Ivy 2018-19 Preview

-Jim Root

Preseason Predictions

Apologies to Cannady and Cambridge - could easily be first-teamers…

Player of the Year: Miye Oni, Jr., Yale
Coach of the Year: Tommy Amaker, Harvard
Newcomer of the Year: Jaelin Llewellyn, Fr., Princeton
Freshman of the Year: Jaelin Llewellyn, Princeton

Team Previews

Tier 1

1. Harvard

Key Returners: Seth Towns, Bryce Aiken, Chris Lewis, Justin Bassey, Corey Johnson, Christian Juzang
Key Losses: Maybe a student manager? Honestly, nobody
Key Newcomers: Noah Kirkwood, Spencer Freedman, Kale Catchings, Mason Forbes


Outlook: After a weirdly stagnant start to the 2017-18 season plagued by miserable outside shooting (more on this to come), the Crimson entered Ivy play a dismal 5-9 with losses to Holy Cross, Manhattan, Cal St. Fullerton, and George Washington (albeit all on the road). The players weren’t pleased with their own efforts, so they came together and discussed taking further ownership of their roles (players only meeting!!!!), ultimately resulting in a drastic turnaround. For a team as talented as this roster is – Amaker has been on the recruiting warpath the past few offseasons – it seemed only a matter of time before they figured it out, but it’s not always that easy. Amaker shed some light behind the process in this February 15th article in the Boston Globe:

…You never know if it’s going to happen the way you want it to happen. Sometimes things have to take a natural, normal course…it can always be different and I think this team is starting to find itself.”

So what’s next for a team that didn’t have a single senior in the rotation, but still tied for the Ivy title? Oh dammit, I’m sorry - Dickie V is stealing my microphone…"UP UP AND AWAY BABY!!!"

Amaker won two NCAA Tournament games at Harvard in 2013 and 2014, and this team is every bit as talented as those squads (perhaps more talented?). Last year's 12-2 Ivy campaign was accomplished largely without star junior Bryce Aiken, who struggled with injuries before eventually missing the season’s final 12 games. Remember the shooting woes I mentioned? Aiken epitomized that; after shooting 36% from deep as a freshman, he freefell to a ghastly 20.3% last season. Shooting 20.3% from downtown is like crapping your pants once a week - unpleasant and not recommend by this 3MW crew. Without him, Amaker ran the offense through combo forward Seth Towns, who emerged a into multi-faceted destroyer and the conference’s Player of the Year. Like the rest of the team, his shooting experienced a renaissance in league play:

It’s no small wonder Harvard played better: teams tend to improve when their shots go in. That's just science, folks - I tested a hypothesis and everything. Justin Bassey and Corey Johnson started providing better spacing, Christian Juzang settled in at point guard with Aiken and Tommy McCarthy injured, and center/WWE candidate Chris Lewis really began to feast down low. Amaker’s offense employs a ton of post ups; per Synergy, Harvard ran a post up (for a pass or a shot) on 17.1% of its possessions, 13th-most in the country. Most often, this was Lewis bullying smaller or thinner big men, but Towns can also attack mismatches at times with his length and soft touch. Both are adept passers out of double-teams, too, leading to plenty of spot up chances for the shooters.

The biggest area Aiken will solidify is the team’s alarming turnover problems. Juzang, Bassey, and rising sophomore Rio Haskett  - the team's main ball-handlers - were all careless with the basketball, and as long as Aiken slides into the offense naturally and doesn’t try to do too much, he’ll remedy a lot of the ball security issues that plagued the Crimson. McCarthy’s return adds another layer of stability, as well (he started 25 games in 2015-16).

Even with all of the aforementioned offensive issues, Harvard stayed competitive thanks to a stingy defense that made scoring inside the arc a massive struggle. Lewis and backup bigs Robert Baker and Henry Welsh protected the rim, and the switchable length between the 6’7 Towns, 6’5 Bassey, and 6’5 Johnson made jumpers difficult, too. The Crimson were one of the country's best defensive rebounding teams, ending possessions with authority to ensure no easy points were had.   

