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Ivy League Preview

November 4, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Ivy League Preview

by Owen Bochner

The Ivy League must really be feeling like chopped liver right now. All this hype and hoopla for the recent meetings of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, at which the nation’s college basketball programs basically agreed on one thing: let’s be ethical. Ethics has never been a problem in the Ivies. Maybe that’s because as members of the only D-1 conference that doesn’t award scholarships of any form, student-athletes still play basketball in the Ivies for all the right reasons – because they love it.

Of course playing basketball in the Ivy League comes with a whole separate set of challenges. Like an extra-rigorous academic course load, the expectation that athletics will be only a part of the college experience, and a whole set of restrictions unique to the Ancient Eight. The ever-controversial seven-week rule has been changed for 2003-04, allowing the 49 required off days to be distributed throughout the year however coaches see fit. This change is viewed as a victory for student-athlete groups at each of the conference’s eight members.

Not to be overlooked, though, is the fact that the Ivy League remains one of the most exciting and competitive basketball conferences in the country. After many of last season’s stars graduated, the stage is set for a whole new group of players to come forward and impress this season. Pennsylvania, despite some big losses, will likely again lead the pack, but don’t rule out some strong runs from surprising sources.

Ivy League Honor Roll

First Team
Jeff Schiffner, Sr., F, Penn
Jason Forte, Jr., G, Brown
Ka’Ron Barnes, Sr., G, Cornell
Tim Begley, Jr., G, Penn
Matt Minoff, Sr., G-F, Yale

Second Team
Lenny Collins, So., F, Cornell
Judson Wallace, Jr., F, Princeton
Eric Taylor, Jr., F/C, Cornell
Edwin Draughan, Jr., G, Yale
Brian Cusworth, So., C, Harvard

Ivy League Player of the Year: Jeff Schiffner, Penn

Ivy League Rookie of the Year: Ibby Jaaber, Penn

Most Improved Player: Tito Hill, Columbia

Coach on the Hot Seat: Dave Faucher, Dartmouth

Projected Finish

1. Pennsylvania Quakers (22-6, 14-0 Ivy; 1st)

The Quakers suffered some important losses to graduation this offseason, but make no mistake, Fran Dunphy’s squad remains the favorite to win its third straight Ivy title. Unanimous All-Ivy first teamer Jeff Schiffner takes the reins as Penn’s go-to guy this season, and will be joined by Tim Begley to form the Ancient Eight’s most formidable back court.

Penn will again play one of the most challenging schedules in the conference this season. The non-conference slate is highlighted by two high-caliber tournaments – the Coca Cola Classic at Michigan State, which features Michigan State, Indiana State, and DePaul; and the ECAC Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden, showcasing St. Johns, Manhattan, and Holy Cross. In addition, the Quakers will welcome the likes of Wisconsin to The Palestra in addition to the always challenging list of Big 5 and Ivy opponents.

Key losses:
Ugonna Onyekwe (graduated)
Koko Archibong (graduated)
Andrew Toole (graduated)

Key newcomers:
Steve Danley (Fr. F)
Ibby Jaaber (Fr. G)
Ryan Pettinella (Fr. F)
Mark Zoller (Fr. G/F)

Projected Starters:
Tim Begley (Jr. G)
Jeff Schiffner (Sr. G)
Charlie Copp (Sr. G)
Jan Fikiel (Jr. F)
Adam Chubb (Sr. C)

2. Yale Bulldogs (14-13, 8-6; 4th)

Head coach James Jones’ first recruiting class comes of age this season for the Bulldogs, as the coach’s original five recruits will all graduate at year’s end. There is added urgency, then to perform this season. Yale graduates three of the key ingredients to the squad’s first back-to-back winning seasons in over 10 years. However, the starting backcourt of Edwin Draughan and Matt Minoff returns, as does 2002 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Alex Gamboa. Expectations will be high in New Haven, as the Elis play a challenging schedule, yet one that is much more favorable than last year’s. Games against Connecticut and Wake Forest highlight the road schedule, while Yale will host Sacred Heart and Fairfield in December.

