Cornell Basketball Preview: #92
Overall Rank: #92
Conference Rank: #1 Ivy League
2008-09: 21-10, 11-3
2008-09 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Steve Donahue (117-133 at Cornell, 117-133 overall)
Eight players averaged at least 15 minute per game for Cornell last year and all eight of them are back. There seems to be little doubt that this team will make its third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and the only question that remains is what happens once they get there? Two years ago they got slaughtered by Stanford, but last year they put up a good fight against a tough Missouri team. With everybody back, Cornell has the weapons to be a tough match-up in March.
Key Losses: F Brian Kreefer
Despite the lack of departures, the Big Red have a lot of new faces headed to Ithaca, New York. However, it is not incoming freshmen like Miles Asafo-Adjei, Eitan Chemerinski, Josh Figini, Peter McMillan or Errick Peck who will make an impact this year, it is a guy who has been sitting on the bench for a year. Two seasons ago Mark Coury started 29 games for a Kentucky team that reached the NCAA Tournament. He is not the type of player who will put up big numbers, even on a team in the Ivy League, but the 6-9 senior is a big body who can grab some rebounds, pass the ball and block an occasional shot.
Louis Dale has turned into the leader of this team. When his shot was not falling last year, the rest of the team struggled. Dale only hit one shot against Missouri in the NCAA Tournament and the rest of the team struggled shooting as well. However, even when Dale is not scoring, he is doing other things…like running the team. The Big Red hung around with Missouri because they only turned the ball over nine times in that game against the Tigers aggressive defense and that is because they have a leader like Dale to handle the ball. Geoff Reeves, who incidentally missed the Missouri game with an injury, is a consistent shooter who averaged 9.0 points per game last year and will retain his starting position as the shooting guard.
Ryan Wittman is one of the best shooters in the nation. Last year the 6-6 Eden Prairie, Minnesota native connected on 3.1 three-pointers per contest at a 41.6 percent clip. As he has become more experienced, Wittman’s offensive game has expanded and he has turned into a threat to get to the basket as well. At 6-6, he will be taller than most defenders and can shoot over them until the opposition has no choice but to put a bigger body on him, in which case he will use his athleticism to get to the basket. With Alex Tyler, who averaged 6.9 points and 4.6 rebounds last year and Jeff Foote, who tallied 11.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per contest, both returning, nobody in the conference can come close to matching the talent and experience in this frontcourt.
Who to Watch:
The starting five are all seniors, as is Coury who could play quite a big role off the bench, but the key to this year’s Cornell squad could be how much production they can get off the bench from players like Chris Wroblewski, Anthony Gatlin and Adam Wire. Those three are experienced players, but the drop off in talent was quite noticeable in the past. Wroblewski and Gatlin are the future stars of this team and will have to be leaders next year, but this year they need to start showing that they are ready to take over.
Two years ago Cornell went 14-0 in conference play. Do not be surprised if that record is seen again this year. While some teams in the Ivy League are getting better, this is clearly the best team in the conference. Even if they lose three games like they did last year, it is hard to imagine anybody else representing the Ivy League in the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Louis Dale, Senior, Guard, 13.0 points per game
Geoff Reeves, Senior, Guard, 9.0 points per game
Ryan Wittman, Senior, Forward, 18.5 points per game
Alex Tyler, Senior, Forward, 6.9 points per game
Jeff Foote, Senior, Center, 11.8 points per game