Excuse me for not posting a conference preview yesterday, as I channeled my inner Jorge Posada by saying "I need a day" to get my Big East opinion(s) off my chest. Now that John Marinatto reacted to the impending debacle, it's back to business as usual with a look at the smart guys that still don't hold a postseason tournament. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011-12 Ivy League profile.
1) Harvard - I guess it stands to reason that the school regarded as the most prestigious in the country would be the one to lead the pack here, but the Crimson are clearly the class of the Ivy League field after their surprising run to prominence a year ago under Tommy Amaker. Once an average coach at Seton Hall and Michigan, Amaker may have finally found his niche with the Crimson, and that was evident when he turned down Miami earlier this season when the Hurricanes pursued him to replace Frank Haith when Haith left for Missouri. The most startling part of Harvard's run to the Ivy League championship game last year was that Amaker accomplished the feat without the benefit of a senior on the roster, thus the whole team returns for a shot at glory this year. Big men Keith Wright and Kyle Casey will lead the way; while point guard Brandyn Curry, who averaged nearly six assists per game last season, anchors the backcourt along with Christian Webster, Laurent Rivard, and sharpshooter Oliver McNally.
2) Princeton - The Tigers have a new coach, as Mitch Henderson takes over for Sydney Johnson after the former boss replaced Ed Cooley at Fairfield. However, the man who enjoyed Princeton's upset of UCLA as a player in 1996 faces an uphill road without leading scorers Kareem Maddox and Dan Mavraides. Henderson does retain junior forward Ian Hummer, whose responsibilities will now be enhanced along with senior guard Douglas Davis, who hit the shot that propelled the Tigers into the NCAA Tournament last season.
3) Penn - The Quakers are already a great team simply for the use of the iconic Palestra (a place I'm still trying to go to for the first time that is also the top venue on my "College Hoops Bucket List") as their home court. Yet this year, Penn will attempt to back that greatness up by returning three starters, including senior guards Tyler Bernardini and do-it-all point man Zack Rosen, who not only led the team in scoring; but shot 42 percent from three-point range, averaged more than five assists per game, and had a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. The Quaker rebounding may suffer initially after the loss of Jack Eggleston, but sophomore Fran Dougherty is the prime candidate to step into the role of post presence.
4) Columbia - I got to see the Lions up close last year when they played St. John's, and a big part of why I have them ranked so high is the return of sparkplug Noruwa Agho for his senior campaign. Agho will be joined by both of his backcourt partners from last season once again, as junior Brian Barbour and sophomore Steve Frankoski will be penciled into Kyle Smith's starting lineup one more time. Keep an eye on Frankoski this season. The bomber from New Jersey is not afraid to shoot; and when I asked my friend and former colleague Jerry Recco, who handles Columbia basketball play-by-play, what to expect from the team a year ago, Frankoski was among the first names the WFAN update anchor brought up. His analysis: "If you leave him open, he will kill you."
5) Yale - The Bulldogs complete a strong upper half of the Ivy League by returning four of their top five leading scorers, including senior big man Greg Mangano. Last year, the 6-10 forward was the team's top scorer and rebounder by averaging a double-double per night; and he should pull off the same feat this season. Junior guard Austin Morgan is Yale's deadliest weapon in the backcourt, as he comes off a sophomore campaign where his 45 percent shooting clip from beyond the arc led the team.
6) Cornell - The Big Red start year two of life without Steve Donahue after the former coach left for Boston College shortly following Cornell's Sweet 16 run. Chris Wroblewski, a sophomore guard on that regional semifinal team, is back to run the point for what will be his senior year in Ithaca, and he has fellow fourth-year player Drew Ferry to share the backcourt with once again. Together, Wroblewski and Ferry combined to shoot 41 percent from three-point range last year, continuing Cornell's long history of dominance beyond the arc.
7) Brown - Being that the Bears will come into Brooklyn at the end of December to face St. Francis, I will get to see them up close and personal. Leading scorer Peter Sullivan is no longer around, but junior forward Tucker Halpern will carry the team while sophomore Sean McGonagill anchors the backcourt.
8) Dartmouth - The Big Green did not have a double-figure scorer during last year, but leading producer R.J. Griffin is among four returning starters for Dartmouth as they look to climb out of the Ivy League cellar. Top rebounder David Rufful and sharpshooter Jabari Trotter also return for their senior seasons to join Griffin in the backcourt.