Key losses:
Ime Archibong (graduated)
Chris Leanza (graduated)
T.J. McHugh (graduated)

Key newcomers:
Casey Hughes (Fr. G/F)
Sam Kaplan (Fr. F)
Dominick Martin (Jr. C)
John Shumate (Fr. G)

Projected Starters:
Edwin Draughan (Jr. G)
Alex Gamboa (Jr. G)
Matt Minoff (Sr. F)
Paul Vitelli (Sr. F)
Dominick Martin (Jr. C)

3. Cornell Big Red (9-18, 4-10; t-5th)

Cornell’s youth movement will attempt to reach fruition this season, as head coach Steve Donahue’s first recruiting class enters its junior year. The Red has been hampered by injuries throughout each of the past two years, but will look to remain healthy after a summer in the weight room with strength coach Tom Howley. Virtually the entire roster returns, including second-team All-Ivy selection Ka’Ron Barnes, and 2003 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Lenny Collins. The highlight of the Red’s schedule is undoubtedly the season opener, a home contest against Georgia Tech on Nov. 23. It will be the first time an ACC opponent visits Ithaca since the 1990-91 season. Historically a hockey-crazed school, Cornell will look to make some noise on the hardwood for the first time in quite a while.

Key losses:
Steve Cobb (left team)
Casey Gibbons (transferred)
Jacques Vigneault (graduated)

Key newcomers:
Graham Dow (Fr. G)
Stevan Marcetic (Jr. F)
Jason Mitchell (Fr. F)
Andrew Naeve (Fr. C)
Dane Williams (Fr. F/C)

Projected Starters:
Ka’Ron Barnes (Sr. G)
David Lisle (So. G)
Cody Toppert (Jr. F)
Lenny Collins (So. F)
Eric Taylor (Jr. C)

4. Princeton Tigers (16-11, 10-4; 3rd)

Head coach John Thompson III sees several similarities between this Tiger squad and the one that won the Ivy League championship in 2000-01. A lot will have to go right at Old Nassau for this prophesy to come true. Behind Ed Persia and Will Venable, Princeton boasts a strong back court, and center Judson Wallace is one of the league’s more versatile inside presences. However, the Tigers will play a very challenging schedule, including road games against Duke, Oklahoma, and Minnesota. In addition, Princeton will be forced to overcome some off-court distractions that have seem to become commonplace over the last several months. After forward Spencer Gloger was forced to leave the team in February due to falling below academic standards and a plethora of transfer rumors surrounding Andre Logan, the team learned on Oct. 17 that Logan would be out for at least two months after tearing several ligaments in his hand in an incident on campus.

Key losses:
Spencer Gloger (academically ineligible)
Ray Robbins (graduated)
Kyle Wente (graduated)

Key newcomers:
Edwin Buffmire (Fr. G)
Patrick Ekeruo (Fr. F)
Luke Owings (Fr. F)
John Reynolds (Fr. C)
Michael Rudoy (Fr. F)
Harrison Schaen (Fr. F)
Max Schafer (Fr. G)

Projected Starters:
Ed Persia (Sr. G)
Will Venable (Jr. G)
Judson Wallace (Jr. F)
Konrad Wysocki (Sr. F)
Mike Stephens (Jr. C)

5. Brown Bears (17-12, 12-2; 2nd)

One season after advancing to the NIT, the Bears will be hard pressed to make a repeat appearance. While Brown does return the Ivy League’s most electrifying guard in junior Jason Forte, the losses of guard Earl Hunt and forward Alai Nuualiitia – two of Brown’s top three all-time scorers – will be too difficult to overcome. Much of the responsibility for compensating for the absence of these stars will fall on senior guard Patrick Powers, who is an excellent shooter with a propensity to produce big scoring games. Senior Jaime Kilburn will look to make up for Nuualiitia’s scoring in the low post.

Brown’s schedule features road contests against Texas and Wake Forest. The Bears will also welcome Wagner, Rhode Island, Wright State, and Central Connecticut to the Pizzitola Sports Center before embarking on its Ivy slate in late January.

