Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2011-2012 Season Preview: Pre-Season All-Ivy

The projection of team statistics is far more stable than their component parts, primarily due to the law of compensating errors.

But the awards that many fans love so much are bestowed on an individual level, making more granular prognostications necessary in preparation for the upcoming season.

In this portion of the season preview, we'll take a look at the returning players to watch as well as the top talent from the incoming class. These are not projections of who will make each team per se (obviously if Noruwa Agho scores over 15 points a game, they'll put him on the First Team regardless of whether he needs 25 shots per game to do it), they are merely a representation of the value of each player as seen by the tempo-free community.
We'll start with the rookies, but before diving in here, I feel the need to add the disclaimer that this is probably the most difficult thing to project. Even if one could assess the talent of the freshmen (difficult), projecting out which will get the opportunity to shine and which will be blocked by established veterans who stay healthy is itself an inexact science.

As an illustration, while Dartmouth might not have the top player in the class, any recruit that can provide offense decently efficiently should see a ton of floor time and could rack up the counting stats necessary to make them the choice for Ivy ROY. The same goes for frontcourt players from Columbia, Cornell and Penn.

All that being said, here's The 14-Game Tournament's Pre-Season All-Freshman Team:

G - Patrick Lucas-Perry, Pennsylvania
G - Galal Cancer, Cornell
F - Wesley Saunders, Harvard
F - Greg Louis, Pennsylvania
C - Kenyatta Smith, Harvard

There are guys beyond this list that are really intriguing, as this is truly a deep class. If you offered a choice of these five rookies or the "field" in a wager on the future Rookie of the Year, I would probably wind up taking "field."

Now let's move to the upperclassmen. There are 24 players on this All-Ivy Watch List, separated into the 14 guys below the cut line for the top two teams and the selections for the First- and Second-Team All-Ivy. The breakdown by team is as follows: Harvard 6, Brown 3, Columbia 3, Cornell 3, Penn 3, Yale 3, Princeton 2 and Dartmouth 1.

Some of the most efficient players in the projections not to make the list were Cornell's Anthony Gatlin and Max Groebe, Princeton's Will Barrett, Mack Darrow, Brendan Connolly and Patrick Saunders, Brown's Dockery Walker and Matt Sullivan and Yale's Reggie Willhite.


24. G - Andrew Ferry, Cornell
We're going to go to this well a lot in this piece, so we might as well start now. Ferry's top five similarity scores were all fellow Big Red players (Gore 2006, Toppert 2005, Toppert 2004, Reeves 2009, Wittman 2007). Had Ferry been able to swap spots with Reeves on that 2009 team, he might have easily slid onto an All-Ivy team.
23. G - Jabari Trotter, Dartmouth
Top similarity score for Jabari Trotter is Doug Davis, which makes a fair deal of sense. Both are good three-point shooters who probably venture inside the arc too much, since they rarely can get to the line. Davis has All-Ivy talent around him though. Trotter would settle for four more replacement-level Division I players.
22. G - Sean McGonagill, Brown
McGonagill got better and better as the season went on, but with a below-average long range shot and below-average free throw rate numbers, he'll need to continue his solid inside-the-arc play, which will include learning to get to the free throw line more at the Division I level. As with most freshmen, turnovers are an issue and will need to come down.
21. G - Oliver McNally, Harvard
One day the world of basketball will be completely tempo-free. And on that day, McNally will get the credit that he deserves. His 65.1/73.6 eFG/TS% splits during the non-conference slate last year were unbelievable. McNally also contributes more on the defensive boards than many other guards do.
20. F - Andrew McCarthy, Brown
If McCarthy can control his rampant fouling, he should see a ton more playing time this year. He was one of the best offensive weapons in Ivy play last season, but has consistently seen less than 50% of his team's minutes. More minutes should yield solid results for the Bears this season.
19. G - Christian Webster, Harvard
He's been called the best pure shooter on a Crimson team filled with great shooters. Webster's game is more than just three-pointers and his high FT Rates help buoy him on days when his shot is off.
18. F - Errick Peck, Cornell
There is a very good player in here somewhere. On his best days, he's a monster possession eater with good efficiency who can provide solid defense. On his worst days, he can single-handedly torpedo his team's offensive production with limited output at high usage rates.
17. G - Brian Barbour, Columbia
Barbour has some of the most consistent splits that I've seen. Not a great shooter, his game is predicated on getting to the free throw line. If those free throw rates stay up near 50%, he should make All-Ivy again. If not, he might struggle to justify staying in the starting five.
16. F - Tucker Halpern, Brown
For a team lacking on the defensive end, Halpern probably isn't much of an asset, but it's hard to argue with his offensive acumen both in shooting and passing the basketball.
15. G - Miles Cartwright, Pennsylvania
His top similarity score tracks him to former Quaker Michael Jordan. Jordan's turnovers finally moderated during his sophomore Ivy campaign and stayed there for the rest of his career. Will Cartwright follow the same path?
14. G/F - Laurent Rivard, Harvard 
His top similarity score match was Ryan Wittman as a freshman. Harvard's single-season, three-point record is his for the taking if he can get the ball enough.
13. F - Mark Cisco, Columbia
Has consistently looked strong, especially offensively, in limited minutes. Now it's his chance to be the frontcourt anchor.
12. G - Douglas Davis, Princeton
Davis almost shot better from three last year (.385) than two (.395), but there's no denying he hit the one that mattered.
11. G - Noruwa Agho, Columbia
Columbia's do-everything guard does everything but score the basketball efficiently. One last chance to prove us all wrong.


