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Columbia’s Senior Weekend

by - Published March 5, 2008 in Columns

Final Home Calls For Columbia Seniors

by Matthew Moll

NEW YORK – Columbia’s Joe Jones has described his fifth men’s basketball team as the “grind-it out type” and a defensively focused team, juxtaposing them with last season’s 12th-best three-point shooting team’s style.

Senior weekend highlighted both the peaks and valleys of the team’s makeup.

In Friday’s victory over Harvard, 61-54, the Lions netted zero threes and are down to 33 percent, compared to last season where they shot over 40 from beyond the arc. A night later in the 63-47 loss to Dartmouth, Columbia could not muster a signature stop and didn’t have the firepower to counter runs from the Big Green on senior night.

For the Lions, the 14th win of the season came by way of following the script they have tried to implement all season.

“We have had a hard time at times getting both guys going,” Jones said, referring to senior post players Ben Nwachukwu and John Baumann. “Very rarely have both guys played great. John is really at his best in the paint, so we have tried to run sets to find ways to get both in the post.”

Friday both bigs flourished. Nwachukwu’s 6’8″, 235-pound frame flummoxed the opposition, forcing Harvard’s forwards into foul trouble. With the Crimson’s middle reeling, the game freed up for both Nwachukwu and Baumann. Nwachukwu finished the game with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

“The way Ben played was awesome,” said Baumann, who netted 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. “You could tell they wanted to double-team him and he still made shots over the double teams, which opened it up for me.”

But on senior night, Nwachukwu was held to five points on five field goal attempts in the failed comeback effort. The Lions allowed Dartmouth to tear through the second half and shoot over 50 percent from the field.

After Friday’s win, Jones said he hoped his players would not overlook the remaining schedule and he was not quite ready to talk about the season being over.

“This group has gone through so much, done so much for program,” said Jones after Friday night’s win. “But it is not time to reflect now. We still have two more games.”

Whether the Lions were distracted by the ceremonies of Senior Night or by overcoming double-digit deficits against league rivals on consecutive nights is unclear, but Jones doesn’t plan to address the end of this era until the end of the season.

The six seniors – Justin Armstrong, Baumann, Brett Loscalzo, Mack Montgomery, Nwachukwu and Kashif Sweet – are the winningest class since 1981-82, currently at 53 wins, and are the first class Jones recruited. They also boast the school’s most recent first team All-Ivy Leaguer in Baumann, a distinction a Columbia player hasn’t earned since 2000. All while Columbia was supposed to be “rebuilding.”

But to the players this success was no surprise.

“Every one of us came from winning programs from high school,” said Montgomery, who was an all-state performer at Clayton High School in North Carolina. “We expected nothing less than to turn this program around.”

The Lions can match their win total from a season ago (16), which was the school’s highest output since 1992-93, and in the process could eclipse their .500 Ivy League record and end the season at 9-5.

In the end, though, the senior class is introspective about what might have been.

“We know that we had talent,” Montgomery said. “It’s not a shock we won these games.”

“As a matter of fact, we probably think we should have won more.”

The seniors are clearly a tight-knit group, proud of their accomplishments, but still able to give one of their own light-hearted grief for being “downer” in their observations.

“The program still has a long way to go,” Nwachukwu said. “The ultimate goal is to win a championship. When you don’t do that, you always fall short.”


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Brown’s Senior Guards End With Success

by - Published March 3, 2008 in Columns

Brown’s Seniors Traveled Different Paths to Success

by Phil Kasiecki

Senior Night for Brown came on Saturday evening. Among those honored were two young men who have been through quite a bit on the court at the school, going from rebuilding to a winning team in their senior season. But the journey was a little more interesting than just the start and end points, including a coaching change halfway through.

Mark McAndrew and Damon Huffman comprise arguably the best backcourt in the Ivy League this season. Both are known more for their shooting than running a team – indeed, this season’s team has been noteworthy for having its offensive success with essentially two shooting guards and a point forward in Chris Skrelja on the perimeter – and both have been an integral part of the team’s success. A coaching change is never easy, but both have clearly benefited from it as each is finishing up on a strong note.

“These guys have just been so welcoming of what we’re trying to do,” said head coach Craig Robinson. “They really gave themselves over to us when we first got here.”

Both players admitted that there was certainly an adjustment period, especially from standpoint of expectations. Whereas they knew what they were getting with Glen Miller, who left two years ago to take the head coaching job at Ivy League rival Penn, they didn’t know what to expect at first with Robinson.

“With Coach Miller after the first two years, I would have known what to expect coming in the third year,” said Huffman. “Coach Robinson came in and expected a lot of different things and had a different style of play.”

While McAndrew and Huffman are classmates and have done much together on the court, their path to this point wasn’t quite the same.

Local Boy Happy to Be With Those Who Matter

Talk to Mark McAndrew for a few minutes, and you get the feeling that he really enjoys the camaraderie he has with the people in his life. You get the feeling that it’s very important to him. Add that to going to school 15 minutes from home, and it’s clear that the native of nearby Barrington has had a great situation.

As a sophomore at Barrington High School, McAndrew led the team to a Rhode Island state championship. He recalls with great fondness how close that team was and how important that was in the team going 27-1 en route to the championship. As far as he knows, every member of that team has been to a Brown home game to see him play. Every year, they call each other on the day they won the state title and think back to that day.

“It’s really great to have family and your old high school friends come out and support you,” said the senior guard. “I think a lot of them have united here at Brown games, from everybody I played with in high school. That means a lot to me that we can keep in touch through what we love to do – play basketball.”

The middle of three children in a sports family, McAndrew followed his father’s lead into basketball. His father played at Providence from 1972-76 and was part of their Final Four team his freshman year. His older sister played tennis at Villanova for four years and was a captain for two of those years. His younger brother, a sophomore at Stetson, was the top golfer on the team last year and played in the U.S. Men’s Amateur Championship last August. He could become a pro one day in Mark’s second sport, and big brother already has an idea should that happen.

“It would be a dream of mine to be his caddie one day,” he said with a smile.

He began playing basketball at an organized level when he was about six years old, although he used to play with his cousins at his home. He remembers the five-foot rims and being able to dunk back then, and best of all, playing without a care in the world.

When he played organized ball, it was a bit different since he always played up with older kids. That might be the root of his work ethic, as he always had to play that much better to keep up with the older kids he played against.

McAndrew committed to Brown before he did a prep year at Worcester Academy. He knew he wanted a good academic school and was recruited by several Ivy League schools in addition to Holy Cross and William & Mary, but Brown was sure to be hard to beat. It has proven to be a great fit.

While he will finish in the top 20 in scoring at the school, that wasn’t a given a couple of years ago. In his first two seasons, he wasn’t much more than a bit player, although as a freshman he showed his shooting ability in making nearly 40 percent of his three-pointers. The coaching change clearly benefited him right away last season, as he broke out in averaging just under 16 points per game and leading the Ivy League in scoring in league games only.

He’s continued that this season as the league’s leading scorer, but this time in all games. He shoots 42.4 percent on three-pointers, and looks as at home in the offense Robinson installed as anyone. While his shooting gets plenty of attention, it hasn’t been uncommon to see him score a layup from making a nice cut after passing the ball to a teammate.

The root of the sudden success? Certainly, his work ethic had a lot to do with it. But when there’s a coaching change, there’s some uncertainty, and that was the case here initially. As is often the case, he doesn’t just see how it affects himself.

“It was hard to get a feel for what he wanted from us,” he reflected. “When he said dribble, we dribbled, when he said shoot, we shot. We believed in him and he believed in us that we could push each other every day to be the best team we could possibly be. It was an adjustment because it was a new style, a new type of system that he was putting in, but we believed in it and we stuck together as a team, and it’s really worked out well for us.”

An Economics concentrator, he may one day go to business school or attempt to get a job on Wall Street. For now, there is more basketball, and there is likely to be an opportunity to play professionally somewhere after this season. A late bloomer as a college player, his growth over the last couple of years would appear to be a good sign for that.

