Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Ivy had a great year, but it is still the Ivy

With Cornell's run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, and Jeremy Lin's performance in the Summer League and subsequent contract with the Golden State Warriors, the question that is going to start being asked is whether or not the Ivy can consistently produce NCAA tournament winners and NBA players.

In other words, does this boost in profile make the league more attractive to recruits?

As they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Jeremy Lin went from Harvard to the NBA.
(photo credit: ESPN)

Cornell became the darling on the NCAA Tournament, putting together some of the most impressive offensive basketball I've ever seen in their two wins during the first weekend. And while that team had plenty of talent -- Ryan Wittman, Louis Dale, and Jeff Foote probably all could have started at BCS programs by their senior seasons -- their success was as much about coaching and the ability of that team to play together as much as it was individual talent.

In other words, that team was a fluke team. Steve Donahue landed three guys that could have gone to bigger schools, surrounded them with solid role players, and developed a system that allowed each of those three players to maximize their ability. It was a perfect storm and a testament to the job Donahue did. That's why he got the head coaching job at Boston College.

As for Lin, he was just a guy that the bigger schools missed on. It happens -- ask the Curry brothers or Adam Morrison. Maybe it was because he was too slow, or couldn't jump high enough, or didn't have perfect form on his jumper, or his height, or his ethinicity. Whatever it was, Lin slipped through the cracks to become one of the best guards in the country last season while playing for a school known for brain power, not athletics. Lin, like the group at Cornell, was a fluke.

Look, I don't mean to discredit what the Ivy League did last season. It was impressive. It was fun to watch. But that doesn't change the fact that it is the Ivy League. There is a much smaller pool of prospects for schools in the Ivy League. They need players that not only can afford to pay for school (not always the case, as financial aid can be given to athletes), but can hold their own in the classroom as well.

That is what an Ivy League coach needs to sell recruits on. "Come here, play a lower level of D1 basketball in a league that doesn't have a conference tournament at a school where you will need to work as hard, if not harder, in the classroom than you do on the court."

That is a tough sales-pitch to a BCS-level kid. Its also why a coach like Steve Donahue, who was able to successfully make that sales pitch to three potential high-major players, gets scooped up by a school like Boston College.

The Ivy is like any other low- or mid-major conference. It goes in cycles. They've have been very successful the last year.

But one year, one Sweet 16 trip, and one undrafted free agent earning a contract is not going to make anyone forget that this is, in fact, still the Ivy League.

1 comment:

LRJ~ said...

The Ivies have stepped up their game. Cornell and Harvard are just the start of schools that are competing to be like Penn and Princeton, the pacesetters of the league. Penn and Princeton will be back and are enough to keep the Ivies at a quality level league. Harvard has Tommy Amaker who has elevated the talent level at his school. Yale and Brown have been to the postseason NIT, CIT whatever it's called. Point is, the league is poised to elevate itself to another level with several schools more inclined to get better inspired by newer schools that have upped their game.