson. Chambers should be the top guard in the league, too.

Yale will likely be the No. 2 pick behind Harvard with the return of Justin Sears, Javier Duren, Armani Cotton, Brandon Sherrod, Nick Victor, Matt Townsend and Jack Montague.

Dismissing Princeton would be a mistake. Tigers coach Mitch Henderson said this team has something to prove, and seven returners, a strong finish to the season and a commitment to defense mean this team has a real shot to be a contender.

Smith said he envisions a bunched-up group in the middle of the pack with any number of teams emerging. Columbia and Brown are the most likely teams to pop out of this group with Alex Rosenberg, Maodo Lo, Cory Osetkowski, Steve Frankoski and Grant Mullins leading the Lions, while Cedric Kuakumensah and Rafael Maia should be the focus for Brown.

Dartmouth, Penn and Cornell are unknowns at this point, but the Quakers rarely stay down for long. The Ivy doesn’t have a postseason tournament, but Amaker has said it's a 14-game tournament with every game counting as much as the next. The chances of getting multiple bids in the NCAA tournament -- which has never happened -- rests solely on whether a second team can win quality nonconference games and push the Crimson to a playoff. It's not crazy to consider.

"Our league will be incredibly balanced and strong next year," Amaker said. "Our league will be very underrated."'s Ivy League preview

November, 2, 2012
Before we get to the Blue Ribbon team-by-team previews for the Ivy League, here is Eamonn Brennan's quick wind sprint through the league:

Here are Blue Ribbon's in-depth previews of all eight Ivy teams: Insider

Penn Insider Free

Behind the box scores: Friday's games

February, 18, 2012
A scan of the college basketball box scores each night guarantees all kinds of statistical oddities and standout performances. Here are some we found from Friday:

Harvard 69, Brown 42
Brown attempted just two free throws the entire game. Seventeen teams have attempted two or fewer free throws, but Brown is the only team to do so this season while also attempting less than double-digit three pointers. Every other team to do so attempted at least 14 threes.

In addition, Brown became the first team this season to attempt nine or fewer threes and two or fewer free throws. Every other team that attempted nine or fewer threes took at least five free throws.

Yale 70, Dartmouth 61
Yale (30-33 from the foul line) became the first Ivy League team this season and eighth team overall to make 30 or more free throws while shooting at least 90 percent from the line. Of those eight teams, the Bulldogs’ 70 points are the fewest scored.

Stetson 86, Florida Gulf Coast 80
Florida Gulf Coast attempted 40 three pointers, the ninth team to attempt 40 or more threes this season.'s Ivy League preview

October, 18, 2011
Before we get to the Blue Ribbon team-by-team previews for the Ivy League, here is Diamond Leung's one-minute wind sprint through the league:

Blue Ribbon breakdowns of all eight teams in the Ivy:

Pennsylvania InsiderFree

More Ivy League content:

New Faces, New Places: Paul Cormier

October, 19, 2010
Paul Cormier realizes -- and is quick to point out -- that there are no quick fixes for what ails his Dartmouth basketball team.

Which is a wise attitude when you’re in charge of a team that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since Eisenhower was president.

But if anyone can add perspective to the subtle changes breezing through the leaves in Hanover, N.H., it is Cormier.

[+] Enlarge
Joe Murphy/Getty ImagesAfter 19 years, Paul Cormier is back for his second stint with Dartmouth.
In 1984, he started his college basketball head-coaching career at Dartmouth, taking over in the height of the Princeton-Penn dominance. He put together unprecedented success, but unprecedented success still only got the Big Green back-to-back second-place finishes in the Ivy League.

Back for a second go-round, Cormier knows the ledger doesn’t show dramatic changes. Dartmouth hasn’t had a winning season since 1999.

But he senses a change -- a change that you can’t see in a box score, but one that is equally critical.

The Dartmouth administration, like others around the Ivy League, has had its eyes opened by the excitement and attention Cornell basketball brought to its campus with its recent success and Sweet 16 run.

“Before, no one was on the same page,’’ Cormier said. “The president would say one thing but it wasn’t relayed to admissions or the financial aid office. Now they’ve seen the notoriety and benefits from what Cornell has done, from an admissions standpoint, from giving, everywhere. That makes it easier to rationalize making sure athletics are as excellent as academics here.’’

The new administrative attitude only has served to fuel Cormier more. He has been out of the college circuit for 12 years, jumping to the NBA after seven years at Dartmouth and seven more at Fairfield.

More, he’s been off the bench for three seasons, spending the bulk of his time in the pros as an advance scout.

The return has invigorated him.

“I missed coaching. I missed being connected with a team,’’ Cormier said. “When you’re a scout, you’re connected with an organization. You’re removed from the daily in and out, going through the pluses and minuses.’’

For now, the cynics will be quick to remind him there are more minuses at Dartmouth than pluses. Cormier returns to a Big Green team in all sorts of shambles. Coach Terry Dunn quit Jan. 8 amid rumors of a team mutiny. Dartmouth averaged just 54 points per game, dead last of the 334 teams ranked at the Division I level, connected on only 3.6 3-pointers per game, won just five games and a mere one in the Ivy League. Not surprisingly, no player managed to average double figures.

The good news/bad news: Four of the players from that team are back and Cormier hopes, a more concerted effort on defense will make up for whatever his players lack on the offensive end.

To get better, Cormier knows he needs better players, but the Ivy League is not the place for shortcuts. Transfers are a rarity and junior college additions are practically nonexistent.

He will play the hand he’s been dealt for now.

“Over the past several years it hasn’t been special to be a Dartmouth basketball player,’’ Cormier said. “That’s something you have to work on. Getting a new coach is going to get you respect. You have to earn respect. You earn your notoriety. It’s not just talking about it. It’s getting in the weight room and having other people say, there’s something different about the way they’re going about it.’’

If there ever was anything close to resembling a heyday at Dartmouth, Cormier led it. In 1987-88, his Big Green team finished 18-8 and 10-4 in the Ivy League, missing a chance at a share of the Ivy League title with a one-point loss in the final game of the regular season. A year later, Dartmouth went 17-9, finishing second again. Those still rank as two of the winningest seasons at Dartmouth in the past 50 years.

This is not some stopover on the way to something bigger and better for Cormier. Dartmouth offered him his first head-coaching job, and if the 58-year-old Cormier has his way, it will be his last.

“I want to be here,’’ he said. “I’m very loyal to this place and I want it to succeed. We’re not embarrassed to say our ultimate goal over the next four or five years is to win an Ivy League championship. People will say, ‘but you haven’t won it in 52 years. What’s changed?’ Well all I can say is I wouldn’t have taken the job if I didn’t think it was possible.’’

On the surface, it might look as if Dartmouth has gone backward with Cormier, turning back the clock instead of racing forward.

But make no mistake: Cormier represents change. A change in attitude.