His college career is coming to a close, but it’s been one spent with family and long-time friends close by. You get the feeling he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Little Brother Has His Own Success

When you’re the youngest of three boys, it can be tough competing with the siblings. Damon Huffman grew up in just that situation a ways from where McAndrew was.

“We played a lot of backyard basketball. My brothers beat me a lot of times,” said the senior guard, who said his shooting developed in part from how they went at him in those rivalries. “They would just hack me if I went to the basket, so I may as well just keep shooting outside.”

While McAndrew grew up near Brown, Huffman grew up a ways from Ivy country in Petoskey, Michigan, a small town of about 6,000 people not far from the Upper Peninsula. The town is right on the water by Lake Michigan, and it’s one where Huffman says “there’s not a lot going on except basketball and sports.” While Providence isn’t far from the water, it’s certainly a little different from the Upper Peninsula.

Life included a lot of sports for Huffman growing up, as he played a lot of soccer and basketball and ran track his senior year of high school. Soccer helped him with basketball and he always enjoyed it, playing it from about the same age as he played basketball. Even so, basketball was always the clear sport.

“In the summers, I would never train for soccer, I would train for basketball,” said Huffman. “I think I decided in middle school that I wanted to focus on basketball and play Division I.”

He had plenty to look up to in his family for that. His oldest brother, Trevor, is the all-time leading scorer at Kent State and was part of the Elite Eight team in 1999. He is still playing professionally in Europe.

Giving one the sense that basketball is life, Huffman gained a great deal from his brothers. They introduced him to basketball even before they regularly beat him at it, as he remembers tagging along with them when they played in recreational leagues ever since he could remember.

“I was like the annoying little brother that was always in the gym,” said Huffman.

On Saturday night, he became the school’s all-time leader in career three-pointers. His shooting has been the key to his game all along, highlighted by a game last year against Rhode Island where he and the Rams’ Jimmy Baron had a shootout from long range. He went 8-11 from behind the arc en route to a 30-point evening in the losing effort.

Lightly recruited out of high school, Huffman said he talked with a couple of other Ivy League and Patriot League schools, but Brown was the one that stuck with him. Despite his brother’s success, he didn’t have a clear path to Division I and had a limited number of options. Most of all, Brown told him something that proved to be accurate.

“They were really big on me and made me feel important. They said I had a chance to make an impact as a freshman, and that’s something that I wanted,” he recalls.

As a freshman, Huffman was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, shooting over 41 percent on three-pointers. Miller and his staff were right: he could certainly make an impact as a freshman and did just that.

It came in a bad rebuilding year, as the Bears had a very young team and struggled to a 12-16 mark. Huffman didn’t like the results, but took a little solace in the award even though it didn’t give the team more wins.

“It felt good to get a personal award like that, but life isn’t good unless you’re winning,” said the senior guard.

His sophomore year wasn’t any better, as the Bears went 10-17 and at times looked like they could have done a lot worse. Huffman struggled to shoot the ball, as he shot below 39 percent from the field and made less than 24 percent of his three-pointers. Things could only get better again, right?

Any hope of that became uncertain when the coaching change occurred. Like McAndrew, Huffman wasn’t sure what to expect at first, even though the benefit of hindsight shows that he’s done very well under Robinson. It was only natural to wonder what the change meant.

Last season, Huffman rediscovered his shooting touch not only in the game against Rhode Island. He shot a career-best 45.5 percent from behind the arc last season and averaged 14.7 points per game, a figure he has duplicated this season. The Bears showed signs of improvement, especially as the season went along, leaving some promise for this season.

With the Bears’ success this season, a first-team All-Ivy honor seems likely. But the individual stats and honors don’t really matter so much as the bottom line: the Bears enter the final week of the regular season at 17-9 and with a chance to set a school record for wins in a season.

“It’s the first time we’ve had a winning season in my career,” he reflected. “Everyone has kind of come together as a group. I think we knew we were good last year, we just didn’t have the experience under Coach Robinson. I think this year we’ve really shown, through a lot of hard work over the summer and to the freshmen that we can be a good team.”

Life at Brown has been a change for him, one for the better. He’s enjoyed his time at the school off the court in a place far from home and sees new possibilities for the rest of his life. One thing is for certain, though: when his playing days are over, he hopes basketball won’t be a thing of the past for him. He hopes to stay in the game, preferably in coaching. There’s a simple reason for it, all going back to his early days with his big brothers.

“It’s kind of been my life and I don’t think I can just leave that,” said Huffman. “Basketball is in my blood, and I don’t think it’s something that I can just give up.”

The little brother hasn’t just tagged along this time. With the help of his big brothers earlier in life, he’s now forged his own path in a place far from home.

What Can Brown Do For Them?

Robinson has talked of having to change the culture at the school. Both players speak of it as well, which just proves how much the players have bought into the message. While both are happy with the success the team is having now, they also speak of the future for the program.

“We’ve instilled a culture here of winning and a culture of hard work, and that Brown can be competitive in the Ivy League year in and year out, and hopefully soon we’ll win some of those Ivy League titles,” said McAndrew.

The Bears have tied the school record for wins in a season after picking up their 17th on Saturday night. They are holding out hope for the postseason, either with the NIT (long shot) or the new College Basketball Invitational. If they win their final two games next weekend at Harvard and Dartmouth, they might have a chance with a 19-9 record.

Robinson is hoping that can happen, feeling like it would be one good way to show the appreciation for McAndrew and Huffman, as well as classmate Mark MacDonald, who has been hampered by injuries since December. While he has good young talent in his program and they have certainly shown improvement over the course of the season, next season and beyond won’t be a simple matter of plugging new guys in.

“It’s going to be hard to replace these guys, and I just hope we can do something for them that we haven’t done, like having the best record in Brown history,” said Robinson. “That would be tremendous for them to go out like that.”


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Ivy League Notebook

by - Published February 20, 2008 in Conference Notes

Ivy League Notebook

by Phil Kasiecki

As another weekend of Ivy League basketball has completed, there hasn’t been much change at the top. With two more road wins, Cornell has run their record to 8-0 and remains two games in front of Brown.

The Big Red could move even closer to clinching the Ivy League’s automatic bid this coming weekend, when the Bears and Yale come to town. A sweep would put them at 10-0 with a possible magic number of two, and they would have the tie-breaker of a head-to-head sweep over the Bears.

Revenge of the Road Teams

After the home team won all eight games last weekend, this time around saw a decided reversal as seven of the eight games were won by the visiting team. Additionally, only three games were decided by double figures.

Cornell and Columbia were the only two teams to win a road game in the league before this weekend. Both teams swept their road games, while Brown swept theirs and Yale split their two games for their first road wins.

Will it continue next weekend? That’s a good question. The previous weekend, the top teams in the league were at home, while they were on the road this weekend. Cornell and Columbia are at home and host Brown and Yale, meaning things at the top of the standings might sort themselves out a little more.

Dale Continues to Lead Improving Cornell

Last year, when Cornell looked every bit the part of a young team, Louis Dale was at the nerve center of it. The sophomore point guard made a lot of things happen, but not just for his team as he was erratic at times. He was the type of player who could make big plays but also commit a big turnover or take a bad shot.

As Cornell stands atop the league with an 8-0 mark, Dale is leading the team again, but this time with better results. He feels more comfortable running the team, as evidenced by his much-improved assist/turnover ratio, and limiting turnovers was one area he really tried to improve on this time around. While his shooting numbers are down, the wins are up and that’s what matters most.

In improving in the win-loss category, the Big Red have gone from being hunters to the hunted. That’s a transition not easily made, and Friday’s win at Harvard, where they came from being five down in the final minute, probably helps them see what is needed in that.

“I think this keeps us grounded, knowing that every team is going to be ready to play,” said Dale. “We have to come out with our A-game as well. It’s going to help us focus more on games and be ready to play every time out.”

His coach sees his potential and knows that Dale still has work to do. But that’s a two-way street in terms of his expectations.

“I’m disappointed a lot of the times when Louis makes a mistake because I expect him to be great,” said head coach Steve Donohue. “I just think he’s such a talented kid that it frustrates me when he goes through stretches. I’ve got to remember he’s playing his 22nd Ivy League game, that’s all. He’s only a sophomore and he’ll make mistakes.”

