2014-15 Ivy League Basketball Preview

Tommy Amaker has built an Ivy League powerhouse. Can he maintain it into the 2015? (WashingtonPost.com)
Tommy Amaker has built an Ivy League powerhouse. Can he maintain it into the 2015? (WashingtonPost.com)

 

There is no doubt that Harvard’s success in the Ivy League and the NCAA Tournament has helped the entire conference. However, those teams now want to dethrone the champ and make their own name in March Madness. This preview begins with the top dog and the Harvard Crimson.

Harvard’s defense of their Ivy League crown begins with Wesley Saunders. Saunders was named the Ivy League Player of the Year and for good reason. He averaged 14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.7 steals per game last season. His partnership with Siyani Chambers, who averaged 11.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.3 steals per game, makes this a tough backcourt. However, there is not a lot of depth behind them if one, or both, of them get into any kind of foul trouble.

Another player to watch on Harvard is Cameroon born Steve Moundou-Missi. He averaged 10.5 points, 6 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game in 2013-14. He has been named the captain for Harvard due to his growth as a player over the past three seasons.

The schedule for the Crimson is not too imposing. Their toughest non-conference foes are Massachusetts (home), Virginia (road), Arizona State (road), and Boston College (road).

Harvard’s top challenger is Yale. Yale was the only team to beat Harvard in the Ivy last year and they did it in Lavietes Pavilion on the road. The Bulldogs will be led by forward Justin Sears. Sears averaged 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.9 blocks last year to lead Yale to a 9-5 Ivy League record and second place finish. It will not hurt Yale to have senior guards Javier Duren and Armani Cotton to challenge Harvard. Duren averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.5 steals while Cotton had 8.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 0.9 steals per game.

Yale has a few tests out of conference including Southern Illinois (neutral site), Providence (road), Connecticut (road), Florida (road), and Vanderbilt (road). Those games should be sufficient enough to test them to face a team like Harvard.

Another team who could challenge Harvard’s supremacy is Columbia. The Lions finished 8-6 in the Ivy League last season, which was good enough for a joint third-place finish. The Lions return their entire team from last year including the top three scorers in Alex Rosenberg, Maodo Lo, and Grant Mullins. Rosenberg finished with averages of 16 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 0.7 steals. Lo came on strong last year with 14.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.2 steals. Mullins added in 11.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 0.7 steals. With the entire roster coming back intact, this team looms very dangerous with the depth and experience they have.

The schedule for Columbia is far from daunting. Their toughest games are both on the road and will surely result in losses. They travel to Rupp Arena to face Kentucky on 12/10 and then face UConn on 12/22.

Another team who is listed as a contender is the Brown Bears. However, they lost their top scorer from 2013-14 in guard Sean McGonagill, who averaged 17.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Taking That loss means the Bears will rely on their frontcourt with Cedric Kuakumensah and Rafael Maia. Those two, who both stand at 6-9, will need to be enforcers on the inside to block and alter shots at the rim. Kuakumensah averaged 3.2 blocks a game last season and will need to replicate that form again if Brown are to seriously contend in the Ivy League.

Brown has a couple of noteworthy non-conference games against Northwestern (home) and Illinois (road). The two biggest games for Brown occur in the span of a week. The Bears will face Yale on 1/17/15 and 1/24/15 in two games that will determine whether or not they belong in the upper echelon of the Ivy League in 2014-15.

One team that is flying well under the radar is Dartmouth. They had a disappointing 2013-14 campaign when they finished 5-9 in the Ivy League and 12-16 overall. Their season was derailed with the ACL injury to Gabas Maldunas. He was well on his way to being the leading scorer for the Big Green and in 15 games he averaged 11.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.6 steals, and 2 blocks per game. He is not expected back until December, but his return will undoubtedly give them a boost.

Without Maldunas, Alex Mitola and Connor Boehm stepped up to fill the void, but it was not enough. Mitola was the leading scorer with 11.8 points, but also added in 2.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 0.6 steals per game. Boehm averaged 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1 assist, and 0.5 steals per game.

