- Ky McKeon
Player of the Year: Bryce Aiken, Harvard
Coach of the Year: James Jones, Yale
Newcomer of the Year: Jaron Faulds, Fr., Columbia
Freshman of the Year: Jaron Faulds, Fr., Columbia
Key Returners: Makai Mason, Miye Oni, Alex Copeland, Blake Reynolds, Trey Phills, Jordan Bruner
Key Losses: Anthony Dallier, Sam Downey
Key Newcomers: Azar Swain, Jameel Alausa, Jalen Gabbidon
Postseason Projection: 11-12 Seed (and a 1st round win)
Outlook: James Jones enters his 19th year at the helm of Yale basketball hoping to build on what was a surprisingly successful 2016-17 campaign. Despite the loss of preseason Ivy Player of the Year Makai Mason to injury and a young core, the Bulldogs turned in a strong season going 18-10 (9-5) and finishing 3rd in the top heavy conference. This year, Jones’s squad is one of the most talented in the Ivy, leading many to predict Yale to punch its second ticket to the Big Dance in three seasons.
The Bulldogs will have hands down the best backcourt in the conference and one of the best one-two punches in the entire country. Mason returns to lead the Dogs as their primary ball handler. There’s a reason Mason was picked to win the POY before going down with an injury last year – the guy can flat out score the basketball. At 6’1” with an unintimidating build, Mason looks like a player that would solely hover around the three-point line on offense. While he certainly can fill it up from deep (36.4%; 40.8% in conference play as a sophomore), he’s just as comfortable driving the lane where he has a knack for drawing contact or finishing on a pull-up or turnaround jumper. Against Baylor in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Mason poured in 31 points on 9/18 shooting and went 11/11 from the free throw line.
Miye Oni will be the Robin to Mason’s Batman (or better yet, he’ll be the younger Batman to Mason’s older Batman). Oni turned more than a few heads in his inaugural season in New Haven, proving to be one of the most complete players in the conference. Here are some of his ranks in the Ivy last season:
Stuffing the stat sheet is a nightly occasion for Oni, who was one of only 20 collegiate players to be invited to the Nike Elite Basketball Academy where he gained the attention of NBA scouts. Oni is a 6’7” athletic two-way wing that can shoot, rebound, pass, and defend; expect him to take a more alpha dog role alongside Mason as he continues his Ivy League tear and improves upon his impressive .473/.397/.784 shooting slash.
Rising juniors Alex Copeland and Trey Phills will fill out the primary backcourt rotation for Jones and the Dogs. Phills saw most of the starts last season, but Copeland was the team’s leading scorer (tied with Oni) despite coming off the pine. Phills is an athletic two-guard who is dangerous in transition and plays sounds defense. Copeland is instant offense once he enters the game; he specializes in the mid-range where he hit 49.1% of his jumpers last season and represents one of Yale’s better isolation scorers.
Up front, Blake Reynolds and Jordan Bruner return to form a strong forward duo that complements one another nicely on offense. Reynolds is a stretch-style four that prefers to shoot the long ball, where he connected on 36.9% of his attempts last season, while Bruner tends to stay in the paint (though he can step out) where he can post up his defender and rise up over the top in the lane. I’m interested to see what kind of leap Bruner makes this season. The 6’9” sophomore oozes with potential; he’s very long and bouncy, rebounded well last season, and ranked 3rd in the Ivy in block percentage. All that’s missing from his game right now is a bit more strength, which should come with time. One thing to note with Reynolds, is his elite passing ability from the power forward spot. Reynolds posted an 18.3 assist rate last season, which is pretty much unheard of from players of his size and position. He has excellent court vision and is elite at finding open shooters on skip passes from either the opposite wing or down in the paint. Yale as a team is usually in the top 50 or so in the country in assist rate thanks to its focus on ball movement and unselfishness.
Jones tends to keep his bench pretty short, but expect sophomore Austin Williams to play a larger frontcourt role off the pine. Paul Atkinson and Wyatt Yess, two freshmen this season, have a little bit to go before being consistent contributors, which probably means we will see Oni playing the four spot at times. In the backcourt, Azar Swain, Jalen Gabbidon, and Jameel Alausa all have a bright future with the Bulldogs, especially after Mason bolts for Baylor next season.