Bottom Line: Amaker has an embarrassment of depth, adding the nation’s 46th-ranked recruiting class to a rotation that didn’t lose anyone. Spencer Freedman is a pure PG who played with Bol Bol in AAU and Penn recruit Michael Wang at Mater Dei, and he may even overtake Juzang and McCarthy for backup duties behind Aiken. Mason Forbes is a lanky four-man with solid shot-blocking skills and a generational afro (I’m not kidding, look at this!!). And the jewel of the class is four-star Noah Kirkwood, a super-smooth Canadian guard who, at 6’7, will be able to get buckets as soon as he arrives in Cambridge using his shifty changes of pace and deceptive athleticism.

All of this adds up to a potentially special season for the Crimson. With all of the talent on the roster, they should be the Ivy favorites, and if Amaker figures out how to best piece everything together and has the players accepting roles, Harvard could win another game (or two or three?) as an upset special come March.

2. Yale

Key Returners: Miye Oni, Jordan Bruner (from injury), Alex Copeland, Trey Phills, Blake Reynolds, Paul Atkinson, Azar Swain
Key Losses: Noah Yates
Key Newcomers: Matt Cotton, Isaiah Kelly, Jake Lanford, Eze Dike, Michael Feinberg


Outlook: Finishing 9-5 in the Ivy may not seem like a regression, but the Bullodgs nearly dropped out of the top 200 on KenPom, something that hasn’t happened since 2010. That drop should reverse this year, as only role player Noah Yates departs, and potential stud Jordan Bruner should be fully healthy after missing all of last season. Longtime coach James Jones (been at Yale since 1999!) is well-respected in coaching circles, and I’d be shocked if Yale wasn’t in the mix at the top of the Ivy once again this year.  

Star wing Miye Oni’s season mirrored the team’s arc: his three-point shooting tanked (40% in 2017, 31% in 2018), but that’s another area where Bruner’s return should help: he can draw attention and distribute from the high post, hopefully opening up better shots for Oni, Alex Copeland, Trey Phills, and Azar Swain. Phills struggled mightily early in the year, but he shot a crisp 13/31(42%) in conference play, emerging as a real threat from the outside for the first time in his career. For a team that finished over 30% of its possessions via spot up (catch and shoot or drive – 21st-most in the country), having a bevy of shooters and slashers is crucial.

The Bulldogs were one of the best passing teams in the country last year, ranking 20th nationally in assist rate, and Oni and Copeland were big reasons for that. Perhaps just as important, though, was forward Blake Reynolds, a skilled and versatile player who also found himself in a shooting slump last year. He has a terrific high-low connection with rising sophomore Paul Atkinson, a throwback big who dominates with his size, positioning, and soft touch, and adding Bruner to that duo should only make them more potent. This isn’t Reynolds throwing this pass (it’s the departed Yates), but it exemplifies the big-to-big passing that Atkinson and Reynolds thrive on:

That kind of action also helps  create more perimeter chances; the Bulldogs simply need to convert more of them.

Bruner also helps fix the team’s biggest weakness: interior defense and rim protection. As good as Reynolds and Atkinson are, they aren’t vertically explosive, but Bruner ranked 18th in the country in block rate in 2016-17. He’s long and bouncy, in another echelon athletically for big men in the Ivy. Phills is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, as well, but Copeland and Swain struggled to keep opponents in front at times in Jones’s predominantly man scheme.

Bottom Line: Bringing in a strong recruiting class, adding back Bruner from injury, and returning nearly the entire rotation should make the Bulldogs one of the deepest teams in the league, and with Oni, Bruner, and Reynolds, they have star power, as well. As long as the three-point shooting comes back around (especially for Oni), Yale will be fine on offense, and Bruner’s return should be a boost on the other end of the floor. Jones is a high-caliber maestro on the sidelines, so expect to see the Bulldogs right in contention for Ivy Madness and the NCAA Tournament bid that goes with it.

