College Court Report 2017-18 Preseason Awards: Ivy League

After missing all of the 2016-17 season due to injury, Makai Mason is back and looking to make up for lost time in his final season at Yale. (Source: Sports Illustrated) (Header: The Harvard Crimson)

CANMORE, Alta. — The 2017-18 season tips off on November 10th, which means the final month without college basketball is finally upon us.

Fans all across the country are gearing up for another exciting college basketball season, and with the recent scandal involving the FBI and several power conference programs across the NCAA, the level of anticipation is through the roof.

Conference preview pieces are starting to circulate from various media outlets, and conferences are hosting their annual media days and announcing their preseason polls and award winners. It’s always interesting to see how coaches and media rank teams in their respective conferences.

With the season right around the corner, we are starting to release our Preseason Player of the Year awards for each conference, along with three All-Conference teams. Picked at random, we will release two sets of awards each day.

Last season, the Ivy League introduced the Ivy League Tournament, where the winner of the four-team field would represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament. In the opener, we witnessed an overtime game in which a perennial powerhouse almost didn’t make the tournament finale.

What will the 2017-18 season have in store? Only time will tell.

Below, we have this year’s Preseason Player of the Year in the Ivy League, along with three All-Ivy League teams!

2017-18 Player of the Year: Bryce Aiken, Harvard Crimson

Bryce Aiken was one of four ESPN Top 100 recruits to commit to the Crimson as a part of their Class of 2016, and one of seven recruits overall. While Aiken and the Crimson didn’t win the conference title last season, Aiken had himself quite the freshman campaign, and things will only get better from here.

Aiken led Harvard in scoring last season, recording 14.5 points per contest to go along with 2.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He was one of just two players to average double-digit points per game over the course of the year (Seth Towns, 12.5 ppg). Aiken shot a team-best 88.4% from the free throw line, while also shooting 39.5% from the field.

With the graduation of Siyani Chambers, there will be more opportunities for the guards to showcase their talents this season, and Aiken will step into the role of leader on offense. He showed that he was capable of leading the offense last season, recording double-digit points on 18 occasions. Aiken closed out the season with a 28-point performance against the Yale Bulldogs.

He was streaky at times last season in terms of his offensive production, but for his freshman season, Harvard couldn’t ask for much more than what he produced. In year two, expect big things from the native of Randolph, NJ.

2017-18 All-Ivy League Teams

Bryce Aiken leads a talented Harvard team into the 2017-18 season, where they will look to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Tommy Amaker has a ton of talent at his disposal, led by our Preseason Ivy League Player of the Year in Aiken.

Matt Morgan has been a star for the Cornell Big Red from the day he stepped onto the court in a Big Red jersey. He has led the Ivy League in scoring in each of his two seasons in Ithaca, and he shows no signs of slowing down. After averaging 18.1 points per game last season, the native of Concord, NC declared for the NBA Draft. After going through the pre-draft process, he opted to return to school for his junior season. Morgan improved his shooting from all areas of the court last season, shooting 37.6% from three point range and 45.6% from the field.

It was a lost season for Makai Mason, who injured his foot prior to the start of the season and missed the entire 2016-17 campaign. However, he made headlines for opting to transfer from the program at the end of this season, and he has already committed to play for the Baylor Bears. Until then, the Ivy League has to try and contain the 6’1” guard who averaged 16.0 points per game back in 2015-16. In the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Mason torched Baylor for 31 points in the Bulldogs’ 79-75 upset win in the Round of 64.

A legitimate Player of the Year pick in his own right, Myles Stephens is in for a breakout year with the Princeton Tigers. The 6’5” guard improved in every major statistical category last season, but still looks to have another level to his game. Stephens averaged 12.5 points per game, over double his freshman average of 5.5, and 4.6 rebounds per contest, up from 2.4. He also shot 51.2% from the field, and 39.5% from three point range. Oh, and he did all of this while playing just under 28 minutes per night. With several key personnel having graduated following last season, Stephens is now ‘the guy’ for the Tigers in 2017-18.