Bottom Line: Yale and Harvard will be the talk of the Ivy all season. The Bulldogs’ players may not have the pedigree as the Crimson’s young guns, but they do have the experience. If Mason can return at full strength and Oni continues on his trajectory to Mars, Yale should have no issue taking the regular season Ivy crown. A part of me wishes we could see two Ivy teams enter the Dance, which isn’t unfathomable with Yale’s relatively strong non-conference schedule. The Dogs have the talent to knock off Power 5 schools – the likes of Creighton, Wisconsin, TCU, and Georgia Tech should be just a teensy bit nervous.
Key Returners: Bryce Aiken, Seth Towns, Chris Lewis, Corey Johnson, Justin Bassey
Key Losses: Siyani Chambers, Zena Edosomwan
Key Newcomers: Rio Haskett
Postseason Projection: 12-14 Seed / NIT
Outlook: Tommy Amaker made headlines last season when he pulled in the 10th highest rated recruiting class of 2016. A top ten recruiting class is always impressive no matter the school, but it’s borderline unfathomable to achieve such a haul at an Ivy League institution. Amaker brought in four ESPN Top 100 recruits along with two more 3-stars to completely change the look and flip the script on his disappointing 2015-16 campaign. Harvard went through some growing pains last year, as every young team would, but the talent was undeniable. Now the Crimson look to unleash hell on the Ivy in 2017-18 as the star studded 2016 class enter their second year in Cambridge.
Stylistically, Harvard runs a motion offense that emphasizes floor spacing. Amaker likely starts Seth Towns at the four, meaning Harvard will have four shooters on the court at all times leading to a traditional 4-out, 1-in look on offense with Chris Lewis anchoring the paint. Unsurprisingly, Harvard plays a very smart brand of basketball, one that exhibits a very unselfish style of play and scores on basket cuts and kick outs to open shooters. Defensively, the Crimson should once again be a formidable group to score against. Amaker squads have always focused on taking away the three-ball, funneling ball handlers into the middle where a shot blocker waits to erase hope. Big Z was a great shot blocker, but Chris Lewis and fellow sophomore Robert Baker are also among the best in the Ivy.
Bryce Aiken will be the focal point of the Crimson attack this season, assuming more ball handling duties with the graduation of long-time point guard Siyani Chambers. Aiken is a dangerous scorer in the half court, able to stroke it from deep or beat his man off the bounce. The 6’0” guard thrived in the pick-n-roll where he scored 0.973ppp (points per possession), ranking in the 90th percentile in the country (per Synergy). Less than half of Aiken’s three-pointers last season came off assists, meaning he creates his own shot most of the time, which is extremely valuable for a team to have – a guy that can bail the offense out late in the shot clock or create when the offense stalls isn’t something seen too often in the Ivy. When Aiken was on the floor last season, Harvard scored 1.09ppp; when he sat, the Crimson mustered only 0.98ppp. However, this number drops to 1.02ppp when Aiken was on the floor without Chambers, which raises the question if Aiken can maintain efficiency as the lead guard.
Aiken’s frontcourt counterpart is Seth Towns, a 6’7” stretch four who uses his excellent three-point shot (37.9% last year) to bait slower defenders to commit past the arc, upon which time Towns has the ability to blow by and get into the lane. Last season, Towns fell a little too in love with the pull-up jumper, attempting 36% of his total shots from mid-range but converting only 36% of those attempts. This season, Towns needs to make the offensive evolutionary leap and take the extra couple of dribbles to get to the rim. Defensively, Towns is valuable thanks to his ability to defend out on the wing or bang in the post with power forwards.
Towns and Aiken will combine to take the overwhelming share of the team’s total shots, but Amaker’s supporting pieces are all talented in their own right and will be crucial to the squad’s overall success. Chris Lewis will start at the center position; he’s a big time rebounder and solid finisher in the post who could develop into a potent back-to-the-basket scorer in his sophomore season. Lewis is excellent defensively ranking 5th in the Ivy in both block percentage and steal percentage. He’ll be spelled by Baker, a player of a similar mold that contributes on the glass and in the shot-blocking department.
Expect Amaker to start Corey Johnson and Justin Bassey on the wings. Both players are primarily spot up shooters that space the floor at an elite level. Johnson attempted 133 threes (41.4%) last season versus only 16 twos and 8 free throws; his job is to catch and shoot the basketball. Bassey fills the prototypical glue guy role for the Crimson. On offense, he picks his spots, shooting only high percentage looks; Bassey ranked 1st in the conference in 2PFG% and shot 40% from downtown. He’s also one the team’s best rebounders and wing defenders.