3. Penn

Key Returners: AJ Brodeur, Ryan Betley, Antonio Woods, Max Rothschild
Key Losses: Darnell Foreman, Caleb Wood
Key Newcomers: Michael Wang, Bryce Washington, Alex Imegwu


Outlook: Steve Donahue’s legend continues to grow in the Ivy League. After a phenomenal three-year run at Cornell from 2008 to 2010, he struggled to translate his success to Boston College in the unforgiving ACC, but after a year off, he landed back in the Ivy once again. Two seasons later, he had the Quakers back in the NCAA Tournament, giving Kansas a first half scare before running out of offensive answers. He returns four starters from that squad, and back-to-back tourney appearances are within reach.

Donahue has long worshipped at the altar of the three-ball, giving his teams the freedom to launch from deep without hesitation. More than most of his teams, though, the 2017-18 version used that shooting as a tool to open up the inside for AJ Brodeur and Max Rothschild, two skilled interior scorers that often overwhelmed smaller Ivy frontlines. Both are excellent passers that can initiate offense from the high post, hitting cutters or throwing skip passes to shooters if defenders sag too much. They also have a nice high-low game together, especially when Brodeur is knocking down threes (not often, but his shot is developing). However, when Rothschild plays without Brodeur (and his rim protection skills), the defense gets roasted:

Rothschild is mobile and a very good rebounder, but he simply doesn’t bother opponents at the rim the way his cohort does, meaning Donahue will need to stagger their minutes intelligently. Of course, freshman Michael Wang could fundamentally alter the rotation. The 6’10 graduate of prestigious Mater Dei High School in California fits Donahue’s system like a glove: he can knock down threes, he uses his height and vision to pass over the defense, and he can block shots on the defense…poor LaMelo Ball gets swatted all the way to Lithuania:

To be clear, that actually is LaMelo Ball...and that's Wang volleyball spiking him.

Wang is a no-brainer pick for the All-Freshman team, and while he may not start over the senior Rothschild, I’d bet he’s playing the lion’s share of the minutes fairly quickly.

The big men draw plenty of attention, opening up jumpers for sharpshooter Ryan Betley, a gravitational gunner who has in-the-gym range. With Darnell Foreman’s graduation, Antonio Woods will slide back over to the point guard spot he manned as a freshman, and a more seasoned Woods should find more success in that role. The Quakers’ perimeter lacked an element of size and athleticism last year, but the additions of true freshmen Bryce Washington and Alex Imegwu fixes that instantly. Washington is a human trampoline, probably the best dunker in the Ivy the second he arrives in Philly (he was all-state four times in the high jump in Michigan), and Imegwu isn’t far behind (and he has a smoother jumper). Sophomore Jelani Williams is another athletic wing, but he’s missed two straight seasons with injury, so it’s unclear what he’ll be able to provide this year. Jackson Donahue (stunningly not the coach’s son), senior Jack Silpe and junior Devon Goodman can all play spot minutes if the freshmen aren’t quite ready, as well.

Bottom Line: With Brodeur and Betley back, the Quakers have the anchors of what made them so good last year. The ceiling (and floor) of this team will be determined by the freshmen – Wang, Washington, and Imegwu offer new elements of skill and/or dynamic athleticism that last year’s edition simply didn’t have. They’ll need to pick up on Donahue’s defensive principles quickly – take away the three-point line, don’t gamble (always difficult for freshmen), and don’t over-help. Donahue understands analytics – shoot threes, and don’t let the opponent take them. If the youngsters pick it up quickly, the Quakers could repeat at Ivy Madness come March.

4. Princeton

Key Returners: Devin Cannady, Myles Stephens, Sebastian Much, Jerome Derosiers
Key Losses: Amir Bell, Aaron Young
Key Newcomers: Jaelin Llewellyn, Max Johns, Drew Friberg, Colby Kyle, Ethan Wright


Outlook: After a long run of successful season (nine straight above .500 in the Ivy, in fact), the Tigers suffered through a trying campaign last year, going 5-9 in the league while losing four games in overtime (one of which was 3OT). Don’t expect Mitch Henderson to lick his wounds for long, though, as he’s one of the best young coaches on the east coast and a master of his own version of the famed Princeton offense (he played there from 1994-1998 for Pete Carril and Bill Carmody). With some talented returners and a superb recruiting class (led by Top-100 guard Jaelin Llewellyn), the Tigers should be back in the league’s top half, at a minimum.

