There is a good chance Jon Teitel knows more about Ivy League basketball than anyone else alive. Here are his notes from a conference call with Ivy League coaches. Notes are listed by coach in predicted order of finish. These notes will come out in two installments, teams five to eight today and one to four tomorrow.
#4 – Coach Jerome Allen, Penn
Here in Philly it is going to be an exciting year for us, change is just an opportunity for growth. Hopefully we can stay healthy and let the chips fall where they may. The biggest thing for our freshman is getting adjusted to the speed of the game because they are no longer in high school. All three of our captains represent what being a student-athlete is all about: they symbolize everything that is right about our game. Dau Jok is truly my idol: seven years ago he did not even speak English, but after leaving the Sudan and coming here to master our language, he gets what it is really about to be a team. Miles Cartwright had a tremendous summer, both in the weight room and getting other guys in the gym by leading by example. We lost Big 5 Player of the Year Zack Rosen, but I am not asking Miles to be Zack, just to be himself. We lost our two most important players in Rosen and Tyler Bernardini, but I think our most important player was Rob Belcore because he did all the little things. I am biased because I am from Philly, but all of the City 6 schools “get along” and compete throughout the summertime in each other’s gyms, which creates one of the best settings in the country. In any profession there is so much emphasis put on a person’s years of experience as a criteria that they are ready to succeed at the next level, but Brown coach Mike Martin is a truly special person with a commitment to making guys better. I know he is going to do fantastic at Brown because he loves to teach. It was a pleasure to work alongside him, and the only time I will root against him is the two times he faces us. It was a no-brainer to hire Ira Bowman as 1 of our assistants: he has Penn roots and we are extremely close friends. It is like a home run for me because of the type of man he is: he wants to see us get better and see the program win.
#3 Coach Tommy Amaker, Harvard – We were incredibly proud of our overall success, both last year and during the years leading up to that. We know that our non-conference schedule is a “gauntlet” but I think it will prepare us for a challenging conference schedule. We had a great nucleus last year where everyone knew who they were, but this year we will have to see if our younger kids can adapt and learn how they can help us with various lineups. We see our roster changes as a moment of exceptional growth, so maybe this will be an exceptional story in our favor. We lost a bench player to a Mormon mission for two years and we lost a couple of seniors who graduated. It is hard for me to pick out one specific player who we will miss the most, but the two guys who have meant the most to our growth as a program were Oliver McNally and Keith Wright, especially Oliver due to his leadership on the court. Princeton finished strong last year and brings back a lot of talent, so they most deserve to be the favorite.
#2 Coach Kyle Smith, Columbia
I am very excited about our team’s prospects this year, as we have a good group of seniors. Our summer trip to Spain and Italy helped us grow closer as a team and mature. I know that we have some young guys who can contribute because they can handle the ball and play defense. I think we have had enough time to adjust to the loss of Noruwa Agho [who led the Ivy League in scoring in 2011, then had season-ending knee injury in last year’s home opener, then decided in August to not return to the team]. He was an all-league player when I got here. I think it has been tough for him to get back to the level where he was at, and he has some other interests in life. We will miss him, but he will still go down as one of the best players in school history.
#1 Coach Mitch Henderson, Princeton
We have a veteran group with the usual suspects of a nice senior class that has played significant minutes for us. We have the potential to play 10-deep with different styles. As far as being first in the preseason media poll, we do not put extra pressure on ourselves and just try to get better every day. We had a couple of injuries over the summer, which allowed us to give more time in the backcourt to some other players. My biggest concern is our non-conference schedule, as we face quite a few defending conference champions. Douglas Davis [who graduated] took a lot of shots for us, so someone else will need to step into an important role and make a contribution. Ian Hummer is a difficult guy to guard and makes everyone around him better. I think it is pivotal for us to get off to a good start with our first five Ivy games at home. Last year we had our first five Ivy games on the road and we went 2-3, which hurt our chances of winning the conference. I think that despite losing some key pieces, Harvard will still be very good.