Dale and classmate Ryan Wittman certainly make mistakes, but they’ve been playing through them better this time around. They had to play through them last year, and as sophomores they look like players who have grown. The Big Red is following suit.

Difficult Homecoming for Crimson

After five straight on the road, Harvard finally returned home this weekend hoping to get back on track. One might say they came agonizingly close to doing just that.

A year ago, the Crimson handed Cornell a tough loss late in the season at Lavietes Pavilion. This time around, the fortunes were reversed as Cornell handed them a heart-breaking 72-71 loss on Friday night.

The Crimson looked to be in good shape when Jeremy Lin (15 points, 4 steals) hit a three-pointer from the top of the key with 42 seconds left to put them up by five. But the Big Red capitalized on two Crimson turnovers to get two late baskets by Alex Tyler after he made a stickback on the ensuing possession.

“It’s really disappointing for us, because we played so well and so hard against the first place team, one of the hottest teams in the country,” said Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker. “I thought we just really performed in a lot of good ways to put ourselves in a position to win.”

On Saturday night, the Crimson shot just over 30 percent in the second half en route to dropping a 73-64 decision to Columbia. The Crimson were in the game all night long, even leading by nine with over 15 minutes to go in the game. That was a sign that there wasn’t a big hangover from the loss the night before.

“I thought we responded beautifully in a lot of ways,” said Amaker. “I think it showed a lot of toughness, a lot of guts, a lot of character, for our team the way we came out after that gut-wrenching loss last night.”

A real bright spot for the Crimson this weekend was the play of Drew Housman. The junior guard, known for his scoring, had not reached double figures in the last eight games before the weekend, but he came alive in these two games. He scored 18 points on Friday night, then went for 25 points on 8-15 shooting on Saturday night with no turnovers. In those two games, he went 15-15 from the foul line.

“You can’t ask for anything more out of him,” said Amaker, who was also struck by the lack of turnovers. “I’m barking at him to pressure the ball more.”

The Crimson are home again this coming weekend against Princeton and Penn.

Lions Persevere to Contend

It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for Columbia. With Joe Jones’ first recruiting class now in their senior seasons, this looked to be their year, especially with the development last season of Patrick Foley and Niko Scott as freshmen. While it’s been far from a washout and there’s plenty of time left, the season hasn’t quite gone as scripted.

Non-league play saw the team battle some inconsistency, and then Foley suffered a season-ending shoulder injury while diving for a loose ball against Stony Brook. He tried to come back and played in three more games, but he’s now done for the season. That robs them of their most talented scorer.

As we pass the halfway point of Ivy League play, the Lions are 5-3 and in third place, a half game ahead of Penn, who they knocked off at Levien Gym last weekend. Jones gives a lot of the credit to his senior class for the team reaching this point.

“We have great leadership from our seniors. They’ve been through the years, they’ve been through a lot,” said Jones. “These guys have persevered and helped carry us through that rough patch. Now we’ve kind of found ourselves and we’re playing with a lot of confidence right now. I think they know they’re capable of winning any game that they’re in now.”

Perhaps the best example of that is forward Ben Nwachukwu, a player who’s always had the talent to be an All-Ivy player. His numbers this season are down as he’s been inconsistent, scoring in double figures just once in league games prior to Saturday night. At Brown, he didn’t even take a shot in 12 minutes of play.

“We’ve got a get a little more consistency out of him,” Jones said of the senior post player. “When he’s playing well like that and John (Baumann) is playing well, we’re tough to beat, and it opens up things for other guys. We’ve got to get Ben playing at a more consistent level.”

But it’s certainly more than Nwachukwu, who had 16 points and three blocked shots on Saturday. Baumann missed a good portion of his freshman season with an injury, while senior Justin Armstrong has been plagued by injuries for most of his career. They saw Joe Bova come in as a freshman two years ago and suffer a serious back injury that left questions about whether or not he would ever play again. There has been some disappointment as well with some tough losses over the last few years.

Now, as their careers draw to a close, the seniors are trying to make it a good ending.

“They persevered, they persisted through the tough times, they’ve stuck together,” said Jones. “It’s not a group that complains a lot.”

The Lions play the next four games at home. They ride a four-game winning streak into the homestand, so they have a chance to run up a good winning streak before they hit the road for the final weekend of the season.

Other Notes

  • Cornell head coach Steve Donohue was quick to note why he thinks Harvard’s record in Ivy League play is deceiving. After their win on Friday, he offered, “Our league sticks them on the road for five straight games, no league in the country does that.” The Crimson had just returned home this weekend after that stretch, losing all five games.
  • Penn got back Tyler Bernardini from an injury that kept him out of three games. He’s their most talented player and made an immediate impact offensively as the Quakers split two games with a win over Yale on Saturday night. In Saturday’s win, he scored all 19 of his points in the second half.
  • A bad second half did in Yale in that game, stopping their three-game winning streak. They allowed Penn to shoot 52 percent from the field in the latter stanza, highlighted by a 17-0 run that broke a 39-39 tie and sealed the game.


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Ivy League Notebook

by - Published February 13, 2008 in Conference Notes

Ivy League Notebook

by Phil Kasiecki

Ivy League play has begun in earnest, and with two full weekends in the books a few things have already become clear.

Most notable is that Cornell is the team to beat. The Big Red have run out to a 6-0 start and have a two-game lead on everyone else. While there is still a lot of basketball left to play, a team can sometimes ride that kind of early momentum to a title. For good measure, that start includes three wins on the road.

Also of note is that the contenders to topple the Big Red look to be in short supply, with a big drop-off after that. Brown, Yale and Columbia have all taken their best shots to no avail, the first two doing so on their home courts. The other four teams all look to be a notch below the top four, although Penn probably has the most talent but also the least team experience.

Last, but not least, something requiring further elaboration has become abundantly clear: it’s tough to win on the road.

Home Teams Rule

The home team won all eight games in Ivy League play this weekend, and only one of them was close as Columbia’s 58-53 win over Princeton on Saturday was the only game decided by single digits. While part of it is that the better teams in the league were at home this weekend, the dominance of home teams is still noteworthy.

The first weekend of play, the Penn/Princeton weekend looked like it always does for teams traveling down I-95 to play them as they each swept the weekend. But this weekend, the Quakers and Tigers were swept on the road to fall to 2-2 each.

The first weekend was home to the biggest aberration in this trend thus far, as Yale was swept at home by Columbia and Cornell. Both teams now stand 3-3 after sweeping their home weekend games this past weekend, but they’re also each three games back in the loss column behind Cornell and may as well be another game behind since Cornell swept Columbia and has won at Yale.

Columbia’s win at Yale is currently the only road win in the league besides the three that Cornell has.

Bears Come Alive, Sweep in Blowouts

After last Friday’s loss to Cornell, Brown came back to beat Columbia the next night. Then the Bears went out and dismantled Dartmouth and Harvard at home this weekend.

While head coach Craig Robinson highlighted the big lead the Bears built up on Friday night and how it allowed him to rest his regulars for a lot of minutes, he was also happy from just about every intangible perspective.

“We challenged these guys with the fact that this is the first weekend that we’re expected to win on Friday and expected to win on Saturday,” said Robinson after Friday’s win. “To have it go like this on Friday just helps us for Saturday.”

It certainly did, as the Bears were in control on Saturday night in much the same way, although the defense didn’t lead the way quite like it did Friday night. Against Dartmouth, the Bears created turnovers and turned them into quick points, especially Mark McAndrew. The senior guard scored 25 points on 8-10 shooting, making all of his three-pointers along the way.

“He’s been dying to have a game like that, and it started with his defense,” Robinson said of McAndrew. “He was really active on defense. He was tipping balls, getting rebounds and cutting hard. I think the freshmen coming around is helping him rest.”