Playing at a snail’s pace and emphasizing patience in the halfcourt, Henderson’s teams thrive on crisp cutting and optimal spacing, often playing five shooters in order to keep the lane open for drives and backdoors. The Tigers took 46.3% of their shots from three-point range last year, 19th-most in the country, and have consistently ranked in the top 15 under Henderson. Knockdown wing shooter Devin Cannady is the star, a gravitational force that causes issues due to opponents’ inability to help off of him. It helps that he plays alongside the multi-talented Myles Stephens, another wing-sized scorer who is also a wrecking ball defensively. Princeton’s system thrives with skilled bigs who can shoot and pass, and the rising sophomore duo of Sebastian Much and Jerome Derosiers exemplify that. Both had their ups and downs in their rookie years, but the talent level + fit should add up to significant development this year.

Here’s an example of that five-out setup and spacing – Amir Bell (5, bottom right) is about to come off a dribble-handoff towards the top of the key, and the lane and weak side are completely vacant:

He ultimately refuses the screen, and the rotations aren’t quick enough to get to the flammable Cannady camped in the opposite corner:

All of that spacing and shooting will be a boon to Llewellyn, who likely takes over as the starting point guard from day one. He’s an electric lead guard, capable of getting to the rim and finishing with authority or pulling up from deep. He’ll put defenses in an incredibly difficult position: help on Llewellyn and risk giving up open threes, or allow him to get into massive driving lanes? Teams with a strong on-ball defender will have a better chance, but even then, the Tigers’ off-ball movement will cause issues.

One other wrinkle worth mentioning is Henderson’s usage of post ups, particularly with Stephens, who led the team with 88 such possessions (scoring 0.943 per possession, 77th percentile nationally). He’s a mismatch due to his strength, quickness, and vertical explosiveness; there simply aren’t many players in the Ivy built to guard him.

That works both ways, too, as Stephens is the leader of the Tiger defense. Playing primarily man-to-man, Henderson’s group can be somewhat vulnerable inside when Richmond Aririguzoh isn’t manning the middle, but his presence also fundamentally changes the offense due to his lack of shooting. The Tigers rebound as a collective unit, not leaking out into the open court until the ball is secured, which helps negate the lack of a traditional big man.

Bottom Line: The Tigers desperately need shots to go in, because they don’t get any easy points at the free throw line or via the offensive glass, nor did they force turnovers and get out on the break. This reliance on perimeter shooting makes Princeton a high-variance squad (and, subsequently, a scary one to bet on).  Henderson’s Ivy-winning 2017 team actually ranked 50th in the country in steals (thanks, Spencer Weisz and Steven Cook), so if he goes with a more aggressive scheme and guys like Stephens, Llewellyn, and Cannady take to it, that could change things. As it stands, though, it seems like the Tigers are going to be a solid Ivy squad that will have some statement wins and baffling losses.

Tier 2

5. Columbia

Key Returners: Mike Smith, Quinton Adlesh, Lukas Meisner, Gabe Stefanini, Patrick Tape, Jake Killingsworth (injury)
Key Losses: Nate Hickman, Kyle Castlin (transfer)
Key Newcomers: Maka Ellis, Ike Nweke, Ben Milstein


Outlook: After a successful run helping NJIT transition through the lost desert of not having a conference (the Great West was a sham!!) and settling in the A-Sun, Jim Engles has been trying to take on the Ivy for two seasons. The offense started to figure things out last year, but the defense hemorrhaged points at an alarming rate, and Columbia stumbled to the same 5-9 record as in 2016-17.