G - Chris Wroblewski, Cornell
Might as well just address it now. You could make a convincing argument that the projected First and Second Teams would battle to a draw, that's how close these Top 10 players are in terms of talent.

Wroblewski struggled last year at times, especially in trying to make his own shot inside the arc. He was still a deadly three-point shooter (43.3% from long range, 77th nationally and fourth in the Ivy League) and a great distributor (16th nationally in Assist Rate, best in the Ivies).

Cornell's expressed desire to take him off the ball a bit might hurt his assist figures, but should help his shooting. That's probably a smart move for the Big Red, which could potentially find someone who can spread the ball around but would struggle immensely to find a shooter like Wroblewski.

G - Austin Morgan, Yale
The Ivy League's top returning three-point shooter (50th nationally) capitalized on an efficient yet slightly understated freshman campaign to become a breakout sophomore.

With Porter Braswell having graduated, Morgan now becomes the key perimeter counterpoint to what should be a dynamic frontcourt in Jeremiah Kreisberg and Greg Mangano.

The 5'11 guard was a load for opposing defenses to handle - deadly when left alone behind the arc, but very capable of scoring and drawing fouls among the trees. Consistency was an issue, however, and Yale will need Morgan to play like an All-Ivy guy every night if it hopes to keep pace with league favorite Harvard.

G/F - Tyler Bernardini, Pennsylvania
Bernardini is probably my least favorite player on the top two teams, because the numbers provide for a strong possibility of a disappointing season.

As a rookie, the 6'6 swingman posted a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 43.6% in conference play. As a sophomore, that rate increased to 48.1%, allowing him to reach a 105 offensive rating despite shooting just 31.7% from three. Last season, all of his splits (non-conference, league, overall) for FT Rate were between 21.3% and 22.7%. He struggled to get to the line consistently and that hardly varied over the course of the season.

It took a 39.5% shooting performance from behind the arc and an anemic 14.3% turnover rate to salvage a 105 offensive rating in league play. He wasn't so lucky in the non-conference slate (30.9% from three) and his offensive rating was the lowest (92) of any split in his career.

Bernardini's upside is locked up in that FT Rate. It's hard to imagine him shooting any better than 40% from three and turning the ball over fewer than once in every seven possessions. His ability to generate consistent points inside the arc, and especially from the free throw line, will determine whether he regains the form he showed when he burst on the scene as a freshman in 2007-2008.