There are not any big name opponents for Dartmouth, but they do have some games they can use to measure up against the middle of the Ivy League. They face New Hampshire (home), Northern Illinois (home), and Penn State (road).

Another team looking to bounce back from a poor season is the Penn Quakers. They went 5-9 in the Ivy and 8-20 overall after being selected to finish second in the 2013-14 season. Penn returns their first and fourth leading scorers. Tony Hicks led the way with 14.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 0.6 steals per game. The fourth leading scorer was Darien Nelson-Henry with 10.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.4 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game. Those two will be joined by Patrick Lucas-Perry, who played in only 5 games last year due to injuries.

Penn has several games that could point them in one direction or other. Those games are against Temple (road), Vanderbilt (road), La Salle (road), Villanova (home), and Saint Joseph’s (home).

Princeton is not to be lost in the shuffle, but they lost a humongous piece of their offense in T.J. Bray. Bray averaged 18 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. One player who is a candidate to step up is Hans Brase. Brase averaged 11.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.6 blocks a game.

For Princeton, they have several intriguing games. They face George Mason (road), UTEP (neutral site), California (road), and Wake Forest (road).

Finally, we come to the Cornell Big Red. They went 1-13 in the Ivy League and 2-26 overall in 2013-14. The only two wins for them came against Oberlin College and Dartmouth. The leading member of that squad was Nolan Cressler. who averaged 16.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 0.5 steals per game. However, Cressler has transferred to Vanderbilt leaving Cornell in an even bigger hurt.

The top returning scorer for Cornell is Devin Cherry. Cherry averaged 12.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 0.8 steals per game. Guard Robert Hatter is a player to watch for the Big Red. He appeared in the first 20 games in 2013-14 as a freshman and averaged 9 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. Injuries knocked him out of the remaining 8 games, but he should respond well with 20 games he played last year.

Perhaps the biggest return for Cornell is senior forward Shonn Miller. He missed all of 2013-14 will a shoulder injury, but in 2012-13 he put up averages of 11.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1.9 blocks per game. His return will help the Big Red, but how much is another matter.

 

Predicted Order of Finish

The 2014-15 season for the Ivy League should be an intriguing one. Harvard is the favorite to win, but they are not the overwhelming favorite by any means. Both Columbia and Yale will provide formidable challenges in an attempt to prevent the Crimson from winning a fifth straight Ivy League title. Battling for the fourth spot will come down to Penn, Princeton, Brown, and Dartmouth and all have a solid chance at claiming it. Cornell still appears to be at least one or two seasons from moving out of the Ivy League cellar.

Here is the predicted order of finish for the 2014-15 Ivy League Season:

1. Harvard

2. Columbia

3. Yale

4. Dartmouth

5. Penn

6. Brown

7. Princeton

8. Cornell

 

Barring the improbable occurrence of two one-loss Ivy League teams, only the regular season winner will earn the Ivy League’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. As usual, the Ivy League winner is not to be trifled with when March Madness rolls around.

Inside The Box Scores: College Football Week 8

Cody Kessler had 7 touchdown passes against Colorado on Saturday (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America)
Cody Kessler had 7 touchdown passes against Colorado on Saturday (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America)

 

Final scores do not always tell the tale of how a game truly went or how comprehensive a team performed. This article is intended to shed light on some of those discrepancies and highlight some stats put up by teams and individuals alike.

 

Virginia Tech Hokies at Pittsburgh Panthers (Pittsburgh won 21-16 on Thursday (10/16))

The Hokies ran for only 26 yards on 22 carries as a team against Pittsburgh. That comes out to an average of 1.2 yards per carry. Even worse, the offense was 2 of 14 on third down yet the Hokies managed to stay in the game until late in the fourth quarter.

For Pittsburgh, James Conner ran for 85 yards on 16 carries, but he did have two touchdowns. This marked his third straight game where he failed to eclipse the 100-yard mark. His first four games saw him run for at least 153 yards each game and total 699 rushing yards. In the last three games, Conner has produced 260 yards. That total is respectable, but it is quite a drop off from his early season output.

