One way some Ivy League teams are going to be able to separate themselves from the pack is by the development of key players. While the rotations at Harvard and Penn are well established due to their large number of returnees, the remaining schools have tons of opportunities.
Here are six players that have the potential to be much better than a season ago and potentially develop into all-league players.
Hans Brase, F, Princeton — The graduation of Ian Hummer means that the Princeton frontcourt is going to look much different in 2013-14. One of the players that should benefit is Brase. The 6’8” forward showed glimpses of his potential last season including 17 points in 28 minutes against Rider last season, but he only averaged 5.4 ppg and 4.2 rpg in 17.9 mpg. Brase’s strong rebounding and block numbers as a freshman speak to the athleticism that had schools like Charlotte recruiting him before he chose to join the Tigers. After a season learning under Hummer, Brase is poised for a breakout campaign.
Matt Townsend, F, Yale — This is all about opportunity. Given the chance to play more minutes last season after a cup of coffee during his first year in New Haven, Townsend showed excellent offensive skills. His usage crept up and his offensive rating skyrocketed thanks to improved shooting in the paint. Townsend played at least 26 minutes in each of the Bulldogs’ final five games and had an offensive rating of at least 126 in each of them. Given that opportunity for a full season Townsend could challenge for an all-league spot and help Yale remain in the upper half of the Ivy League standings.
Rafael Maia, C, Brown — Maia played a bunch of minutes last season, but only had a 93.5 offensive rating, but a number of people smarter than me think that the 6’9” junior forward is poised for a breakout season. Maia already has excellent rebounding skills – he was ranked amongst the national leaders in OR% (24th) and DR% (357th) on KenPom last season. If he can improve his free throw shooting, where he shot 49.3% a season ago, Maia can be a force in the paint. Considering Maia averaged 10.5 ppg and 7.5 rpg last season, if he can improve offensively he could end up averaging almost a double-double and compete for all-league honors.
Nolan Cressler, G, Cornell — After a freshman season in which Cressler averaged just under 9.3 ppg he went to the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am and played great. While summer leagues aren’t a great indicator, the athletic Cressler seemed like a prime candidate for a breakout season even before dropping 38 points against some darn good competition. It sounds like Cressler is going to get the opportunity to be more aggressive offensively this season and considering how efficient a scorer he was last season that should be a great thing for the Big Red.
Corey Osetkowski, C, Columbia — The one concern with Osetkowski is that he’s been foul prone. He only commits 4.2 fouls per 40 minutes, which is actually much lower than Mark Cisco (5.0 fouls committed / 40 minutes) and he had an excellent career for the Lions. The big man needs to get more involved in the offense as his 17.0% usage wasn’t particularly high. Still, if his minutes increase Osetkowski should become a solid presence in the middle for Columbia, particularly on the defensive end. (Osetkowski’s block rate of 5.4% would’ve ranked him fifth in the Ivy League if he’d qualified.)
Malik Gill, G, Dartmouth — A 5’9” point guard, Gill had an offensive rating of 85.8 last season with a usage rate of 24.7%. Why is he on this list? Because multiple people smarter than I have mentioned they think the New Rochelle, NY product is primed for a breakout season. One of the reasons Gill’s potential might still be untapped is that he had offers from a number of programs that are on or above the Ivy League’s level (Fordham, George Washington, Quinnipiac, American) coming out of Mount St. Michael’s. Another good sign? Gill shot 34.2% from three last season (on only 38 attempts, but still). Why was Gill’s offensive rating so low? An awful 30.7% on two-point attempts last season. If Gill can improve his scoring ability in the paint and earn some more minutes in Dartmouth’s rotation he could be a revelation. (The other interesting tempo-free stat? Gill’s 7.2% steal percentage. It probably won’t hold up with more playing time since it would’ve ranked second nationally – but it speaks to Gill’s athleticism and potential.)