F -  Jeremiah Kreisberg, Yale
There is no denying that Kreisberg is a dominant offensive post presence.

His 55.6 eFG% shooting and TS% just shy of 60 place him eighth in the Ivies and his offensive rebounding rates were second only to Keith Wright among returning players.

Like most freshmen, Kreisberg struggled with turnovers. Even after showing improvement in Ivy play, he was still giving away one in every four possessions and for the year he was second-worst in the league among qualified players. The improvement in ball security doesn't have to be drastic for Kreisberg to be an incredibly efficient presence in the post, as his ability to put the ball in the basket when he manages to retain possession is advanced far beyond what one would have expected from a freshman.

C - Keith Wright, Harvard
Surprise, surprise.

This is how stacked the Ivy League is at the post position. It's not really a commentary on Wright, but more a fact of the circumstances. The Crimson's 6'8 post won't be required to eat up as many possessions this year with support from a healthy Kyle Casey and a presumably strong bench, which will likely hurt the counting stats that voters so often cite.

Wright's improvement from his sophomore to junior year was monumental. While some of that was merely being healthy all year, his passing also improved and he became a more consistent force on the boards. The biggest jump, however, came in free throw rate. Wright's most successful split prior to last season was his freshman year Ivy campaign, when he posted a FT Rate of 41.3% and his only adjusted offensive rating over 100 (102). He spent all of last season in the 40s and the results were clear - all three splits showed offensive ratings in the 110s.

Maintaining that rate will be the key to Wright matching last year's breakout performance.


G - Brandyn Curry, Harvard
The Crimson point guard has never been 100 percent healthy entering a season, but finally seems to be at full strength for his junior campaign.

Curry has a reputation as a solid perimeter defender, but it is on the offensive end where his game is poised to break out. His 35.2 percent assist rate was second-best in the Ivy League last season (behind Cornell's Chris Wroblewski) and 26th nationally. He upped his game when Harvard needed it most, recording 30 assists during the final Ivy weekend and playoff, including assist rates of 73 and 63 percent against Penn and Princeton, respectively.

His ability to make things happen for himself and others at the end of the shot clock is invaluable. If there is one thing holding Curry back though, it's his penchant for turnovers - one of the few areas where Harvard needs to improve as a team.

G - Zack Rosen, Pennsylvania
Rosen's current record as a Quaker is 29-55. It's hard to fathom how bad it would have been without him.

With another season like his sophomore and junior campaigns, Rosen will likely finish as one of the top five most productive offensive players of the past 15 years. He wasn't as proficient shooting the ball last year but was a more effective distributor than he's ever been, holding his turnover rate below 20 percent - a very difficult task for someone who is on the ball as much as he is.

Another full year in the backcourt with Tyler Bernardini and Miles Cartwright should continue to take the pressure off of him to score the basketball, but Penn's offense in general could be limited by its ability to find competent frontcourt players. That could impact Rosen's push for a gaudy assist rate, but probably won't have much impact on his ability to once again post efficiency numbers north of 110.

F - Kyle Casey, Harvard
It's not often a player posts a 57 eFG%, 63 TS% on 23% Usage with a mere 17% TO Rate and also grabs a fifth of the available boards at the defensive end.

It's even less frequent that a guy does it all on one good leg.

Casey struggled through a miserable non-conference season, posting a weighted 89 Offensive Rating as he pressed to regain his dominant form from his freshman season. Starting with the home win over Cornell on January 29th, Casey put together seven-straight games of 100+ Offensive Ratings and a few games after that stretch capped it all off with his finest offensive performance in a Crimson uniform in an 79-67 win over Princeton.

Reports are that the offseason surgery to shore up the foot issues went well and if he is truly 100 percent healthy, then there is no reason he shouldn't land on first team.

F - Ian Hummer, Princeton
Whether or not having Dan Mavraides to stretch the defense or Kareem Maddox to draw tons of attention helped Hummer become an incredibly productive post player is a question that will be answered very quickly this year.