Past the starting five, Amaker’s rotation involves a little guess work. Amaker is notorious for benching players that formally assumed large roles for the team the year prior (Big Z and Tommy McCarthy know this all too well). Henry Welsh started six games at the beginning of last season. Like Baker and Lewis, Welsh is an excellent rebounder and can knock down shots out to 15-feet (he is Thomas Welsh’s brother after all). Freshman Mario “Rio” Haskett could play a role immediately for Amaker in the backcourt. Haskett is a 3-star recruit that was courted by multiple Division 1 programs. He’s an athletic monster that can score baskets in bunches.
Bottom Line: Harvard will open the season as the favorite to win the Ivy League along with rival Yale. The Crimson sophomore class should be able to propel this team to the top of the standings and back into the Big Dance. This is another one of those mid-major programs (like Yale) that power five teams fear to play in the non-con and the NCAA Tournament. Expect Harvard to be competitive in the non-conference with the big name squads and to make a dominant run in the Ivy.
Key Returners: Devin Cannady, Myles Stephens, Amir Bell
Key Losses: Spencer Weisz, Steven Cook
Key Newcomers: Sebastian Much, Jerome Desrosiers, Elijah Barnes
Postseason Projection: NIT / None
Outlook: After finishing second or third in the Ivy League standings every year since 2009, Mitch Henderson and the Princeton Tigers finally broke through and won the regular season title in 2017, going a perfect 14-0 in conference play. Princeton survived a couple scares in the inaugural Ivy League Tournament to earn a 12-seed in the Big Dance where it nearly knocked off a talented Notre Dame squad. This season, the Tigers lose Ivy Player of the Year Spencer Weisz and unanimous 1st Team All-Conference selection Steven Cook to graduation, but return a squad full of talent and potential. Yale and Harvard may be the favorites to win the league this year, but Princeton promises to be right in the thick of things as it attempts to punch its second straight ticket to the Big Dance.
Princeton invented the offense it currently runs – the “Princeton Offense”. This scheme is less about individual star players and more about a cohesive unit of guys that can all contribute in a variety of ways (specifically – shoot, pass, and handle the ball). The offense features a 4-out, 1-in look with the big man usually hovering around the free throw line. Patience is the key word in this scheme; the goal of the attack is to find a mismatch and exploit it via back cut, post up, or outside shooting. The Tigers relied heavily on their outside shooting last year, as they normally tend to do year after year. Princeton ranked 4th in the country in percentage of points scored via the three-pointer, and nailed an impressive 37.6% of its shots from distance.
Defensively, Princeton runs a strict man-to-man that switches nearly everything thanks to the interchangeable pieces of positions 1-4. The Tigers were easily the best defensive squad in the Ivy last season and ranked 45th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom. Because they don’t crash the offensive glass, the Tigers are very good at limiting transition opportunities, which is key to their goal of slowing and controlling the overall tempo of the game.
Cook and Weisz will be difficult to replace and both were invaluable to the Princeton offense. The Tigers scored 0.11 more points per possession (a high number) when the two shared the court versus when one or both of them sat. Henderson will rely on juniors Devin Cannady, the team’s returning leading scorer, and Myles Stephens, the reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, to pick up the mantle. Cannady figures to be the “point guard” along with key returning piece Amir Bell, though the Princeton offense really features positionless basketball, so expect to see several guards handling at the top of the key and pushing in transition. Cannady shot 40.3% from downtown last season on 196 attempts.
Stephens is the most complete player on the roster and one of the best players in the conference. Offensively, Stephens does everything from shooting the three-ball to attacking the rim via penetration to posting up a weaker defender. The 6’5” forward shot 40.5% from downtown, 55.9% inside the arc, and 65.6% at the rim last season. Defensively, Stephens can guard literally any position. Usually, he matches up with the opposing team’s four-man (he guarded Bonzie Colson in the 2017 NCAA Tournament), but Stephens can also keep up with wings and most guards. Expect Stephens to be a sure-fire 1st Team All-Ivy member and the favorite to repeat as DPOY.
The 5-spot is an important “position” in the Princeton offense. Last season, Pete Miller was the man in the middle (though Stephens also filled this space). This year, Will Gladson, a sophomore out of Chaminade HS in St. Louis, figures to be the starting center when the season opens. Gladson is a perfect fit for this offensive system due to his ability to shoot from behind the arc and make passes (back cuts, kick outs) from the free throw line and on the block. Senior Alec Brennan should also see court time in Gladson’s stead – he’s of similar build and skill competencies.