Robinson pointed to an important development there – the continuing improvement of his freshmen. Peter Sullivan now starts, and Adrian Williams gets more minutes off the bench in the rotation now, and each clearly is better than they were earlier in the season. That’s one more reason the Bears have continued to play well and have already equaled the number of wins they had all of last season, which is yet another hurdle this team has cleared.

After Friday’s game, Robinson saw that his team wasn’t celebrating. Then on Saturday, they were concerned a bit because they knew they didn’t play better in the second half on Saturday than in the first. The latter was probably helped by a timeout he called with less than three minutes left and the game in hand where he ripped into his bench players. He made it clear he expects no less of them than anyone else, and they’re taking notice of how serious this is.

“We have to understand that we can’t celebrate too much on any occasion, because we’ve got bigger things to do,” said Robinson.

Included in that is picking up road wins, as the Bears play their next four games away from home.

Crimson Happy to Go Home

Of all the teams on the road this weekend, few will be happier to get home than Harvard. After opening with a win against Dartmouth in Cambridge last month, the Crimson proceeded to lose the next five league games, all on the road. Only one of them, a 73-69 loss at Penn over a week ago, was decided by single digits.

It’s not just being away from home that has hampered the Crimson, as injuries haven’t helped, either. T.J. Carey missed Saturday’s game against Brown, while sophomore Pat Magnarelli may be out for the season with a leg injury suffered at Dartmouth. Magnarelli had been coming along nicely, with two double-doubles in the last three games before the injury.

The Crimson now play four home games the next two weekends, with Cornell and Columbia in town this weekend.

“We’ve struggled like you wouldn’t believe on the road this year,” said senior forward Brad Unger. “Hopefully we can get home and come back and get some more wins.”

It will be a tall order against the league leaders and a very capable Columbia team that beat them handily in Cambridge last year. Columbia also has the only road win in the league besides the three that Cornell have.

What Do We Know About Dartmouth?

A hard team to figure out is Dartmouth, which stands 1-5 after being blown out in two road games this weekend. But there are a couple of things we do know about them.

Most notably, Alex Barnett could be the league’s best player. Although his numbers weren’t great against Brown, he made a number of plays that further show his potential. He’s always been able to shoot, though at times he’s more of a volume shooter, but he’s very athletic and has a lot of tools to help offensively and will get some rebounds when he goes in. He’s just behind Brown’s Mark McAndrew for the scoring lead and leads the league in rebounding.

We know that they can hang their hat on Johnathan Ball when he’s healthy. He’s undersized in the frontcourt, but he’s a warrior who will bang with bigger players and is among the league’s rebounding leaders.

While their inside game isn’t great, we know there is one big man they may be able to hang their hat on a bit.

Other Notes

  • Although he’s been erratic at times, promising Penn freshman Harrison Gaines has the second-best assist/turnover ratio in the conference at a 1.91.
  • Freshman Alex Zampier gives Yale a lift off the bench, but not just with his shooting. Zampier does make over 39 percent of his shots from behind the arc, but he also leads the league in steals.
  • One way to slow down Cornell might be to defend the three-point line: the Big Red are making shots from behind the arc at a 42.4 percent clip.


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Cornell Looks Like Ivy Favorites

by - Published February 3, 2008 in Columns

Cornell Looks Like the Favorite

by Phil Kasiecki

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The first Ivy League showdown of the season went to the preseason favorites. Cornell knocked off Brown on Friday night by a 75-64 margin, asserting themselves as the team to beat early on.

The Big Red moved to 3-0 in Ivy League play, with two wins coming on the road thus far. They also have a good cushion as Yale lost at home on Friday. More importantly, the Big Red looked the part of the champion, between winning on the road against the only other Ivy League team to have a winning record in non-league play, and answering every rally attempt by the Bears. They looked the part of the veteran team, while the Bears, whose offense never really got untracked, looked like an upstart.

That might have been evident to someone watching the game, but there was more to it than just what was apparent on the court. In their season opener, the Big Red had a teaching point, when they had to hold off a late charge by Lehigh for an 87-83 win. With about two minutes left, they led by 14 points, but they needed two late free throws to seal the game.

That led head coach Steve Donahue to make a slight change to practice in the hope that they would get better at putting an opponent away.

“We practice that situation – we’ll put three minutes on the clock, up ten, and we don’t want to lose that lead,” said Donahue. “We want to go up – go up to 15 or more.”

The Big Red got the idea on Friday night, although the Bears did make one comeback. After Cornell went up 28-17, Brown rallied to tie the game at halftime and looked to have momentum into the second half. But Cornell never trailed, scoring the first seven points of the second half.

Later in the second half, Cornell got its largest lead at 57-45. Brown rallied to get within six, but they got no closer and the Big Red pulled away. Cornell kept up the offense with a flurry of three-pointers, as they always had an answer when Brown tried to charge back. They were 9-18 from three-point land, with several of them being back-breakers.

The Big Red got going from three-point range later in the first half, after Brown stopped a lot of their dribble drives and interior passes. Brown was never able to turn the turnovers into points, and that gave the Big Red an opening to eventually take the lead, which they did.

“You can’t miss layups, jump shots and expect to beat a team that’s considered the best team in the league,” said Brown head coach Craig Robinson. He added, in summing up his tam’s place as the upstart, “We’re still trying to figure out how to win, when we’ve lost for so long.”

Cornell has continued to win despite losing a little depth in the backcourt. Collin Robinson, who transferred from USC, left the team for personal reasons before Ivy League play began. He remains enrolled in school, and his absence certainly takes something away from a numbers standpoint, as he was third on the team in scoring at 10.6 points per game and handed out 4.4 assists per game as well.

A key part of their growth has been the play of sophomore point guard Louis Dale. Last season, Dale played a lot of minutes at the point, and looked like a freshman as he made his share of bad decisions with the ball. This season, he’s more mature and is running the show like a seasoned veteran. There is likely still more to come from him as well.

“I think he can play even better,” said Donahue. “I think he turns the ball over on silly things, but he makes tremendous plays on both sides of the ball. The turnover part, I think that’s unforced, and I have to get on him for that.”

There’s still a long way to go, but Cornell’s win on Friday night, and how they won the game, says something about the pecking order in the Ivy League early on. Projected by most, including the league’s coaches, to win the Ivy League in the preseason, the Big Red appear to be looking the part right now.


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Brown Looks Like A Contender

by - Published December 8, 2007 in Columns

Bears Look Like Potential Ivy Contenders

by Phil Kasiecki

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – This is a different Brown team taking the court these days. Although a number of players return from last season’s team, there’s plenty that’s different about this team. There is a different feel to this team, with different results and different contributors.

After Thursday night’s 68-52 win over New Hampshire in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score might indicate, the Bears are 5-3. Included are three road wins, one of them coming at Northwestern, where head coach Craig Robinson was an assistant before taking the job at Brown. And as the Bears head into Sunday’s game against cross-town rival Providence, a team they beat last year, they’re playing with plenty of confidence and their record doesn’t really give a full indicator of how improved they are.

The confidence is especially noticeable at the offensive end, where the Bears have largely executed well and have at least given themselves chances to score on many possessions. They are much more comfortable in the second year of Robinson’s system, and more players have a good grasp of it than last season, which gives them more options.

“We have a rhythm and a continuity that we’ve rehearsed every single day,” said senior guard Mark McAndrew. “We feel that with our preparation, we can counter anything any team does to us defensively.”

Even as their confidence goes up, Robinson is trying to manage that and knows that it could easily be sapped away because of recent struggles.

“It’s so tough when they’ve lost for a long time to really be truly confident, but games like this help. Games like Quinnipiac help,” said the second-year head coach. “I’m hoping this is a turning point for us confidence-wise.”

Entering the season, the backcourt was the known quantity, although neither McAndrew nor Huffman remotely resembles a true point guard. The Bears could be sure there would be plenty of scoring to come from them and that they would keep the offense going. The big question was up front, although mostly at the defensive end as the Bears were killed on the glass last season and didn’t have anyone who was a real presence inside. Thus far, they have a slightly positive rebounding margin, and they’re more productive offensively and have more of a defensive presence.

“They’ve all done what I’ve asked them to do over the summer, and you’re starting to see the results of that now,” said Robinson of his frontcourt players.