Key losses:
Earl Hunt (graduated)
Alai Nuualiitia (graduated)

Key newcomers:
Sam Manhanga (Fr. F)
P.J. Flaherty (Fr. F)
Marcus Becker (Fr. G)
Kameron Chones (Fr. G)

Projected Starters:
Jason Forte (Jr. G)
Patrick Powers (Sr. G)
Mike Martin (Sr. G)
Jaime Kilburn (Sr. F)
G.J. King (Jr. F)

6. Dartmouth Big Green (8-19, 4-10; t-5th)

Years of sharing occupancy in the Ivy cellar could be near the end for Dartmouth, which has slowly worked to develop a deep, experienced roster. Of the Green’s nine juniors and sophomores, several already have substantial playing experience, including the starting backcourt of Steve Callahan and Mick McLaren. In addition senior center Scott Klingbeil provides a solid presence down low and has already shown a propensity to deliver when the pressure is on, as evidenced by his clutch late-game free throws against Columbia last season. Like much of the Ancient Eight, Dartmouth will challenge itself with a very difficult schedule before opening conference play in January. On tap for the Green are trips to Honolulu for the Hilo shootout in November, and to Maine and Ohio State in December.

Key losses:
Greg Friel (graduated)
Charles Harris (graduated)

Key newcomers:
Jonathan Blakley (Fr. F)
Trey Blincoe (Fr. G)
Paul Bode (Fr. C)
Matthew Green (Fr. G)
Leon Pattman (Fr. G)

Projected Starters:
Steve Callahan (Jr. G)
Mike McLaren (Jr. G)
Mike Lang (So. F)
David Gardner (Jr. F)
Scott Klingbeil (Sr. C)

7. Harvard Crimson (12-15, 4-10; t-5th)

The Crimson turns over 80 percent of its starting lineup. ‘Nough said. Among the team’s losses are the Ivy League’s all-time assist leader (Elliott Prasse-Freeman), the league-leading rebounder of last season (Sam Winter), and Harvard’s 12th leading all-time scorer (Patrick Harvey). Expected to step up for the Crimson will be junior captain Jason Norman and sophomore center Brian Cusworth, each of whom saw significant time down the stretch last year. However, as head coach Frank Sullivan works to develop many of the squad’s younger players, some growing pains are inevitable.

Harvard’s most challenging non-conference games will come during a late-December trip to California, when the Crimson will visit Stanford and San Jose State. Other than that, the schedule has a decidedly local flavor, with games against New England foes such as New Hampshire, Maine, Boston University, Vermont, and Northeastern.

Key losses:
Patrick Harvey (academically ineligible)
Brady Merchant (graduated)
Elliott Prasse-Freeman (graduated)
Brian Sigafoos (graduated)
Sam Winter (graduated)

Key newcomers:
Brian Darcy (Fr. F/C)
Jim Goffredo (Fr. G)
Ko Yada (Fr. G)

Projected Starters:
Kevin Rogus (Jr. G)
David Giovacchini (Jr. G)
Jason Norman (Jr. F)
Graham Beatty (Jr. F)
Brian Cusworth (So. C)

8. Columbia Lions (2-25, 0-14; 8th)

After a season that it seemed like everything that could go wrong did go wrong, Columbia will start anew this season, as head coach Joe Jones begins his tenure on Mourningside Heights. Fortunately for Jones, he inherited a young, athletic team from his predecessor, Armond Hill. Twelve players return for the Lions, including guards Tito Hill, who played in all 27 of Columbia’s games last season, and leading returning scorer Jeremiah Boswell. Jones also brings in five newcomers, two of whom are walk-ons.

Columbia’s schedule will also feature several tough tests in this transition year, with games against Manhattan, Hofstra, Fordham, and Jones’ former employer Villanova. In addition, the Lions will participate in the Golden Bear Classic hosted by California-Berkeley in December, and also pay a visit to the University of Washington following the tournament.

Key losses:
Marco McCottry (graduated)
Chris Wiedemann (graduated)

Key newcomers:
Drew Barron (Fr. C)
Gerard Barrett (Fr. F)
John-Michael Grzan (So. G)
Porter Leslie (So. F)
Ivan Marnika (Fr. F)

Projected Starters:
Tito Hill (Jr. G)
Jeremiah Boswell (Jr. G)
Chris Owens (Sr. F)
Dragutin Kravic (So. F)
Dodson Worthington (So. C)

Final Thoughts

The Ivy League will again likely belong to Penn this season. Some coaches are just very successful in maintaining success over the long team, and the Quakers’ Fran Dunphy is certainly one of them. One thing is for sure, though. This season will be one for the youth movement, which is going on at every school in the conference. Expect a highly competitive season from the Ancient Eight, and with so many teams playing such difficult out of conference opponents, don’t be surprised to see the Ivies receive some at-large bid to the NCAA and NIT tournaments come March.


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