When you think of teams that run the Princeton offense, you think of backdoor cuts and 3-pointers. You don't think of a steady parade to the foul line, which makes these Bears a rare breed. Brown led Division I last season in percentage of total points scored from the line. It's not that Brown was bad from the arc; the Bears were 35th in the nation in percentage of points from 3-point range and they shot 37 percent as a team. Basically, instead of getting easy baskets inside, they got fouled. With the team's top four players coming back, including guards Mark McAndrew
(15.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Damon Huffman
(14.7 ppg), expect more of the same this season in former Princeton player Craig Robinson's second year in charge.
The Lions are the rare Ivy team that relies on frontcourt strength. The combination of possible player of the year candidate John Baumann
(13.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg), who led the league in both 2-point and 3-point shooting last season, and bulky Ben Nwachukwu
(8.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg) gives Columbia a big-man tandem that any Ivy would envy. What will determine if the Lions can take the next big step and be a dark horse title contender this season is the play of their backcourt, specifically the development of sophomore guards Patrick Foley
, Nico Scott
and Kevin Bulger
. The trio combined for almost 20 ppg last season, but Foley and Scott also contributed to Columbia's nearly 15 turnovers a game. Another possible X factor, if healthy, is Justin Armstrong
, who averaged 10.4 ppg in 2005-06 but was hampered by serious knee problems last season and averaged just 3.7 ppg.
The Big Red are the anti-Columbia, stacked with quality guards and a question mark inside. Point guard Louis Dale
(13.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.7 apg) and shooting guard Ryan Wittman
(15.6 ppg) excelled last season as freshmen, finishing as the team's top two scorers. The scary part? It's possible that there are better players on Cornell's roster. Returning from injury is 2005-06 Ivy rookie of the year Adam Gore
, who scored 20 in Cornell's win at Northwestern in the season opener last year before blowing out a knee late in the game. Combine that with the arrival of USC transfer Collin Robinson
, the most explosive one-on-one player on the team, and you can expect to see a lot of three- or even four-guard looks in Ithaca. The other reason that may occur is Cornell needs to replace solid big man Andrew Naeve
. While Jason Hartford
, Alex Tyler
and Jeff Foote
(a St. Bonaventure transfer eligible in January) will each provide part of what Naeve gave, Cornell coach Steve Donahue understands how important Naeve was. "Andrew was such a terrific team player and a hard worker and great defender and did all the dirty work and rebounded the ball and really did a variety of things that really allowed us to compete with really good teams," Donahue said. " ... I don't take that for granted that we'll be able to replace him."
While most Ivy teams are taking a step forward in available talent, the Big Green will have to overcome the loss of leading scorer Leon Pattman
and the absence of promising forward Dan Biber
. That's not great news for a team that was very poor offensively last season, finishing in the nation's bottom 35 in offensive efficiency and 3-point shooting. The burden will fall on forwards Alex Barnett
(11.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Johnathan Ball
and point guard DeVon Mosley
. There may not be a quick fix this season, though. Mosley was the only returning Dartmouth player to connect on even 20 3-pointers last season. Barnett, who may be the most athletic forward in the league but features questionable shot selection at times, will have to greatly improve his poor 1.01 points-per-shot rate from last season to become a legitimate No. 1 scoring option.
While the year-end stats imply that the Crimson's defense was their biggest problem, you have to take a look at the last 10 games of the season, after 7-footer Brian Cusworth
had completed his eligibility, to see the problem this season very well could be on offense. Only once in that stretch, during which the Crimson went 3-7 in Ivy play, did Harvard score more than 1.05 points per possession. New coach Tommy Amaker will preach a defense-first philosophy as he works to add more talent and depth to the roster. In the meantime, the Crimson will have to lean on juniors Drew Housman
(13.3 ppg, 3.4 apg) and Evan Harris
(10.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg) to provide some punch. One way the Crimson could bolster their offense is by continuing their foul-shooting trends from last year. Harvard was the ninth-best free-throw shooting team in the nation last season at 75.9 percent and also had one of the nation's highest free-throw rates (FTAs per FGA), meaning they got to the line a lot and converted often.
|Glen Miller led Penn to an Ivy title. |
Ibby Jaaber clearly was the best player in the league last season, but the Quakers might find it harder to replace the production of Mark Zoller
inside. Part of that is because Penn has a cadre of young, talented guards in the program, headed by sophomore Darren Smith
(now fully recovered from a torn labrum in his shoulder) and senior Brian Grandieri
(11.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.7 apg). Expect two freshmen, wing Tyler Bernardini and point guard Harrison Gaines, to provide some punch as well. The other part is that Penn's returning bigs are very untested, having deputized behind Zoller and now-departed center Steve Danley
all of last season. The first shot at significant minutes might go to Justin Reilly
, a banger with some skill who had seven points and three boards against Texas A&M in the NCAAs. But the guy with the most upside may be Andreas Schreiber
, a Swede by way of Southern California with the size and perimeter game to be a matchup nightmare in the Ivy. Either way, expect this Penn team to look a lot like head coach Glen Miller's better Brown teams that were heavy on the guards and perimeter scoring.
When you play as slowly as the Tigers did last season -- they had the fewest possessions per game of any team in Division I -- you can't also turn the ball over 13 times a game. When you take half of your shots from 3-point range, you can't also make just 34 percent of them and rebound only 26.8 percent of your misses (317th in D-I). The good news for Princeton fans is that new coach Sydney Johnson, fresh from John Thompson III's Georgetown bench, likely will operate much more like his former boss's Princeton teams, which attacked more aggressively on offense. "We're still going to look for the best shot, but it might be the first one, not the second or third," he said. While Johnson has some work to do to bring the Tigers' talent level back up to traditional standards, there are some pieces to build on, like sharpshooter Kyle Koncz
and sophomore guards Marcus Schroeder
and Lincoln Gunn
. In starting the recovery from last season's school-worst 2-12 Ivy season, Johnson doesn't expect radical change. Instead, he'll look to lean on his upperclassmen, who have the most experience in the Princeton system. "We're going to change some things here and there, but we're still Princeton basketball. We have some guys who are expected to show up on the floor, but also control the locker room," he said.
Of all the contenders, the Bulldogs likely have the best combination of talent, depth, experience and recent success. In addition to player of the year candidate Eric Flato
, Yale returns five other upperclassmen who played at least 18 minutes a game last season, one in which the Bulldogs finished in second place with a 10-4 Ivy mark. More than individual talent or stats, though, Yale's season might be defined by how well it takes care of business against teams its expected to handle. Last year's title run was torpedoed by a one-point loss at Cornell (when Yale missed two free throws with two seconds left) and then an inexplicable home pounding by Columbia right before a potential title showdown with Penn. Head coach James Jones hopes last season's experiences provide a platform for this season's success. "I think we're as good as anyone on paper, but we have to go do it," he said. "I think because we were in a race last year, it may help our kids somewhat going through it again if we get involved and get close."