From player to player, the improvement is notable. It starts with their starters, senior center Mark MacDonald and juniors Chris Skrelja and Scott Friske. MacDonald is more of a fixture in the team’s offense in the middle, while Skrelja has improved a good deal since late in his freshman season and Friske is starting to show some of the potential he had as a freshman. Off the bench, freshman Peter Sullivan has helped right away and sophomore Matt Mullery looks improved as well.

In his first year, Friske showed that he’s a competitor and can play bigger, with his offense needing to come along. Last year, he had a slump year adjusting to Robinson’s system, and the coach can see why that is.

“What it was for him is that he’s a guy who wants to do everything correctly,” said Robinson. “Before I got here, he wasn’t supposed to shoot outside. In our thing, everybody’s got to be able to do that, even if they don’t think they’re going to be able to make it. Once he embraced that, which happened over the summer and in the preseason, you’re seeing a different guy. He understands that I’m not going to be upset if he misses the shot, I’m going to be upset if he doesn’t take an open shot.”

The Bears have been rebounding by committee up front, but the results are better. Friske and Skrelja each average over five per game, significantly up from last year’s totals.

With the frontcourt improving, the Bears have better depth. They go at least eight deep, but Robinson feels he now can go even deeper than that if necessary.

“We’ve got 15 guys that I can put in the game and who can play. That’s different from last year when we were playing eight guys, or nine,” said Robinson. “It’s a nice feeling to have. Those guys at the end of the bench are why we’re getting better, because the practices are better.”

That hasn’t been lost on McAndrew as well, as the leading scorer has benefited from having more help around him.

“I think that’s very instrumental to our success, the fact that we have 10 or 11 guys that know the offense,” said the senior guard.

All of this is happening as the Bears’ fellow Ivy League teams aren’t having world-beating non-conference runs. Many felt Penn would be vulnerable this year, and the Quakers have looked the part as a talented but very green team. Yale’s 2-5 record is deceptive, as every team they have played is tough and they have been on the road most of the way. Cornell, a preseason pick of many to win the league, is the only team besides Brown with a winning record and with a schedule thus far that doesn’t compare favorably to Brown’s. Harvard, a team most picked in the second division, looks much-improved thus far in Tommy Amaker’s first season at the helm.

In other words, the Bears, who were looked at as a dark horse before the season, might be as good a contender as anyone in the Ivy League. The league looks more wide open than originally thought, and based on the non-conference play thus far, Brown looks to be as good a candidate as anyone. That’s a testament to the job Robinson is doing thus far with a team not loaded with talent even by Ivy League standards, as well as the players in improving.


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Penn Starts Slow, Has Promise

by - Published November 27, 2007 in Columns

Young Quakers Have Potential During Slow Start

by Phil Kasiecki

PHILADELPHIA – Before the season, much was said about this year’s Penn team not being the Penn team we’ve known over the years. Much has been said about how wide-open the Ivy League appears to be and how this could be the first time in 19 years that a team other than Penn or Princeton took home the Ivy League title.

The Quakers are off to a 2-4 start with a lineup that includes two freshmen guards. Harrison Gaines and Tyler Bernardini both look impressive and have a chance to be excellent players, but it’s not going to happen right away although Bernardini was quite effective in the Quakers’ 71-67 win over Navy on Saturday. He was very active and showed some good ball skills. Gaines has the physical tools to be a good player, but looks a bit erratic right now, although no more than your average freshman point guard.

Although the youth is visible in the backcourt, it’s up front that one would find the biggest questions entering the season. Departed starters Mark Zoller and Steve Danley were major keys to the team’s success last season, and the holdovers were unproven. The early games haven’t answered many questions, save for the Quakers being out-rebounded by more than four per game.

Over a week ago, the Quakers sure looked the part of a vulnerable team in losing at home to Howard, coached by former long time Penn assistant Gil Jackson. That dropped the Quakers to 0-3, an unthinkable start for a program that has played tough non-conference schedules but has had a great deal of success over the years in non-conference play.

A look at statistics shows that the defensive end has some troubling numbers. Entering Saturday’s game, opponents were shooting 47 percent from the field against the Quakers, including an astonishing 49 percent from three-point range. Opponents were averaging over 82 points per game against them, with Virginia dropping 100 on them Friday night.

Those numbers are a big reason why Saturday’s effort against Navy could be a key step forward for them. They held the Midshipmen to 30.6 percent shooting, including 5-28 from long range. They also got some run-outs from misses and turnovers, which led to a few easy baskets that helped them take the lead in the second half.

“I was very satisfied because they’re a very difficult team to defend,” said head coach Glen Miller of their defensive effort. “I thought our guys paid attention in practice today, paid attention in the pregame talk and carried that on the floor and executed it to perfection.”

The Quakers have talent, notably the aforementioned freshmen guards. Senior Brian Grandieri is the veteran leader who has been through the wars and has the look of a go-to guy, as the Quakers at times seemed to make a concerted effort to get him the ball to try and score. The key for this team will be the young players growing up and dependable players emerging in the frontcourt. The intangibles will take a little time to fully come around, but Saturday’s win might be a step in the right direction.

“It was an ugly game, but it’s nice to win one of those ugly games because there’s a certain amount of toughness that’s required to win those games,” said Miller. “We need to be a tougher team physically and mentally, so there’s progress in those areas.”

Since the Howard loss, the Quakers have played some better basketball, winning two of the three games thus far. There are still concerning points, like the 22 turnovers they committed against Navy, and defense won’t become a strength overnight. The young players, particularly the guards, have talent, but need experience and to learn from their experience.

“They’ve really grown up in the stretch of the last two or three games. They’re not hesitating to shoot, they’re giving the ball up when guys are open,” said Grandieri of the freshmen. “The two times that we’ve played as a team and given that extra pass, we’ve been able to get a win.”

The big question is if they will develop well enough by the time Ivy League play rolls around. They will be tested plenty, as the remainder of non-conference play includes a home date with North Carolina, a road date with Miami and their Big Five opponents – Villanova and Temple on the road, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s at home. And the rest of the Ivy League hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in non-conference play, as only Cornell has a winning record and Brown is the only other team with a .500 record. So the Quakers are in good company, and they might be in a much better place once Ivy League play rolls around.


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Ivy League Preview

by - Published November 3, 2007 in Conference Notes

Ivy League 2007-08 Preview

by Phil Kasiecki

As the 2007-08 season approaches, there is a sense that this season could be different in the Ivy League. Prognosticators and even coaches are all saying that this just might be the year that someone other than Penn or Princeton breaks through at the top. It could be the first time in 19 years that someone other than Penn or Princeton represented the Ivy League in the NCAA Tournament.

They aren’t without their reasons. Princeton finished dead last in the league in 2006-07 and has a new head coach. Penn won another title last year, Glenn Miller’s first at the helm, but the Quakers lost three starters and with them much more than just numbers. Ibby Jaaber and Mark Zoller were veterans who made that team win games, while Steve Danley was a solid role player alongside Zoller. The Quakers enter this season with some good talent, especially on the perimeter, but not looking like as good a bet to win as they have been in some other seasons.

Who could emerge in their place? Three teams look like good contenders, two of whom are coached by brothers. Yale has an experienced team led by guard Eric Flato and classmates Caleb and Nick Holmes, while junior Ross Morin anchors the frontcourt. James Jones’ finished second last season and showed signs that they may be ready to make the next step this year. Columbia, led by James’ younger brother Joe, brings back a senior-laden team with his first recruiting class and some sophomores who gave the team a good boost last season. The third team in the mix, Cornell, has plenty of offensive potential and quietly led the league in field goal percentage defense last season. Last season’s team looked like a young team at times, but this season’s team should improve in intangible areas.

Two schools changed coaches after the end of last season. Harvard no longer has the longest-tenured coach in the league, as former Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker takes over for Frank Sullivan. Princeton saw Joe Scott head back to Colorado for the vacancy at Denver, replacing him with Sydney Johnson, an alum who most recently was an assistant at Georgetown. With those changes, six of the league’s eight head coaches are now African-American.