Like several other teams in the Ivy, Princeton brings in an enticing crop of newcomers this season. Three forwards highlight Henderson’s freshman class, 3-stars Sebastian Much and Jerome Desrosiers, and 2-star Elijah Barnes. One of Much or Desrosiers should start immediately for the Tigers. Both big men have the versatility to play out on the perimeter and also beat their defender in the paint. Much is the better shooter of the two; he’s a fundamental player in the mold of the ideal Princeton recruit, and one that turned down offers from Utah, Washington State, and Arizona State, among others. Desrosiers also had a slew of high-major offers including Baylor, BC, and Illinois. The Canadian 4-man is very physical and strong, and should be an immediate shot in the arm to the Tigers’ rebounding and defense. Barnes is a long, athletic prospect that is still a tad raw offensively. His value will be on the defensive end where he will be able to guard several positions and serve as a competent rim protector inside.
Bottom Line: The Princeton offense is a well-oiled machine that should once again be one of the most efficient in the Ivy. The loss of Cook and Weisz could certainly inflict growing pains, but defensively, Princeton should be as tough as ever. Ultimately this is a squad that should compete for the Ivy auto-bid in what’s shaping up to be one of the deepest and most competitive conferences in Ivy League history.
Key Returners: AJ Brodeur, Darnell Foreman, Antonio Woods, Jackson Donahue, Ryan Betley, Devon Goodman, Matt MacDonald, Caleb Wood
Key Losses: Matt Howard
Key Newcomers: Jelani Williams, Eddie Scott, Jarrod Simmons, Mark Jackson
Postseason Projection: None
Outlook: Once an Ivy powerhouse under Fran Dunphy in the 90’s and early 2000’s, the Penn Quakers have been fairly irrelevant since their last NCAA Tournament appearance back in 2007. Steve Donahue has taken steps to improve his squad’s outlook, bringing in a stellar 2016 freshman class and another excellent class this season. With the loss of only one major contributor from last season’s team, Penn looks poised to compete for a top three spot in the Ivy.
Penn’s offense in a nutshell can be described as one that wants to 1) shoot the three-ball or 2) shoot the ball near the rim. The Quakers’ lineup usually consists of four guards (or three guards and an undersized forward) spaced around sophomore stud AJ Brodeur, who mans the interior. Donahue’s offense goes through Brodeur, a 2nd Team All-Ivy selection as a freshman and the reigning League Rookie of the Year. Brodeur is an excellent finisher inside the paint, but is also a willing passer from the post. A lot of offense is generated from inside-outside action spear-headed by Brodeur’s gravitational pull on perimeter defenders. Despite Brodeur’s success last season, the Quaker offense struggled all too often, mostly due to the team’s overall poor shooting and lack of rim attackers outside of Brodeur.
The offense will get a major shot in the arm this year with the return of Antonio Woods, one of Penn’s best players during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons before being declared academically ineligible during the second semester in 2016. Woods redshirted last season but appears ready to resume his role as a scoring combo guard, one that likes to beat his man to the bucket or knock down an outside shot. Woods will be joined by returning guards Darnell Foreman, Devon Goodman, and Jackson Donahue to form the “combo guard committee”. Each player listed can handle the ball and score from the wing. Foreman likely starts at point guard with Goodman serving as his backup. Both guards were inefficient shooting the ball last season, but both posted respectable assist rates despite higher-than-ideal turnover rates. Donahue (no relation to the coach) will provide offense as a spot-up shooter off the pine; his 3P% plummeted to 30.7% last season after shooting a scorching 38.5% during his freshman season. A number more like the latter percentage would certainly help the Quaker cause.
On the wings, Coach Donahue brings back Caleb Wood, Matt MacDonald, and Ryan Betley, each of whom have ample in-game experience. With the influx of some talented freshmen, its likely not all of these guys will see the amount of time they enjoyed previously. Wood and MacDonald both saw their minutes evaporate in the latter half of the conference season, and that trend will likely continue in 2017-18. Betley was a godsend on the wing, starting nearly every game after December 28th. The 6’5” sophomore posted a ridiculous shooting slash of .563/.402/.906 while proving he could score in multiple ways on the floor. Sam Jones, a 6’7” senior, should also see time at the forward spot off the bench.
One of the four freshmen coming in will start for this squad, at least in my humble third party opinion. Jelani Williams and Eddie Scott are both athletic wings with good shooting strokes that have plenty of talent to succeed in the Ivy. Williams tore his ACL back in December, so he may be slow to start the year, while Scott has been exponentially improving daily it seems. Jarrod Simmons, a 3-star power forward, could also start alongside Brodeur, which would shift Betley to his more natural wing spot. 7’3” freshman Mark Jackson was actually a 2015 HS grad, but he took two years off for a mission trip. He’s 7’3”. He’ll find a role.
