Midnight Madness: Brown Preview
Thursday, October 13, 2011
It isn’t exactly “Midnight Madness,” but there will be lots of enthusiasm when the Brown University men’s basketball team takes the floor at 5pm today for their first practice.
The Bears have reason to be optimistic as they feature a roster that may be as talented and as deep as any the program has seen since the 2002-2003 team that won 17 games and played in the NIT. That team was led by Earl Hunt, Alai Nuualiitia, Jason Forte, Patrick Powers and Jamie Kilburn among others.
Here’s a look at the 2011-2012 Bears who are hoping to scratch and claw their way to the top of the Ivy League standings:
Strengths: Offense, talent level and depth. Brown (71.5 ppg) was the top scoring offense in the Ivy League last season despite finishing 7th in the league standings. That offense should be even better this year with the addition of some talented players like transfer guard Stephen Albrecht. At Toledo, Albrecht score 20 points against both Michigan State and Cornell while netting 19 against Cincinnati. He should be able to fill the nets against Ivy League competition as well. Returning starters Tucker Halpern (14.3 pts, 4.4 reb, 2.7 ast in Ivy Lg) and Sean McGonagill (14.6 pts, 4.9 reb, 5.7 ast in Ivy Lg) should be able to not only duplicate but improve upon their seasons from a year ago. McGonagill is the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year. “Sean is a very driven, team-oriented player who doesn’t rest on his talents,” said Bears’ head coach Jesse Agel. “Like TJ Sorrentine at Vermont, Sean is never satisfied and because of that he works harder each day to improve.”
Sophomore forward Dockery Walker showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman and now his coach believes that he is ready to take that next step and become a consistently great player. “Good players are up and down when they’re young,” said Agel. “The great ones are consistent night in and night out and we need Dockery to be one of those guys.”
Agel is also looking for some major contributions from his talented freshman class led by 6’-9” center Rafael Maia. “Rafi is extremely talented, big, strong and has a great feel for the game.”
Junior Matt Sullivan should be another legitimate offensive option be it as a starter or off the bench. Sullivan was named co-captain along with fellow junior Tucker Halpern for this year’s squad.
Weaknesses: Defense, youth and consistency. While the Bears’ offense may have been the best in the Ivy League last season, their defense (73.4 ppg) was the worst. That will need to improve if Brown is to leap into the upper half of the league standings. Having more of an inside presence should help the Bears defense but this will be an area worth watching this season.
There is not a single returning senior on this year’s team making it one of the youngest teams in the league. Jean Harris is the lone senior on the roster but he left the team after his sophomore season and did not play as a junior. While there is lots of young talent up and down the roster, the key is, it’s young. That can lead to problems with consistency. The good news is that many of the sophomores and juniors have experience having logged many minutes in their first year or two with the program.
New Players: The transfer Albrecht and freshman big man Maia lead the list of newcomers with Joe Sharkey and Christian Gore quite possibly being the next two freshman who could see some minutes right away. Fellow freshman Jon Schmidt, Taylor Wright and Longi Yiljep round out what could be the best of Agel’s three recruiting classes at Brown.
Big Losses: Peter Sullivan was the school’s 4th all-time leading scorer and will be sorely missed. Sullivan had a knack of being able to score inside and out as well as at the free throw line. Garrett Leffelman and Adrian Williams were also key contributors to the program in their 4 years on college hill and have left holes that need to be filled.
Big Games: Brown has an ambitious non-conference schedule playing in the preseason NIT at Syracuse to start the season where they draw Albany on opening night. The Bears host URI on November 30th at the Pizz and follow that by traveling to Iowa (12/3) and Providence College (12/5). While many consider Harvard to be the class of the Ivy League this year, the Bears had a shot to beat the Crimson twice last season blowing big leads at home and in Cambridge. They will try to right those wrongs this season on January 28th at Brown and February 17th at Harvard.
Predictions: The key for this team will be consistency. While talented, they are a young team. The good news is that they have a record 15 home games this season.
Projected Record: (16-15) overall, (8-6) Ivy League