Tuesday , Nov , 01 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

College Basketball Preview – Ivy League

*** College Basketball Preview – Ivy League ***

The Sports Network

By Nick Browne, College Basketball Staff Writer

OUTLOOK: In 2004-05, Pennsylvania took the Ivy League crown with relative
ease, finishing five games ahead of second-place Cornell. Coming off a 20-9
overall mark and a 13-1 league ledger, Penn boasts what is probably the best
starting five in the conference. If the Quakers don’t win the league again,
look for Princeton or Cornell to claim the top prize. After winning the league
crown in 2003-04, Princeton seemed poised to regain its place among the Ivy
elite last season, but first-year coach Joe Scott was unable to relate to his
players well enough to even finish in the top half of the league standings.
The Tigers finished a disappointing sixth in the league. Cornell pulled away
from a crowded pack to finish second in the Ivy, its best finish in 18 years.
A well-balanced attack for Coach Steve Donahue’s squad will again be
imperative to the Big Red if the Ivy title is in its sites. Boasting the best
low-post game in the league, thanks to 7-0 center Brian Cusworth and 6-8 power
forward Matt Stehle, Harvard is a dark horse to win the Ivy League for the
first time in the Crimson’s history. Terry Dunn’s Dartmouth squad boasts eight
freshmen to go along with five sophomores, just one junior and three seniors.
The Big Green’s young roster completed one of the best turnarounds in league
history last season, turning a 1-13 league mark in ’03-’04 to a 7-7 record in
’04-’05. The lack of experience on the roster will hurt the team’s chances of
hanging around the top of the league, but if the young guys can turn a .500
record last year into something better this year, the Big Green could be a
team to reckon with. Yale, Brown and Columbia should round out the bottom of
the Ivy League. The Bears and Lions finished seventh and eighth, respectively,
last year, and will most likely finish there again.

CONFERENCE CHAMPION: Pennsylvania

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Pennsylvania; 2. Princeton; 3. Harvard; 4.
Cornell; 5. Dartmouth; 6. Yale; 7. Brown; 8. Columbia

TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS:

PENNSYLVANIA: While capturing yet another Ivy title, the Quakers had almost no
competition in the conference last season, losing just one game in league play
and advancing to the NCAA Tournament yet again. If Penn does not repeat as Ivy
League champs this year it would be a surprise, as the Quakers boast the best
starting unit in the league, having lost just one starter from last year’s
team. The loss of Ivy League Player of the Year Tim Begley shouldn’t hurt too
much, as junior point guard Ibrahim Jaaber looks as if he is ready to have a
breakout season. Add forwards Mark Zoller and Steve Danley to cement the low
post and Penn’s starting unit should be tough for the rest of the Ivy to
handle. Guard David Whitehurst, who was starting by the end of last season,
will join Jaaber in the backcourt. The one area of concern for Penn, if there
is one, is the lack of depth on the bench, as coach Fran Dunphy does not have
a lot of veteran help.

PRINCETON: The Tigers are coming off a highly disappointing 2004-05 season,
after winning the Ivy League crown the year before, as a veteran team finished
sixth in the standings. Coach Joe Scott will have a smaller, quicker squad,
much like the team he had at Air Force. Three-point shooters Luke Owings,
Scott Greenman, Noah Savage and Geoff Kestler, along with shot-blocking center
Harrison Schaen are hoping to lead a Tiger renaissance and challenge Penn for
the league’s top spot. Last year, Princeton led the league in field-goal,
three-point and free-throw percentage, yet still finished with a 6-8 league
mark. Offense clearly was not the Tigers downfall last year, which is a
telling sign about the match-up zone defense Princeton employs. If the Tigers
can sure things up at the defensive end, they should be a much tougher team to
handle this year. The return of Schaen after taking a year off for personal
reasons should help the Tigers defensively, as should the addition of Kestler,
who has the makings of a star.

HARVARD: The Crimson are the only Ivy League team that has yet to win the
conference championship, yet Harvard looks as though it could make a run at
the top spot here in 2005-06. Boasting the biggest and best low-post game is
a good start for the Crimson if they want to secure that elusive Ivy League
crown. Cusworth and Stehle make Harvard very dangerous down low and the duo
will cause headaches for the rest of the league. Stehle managed to finish in
the top 10 in assists, blocked shots and steals last year, demonstrating his
tremendous versatility. He is the top returning scorer and rebounder from last
year’s club, followed by Cusworth, who led the league in blocked shots. Coach
Frank Sullivan has his team poised to be the Cinderella story of the league
this season. While the frontcourt is an area of strength for the Crimson, the
backcourt is an untested commodity. Jim Goffredo should score in double
figures on a consistent basis, and Michael Beal is an excellent defender, but
Harvard lacks an experienced point guard. Freshmen Andrew Pusar and Drew
Housman will most likely split time at the point, but both have yet to play a
minute of college ball.