 

Temple Owls at Houston Cougars (Houston won 31-10 on Friday (10/17))

The story of this game was the four turnovers by Temple quarterback P.J. Walker. He had three interceptions and a fumble lost. One interception was returned for pick-six and another led to a Houston touchdown. The lost fumble came on the doorstep of Houston’s end zone at the one yard line. Those three turnovers combined were a 17 to 21 point swing, which undoubtedly cost the Owls a chance to win.

 

South Florida Bulls at Tulsa Golden Hurricane (South Florida won 38-30 on Saturday (10/18))

South Florida trailed 27-7 at halftime, but outscored Tulsa 31-3 in the final minutes to win the game. Outside of their first drive of the third quarter, Tulsa ran only 7 plays in South Florida territory and failed to score a point.

 

Baylor Bears at West Virginia Mountaineers (West Virginia won 41-27 on Saturday)

This game had several noticeable stats. First, Baylor committed 18 penalties for 215 yards!! West Virginia committed 14 penalties for 138 yards. Combined, the two teams had 32 penalties for 353 yards. Those 353 penalties yards are more than Baylor put up on offense (318 yards)!

As impressive (or pathetic) as those penalty yards are, the Mountaineers did everything they could early on to let Baylor put up points. Clint Trickett had a lost fumble and an interception that led to 10 Baylor points in the first quarter. Daryl Worley lost a fumble on a punt return, but Baylor could not take advantage of that turnover.

 

 Kansas State Wildcats at Oklahoma Sooners (Kansas State won 31-30 on Saturday)

We will not dwell on this game too much because this is obvious why the Sooners lost. Oklahoma kicker Michael Hunnicutt missed two field goals (including a horrendous shank late in the game) and an extra point. One could also point to Danzel McDaniel’s 5 yard pick-six as another reason.

 

Texas A&M Aggies at Alabama Crimson Tide (Alabama won 59-0 on Saturday)

This one has to be included for the way Alabama utterly dominated the Aggies. The Tide were up 45-0 at the break and held the high-flying Aggies offense to 172 yards for the entire game!! The Tide scored 35 second quarter points, the most ever in a single quarter for an Alabama team.

The shutout is even more impressive because it marks the first time Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin has been shut out as a coach in 86 games at the FBS level.

We all know Nick Saban is looking for something to critique in this performance and there are few he can sheepishly use. The first is that the Aggies managed to convert two third downs… out of 13 attempts. In addition, the Tide only forced one turnover. There are your areas for improvement, coach Saban.

 

Michigan State Spartans at Indiana Hoosiers (Michigan State won 56-17 on Saturday)

Indiana actually led 17-14 with 5:25 left in the second quarter, but Michigan State quickly put an end to that. They scored 14 points in the final 4 minutes to take a 28-17 lead and then poured on 28 more points in the second half.

The most striking stat was that Indiana had 11 yards passing. Zander Diamont went 5 of 15 for all 11 yards in his first start as a true freshman. He has drawn comparisons to Johnny Manziel, but that is all hyperbole for a kid who had a total of one negative yard on the game (Diamont also ran 10 times for -12 yards).

The Hoosiers had 224 yards of offense, even without a passing game from Diamont, who was replacing the injured Nate Sudfeld. Tevin Coleman had 132 yards on 15 carries, which is excellent for a one-dimensional offense against the Spartans.

 

Colorado Buffaloes at USC Trojans (USC won 56-28 on Saturday)

USC quarterback Cody Kessler went 19 of 26 for 391 yards and 7 touchdowns. Yes, 7 touchdowns for Cody Kessler. It is a pretty good day when 27% of your attempts go for a touchdown and 37% of your completions end up as a score. Unsurprisingly, Kessler is now the USC single game record holder for touchdown passes in a game. He also tied the Pac-12 record with 7 touchdown passes in a game with Mike Pagel of Arizona State in the 1981 season.