Engles leaned hard towards man-to-man last year after a zone-heavy debut, and the results were disastrous. The Lions had the league’s worst defense, getting repeatedly torched from the perimeter. He heavily emphasizes sagging off the three-point line and swarming the interior, resulting in surrendering too many open shots: the Lions’ defense ranked 336th in 3PA rate, and opponents connected on 38.4% of those jumpers. This has long been an issue for Engles, but it’s exacerbated in a league like the Ivy that’s full of long range assassins. It’s unlikely he’ll shift strategies profoundly, but forcing more would-be shooters into the waiting arms of 6’10 Patrick Tape (the league’s best shot-blocker by rate) might be beneficial. Physical and bouncy freshman Ike Nweke could also see some minutes at the five; he offers a little more versatility than Tape, but less rim protection.

Strangely, despite his willingness to give them up on the defensive end, Engles recognizes the value of the three-pointer on offense. His best NJIT squads featured frequent four-guard lineups; although this Lions team likely won’t downshift that drastically, it will still often include four shooters thanks to the marksmanship of Lukas Meisner, a floor-spacing forward who knocked down 41.2% of his threes. He’ll play alongside a guard rotation consisting of wing Jake Killingsworth (missed nearly the entire 2017-18 campaign), the steady and stout Quinton Adlesh, and breakout candidate Gabe Stefanini, all of whom can knock down perimeter jumpers. Stefanini, in particular, started to emerge as the season progressed, and if the Italian makes the patented freshman-to-sophomore leap, he’ll be a consistent weapon.

The offensive engine, though, is lightning-quick PG Mike Smith. He’s a true floor general, capable of getting nearly anywhere on the court with his handles and lateral agility, and he’s adept at setting up his teammates in prime position. His only weakness is his tendency to take difficult shots, which leads to inefficient percentages. The addition of Maka Ellis as a lanky, 6’5 creator-type could ease Smith’s burden – the rest of the roster struggles to generate open looks, but “Man-bun Maka” adds a new element with his vision and pull-up game at his size. The Lions’ offense was the Ivy’s best last year, so adding another dimension should only make them more dangerous.

Bottom Line: After having the league’s best offense and worst defense in 2017-18, Engles and Columbia should be seeking more balance this year. They’ll likely still thrive off offensive rebounds and kickouts by Tape and Nweke, but figuring out how to deter opponents from the perimeter should be priority numero uno. If the defense picks up quite a bit, they could challenge for the top four and a bid in Ivy Madness, but cracking that group may be too much to ask.

6. Brown

Key Returners: Desmond Cambridge, Brandon Anderson, Zach Hunsaker, Obi Okolie, Tamenang Choh, Joshua Howard
Key Losses: None
Key Newcomers: Thomas Shaughnessy, David Mitchell, Davis Franks, Jaylen Gainey


Outlook: For those that love consistency in results, Brown coach Mike Martin is the one for you: over the past four years, here’s the Bears’ conference record with KenPom rank in parenthesis: 4-10 (268), 4-10 (265), 3-11 (277), 4-10 (267). An absolute model of dependability! Of course, if you’re also someone that loves high-performing basketball teams, then maybe Mr. Martin’s Bears aren’t for you. Some decent players have come and gone, but Brown has remained very much in the same space within the Ivy hierarchy.

Aesthetically, the Bears aren’t exactly a barrel of fun, either. Getting to the line is a large key to the Brown offense, and due to a deficiency in size and athleticism on defense, they’re also very prone to committing fouls themselves. This leads to a great deal of stoppages, and unless you’re a masochist and are pining for the next edition of Hack-a-Shaq (don’t be that person!), that's a negative. 

The redeeming qualities of Brown basketball are twofold – they play uptempo hoops, looking to get downhill and into the transition game, and they have a stellar young backcourt featuring sophomore scorer Desmond Cambridge and junior point guard Brandon Anderson. Cambridge is already a three-level scorer, the Ivy Freshman of the Year last season and a dark horse NBA prospect with his combination of athleticism (ranked 9th in the conference in block rate at only 6’4) and shooting (hit 67 threes on a decent 34.4%). Anderson does a better job of creating for others, but both have the greenest of lights to push in the open floor if they end up with the ball. Anderson’s presence is particularly vital – the roster lacks another dynamic creator, and as the stats show, the offense crumbles into dust when he sits:

Incoming freshman Thomas Shaughnessy has some decent playmaking chops, but he’s mostly looking for an opening to launch his pure lefty jumper.