It's hard to say that the 6'7 forward was hiding, as his 26% Usage Rate made him the eighth most offensively involved player in the league, but despite the heavy load, he still finished seventh in the league in eFG%. His struggles from the free throw line hurt his overall offensive production a bit and will be something to watch this season.

Now, though, it's truly Hummer's turn to be the Tigers' premier player, and if he succeeds in embracing the challenge, he will likely also deserve one of the league's top honors.

C - Greg Mangano, Yale
Counting stats are vastly inferior to tempo-free stats, in general, but it's hard to argue that averaging a double-double in Ivy League play isn't an amazing achievement.

Only three times in 14 league games did Mangano fail to grab at least 23 percent of the defensive boards and he blocked more than 10 percent of opposing shots in half of the Ivy contests. He was no slouch offensively, either, taking 30 percent of his team's shots in half the league games, while only once taking under 20 percent (when Columbia sent him to the line 12 times). Despite the heavy load of shots, he topped 56 eFG% good enough for eighth in conference play.

With NBA scouts potentially checking out some of Mangano's games this year, the tendency might be to press in order to make a statement. That would be one of the only things that could derail what appears to be a clear First Team season with a strong potential for a Player of the Year award.


  1. Excellent job, as always, and right by the numbers!

    If they can stay healthy for most of the season, big men John Daniels (Columbia) and Mike Howlett (Penn) appear to have similar potential to your Honorable Mention group. Productive seasons (say 8PPG, 5.5RPG, with average defense and limited TO's) with decent usage rates from them are possible and will really raise the upside for both the Lions and Quakers.

    As you imply, there are uncertainties about Kyle Casey's foot that will only be proven on the court over a significant span of games.

    One feature that none of this year's Ivy teams appear to have is a Ryan Wittman-like wing. That type of player seems to be almost semi-generational in the Ivy League, but maybe some of the prized frosh will spring us a surprise.

  2. Daniels might struggle to make that cut if only because he's such a low usage guy and even a lower shot percentage guy that even if he's efficient, he's going to struggle to put up the level of points that would generate the attention.

    Howlett could indeed be right there if he can stay healthy, and if anyone deserves a full season, he does after what he's been through the last three years. Even more than the individual accolades, I think a healthy Howlett changes the face of this Penn team enough that we could be talking about a Top 150 team.

    Who knows about Casey. He's young so he's probably a quick healer, but those stress fractures can stay with you.

    Ryan Wittman is pretty unique in as much as three of the top four matches in Similarity Score matches for his 2010 season were his 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons (the other was Damon Huffman 2008). The top five closest matches to Wittman's 2010 season from last year were Rivard, Halpern, Bernardini, Webster and Ferry, in that order. That's probably a fair summary of the guys with the most "Wittman" potential, though I don't see any of them matching his monster 2010 season.

  3. If he plays, Maia should be on your all frosh team.

  4. Haven't seen an ultimate ruling as to his eligibility, but if he is eligible, he's among the many that could make that team.

    My lack of mention of Maia has a lot to do with how bullish I am on McCarthy and Walker and a little to do with concerns about Maia's offensive ability. But we'll see. I would not be surprised if he made a plurality of hypothetical All-Freshman team ballots at the end of the year.

  5. I only saw Curry against Princeton, but if he can play like that all the time, watch out. The Tigers had decent defenders but couldn't stay in front of him, and his passing off penetration was deadly.

  6. That's Curry at his best. His defense has always been good, but he's struggled at times on offense with his turnovers and getting pressured into giveaways by bigger, quick guards.

    Some of that was his knee injuries which slowed him down, but now that he's healthy, he has the ability to really break things down in the half court and set people up nicely.

    He's not going to be on anyone else's preseason 1st team, but he's on mine, primarily because I'm betting that the injury woes are behind him and he puts together performances like the final weekend at Lavietes more often than not this season.