 

Tennessee Volunteers at Ole Miss Rebels (Ole Miss won 34-3 on Saturday)

Ole Miss gave up a total 191 yards of offense to Tennessee on Saturday night. All 191 yards came through the air, as the Volunteers did not gain a single yard via the ground game. Jalen Hurd had 40 yards rushing, but that was cancelled out by Justin Worley’s 8 rushes for -41 yards performance. One caveat, however, is that sack yardage goes against the rushing stats in college football.

 

Missouri Tigers at Florida Gators (Missouri won 42-13 on Saturday)

Most people probably heard this on Saturday night or Sunday morning, but it is worth repeating. Missouri had 119 yards of total offense (20 passing and 99 rushing), yet the won by 29 points over Florida. How? Turnovers and touchdown returns.

Missouri had a kickoff return for a touchdown, a punt return for a touchdown, a fumble return for a touchdown, and an interception return for a touchdown. Marcus Murphy had both the kickoff and punt returns for a touchdown from 96 and 86 yards respectively. Markus Golden had a 21 yard fumble return and Darvin Ruise had a 46 yard interception return.

The Gators committed 6 turnovers, three fumbles and three interceptions, which led to 24 points for Missouri.

Will Muschamp should start packing his bags now because he is well on his way out of Gainesville.

 

Utah State Aggies at Colorado State Rams (Colorado State won 16-13 on Saturday)

The highlight of this game was Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins. He caught 10 passes for 187 yards during the game while the Rams threw for 243 yards. That equates to Higgins accounting for 77% of the receiving yardage. Higgins managed to account for only 59% of the total offense for Colorado State.

 

Iowa State Cyclones at Texas Longhorns (Texas won 48-45 on Saturday)

This needs a bit of context to explain why it makes it here. According to Las Vegas Insider, the over/under of this game closed at 45.5 points, which makes them believe it would be a defensive game. Texas closed as an 11-point favorite so it was expected that Texas would not give up many points.

Boy, those expectations were way off.

The two teams combined for 1,036 yards of total offense with the yardage nearly split 50/50. Iowa State had 524 yards and Texas amassed 512 yards. By halftime, the score was 28-28, well over the 45.5 points expected for the ENTIRE GAME.

Both quarterbacks had over 300 yards passing with Sam B. Richardson (ISU) having 345 yards and Tyrone Swoopes (UT) throwing for 321 yards. Iowa State ran for 179 yards while the Longhorns had 191 yards on the ground.

This just goes to show that even Vegas can be way off once in a while.

 

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Florida State Seminoles (Florida State won 31-27 on Saturday)

Controversial ending aside, this game did feature one incredible strength. That was the run defense of Notre Dame. They allowed only 50 yards rushing on 26 carries for the Seminoles.

There may be recipe in there to beat Florida State. By stopping the run, they put the pressure on Jameis Winston to lead the Seminoles offense with his arm. If a team can force Winston into mistakes and turnovers, they can pull the upset. However, it is far more difficult to force Jameis into mistakes on the football field as opposed to off of the field.

 

Nevada Wolf Pack at BYU Cougars (Nevada won 42-35 on Saturday)

This was a late night game, but it had plenty of fireworks and not a lot of defense. The two teams combined for 58 first downs, 1,012 yards of total offense, and 20 third down conversion out of 38 attempts.

BYU led 28-13 at the break, but saw their lead evaporate with four scoring drives by Nevada in the second half. All four of those scoring drives resulted in touchdowns and a 42-28 lead with less than 6 minutes remaining. The Wolf Pack held on for a 42-35 win to send BYU to their third straight loss without Taysom Hill.

Filling in for Hill has been Christian Stewart who looked excellent in this game until the fourth quarter. For the game, he went 39 of 63 for 408 yards with 4 passing touchdowns. He did not have a single interception, but he lost two fumbles in the final seven and a half minutes to dent BYU’s chances of winning. The first led to a touchdown by Nevada to take a 42-28 lead and the second occurred at the Nevada 34 yard line when the Cougars were driving for the game-tying score.