Defensively, Donahue likes to run a 1-3-1 zone (along with man), which turned out to be successful more often than not. Penn ranked 3rd in the Ivy in adjusted defensive efficiency thanks to a philosophy that funnels opponents to the rim where they’re met by Brodeur, one of the best shot blockers in the conference (2nd in the Ivy in block rate; 33rd nationally). The defense should be fierce once again, so if the offense starts to click, Penn could make a real run at the title.
Bottom Line: With Woods back, Brodeur and Betley more experienced, and the influx of Scott, Williams, and Simmons, the Quakers are a good bet to finish in the top four of the Ivy. Unfortunately, Yale and Harvard each appear to have one of their better teams in recent memory, so it won’t be easy to wrench away the regular season crown. However, with the Ivy Tournament being played at the Palestra, it’s not crazy to imagine a scenario where Penn represents the Ivy in the Big Dance (as a 15-seed most likely).
Key Returners: Matt Morgan, Stone Gettings, Troy Whiteside, Wil Bathurst, Josh Warren
Key Losses: Robert Hatter, JoJo Fallas
Key Newcomers: Jimmy Boeheim, Terrance McBride, Bryan Knapp, Jake Kuhn, Steven Julian
Postseason Projection: None
Outlook: Brian Earl’s first season in Ithaca was a tough one despite leading a roster of some pretty good individual talent. Part of the Big Red’s struggles could have been the implementation of a new scheme on offense, but the primary reason was their brutal defense. With two of the league’s best players coming back for their junior seasons, there’s reason to believe Cornell can compete for the 4th spot in the Ivy postseason tournament. But, the defensive woes need to be solved in order for that to come to fruition.
Earl played for Princeton back in the 90's and then served as an assistant coach for his alma mater for nine seasons prior to taking the Cornell job last year. Unsurprisingly, Earl implemented the famous Princeton Offense on his new team. As described above in the Princeton preview, this offense features positionless basketball with five guys that can all shoot, pass, and handle the rock (at least somewhat competently). One of the keys to the offense is having a versatile big man that can shoot and that possesses excellent court vision. Stone Gettings is epitome of what a coach running the Princeton Offense wants in the middle of the scheme. Gettings delivered an impressive shooting slash of .532/.364/.690, but the most remarkable stat was his assist rate, which ranked first on the team (by a significant margin) and 3rd in the Ivy League (remember, he’s a 6’8” forward). Gettings was superb at reading the defense, hitting cutters for back door layups when defenders overplayed the wing, or kicking out to his open shooters from the paint. The 6’8” junior is also an important part of Cornell’s transition attack – Gettings hits the ball handler’s defender with a ball screen while defenders back pedal and his team is running towards the basket, an action that is very difficult to guard when the handler can create and a shooting/rolling threat like Gettings is setting the pick. Expect Gettings to land on the All-Ivy Team this season.
In the backcourt, Matt Morgan returns to provide playmaking and shooting from the perimeter. Morgan led the Ivy in scoring last season and shot 36.8% from three on 220 attempts. Morgan is most dangerous spotting up from behind the arc and pushing the ball in transition where his speed allows him to get to the rack. Morgan will be joined by Wil Bathurst and Troy Whiteside in the “backcourt”. Bathurst is a wing slasher that prefers getting his buckets in the lane versus from the perimeter. Likewise, Whiteside gets most of his buckets around the rim, but showed the ability to shoot from deep when given time.
Earl will send out returning forwards Josh Warren and Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof next to Gettings up front. Warren turned in a productive freshman season ranking 5th in the Ivy in offensive rebounding percentage and finishing a respectable 52.4% from the floor. Abdur-Ra’oof missed all of last season with an injury; during his sophomore season, Abdur-Ra’oof started 25 games, but was woefully inefficient shooting .361/.246/.500 from the floor.
Cornell brings in a class of six newcomers this season, five freshman and one JUCO import. A good chunk of these newbies have a chance to contribute immediately, including Jimmy Boeheim (one guess whose kid that is), a 6’8” wing with a smooth lefty stroke. Boeheim may actually be a better fit next to Gettings instead of Warren due to his ability to space the floor. Likewise, Jake Kuhn, another lefty wing prospect, will be able to space the floor off the pine and score leaking out in transition. Guard-wise, Bryan Knapp and Terrance McBride will both fight for playing time behind Morgan. JUCO transfer Steven Julian may be the most athletic player on the roster allowing him to see immediate time on the wing.