Preseason Awards
Player of the Year:
Eric Flato, Yale
Top Newcomer: Collin Robinson, Cornell
Top Freshman: Harrison Gaines, Penn
Defensive Player of the Year: Travis Pinick, Yale
Best NBA Prospect: Ryan Wittman, Cornell

All-Ivy Team
John Baumann, Sr. F, Columbia
Eric Flato, Sr. G, Yale
Brian Grandieri, Sr. G, Pennsylvania
Mark McAndrew, Sr. G, Brown
Ryan Wittman, So. G-F, Cornell

Yale Bulldogs (14-13, 10-4 Ivy, second place)
Projected Starters:

Sr. G Eric Flato (15.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.9 spg)
Sr. G Caleb Holmes (8.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.2 apg)
Jr. G-F Travis Pinick (6.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.9 apg)
Jr. F Ross Morin (8.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
Sr. C Matt Kyle (5.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: A very challenging non-conference slate will test the Bulldogs to prepare them for Ivy League play. It opens with Northeast contender Sacred Heart at home, then has four straight road games that include Stanford and UCLA. Later, they welcome America East favorites Vermont and Boston University and head to Kansas. In Ivy League play, they begin February with four straight home games after their home-and-home with Brown, which will give them a chance to build some early momentum and especially with fellow contenders Columbia and Cornell coming to New Haven on the first weekend.
Outlook: In recent years, the Bulldogs have often performed opposite of what many have predicted, having good years when the projection is that they’re down and so-so years when projected to contend. That means this could be the kiss of death, but we won’t bet on it as they return a solid group of upperclassmen led by Flato, who has led this team since his sophomore year. Holmes and twin Nick Holmes can be dangerous on the perimeter, while Pinick is a solid defender and role player. Chris Andrews, who missed all of last season with an injury, backs up Flato and may occasionally play alongside him, and sophomore Alex Zampier will be another option at the shooting guard spot. The frontcourt is has good starters in Morin and Kyle, but there isn’t much proven depth. More will be needed from sophomore Paul Nelson, and it wouldn’t hurt if freshmen Garrett Fiddler or Michael Sands chipped in right away. The Bulldogs had more turnovers than assists, so taking care of the ball will be a key area for improvement if they are to come out on top.

Cornell Big Red (16-12, 9-5 Ivy, third place)
Projected Starters:

So. G Louis Dale (13.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.7 apg)
Jr. G Adam Gore (12.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.3 apg in 2005-06)
So. G-F Ryan Wittman (15.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.3 apg)
Jr. F Brian Kreefer (5.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
Sr. F Jason Hartford (7.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg in 2005-06)
Schedule Highlights: The Big Red’s non-conference slate features something rare for teams at this level: a slew of early home games. Of the six non-conference home games on tap, five come in the first six games, including MAAC contender Siena. After four straight home games, they go on the road for five straight, including Patriot League contender Bucknell, Syracuse and Duke. The Ivy League slate is favorable in that they don’t have a prolonged road stretch, although they do have three straight after playing Columbia at home in January. Towards the end of February, they play four straight at home before finishing with the tough Penn/Princeton weekend.
Outlook: The Big Red would be an equally worthy choice to win the conference this season, as they have the firepower on offense and were a solid defensive team last season. With Dale, Wittman and the return of Gore, there is plenty of scoring ability on the perimeter. USC transfer Collin Robinson adds to it, and wings Geoff Reeves and Jason Battle are capable reserves. The big questions are in the frontcourt with the departure of Andrew Naeve, as there isn’t much experience beyond Hartford and Kreefer. St. Bonaventure transfer Jeff Foote, who is eligible in December, brings good size since he’s a seven-footer. If some help can emerge there, the Big Red may have enough to complement the perimeter offense. The only other big question revolves around the team’s experience, as two sophomores and a junior who has only played one year project to start. At times last season the Big Red looked like a young team in making mistakes that are often erased with experience, and if they eliminate those mistakes, they could come out on top.

Penn Quakers (22-9, 13-1 Ivy, first place)
Projected Starters:

Fr. G Harrison Gaines
Sr. G Brian Grandieri (11.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.2 spg)
So. G Darren Smith (4.2 ppg)
Jr. F Tommy McMahon (5.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.2 apg)
Jr. F Brennan Votel (2.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: As usual, the non-conference slate is challenging, featuring seven home games. Early on, they will play four games in the Philly Classic, including at MAAC contender Loyola (Md.) and at the Palestra against Virginia and either Seton Hall or Navy. The home slate is highlighted by North Carolina, while Saint Joseph’s and La Salle are also on the home slate as part of the Big Five. Road games include dates at Villanova and Temple in the Big Five, as well as Miami. In Ivy League play, the Quakers start with Harvard and Dartmouth at home before getting tested on the road at Columbia and Cornell. February ends with a four-game road stretch.
Outlook: Even with the personnel questions they face, the Quakers can’t be written off. They will be very green overall, but there is certainly talent. Grandieri will anchor the team as the top overall talent and team leader, and he’s a good one to start with. He’s been on winning teams and can be a go-to guy. Smith is a capable shooter who should get better with a bigger role, as he showed some flashes last season. Gaines comes with a good reputation and appears to be the best candidate to start at the point, although Grandieri can handle the ball as well. The big question personnel-wise is in the frontcourt, where everyone is relatively unproven at best because Mark Zoller and Steve Danley meant so much to last season’s team. Juniors McMahon, Votel and Justin Reilly, among others, need to improve quickly since they’re the most experienced players there. The Quakers aren’t likely to lead the league in scoring again, and forcing the most turnovers will be a challenge with Jaaber gone. Still, this team can’t be counted out, as the Quakers have entered a season looking far from invincible before and have still be right there on top or competing for the title at the end.

Columbia Lions (16-12, 7-7 Ivy, fourth place)
Projected Starters:

Sr. G Brett Loscalzo (4.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.5 apg)
So. G Niko Scott (6.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.3 apg)
Sr. G Justin Armstrong (3.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.4 apg)
Sr. F John Baumann (13.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
Sr. F Ben Nwachukwu (8.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: After opening the season against Fordham at home, the Lions head to Columbus for the NIT Season Tip-Off, where they first play Delaware State. Five straight games on the road follow, notably at America East contender Albany and NEC favorite Sacred Heart, and they later play at Villanova. All told, the non-conference schedule has six home games. The Ivy League schedule is favorable in terms of home and road swings, as they don’t have a road stretch longer than two games and play four straight at home near the end of February.
Outlook: Joe Jones’ first recruiting class has made it to their senior year, and this could be their big breakthrough year as it’s an experienced bunch that has made some strides over the past three seasons. Four senior starters who have been through plenty together lead the way, with Loscalzo running the show and defending while Baumann and Nwachukwu form a solid interior tandem that helped the Lions lead the league in rebounding margin last season. Baumann, who had a good season on the baseball team last spring, is the league’s top returning rebounder. Nagging injuries limited Armstrong last season, but he had a good sophomore year and figures to close out his career on a good note if he stays healthy. K.J. Matsui is another senior who can contribute, mainly through his long range stroke. Sophomores Patrick Foley and Scott injected some good talent onto this team last year, and with a year in the system and playing with the seniors should only be better. Foley will get plenty of minutes even if he doesn’t start, and he might be their best offensive threat. The Lions have as much experience as anyone and have developed together, so they have the pieces to challenge for the title.