As a freshman back in 2015-16, Evan Boudreaux burst onto the scene in the Ivy League with the Dartmouth Big Green. In year two, Boudreaux continued his strong play on both ends, almost matching his stat line from the previous season. Boudreaux recorded 15 double-doubles as a sophomore, finishing the year with an average of 17.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest. With the emergence of guard Guilien Smith, the Big Green have one of the top guard-forward combos in the conference. It’d be foolish to expect anything less than another near double-double average this season for the 6’8” Boudreaux.

On our All-Ivy League Second Team, no seniors can be found. The conference is chalked full of young talent, which is a great thing for the future of basketball in the conference.

Mike Smith had himself a strong showing in his first season with the Columbia Lions. Following the graduation of Maodo Lo, the Lions needed someone to step up in the back court and take pressure off of Luke Petrasek up front. Enter Smith, who finished second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.6 points per contest, and a team-high 3.5 assists.

In the absence of Mason last season, Yale turned to freshman guard Miye Oni early on in the year. In his first collegiate game, the 6’6” Oni recorded 24 points and six rebounds to lead Yale to the 98-90 road win over the Washington Huskies. For the year, he averaged 12.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest, while shooting 39.6% from three point range. He has the combination of size and shooting ability that coaches love, and that will lead him to a big year in 2017-18.

Alongside Stephens, Devin Cannady gives Princeton arguably the top guard duo in the conference. Over his two seasons with the Tigers, Cannady has averaged double-digit points per game, and shot above 40% from three point range. Last season, he averaged 13.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 40.9% from beyond the arc and a sparkling 93.8% (76-of-81) from the free throw line. Cannady is a big reason why the Tigers will be right in the thick of things in the race for the Ivy League crown.

In terms of freshmen forwards last season, not many put together better inaugural seasons in the NCAA than AJ Brodeur. The 6’8” forward was an impact player on both ends of the floor, averaging 13.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 2.4 blocks per game, while shooting 52.6% from the field. Brodeur’s strong play on both ends was a key factor in the Penn Quakers securing the fourth and final spot in the first-ever Ivy League Tournament last season.

Rounding out the All-Ivy League Second Team is another member of Harvard’s strong 2016 recruiting class. Forward Seth Towns was the second member of the Crimson to average double-digit points per game, as mentioned above. Towns finished the year with an average of 12.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest. At 6’7”, Towns has the size to battle inside, but he also has the shooting ability that allows for him to stretch the floor and hit shots from beyond the arc. Harvard has themselves a budding star in Towns.

Guilien Smith enjoyed a breakout season in 2016-17 as a sophomore. He averaged 12.0 points (5.0 as FR), 3.5 rebounds (1.3 as a FR), and 1.8 assists (0.5 as a FR) per game, while shooting better than 43% from the floor. With opposing defenses having to focus on both Smith and Boudreaux for the Big Green, the 6’2” guard could be in for another big season.

The Brown Bears lost their two stars in the back court following last season, in Steven Spieth and Tavon Blackmon, but junior Obi Okolie is ready to take on a leading role with the team. He averaged 9.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore, down slightly from his 10.0 ppg and 4.3 rpg as a freshman. As the go-to guy, his numbers are sure to increase. Plus, he’s Canadian, so that’s a boost in our books.

With a lot of the attention on Brodeur last season at Penn, Ryan Betley had himself a strong season in the back court. The 6’5” guard averaged 11.9 points and 4.6 rebounds as a freshman. He hit 90.6% of his attempts from the free throw line, and showed that he can hit the long ball with confidence (40.2% from beyond the arc). The future of Penn basketball is very bright with Betley and Brodeur leading the way.

The third member of Harvard’s 2016 recruiting class to appear on our All-Ivy League teams was used in more of a reserve role last season. Chris Lewis averaged just over 18 minutes per game, but still averaged 7.7 points and 4.9 assists per contest. He showed that he’s deserving of more minutes going forward, and he will look to take advantage of that early on in 2017-18.

Up front for Cornell, the Big Red have a rising star in junior big man Stone Gettings. He averaged 12.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest, while also dishing out 3.0 assists per night out. He has good court vision and passing skills for a big man, which add another element to his game. With all eyes sure to be on Morgan, look for Gettings to get a high number of quality looks inside this season.

– T. Bennett

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