Bottom Line: Cornell should be a good offensive team in 2017-18; the Big Red has the personnel necessary to execute the Princeton Offense, and Stone Gettings and Matt Morgan are Ivy League stars. The question will be on defense. While Cornell did a good job at shutting down the three-point line last season, a lack of ball pressure and resistance at the rim allowed for too many easy buckets. Earl’s crew will fight for the 4-seed in the conference tourney, but it’ll still be a long shot with the level of competition in the league this year.
Key Returners: Mike Smith, Nate Hickman, Quinton Adlesh, Lukas Meisner
Key Losses: Luke Petrasek, Jeff Coby
Key Newcomers: Tai Bibbs, Jaron Faulds, Myles Hanson, Gabe Stefanini, Randy Brumant, Jake Klores
Postseason Projection: None
Outlook: Jim Engles got off to a bumpy start in his first season at the helm of Columbia; the loss of four starters from a 25-win 2015-16 squad proved to be too much to overcome as the Lions sputtered to an 11-16 (5-9) record. Engles’s initial struggles weren’t surprising given the relatively young team he inherited and the daunting task of instilling a new system. Columbia’s former coach, Kyle Smith, favored a slower tempo on offense and a man-to-man defense. Engles wants his teams to run in transition, and on defense, the former NJIT coach implements a 2-3 matchup zone. With a year under Engles’s system, the Lion returning core should be much improved. Despite the loss of Luke Petrasek, the maturation of the returners and the promise of the new freshmen have hopes high in New York.
Columbia’s offense ranked dead last in the Ivy League last season, a result of poor shot selection and finishing ability at the rim. While Engles dialed back Kyle Smith’s “three or die” offensive attack, the Lions still were prolific behind the arc, knocking down a respectable 35.9% of their attempts. Mike Smith returns to lead the offense, a 5’11” dynamo of a point guard that turned in one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the conference as a freshman. Smith ranked 8th in assist rate and 3rd in TO rate in the Ivy last season. Smith is a blur in transition, able to beat retreating defenders down the floor, and is also one of the better outside shooters on the roster. The only knock on Smith’s game last season was his questionable shot selection at times; the young guard had a tendency to force tough pull-ups when an extra pass would have been the preferred option. Engles will give Smith every opportunity to succeed this season; expect him to notch All-Conference honors in 2017-18.
Nate Hickman, Quinton Adlesh, Kyle Castlin, Jake Killingsworth, and Rodney Hunter represent the returning guards and wings capable of playing a role in the rotation this season. With talented freshmen Tai Bibbs, Myles Hanson, Randy Brumant, and Gabe Stefanini coming in, at least one of the returning guys is likely to take a cut in minutes.
Hickman, a versatile knockdown shooter with the ability to create his own shot, will start at the 2-spot for Engles. Adlesh led the team in 3P% as a sophomore (39.5%), but he’ll likely serve as a backup combo guard behind Smith and Hickman due to his lack of size. Hunter and Castlin will compete for the starting 3-spot. Hunter is primarily a slashing wing on offense and offers length on defense in the Lion zone. Castlin missed all of last season due to toe surgery; he’s also in the “slasher” archetype on the wing but can also hit the trey ball.
Bibbs or Hanson could easily emerge as starting threats later in the year. Both players are excellent shooters and should thrive in Engles’s up-and-down attack. Brumant is more of a defensive wing, but his athleticism will allow him to contribute on offense.
Columbia was weak inside last season, lacking a true scoring threat on the block. That could change this season with the entrance of Jaron Faulds, an ESPN 4-Star recruit. Faulds will compete right away with returning reserve center Patrick Tape for the starting role on day one. The 6’10” freshman is a very physical and strong player, and should give the Lions a legit rim protection presence on defense. Lukas Meisner will line up next to Faulds or Tape. Meisner is a stretch four with so-so shot-blocking chops and is an asset on the glass.
The Lions will once again run a 2-3 matchup zone that can be difficult for opposing offenses to navigate if played correctly. Columbia forced plenty of turnovers, which should continue given the length they have on the wing, and were good at closing off the paint to would-be penetrators. Too many times, however, the Lions were burned from outside as they gave up the 8th most threes in the country last season. In addition, Columbia was often roasted on the defensive boards trying to rebound out of their zone, which gets especially complicated in a matchup zone. These issues should iron out a bit with experience and the addition of Faulds should bolster the interior.
