Columbia hoping continuity means more wins

The Ivy League was pretty good last season, but 2011-12 is over. Three of the top teams will return fewer than half of their possession minutes after the tumultuous offseason at Harvard. The league’s talent has been pretty depleted. Just six players had over 15% possession minutes last season.

There is just one team that returns more than 75% of its possession minutes. If you haven’t guessed yet it’s Columbia and that’s the reason why outsiders expect the Lions to at least reach the top half of the Ivy League this season.

Actually, the top half of the conference seems completely reasonable. Almost too reasonable. If you go by Pomeroy’s overall rankings that’d be just one spot. Of course teams aren’t judged on Pomeroy rankings – someday maybe – but on won-loss records. That said, the Lions finished 4-10 in conference play. Why the discrepancy? Seven conference losses by five points or fewer or in overtime.

Will the fact that Brian Barbour, Mark Cisco, Alex Rosenberg and Meiko Lyles have played a season together suddenly make those final seconds easier and prevent things like this from happening? Will returning 78.3% of the team’s minutes be enough to bridge the gap and become one of the top teams in the league? It’s certainly possible. In fact, Columbia might be a chic pick to win the Ivy League except for one team – Princeton.

The Tigers return 65.9% of their possession minutes, third best in the Ivy League, from a team that finished 10-4 in conference and was ranked 93rd overall by Pomeroy. Anchored by Ian Hummer in the paint, the Ivy’s leading returning possession minute player, Princeton is poised to take the title during Mitch Henderson’s second season.

In fact, since Penn and Harvard have been gutted – 37.7% and 36.9% RPMs respectively – it’d be somewhat surprising if Princeton isn’t the class of the league. (Cornell fans think they have a chance too, apparently Galal Cancer is the answer.) Based on these results and past history I expect Harvard will slip a bit, while Penn and Yale could backslide even more. The Bulldogs return just 49.3% of their possession minutes, and that includes the loss of Greg Mangano and Reggie Willhite, their top two players a season ago. Penn of course suffered the single biggest personnel loss in the Ivy League.

All those graduations, plus the academic scandal at Harvard that has forced Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry to sit this season out, has left the cupboard relatively bare. Don’t believe me? Here are the top six players according to returning possession minutes:

  1. Ian Hummer, Princeton – 25.2
  2. Brian Barbour, Columbia – 23.1
  3. Sean McGonagill, Brown – 22.8
  4. Gabas Maldunas, Dartmouth – 16.2
  5. Miles Cartwright, Penn – 15.2
  6. Jvonte Brooks, Dartmouth – 15

Not too impressive, right? We’ll see if the talents of Hummer and Barbour are enough to carry their respective teams to higher heights this season.

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