CORNELL: The Big Red secured their best finish in 18 years in 2004-05, while
finishing second in the league with an 8-6 record. Balance was the key to
Cornell’s success, as six different players led the team in scoring in its
final six games. Coach Steve Donahue will look for similar balance this season
in hopes that the Big Red can overcome a myriad of obstacles to win the Ivy
League title. Guard Lenny Collins was a do-it-all player for Cornell last
year, and should provide more of the same this season, especially if he moves
to shooting guard, as is the plan. Collins is 6-6 and will give the Big Red a
big option at the two. Forwards Ryan Rourke and Ugo Ihekweazu, along with a
pair of 6-9 centers, Jason Hartford and Andrew Naeve, anchor a strong
frontcourt. The defensive pressure and ball-hawking skills of guard Graham Dow
will be a key for Cornell’s defense. A talented freshmen class, led by 6-7
forward Brian Keefer, will help Cornell stay near the top of the Ivy League.

DARTMOUTH: After finishing in last place in the Ivy League with a dismal 1-13
record in 2003-04, the Big Green turned it around last season under first-year
coach Terry Dunn. A 7-7 league mark was good enough for a third-place finish
for Dartmouth, and the difficulty this year will be duplicating or even
topping that feat. Guard Mike Lang, the team’s leading scorer a year ago, will
have to lead the offense again if the Big Green hope to make some noise this
season. Dunn is going to need production from his frontcourt, as Calvin
Arnold, Paul Bode and Chuck Flynn all have the potential to contribute. Lang
will be joined in the backcourt by sophomore Jonathan Bell, who enjoyed a
solid freshman campaign and should continue to mature and help the Big Green
enjoy even greater success. Dartmouth won 6-of-7 league games at home last
season, and won five of its final seven league contests to secure third place.
The Big Green will again need to enjoy similar success at home to be
competitive this season.

YALE: Coach James Jones and his Bulldogs are looking to record a sixth
consecutive season of .500 ball for the first time in school history. That
feat will not be easy, though, with the losses of four-year starter Edwin
Draughan and three-year starter Alex Gamboa in the backcourt. The emergence of
swingman Casey Hughes and point guard Eric Flato will help ease the losses,
but they will need to raise their level of play considerably. Center Dominick
Martin has just one semester of eligibility and will rejoin the team December
18th, meaning both Ross Morin and Sam Kaplan must shoulder the load down low
until Martin is available. If the Bulldogs are to succeed this season, they
need Flato and Caleb Holmes to contribute early and often. Freshmen Morin,
Chris Andrews and Ed White are intriguing, despite being untested and
unproven. If they can step in and handle the pressure, they will add much-
needed depth to the Bulldog roster.

BROWN: After compiling a winning record for four consecutive seasons, the
Bears took a step backward in 2004-05, as they finished seventh in the league
with a 5-9 league record, 12-16 overall. Senior Luke Roscoe leads a young team
and needs one or more of his teammates to step up and lend a hand if Brown is
to climb above the .500 mark this time around. Last year, Roscoe blossomed,
averaging 10.3 ppg and 5.6 rpg. Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Damon Huffman,
appears ready to take his game to another level, while freshman Chris Skrelja
is another player who looks capable of picking up the slack for Coach Glen
Miller’s team. Miller knows how to get the most out of his players, his track
record proves that. But he will need to get the most out of this team if the
Bears have any hope of returning the league respectability

COLUMBIA: Youth takes over for a disappointing senior class, as the Lions look
to improve on a disappointing 3-11 league record, and 12-15 overall mark, from
a season ago. Columbia is very young, with as many as four freshmen poised to
contribute from the outset. Sophomore Brett Loscalzo will lead the young Lions
and is committed to turning the Columbia program around. The lone senior is
forward Dragutin Kravic. The young talent should help Columbia be more
competitive in a league filled, for the most part, with parity. Coach Joe
Jones’ underclassmen, led by Loscalzo, Mack Montgomery, John Baumann and
Nigerian native Ben Nwachukwu, are the future of the program. The Lions also
boast the third Matsui to play in New York, as KJ Matsui joins the likes of
Hideke in the Bronx (NY Yankees), and Kaz in Flushing (NY Mets). Matsui was a
51-percent three-point shooter in high school in Maryland. While coach Jones
hopes to turn the program around this season, the Lions will probably finish
in the bottom of the league while the young nucleus continues to develop.