It was an unfitting end to a game in which Stewart played so well.

2014 Week 9 College Football Schedule

Below is the week 9 college football schedule.

We have another Tuesday night game with Arkansas State (4-2, 2-0) traveling to Louisiana-Lafayette (3-3, 2-0) in a battle of two teams undefeated in Sun Belt action.

 

Date Time (EST) Road Team Road Score Home Team Home Score TV
10/21/2014 8:00 PM Arkansas State Louisiana-Lafayette ESPN2, Watch ESPN
10/23/2014 7:00 PM Connecticut East Carolina ESPNU, Watch ESPN
10/23/2014 7:30 PM Miami (FL) Virginia Tech ESPN, Watch ESPN
10/24/2014 7:00 PM South Florida Cincinnati ESPN2, Watch ESPN
10/24/2014 7:30 PM Troy South Alabama ESPNU, Watch ESPN
10/24/2014 9:00 PM BYU Boise State ESPN, Watch ESPN
10/24/2014 10:00 PM Oregon California Fox Sports 1
10/25/2014 12:00 PM Memphis SMU ESPNews, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 12:00 PM North Carolina Virginia ESPN3
10/25/2014 12:00 PM Texas Kansas State ESPN, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 12:00 PM Rutgers Nebraska ESPN2, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 12:00 PM North Texas Rice
10/25/2014 12:00 PM UAB Arkansas SEC Newtork, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 12:00 PM Minnesota Illinois ESPNU, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 12:00 PM Maryland Wisconsin Big Ten Network
10/25/2014 1:00 PM Northern Illinois Eastern Michigan ESPN3
10/25/2014 1:00 PM San Jose State Navy CBS Sports Network
10/25/2014 2:00 PM Akron Ball State ESPN3
10/25/2014 2:00 PM Ohio Western Michigan ESPN3
10/25/2014 2:00 PM UCLA Colorado Pac-12 Network
10/25/2014 2:00 PM Georgia Southern Georgia State ESPN3
10/25/2014 2:00 PM Massachusetts Toledo ESPN3
10/25/2014 2:00 PM Texas State Louisiana-Monroe ESPN3
10/25/2014 2:30 PM Kent State Miami (OH) ESPN3
10/25/2014 3:30 PM Boston College Wake Forest ESPN3
10/25/2014 3:30 PM Georgia Tech Pittsburgh ESPNU, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 3:30 PM West Virginia Oklahoma State ESPN, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 3:30 PM Texas Tech TCU FOX
10/25/2014 3:30 PM Michigan Michigan State ABC, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 3:30 PM Louisiana Tech Southern Miss
10/25/2014 3:30 PM Central Michigan Buffalo ESPN3
10/25/2014 3:30 PM Oregon State Stanford ESPN2, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 3:30 PM Mississippi State Kentucky CBS
10/25/2014 3:30 PM Florida Atlantic Marshall FOX Sports 1
10/25/2014 4:00 PM Old Dominion Western Kentucky
10/25/2014 4:00 PM UNLV Utah State ESPNEWS, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 4:00 PM Vanderbilt Missouri SEC Network, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 5:00 PM Temple Central Florida
10/25/2014 5:00 PM Arizona Washington State Pac-12 Network
10/25/2014 7:00 PM Syracuse Clemson ESPNU, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 7:00 PM UTEP Texas-San Antonio
10/25/2014 7:00 PM Wyoming Colorado State
10/25/2014 7:15 PM Ole Miss LSU ESPN, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 7:30 PM South Carolina Auburn SEC Network, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 7:30 PM Alabama Tennessee ESPN2, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 8:00 PM Ohio State Penn State ABC, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 10:00 PM USC Utah FOX Sports 1
10/25/2014 10:45 PM Arizona State Washington ESPN, Watch ESPN
10/25/2014 12:00 AM Nevada Hawaii