Another positive for watching Brown (depending how you look at it): they have a glaring lack of size in the frontcourt, forcing them to play ‘tweener forwards like Tamenang Choh, Josh Howard, and Obi Okolie up front against more imposing post players. That fuels the fast pace, and rarely do you see possessions grind to a halt so that the Bears can post up a big man. This normally gives them a speed advantage against other frontcourts, but also leaves them severely exposed in the paint.

The only two players over 6’6 who saw court time – Travis Fuller and Matt DeWolf – were monsters on the glass, but Fuller struggled to finish inside and lost playing time rapidly after playing a lot early, while DeWolf was largely invisible on the offensive end. Freshmen bigs Davis Franks and Jaylan Gainey will both have chances to play right away, and Franks’s brand of high-effort, hustle basketball should fit in nicely.

Bottom Line: The Bears were one of the youngest teams in the country last year (342nd in experience), relying heavily on freshmen and sophomores for production (Okolie was the only junior in the rotation’s top six). For those that wonder if the Brown program is simply stuck in the mud under the current regime, Martin can point to the promise of his youngsters as reason for optimism, but that potential needs to crystalize into some success over the next two seasons, or Martin will feel even more heat.  

7. Cornell

Key Returners: Matt Morgan, Steven Julian, Troy Whiteside (injury), Jack Gordon, Terrance McBride, Joel Davis
Key Losses: Stone Gettings, Wil Bathurst
Key Newcomers: Chaz Mack (JUCO), Thurston McCarty (JUCO), Kobe Dickson, Matt Harshany


Outlook: Following six straight losing seasons under Bill Courtney, Cornell turned the team over to Princeton man Brian Earl in the summer of 2016. The Tigers have largely been the league’s model of success over the last decade, finishing above .500 in Ivy play for nine straight years from 2009 to 2017. Earl has struggled to bring that success with him, though, as Cornell is a combined 20-37 (10-18) since his arrival. This season brings a strong group of newcomers to bolster the rotation around star Matt Morgan, though, so Earl will hope that translates into more success on the court.

Any talk about the Big Red has to start with Morgan, the Big Red Bomber who carries a massive offensive load. Somehow, though, he maintains excellent offensive efficiency despite this burden (and a questionable supporting cast), using a blend of drives and pull-ups to keep defenses off-balance. His impact is crystal clear in the numbers – the Big Red offense dives into the red when he’s off the court:

Naturally, Earl doesn’t want to be so reliant one guy, so he’s continuously tried to bring more offensive weapons to Ithaca, particularly shooters with size.

NJCAA Second-Team All-American Chaz Mack is a likely bet to start given his scoring proficiency from inside and out along with stellar rebounding, and 6’9 freshman Kobe Dickson can stretch the floor as a frontcourt player as well. Returning forward Steven Julian should be a more refined shooter after an offseason of work, as well. Bigs that can space the floor for Morgan opens up drives and backdoor cuts; under Mitch Henderson, Princeton often plays 5-out to keep the floor open for such plays, and Earl likely enjoy replicating that.

Second-leading scorer Stone Gettings will sit out the year before transferring to Arizona, but plenty of other role players return, including wing shooter Jack Gordon and promising sophomore Terrance McBride, who could do with looking up at the basket every so often on offense. He’s a smart player who runs the system to perfection, though, so he’ll continue to see playing time regardless. Jim Boeheim’s creatively-named son Jimmy Boeheim struggled mightily in his first Ivy season – the data says that shooting 5/38 (13.2%) from downtown is sub-optimal – and if that continues, freshman Matt Harshany and JUCO transfer Thurston McCarty will quickly seize minutes from him and the similarly-bricky Joel Davis.