Brown Bears (11-18, 6-8 Ivy, fifth place)
Projected Starters:

Sr. G Mark McAndrew (15.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.2 apg)
Sr. G Damon Huffman (14.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.6 spg)
Jr. F Chris Skrelja (7.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.1 spg)
Jr. F Scott Friske (5.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg)
Sr. F-C Mark McDonald (6.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.4 apg in 16 games)
Schedule Highlights: The Bears open the season with three of the first four games on the road in the Midwest, at Eastern Michigan, nearby Michigan and then Northwestern. Other road games on the slate include Providence and Notre Dame during a four-game road stretch and Baylor to conclude the non-conference portion. In-state rival Rhode Island is the highlight of five home non-conference games. In Ivy League action, they have a chance to build some early momentum with five straight home games after opening up at Yale, with four straight road games following that stretch.
Outlook: If there is a true dark horse, it’s Craig Robinson’s team, which at times looked like it was in for a long season last year but played well later in the season. The Bears return four starters, including a solid senior backcourt with McAndrew, the top returning scorer, and Huffman, an excellent shooter. Together, they will make the Bears deadly from long range. Neither is a true point guard, which could pose a problem, but that doesn’t figure to be the biggest concern. That should come in the frontcourt, where the Bears were out-rebounded. Scott Friske didn’t have the smoothest adjustment to a new role after showing plenty of promise as a freshman; that should change now that he has a year under Robinson. Skrelja played better as the season went along, and McDonald is the best of a mediocre group of holdovers on the post. The Bears will look for a couple of their seven freshmen, such as 6’8″ Jelani Floyd and Chris Taylor and 6’9″ Kelly Morgan, to help in this area right away. Sophomore Matt Mullery, who started nine games last season, is another option.

Harvard Crimson (12-16, 5-9 Ivy, sixth place)
Projected Starters:

So. G Jeremy Lin (4.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.8 apg)
Jr. G Drew Housman (13.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.6 spg)
Jr. G Andrew Pusar (5.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.4 apg)
Jr. F Evan Harris (10.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.2 spg)
Sr. F Brad Unger (6.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: The Crimson will open the season in the BTI Classic, taking on host Stanford, Big West favorite UC Santa Barbara and one of the Southland favorites in Northwestern State. After that, six home games dot the non-conference slate, highlighted by Michigan coming to town on December 1 in a homecoming for Wolverine forward Kendric Price. They also welcome one of the America East favorites in Vermont, while road games include Holy Cross, Providence, America East favorite Boston University and a Northeast contender in Sacred Heart. The Ivy League slate is not kind to them early, as they play five consecutive road games after opening with Dartmouth at home.
Outlook: Tommy Amaker’s first season in Cambridge doesn’t figure to be easy, although the Crimson have a few good parts returning. A real key could be if Lin is able to take over the point guard spot, as it would enable Housman, who can score but has been turnover-prone in his first two seasons. Pusar has shown some flashes of his potential but not consistently. In the frontcourt, Harris showed some good strides last year and will continue to get to the line often. He will need to continue to improve on the boards now that he has to anchor the frontcourt. Unger, the senior captain, is good facing the basket. The Crimson have very little in the way of proven depth, with sophomore forward Pat Magnarelli having played the most of the other holdovers after logging 76 minutes in nine games last year.

Dartmouth Big Green (9-18, 4-10 Ivy, seventh place)
Projected Starters:

Jr. G Marlon Sanders (3.3 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.6 apg)
Jr. G DeVon Mosley (8.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.3 spg)
Jr. G-F Alex Barnett (11.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.4 bpg)
Sr. F Johnathan Ball (7.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.2 apg)
So. C Elgin Fitzgerald (2.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: Five home games are on tap in non-conference play, which starts off with two games in Colorado against Air Force and either Northern Colorado or VMI. The home slate is highlighted by America East contender Vermont, while the most notable road game is at Rutgers. The Big Green will close out 2007 with three straight road games. In Ivy League play, they have a tough early stretch with four straight on the road after they open with their home-and-home with Harvard. Four straight home games follow that stretch.
Outlook: The Big Green hasn’t been lacking in talent during Terry Dunn’s tenure, and this season doesn’t look to be any different. They won’t be as experienced as several others, as Ball and point guard Michael Giovacchini are the only seniors on the squad. Indeed, it is the three juniors on the perimeter, Sanders, Mosley and the streaky Barnett, who will lead the way. Barnett rebounds well from the wing and is the second-leading returning rebounder in the league, and he’s a capable shooter from long range but his shot selection can be questionable. Mosley has worked out better off the ball after playing the point earlier in his career, and Sanders should get better as the full-time starter. The duo helped the Big Green turn the ball over less than any team in the league last year. The big question mark is inside, as the Big Green was out-rebounded by five per game and has unproven options in Fitzgerald and juniors Kurt Graeber and Jarrett Mathis among the holdovers. That means freshmen like John Marciano and Clive Weeden could get some opportunities right away. With their relative youth and the experience many other teams in the league have, this year might be a difficult one for the Big Green.

Princeton Tigers (11-17, 2-12 Ivy, eighth place)
Projected Starters:

So. G Marcus Schroeder (6.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.8 spg)
So. G Lincoln Gunn (6.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.7 apg)
Sr. F Noah Savage (5.0 ppg, 1.2 rpg)
Sr. F Kyle Koncz (8.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
So. C Zach Finley (3.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: A trip west for the Maui Invitational, where they will face Duke and either Arizona State or Illinois in the first two games, is sandwiched around three home games to start the season. The home slate is highlighted by Seton Hall and Manhattan. Other road games in non-conference, six of which come in a seven-game stretch, include Rutgers, Penn State and Marshall. In Ivy League play, the Tigers have a tough three-game road stretch in early February at Cornell and Columbia, then at Penn three days later. They also have a four-game road stretch at the end of the month before finishing with three straight at home.
Outlook: New head coach Sydney Johnson is a good choice to lead this program, but he’s not going to get them back to the top right away. The Tigers return four players who started 14 or more games last season, a season where they struggled mightily in Ivy League play and weren’t much better outside of it. The Tigers were out-rebounded by almost five per night and were near the bottom of several categories. Even one key statistic, where they tied for the fewest turnovers in the league, is deceiving because the Tigers played at the slowest pace in college basketball. Schroeder and Gunn will be the main perimeter players to ride or die with, while seniors Savage and Koncz seek to end their careers on a good note. Koncz is capable of being an All-Ivy player. Finley has some potential as well and should get more of a chance to show it this year. Forward Kareem Maddox and guard Dan Mavraides, both from California, should get some minutes right away as freshmen. Give Johnson some time to turn this program around, as it isn’t going to happen this year.

Conference Outlook

This is the year fans of many teams in the league have waited for: one where Penn and Princeton look vulnerable and someone else could emerge at the top. The Tigers are a couple of years away from contending, but the Quakers are still dangerous if their newcomers have an impact right away and the holdovers adjust to new roles successfully. If that doesn’t happen, Yale, Cornell and Columbia look best positioned to knock them off and grab the crown. Brown can’t be counted out entirely with their backcourt, but they lack the frontcourt to be seen as a serious contender in the preseason.

Come March, we could be talking about a new champion and one whose name doesn’t begin with a ‘P’. Or we could be talking about how the names and faces may change, but the name at the top of the league doesn’t.


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Columbia Senior John Baumann

by - Published October 26, 2007 in Columns

Baumann Gears Up For Senior Year On The Hardwood

by Zach Smart

John Baumann arrived at the New York City campus of Columbia University with his name circled in hyperbolic lure. Anytime a player who averaged 30 points in high school inks with an Ivy League program, hype, hearsay, and high expectations tend to brew around campus faster than a beerfest on spring weekend.

But in Baumann’s three seasons with the Lions, the Staples High (Westport, Conn.) product has certainly burgeoned into the highly-touted recruit that Columbia was sold on back in 2004, when they invested four years in him.

Baumann, a returning captain and the Lion’s leading scorer with 13 points per game last season, returns for his senior season this winter. He’ll help mold what’s anticipated to be a formidable front court with 7-foot center Zack Crimmins and 6-foot-9 behemoth Ben Nwachukwu, the latter a Nigeria native who emerged as Columbia’s third-leading scorer last season.

Last season, Baumann averaged 13 points and 6.5 boards, developing into one of Ivy’s more versatile forwards. He led the conference in two-point and three-point field goal percentage, and head coach Joe Jones will count on him to lead a team that finished 16-12 last season, going 7-7 in Ivy league play.

Jones hopes a ressurected recruiting class that features the aforementioned Crimmins and Asenso Ampim, a 6-foot-6 power forward who starred at the prestigious Groton School (Ampim averaged 22 points and 13 rebounds per game after bouncing back from an injury), will help propel the Lions to the top.

