Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No. 3 Cornell Big Red

Only once in the last eight years has an Ivy team had to replace more possessions than Cornell.

The Big Red begins treading deep into the unknown on Friday night, hoping that the reserves that showed so much promise in limited action can maintain that level of performance when called into the starting lineup. Luckily the league is more wide open than a year ago, when Cornell marched through the Ivies with almost no hiccups, so the Big Red will have some margin for error. But if the three-time defending Ivy League champion Big Red is going to become the first team since early-90s Princeton to represent the Ivies in four straight NCAA tournaments, it's going to need the best possible outcome from several players in new roles.

The talent is definitely there, but the experience is lacking, which could very well be the difference in what will be a tough Ivy race.

Last Season: 29-5, 13-1 Ivy
Pomeroy Ratings: .8674 Win Pct (52nd), 115.9 Offense (16th), 98.5 Defense (117th)
Key Losses: G Louis Dale, G Geoff Reeves, SF Ryan Wittman, PF Jon Jaques, PF Alex Tyler, C Jeff Foote

Player Outlook:

When All-Ivy PG Chris Wroblewski takes the ball up the court for the first time against Albany on Friday night, cut him a little slack if he's surprised by what he sees.

Not only is Wroblewski the only returning starter for the Big Red, he actually the only returning player to have logged more than 30 percent of his team's minutes. If Cornell had to have one known quantity, it's good that it's someone like Wroblewski - a great shooter and a decent passer that can steady a young squad. The unknowns are concerning, though. Transfer Andrew Ferry and Max Groebe can both shoot it, but both are relatively one-dimensional in that respect. With the offensively challenged Miles Asafo-Adjei as the only other healthy, qualified guard option, one of Ferry or Groebe will have to seize the starting role alongside Wroblewski.

The Big Red has far more options at the 3-5 spots. Errick Peck is the likely favorite to land the starting swingman role with Adam Wire, Anthony Gatlin and freshman Dwight Tarwater providing depth. Mark Coury and Aaron Osgood should provide solid defense on the interior, but neither will come remotely close to replacing Jeff Foote's offensive presence. While Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale were the members of the big three that got the most ink, Foote will be the hardest to replace, and the dropoff in production that Cornell experiences inside will likely determine how far the Big Red falls.

Team Outlook:

Expected Record: 15-13, 8-6 Ivy (T-3rd)
Expected Efficiency Stats: .4804 Win Pct, 99.5 Offense, 100.2 Defense

After winning 29 games last season, the early season slate could be almost a crash landing. With only two home games in the first nine (and only three games against preseason 200+ Pomeroy teams), the Big Red could match last year's loss total before the winter exam break. It gets easier from there, with the only really challenging contest coming in the second game of the VCU Tournament against either host VCU or SoCon power Wofford.

The Ivy slate mirrors the non-conference portion of the schedule with five of the first six on the road. Neither of these are positives for a team that will be looking for answers on the fly for much of this season. While six of the final eight league games are at home, which could facilitate a strong close, it will only really matter if Cornell can stay afloat (i.e. 3-3 or better) during that rough opening stretch.

With just six home dates between the start of the season and Feb. 11th, the Big Red will either be battle tested or sent into a tailspin by the time it hits the meat of the Ivy schedule. While Cornell probably has too much talent to get completely sunk, the concept that it will find all of the pieces it needs to be a title contender is equally as unlikely. After struggling initially, the Big Red should put together a decent season, but will fall short of realizing the dream of a fourth straight title.

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