The brilliance of Morgan and a developing offense couldn’t outweigh an abymal defense, though. Earl started to play more zone last year, and the Big Red were subsequently lit up from behind the arc (opponents shot 39.3% from the land beyond, ranking Cornell 336th in that category – yikes). Mack’s arrival will be a major blessing on the glass, as opponents constantly bullied the Big Red on the boards (he’ll have to offset the loss of Gettings, by far the best rebounder in the rotation). Morgan and McBride are likely too small and thin to allow Earl to switch effectively in man-to-man, but he’ll need to find a way to bother shooters without leaving his squad too exposed inside.

Bottom Line: Earl is working to build the Cornell program back up, but Gettings’s decision to sit out and grad transfer is a blow to a team hoping to restore the glory of Steve Donahue’s 2007-2010 teams that made three straight NCAA tournaments, culminating in a run to the Sweet 16. Those teams thrived on perimeter shooting, as well, so Earl would do well to continue to bring in as many of those as he can.

Tier 3

8. Dartmouth

Key Returners: Chris Knight, Will Emery, Brendan Barry, Guilien Smith (injury), Aaryn Rai, Adrease Jackson
Key Losses: Taylor Johnson, Miles Wright
Key Newcomers: Wes Slajchert, Taurus Samuels, Garrison Wade


Outlook: Similar to his third-year counterpart at Cornell, David McLaughlin has struggled to build any momentum in Hanover. Evan Boudreaux choosing to transfer after 2016-17 was a tough blow, robbing the Big Green of an All-Ivy caliber player after just two seasons, and fellow former Ivy Freshman of the Year Miles Wright has now graduated. The return of Guilien Smith from injury and the arrival of an impressive freshman class indicates potential for this season and beyond, but the rising tide of talent throughout the conference will make it an uphill climb.

McLaughlin came to Dartmouth after three seasons on Bill Coen’s staff at Northeastern, and he hopes to bring the same sharp mind and coaching flexibility to the table. Some of Coen’s best teams employed a potent perimeter attack around a skilled interior scorer, and Chris Knight could be that featured player for the Big Green. He’s big and athletic, posing a mismatch for many slower or smaller opponents; he just needs to be more sure-handed with the ball and precise with his finishing (he really struggled in Ivy play). McLaughlin also doesn’t have to play him as a lone big thanks to the shooting of Adrease Jackson (16/31 from deep in limited minutes) and Aaryn Rai (20/46).

Steady point guard Brendan Barry returns after barely leaving the floor last year, but he may play off the ball some thanks to the arrival of 6’5 freshman Wes Slajchert. He’s a tremendous passer and shooter whose height helps him see over the defense, and the dual-PG system should help the Green attack defenses in a more varied fashion.

Like Coen’s teams, Dartmouth was extremely patient on offense last year, choosing to work the ball around off of a preliminary pick-and-roll action and attack via slash-and-kick. Last year’s guards were lacking in dynamic athleticism, though, and Smith’s return plus freshman Taurus Samuels’s arrival should remedy that. Both players are quick to the basket, and Samuels is a blur in the open court – he could play alongside Barry and Slajchert to give the Green three capable ball-handlers and passers, and all three can hit open shots.

Defensively, though, Dartmouth got torched inside. More minutes for Knight this year will certainly help, but after surrendering a 55.7% success rate from 2-point range last year (337th in the country). Will Emery is another inside presence, but at times, his (and the entire team’s) aversion to fouling went too far, not physically challenging opponents enough. With all of the returners and newcomers (including ‘tweener forward Garrison Wade), they’ll have plenty of depth – crank up the physicality, fellas!

Bottom Line: Dartmouth is improving, but the issue is that the rest of the conference is as well. McLaughlin has brought in two straight promising classes, so if he can tighten the screws on both ends, the potential is there. Bringing in multiple ball-handlers should alleviate the offense’s turnover issues, and more shooting/creation is never a bad thing. I’m conservatively keeping the Big Green in the cellar for now, but if the freshmen are ready right away, I wouldn’t be shocked if Dartmouth clawed its way up a few spots.