2008-09 Cornell Basketball Preview: #89
Cornell Big Red
Overall Rank: #89
Conference Rank: #1 Ivy League
2007-08: 22-6, 14-0, 1st
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
Cornell made it to the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 1988. Yet, once they got there, it was not pretty. This time around things will likely be better in large part due to Ryan Wittman. Two years ago as a freshman we figured out that Wittman is a great shooter and scorer. Last year the 6-6 forward polished his rebounding game and became quite effective hitting the glass on the defensive end. After tallying 15.1 points and shooting nearly 46 percent from long range, it will be interesting to see what Wittman adds to his repertoire as an upperclassman.
Jason Hartford was the only senior on the team last year. The big man averaged 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds last season and his absence will cause a small problem regarding the frontcourt depth. Collin Robinson is not returning to the team. When he was playing, Robinson was a good slasher who averaged nearly ten points a game, but the Big Red lived without him for half of last season anyway.
The most important newcomer will be Marc Van Burck. The 6-11 center at least needs to give the team some quality minutes off the bench and help replace the production of Hartford. Van Burck was highly recruited coming out of high school, but his career at Colorado State and Salt Lake Community College has not lived up to that potential. A new start in Ithaca, New York might make all the difference. Small forward Alex Hill and shooting guard Chris Wroblewski, a McDonald’s All-America nominee, will not be asked to do too much as freshmen, but both have the ability to make an impact if they can manage to work their way up the depth chart.
Who to Watch:
As important as Wittman is to the team, Louis Dale is the leader. The reigning Ivy League Player of the Year averaged 13.7 points, 4.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds as a sophomore last season. He can hit the outside shot, but he does most of his damage getting to the basket and getting to the free-throw line. Speaking of the free-throw line, Adam Gore might not get there as often as Dale, but he is one of the best shooters from the charity stripe in the nation. Gore can shoot from anywhere else on the floor as well and hit 41.5 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. The depth behind those two is relatively inexperienced, but Geoff Reeves and Jason Battle will join the newcomers spelling Dale and Gore when they need a break.
For a team that went 14-0 in conference play last season, there is little reason to think that the Big Red cannot be even better this year. The absence of Hartford is the only thing stopping Cornell and Coach Steve Donahue from dominating once again. Yet, not having Hartford around is not as big of a deal as it seems. Alex Tyler is a returning starter and Jeff Foote emerged as a major presence under the basket once he was eligible late in 2007. Foote, a seven-footer, led the team with 6.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks during his 22 games and having him around for a full season will be huge. As long as Brian Kreefer and Andre Wilkins and Van Burck are ready to see minutes off the bench, the frontcourt will be even better than it was last year. The traditional Ivy powers will be tougher this year, but so will Cornell. But this time the Big Red hope to make a little more noise in the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Louis Dale, Junior, Guard, 13.7 points per game
Adam Gore, Senior, Guard, 10.2 points per game
Ryan Wittman, Junior, Forward, 15.1 points per game
Alex Tyler, Junior, Forward, 8.2 points per game
Jeff Foote, Senior, Center, 7.9 points per game