Penn (22-9, 13-1 Ivy League) has ruled the Ivy League with an iron fist these past few years, but Yale and Cornell are both front-loaded with talent and looking to make a run at the league title this season.

Baumann hopes to form a razor-sharp inside-outside tandem with Ridgefield native Brett Loscalzo, a pass-first point guard who handed out a team-high 67 assists last season. Loscalzo, who’s limited offensively, must step up and look to score more. Jones has already pegged Loscalzo as a co-captain for the 2007-08 campaign.

All eyes, however, will be on Baumann, who has evolved into the face of the program. The Lions should be a top-five pick in the pre-season poll, as they bring back all five starters from last season.

Baumann is a two-sport athlete at Columbia, as he’s also a top hurler on the Lions’ baseball squad. The 6-foot-8 forward garnered second team All-Ivy on the hill for the Lions this past spring.

During his senior year at Staples, Baumann ripped opponents to the tune of 30 points, 11 boards, and two blocks per contest. A first-team All-State and All-FCIAC selection, Baumann was named the New Haven Register and Hartford Courant Player of the Year for 2004.

His high school statistics, records, and resume sit alongside card-shop names like Scott Burrell, Vin Baker, and Ryan Gomes, signifying his place as one of the Constitution State’s best players at the high school tier. Few players from Connecticut, with the exception of the aforementioned trio and a few others, have matched up to their price tag after being sucked into hype machines in high school.

Baumann hopes to make his presence felt and represent his state while leading what could be a sleeper team this year. Baumann emerged as leader time and time again on the hardwood his senior year at Staples, where he’s one of the finest athletes in recent memory. It’s his turn to leave the same mark at Columbia this season.

The latest chapter is now entering its final pages. Columbia kick-starts the ’07-08 campaign in the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off at Columbus, Ohio, Nov. 12-13. The Lions are slated for a first-round matchup against Delaware State. A win could send them to a second-round game with 2007 national runner-up Ohio State.


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The Question Facing Ivy League Basketball

by - Published May 10, 2007 in Columns

Can Ivy League Basketball be Competitive Again?

by Jay Pearlman

Those of you who have followed these columns will recognize the general theme that the caliber of play in the Ivy League has deteriorated noticeably in recent years, to this writer resembling Division III ball during the 1980’s. Now, I’ve found very few people in the league willing to talk about it publicly (and some of you readers have e-mailed to dispute the view). Princeton’s Gary Walters chaired the NCAA committee that made Penn a No. 14 seed, implying that at least 8 weaker teams made the tournament. Readers of this column know I respect (and like) former Princeton Coach Joe Scott, but also that I’ve called the personnel on his team this past winter the worst in the history of Division I. Well, safely back in Colorado, Joe is reluctant to discuss the issue. And down the road at perennial conference power Penn, well, we’ll just have to wait and see the level of player Glen Miller can bring in to replace graduating seniors Ibrahim Jaaber, Mark Zoller and Steve Danley.

Off the record, coaches and former coaches concur. And quite rightly, some have mused about admissions being tougher than ever, tuition, room and board approaching $50 thousand per year, even the “trickle-down effect” of so many underclassmen (and high school players) joining the NBA. There’s one more reason for this, perhaps bigger than all the rest. It’s been staring me in the face throughout the two years I’ve covered Harvard basketball on radio, and I haven’t noticed; at least, I didn’t see it for the truly powerful reason it really is. Former Harvard Coach Frank Sullivan mentioned it, but I didn’t really get it; Harvard AD Bob Scalise acknowledged it, but I didn’t get it. I guess one would have to be coaching and out on the recruiting trail to truly get it, and it has been more than a couple of years for this writer. It is the simplest reason of all: just a date on the calendar.

As some of you know, two weeks ago I interviewed Scalise for a column on his hiring of Tom Amaker, surely Harvard’s most credentialed head coach ever. During that interview, dutifully I asked about Harvard’s enforcement of the league’s unrealistic deadline for admission applications, January 1, and I reported as positive Bob’s answer that for athletes that deadline has been (or will be) extended to March 15. Well, it has taken two weeks to sink in – and this is about the conference, not just Scalise’s program – but from a basketball perspective, moving the application deadline to March 15 simply won’t do the job.

Here’s the problem. March 15 should be late enough to allow recruitment of football players who earlier in their careers thought they were Ohio State or Florida material (ok, for academic kids, Michigan or Notre Dame). Football is a fall sport with a single winter signing period, and good high school football players and their parents probably know before March 15 that the big-time schools have backed off, perhaps – though just barely – providing time to refocus on I-AA schools, including those in the Ivy League. That’s simply not the case for basketball players.

I can tell you from personal experience that through his junior year and into that summer, every single good basketball player in America is talking scholarship; in fact, just about all are talking Big East, ACC, and the like (and that includes Division III-caliber players). Well, given the sheer volume of letters college basketball coaches send out to high school players, it’s no wonder those kids – and their parents – think they’re being “recruited” by the majors. And even when a good player isn’t signed in basketball’s fall signing period, invariably he continues to be romanced by big schools, promised spring signing consideration, a “summer look,” invitations to enroll, walk-on, and win a scholarship. So at the earliest, only after not being signed during the April signing period might a good player begin thinking about Ivy League schools – and of course by then it’s too late. Now, every thesis has exceptions: legacy kids, rich kids that don’t need scholarships, local kids who grew up in the shadow of a league campus. But by and large, it is clear to this writer that most of the academic kids good enough to play at the Division I level don’t adjust their sights downward soon enough to apply on time. And if not most, still lots.

This is more complicated still, as I was reminded yesterday by my first head coach, who I worked for on the Division III level. Since the Ivy League doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, need-based financial aid is paramount, and both coaches and families need aid packages in hand prior to talking commitment. And of course, the financial aid process comes with its own deadlines, both national and institutional.

So assuming we’ve identified the biggest problem (or one of them), how do we fix it? Well, at the very least, we begin by talking about it, making public this horrible timing problem. Assuming for the moment that Penn is following the same “calendar rules” that everyone else in the conference follows, the issue is really more basic, more fundamental: do Ivy League Athletic Directors, Deans of Admission, Presidents, Trustees, and alumni care – really care – whether or not there are Division I-caliber basketball players in the league? Surely the coaches care, a good group joined in the last week by Amaker and Princeton’s Sydney Johnson. Well, if anyone else really cares, then somehow they’ll be able to figure out a way to adjust the application deadline so as to allow Division I-caliber players to be considered by Ivy schools at a point in time when they’re ready to listen. Only then will these two new coaches in the league, and the other six, really be bona fide Division I coaches, have the opportunity to coach bona fide Division I players, and have a real chance to occasionally win a first round NCAA Tournament game, or be selected for the NIT.


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Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Coaching Changes

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – May 30, 2018

May 30, 2018 by

The NBA Draft and its deadline to withdraw to return to school leads the way in our latest podcast. We also look at one conference’s new scheduling plans, a number of quick hitters, and pay tribute to a fallen conference leader.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 26, 2018

April 27, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we spend a lot of time looking at what the Commission on College Basketball came up with, as their report was just produced. We also look at the NBA Draft and transfers, which have many rosters potentially in flux for next season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 6, 2018

April 6, 2018 by

In our first podcast in the postseason, we look back one more time on the NCAA Tournament, which was just what we needed at this time. We also look at the NIT, CBI and CIT, as well as important transactions with players leaving early for the NBA Draft and coaching changes.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 3, 2018

April 3, 2018 by

The 2018 national championship is in the books, and with it another season of college basketball. We break down the national championship game and some of its implications to wrap up the season.

College Basketball Tonight – April 1, 2018

April 2, 2018 by

Welcome to our Final Four edition of College Basketball Tonight. In this edition, we look ahead to Monday’s national championship game, and bring on two guests – long-time Villanova radio play-by-play broadcaster Ryan Fannon and Radford head coach Mike Jones – to get their thoughts and insights on the game.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.