Bottom Line: Columbia won’t be competing for a top-2 finish this season in the Ivy, but they are a legitimate threat to make the Ivy postseason Tournament. Once there, anything can happen.
Key Returners: Brandon Anderson, Joshua Howard, Obi Okolie, Travis Fuller
Key Losses: Steven Spieth, Tavon Blackmon, JR Hobbie
Key Newcomers: Zach Hunsaker, Desmond Cambridge, Matt DeWolf, George Mawanda-Kalema, Tamenang Choh
Postseason Projection: None
Outlook: The Brown Bears (still one of the best nicknames in collegiate sports) have finished in 7th place in the Ivy three years running, and have cracked the top half of the standings only once in Mike Martin’s five-year stint as Head Coach. Unfortunately for Brown fans, 2017-18 doesn’t look to be the year fortunes change in Providence as the Bears lose two major contributors from a 13-17 (4-10) squad. The future looks brighter than in years past, however, thanks to a solid sophomore and junior class and Martin’s impressive freshman faction joining the fold.
The Bears had a talented offensive team last season, ranking 4th in the Ivy in adjusted offense, but were absolutely brutal on the defensive end. Offensively, Mike Martin has preached a fast paced, up tempo style of play that looks for quick hitters off sets in the half court. Martin’s motion offense is chock full of quick plays designed to get shooters and cutters open early in the offense. Perhaps the most utilized last season was a back screen set on a wing, who then cuts across the lane through the middle to the opposite block. Most of the time, Steven Spieth was the benefactor of this set, a stretch four with post-up ability. With Spieth out of the lineup, Martin will need to cater more towards his roster’s talents. Graduates Spieth, Blackmon, and Hobbie were the team’s most prolific three-point shooters by a long shot, meaning we’re likely to see a Brown squad that once again focuses on attacking the rim in hopes to get an easy bucket or earn a trip to the charity stripe. Last season, Brown ranked 7th in the country in free throw rate and 29th in FT%. Losing Spieth will hurt those numbers, but it will still be a focal point all year.
Defensively, Brown’s brutality came as a result of its ineptitude to stop teams in transition and at the rim. The Bears ranked dead last in 2PFG% defense (58.6%) last season, 337th in FG% defense at the rim (67.7%), and 346th in transition FG% defense (64.4%). Yes, those are all terrible numbers. Brown proved to be good at forcing turnovers, particularly via the steal, but gambles by perimeter players often left the back line exposed. Brown fared better playing zone, which it did about 20% of its defensive possessions, so Martin may look to shift more heavily towards this philosophy in 2017-18.
No returning Brown player averaged in double digit scoring last season, but there are still talented pieces coming back on this roster. Brandon Anderson will slide over into the point guard role with Tavon Blackmon’s departure. Anderson’s numbers when Blackmon sat last season weren’t atrocious, but the offense definitely sputtered at times. The freshman guard had turnover issues and shot an ugly 23.4% from downtown, but was one of the best pressure defenders on the team. Anderson’s scoring numbers will all but certainly increase this season, but the turnover problems must go away in order for Brown to have a shot at a conference tourney bid.
Anderson’s classmate, Joshua Howard, and junior Obi Okolie are the returning leading scorers and have a chance to lead the squad this season as well. Howard and Okolie are similar types of players, able to play either the 3 or 4 positions on both ends of the floor. Both guys like to attack the rim via the drive, but can also beat their defenders in the post. Howard is by far the better rebounder and rim protector, while Okolie is the more willing outside shooter. One interesting stat line that I’d be remiss not mentioning: Anderson, Howard, and Okolie shared the floor on 429 possessions last season; when they did, Brown scored .13 points less per possession (a huge number) and gave up .07 more points per possession on defense (that’s also big). A net -0.20ppp differential is definitely not what any Brown fan wants to see from their three returning leaders, but all the facts must be stated!
Granted, I wasn’t immensely familiar with this Brown team last season, but one guy that I thought deserved way more court time was Travis Fuller. Fuller ranked 8th in the Ivy in offensive rebounding rate, 1st in defensive rebounding rate, 6th in block percentage, and 3rd in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. Brown was a net 0.17ppp better overall when Fuller played versus when he sat. WHY WASN’T THIS GUY ON THE FLOOR MORE?! I don’t know, but with Spieth gone, Martin cannot afford to sit Fuller this season. Expect a big jump in production from the 6’9” center in his junior campaign.
