It’s been a busy preseason for the Ivy League. The defending champion made Ivy history with a national ranking, while injuries and roster movements have shaken up the rest of the conference. With the roster shuffling (hopefully) done for now, it’s time to unveil our Big Apple Buckets preseason individual honors.
Chosen by our Ivy League panel (including John and Ray Curren), here are our awards:
All-Conference First Team
- Wesley Saunders, Harvard
- Siyani Chambers, Harvard
- Justin Sears, Yale
- Maodo Lo, Columbia
- Shonn Miller, Cornell
How much do opposing coaches respect Wesley Saunders? Last season, he became the first player this century to win Ivy Player of the Year despite not being one of the top 10 scorers in conference play. Saunders can light up the scoreboard at times — as he did with 22 points against Michigan State in last year’s Round of 32 — but he contributes even more with his passing, movement and tenacity on both ends of the floor. Teammate Siyani Chambers is the Ivy League’s most recognizable player, due to his on-court swagger and knack for hitting big shots. His numbers weren’t elite last season, but as a junior and team captain, Chambers could reach a new level this year. Justin Sears is the reason Yale was picked second in the preseason poll; see the next section for more. Maodo Lo broke out last season, posting a 57% effective field goal percentage on above-average usage. Since Alex Rosenberg is sidelined for the season, Lo’s role will expand again, especially if he keeps making 43% of his threes. The last time we saw a healthy Shonn Miller, he was leading Cornell in scoring while doubling as one of the league’s best defenders. After missing all of last season with a shoulder injury, Miller returns to a Cornell team that should rely on him as much as possible.
All-Conference Second Team
- Steve Moundou-Missi, Harvard
- Gabas Maldunas, Dartmouth
- Hans Brase, Princeton
- Cedric Kuakumensah, Brown
- Javier Duren, Yale
On a team with several other scorers and a crowded frontcourt rotation, Steve Moundou-Missi doesn’t get star-level opportunities, but few big men are more productive on the court. Per kenpom.com, Moundou-Missi was among the top 300 players nationally last year in true shooting percentage, block percentage, and offensive and defensive rebound rate. Gabas Maldunas was on an All-Ivy pace last season before tearing his right ACL in a January practice. He may not be healthy in time for opening day, but when Maldunas does return, expect him to be back in form as a rebounding machine. Hans Brase attempted 102 three-pointers while starting at center for the Tigers; naturally, that causes matchup problems for many opposing fives, but he’s not just a shooter. Brase can beat defenders off the dribble, averaged 5.7 rpg last year and, per Princeton custom, is a good passer for a big man. Cedric Kuakumensah has won two Defensive Player of the Year awards in as many seasons, and it’s easy to see why: The center blocked 3.3 shots per game in Ivy action last season; only Sears managed even half that. His offensive game is more limited, but he had some value on that end last season after reducing his turnover rate. In keeping with the rest of Yale’s roster, Javier Duren is a bulldog (and a Bulldog) who scores best from the foul line. Despite an ugly eFG% of 43.8%, the point guard was a useful offensive player on heavy usage last season, thanks to his assists and free throws. If Duren (or, for that matter, any other Eli) can become an above-average three-point shooter, it would give Yale’s offense a huge boost.
Also Considered: Leland King, Brown; Kenyatta Smith, Harvard; Corey Osetkowski, Columbia; Darien Nelson-Henry, Penn
Player of the Year: Justin Sears, Yale
In the wake of Harvard’s postseason success, Chambers and Saunders have both been featured on multiple national Top 100 lists this fall — but the most productive Ivy player last season was Sears, who carried the Bulldogs into title contention until the final weekend. Sears did nearly everything well in 2014, tying for the Ivy League scoring title while leading the conference in rebounds and finishing second in blocked shots. More than anyone else, Sears can make this year’s championship race interesting: He averaged 25 points, 12 rebounds and a 122 offensive rating against Harvard last season.
Most Improved Player: Leland King, Brown
Presenting the stats of two recent Ivy League rookies:
|Minutes/Gm||Usage %||Off. Rating||eFG%||Rebounds/Gm||Pts/Gm|
Player A is King last season, while Player B is Justin Sears in 2012-13 — one year before he became arguably the league’s top player as a sophomore. One comparison is rarely predictive, but more history is on King’s side: Since 2009, 18 other Ivy League rookies have played at least 15 minutes per game with above 20% usage and a 90+ offensive rating. Nine of those 18 made at least one first team All-Ivy, two others made a second team, and three more could still join those lists (current juniors Hans Brase, Alex Mitola and Connor Boehm). King averaged 17 points per game over the final month of last season, and he’ll only get more opportunities after the graduation of star guard Sean McGonagill.
Also Considered: Steven Cook, Princeton; Corey Osetkowski, Columbia; Jordan Spieth, Brown
Rookie of the Year: Mike Auger, Penn
Some of the league’s top-rated rookies may struggle to earn opportunities — but that shouldn’t be an issue for Auger, who can boost a Penn team that lost two double-digit scorers from an already thin offense. Auger already has a reputation for physical play and tough defense, so the New Hampshire product should be one of the Quakers’ top forwards, and his fresh blood might help Penn move on from a disheartening 8-20 season.
Also Considered: Alec Brennan, Princeton; Andre Chatfield, Harvard; Nate Hickman, Columbia; Alex Wolf, Dartmouth
Coach of the Year: Mike Martin, Brown
For the past decade, Ivy League opponents could count on posting gaudy numbers when they visited Providence. Even in title-contending seasons of 2003, ’04 and ’08, the Bears had a sub-200 defense nationally, and they were never once above average. That changed as soon as Martin took over:
With an army of tough players returning to their frontcourt, the Bears’ defense should be fearsome again this season. If he can engineer a passable offense without McGonagill, Martin might lead Brown to its first winning Ivy season in seven years.
Also Considered: Paul Cormier, Dartmouth; Mitch Henderson, Princeton; Kyle Smith, Columbia