Of the returning players off the bench, only Jason Massey will have a real impact on the rotation. Massey initially opted to transfer to FAU to join his twin brother, Justin, but then decided to come back to Brown. I don’t really know why. Massey is an athletic slashing wing that will compete for a starting spot.
Brown’s newcomer class is pretty excellent for Brown standards. Zach Hunsaker, a JUCO transfer, should have the biggest impact and I have him pegged to start on day one. Hunsaker was a JUCO All-American last season, averaging 20ppg and lighting the nets on fire. He is a crafty, smart player that can score from anywhere. He’ll be able to take over primary ball handling duties if Anderson’s turnover woes return.
Martin will also have George Mawanda-Kalema and Desmond Cambridge as backcourt options off the pine (or even as starters). Mawanda-Kelema is a scoring point guard with a beautiful shot and plus athleticism. Cambridge could take the league by storm in the near future. I have no clue how this guy wasn’t recruited heavier than he was. Cambridge can do everything on the floor; he is a ridiculously explosive athlete, an in-your-face defender capable of guarding multiple positions, and a good outside shooter.
Matt DeWolf, a physical center with good footwork, will play a reserve role in the frontcourt, and Tamenang Choh will fill in nicely behind Okolie / Howard as another slashing, defensive wing.
Bottom Line: Brown should have a solid offense once again this season, assuming the new blood can take on some of the scoring role. The defense is still a major question mark that will need to improve if Brown wants even a shot at 4th in the Ivy.
Key Returners: Evan Boudreaux, Guillien Smith, Miles Wright
Key Losses: Wesley Dickinson, Mike Fleming
Key Newcomers: Adrease Jackson, Chris Knight
Postseason Projection: None
Outlook: Dave McLaughlin didn’t inherit the greatest situation when he became the coach of Dartmouth last season, but the Big Green’s performance, a 7-20 overall record and a dead last finish in the Ivy, still had to be counted as a disappointment. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what led to the hiring of McLaughlin, who served as an assistant to Bill Coen at Northeastern for three seasons after coaching in the Division II ranks for 10 years, but Dartmouth faithful seemed to be pretty hyped about the addition. McLaughlin did fairly well on the recruiting path this offseason (in relative terms) and perhaps his guys will improve with a year playing in his desired style under their belts. However, with so much talent this year in a deep Ivy League, the Big Green will have to overachieve to stay out of the basement of the standings.
Dartmouth’s offense revolves around Evan Boudreaux, a 6’8” forward on pace to become one of the best individual talents to come through Hanover. Boudreaux ranked second in the Ivy in scoring, first in rebounding, third in minutes played, and turned in an impressive conference-only shooting slash of .542/.392/.671. Boudreaux does most of his damage in the post and off rolls to the basket off ball screens. When teams double him down low, as they often do, Boudreaux is a willing passer to open outside shooters. Despite Boudreaux’s individual success, Dartmouth had major issues scoring the ball last season due to turnovers and the lack of playmaking outside of its star big man. Additionally, while Boudreaux is excellent on the offensive end, he is absolutely brutal on defense, unable to protect the rim or defend post players effectively. Dartmouth was continuously gashed at the rim and ranked 347th in the country in block percentage.
Miles Wright and Guillien Smith are the key returning pieces around Boudreaux. With the graduation of Mike Fleming, Smith will take on more of the primary ball handling responsibilities. Smith struggled taking care of the ball last season, but he did prove to be a capable scorer from all areas on the court. The 6’2” junior guard shot 37% from deep and drew fouls at a high rate when he attacked the basket. Wright is a versatile 3/4 tweener able to score in the post or behind the arc. With the influx of a couple frontcourt prospects, Wright could see a lot more time on the wing this season.
Other key backcourt returners include Brendan Barry, a 45.5% three-point shooter last season, Ian Sistare, primarily a slashing wing, and Taylor Johnson, another deep-ball threat (38.5%). Any of these guys could start during the year. New Zealand freshman Isaac Letoa could also carve out a role as a backup PG.
Supporting Boudreaux up front will be a duo of freshman bigs in Chris Knight and Adrease Jackson. Knight is an athletic 3/4 tweener in the Miles Wright mold while Jackson is more of a ground-bound post presence with a developing outside jumper. Jackson and Boudreaux could complement each other nicely on offense, but the interior defense would likely continue to struggle. Ian Carter, a sophomore reserve, will bolster the frontcourt rotation.
Bottom Line: The Big Green is going to struggle to win games in the tough Ivy this season. Boudreaux will get his numbers and be an All-Conference selection, but I can’t see this squad eclipsing its 4 conference win total of last year.