Big Apple Buckets 2014-15 Ivy League Awards

With the 14-Game Tournament officially wrapped (even though a 15th game is still pending), it’s time for our panel of me, John, and Ray to announce our Ivy League individual awards.

Wesley Saunders is a lock to earn first-team All-Ivy honors for the third straight year. (Photo via Harvard Athletics)
Wesley Saunders is a lock to earn first-team All-Ivy honors for the third straight year. (Photo via Harvard Athletics)

First Team All-Ivy:

  • Wesley Saunders, Harvard
  • Justin Sears, Yale
  • Maodo Lo, Columbia
  • Shonn Miller, Cornell
  • Javier Duren, Yale

The first team should be uncontroversial this year — these five have consistently stood out since about December, ranking as the top five scorers overall and in Ivy play. Wesley Saunders has done everything for the co-champions, carrying an inconsistent offense with 16.1 points and 4.3 assists per game while doubling as one of the league’s best perimeter defenders. Once again, Justin Sears stepped up in Ivy play, posting the best shooting percentage against Ancient Eight opponents, leading the league in offensive rebound rate and blocking scores of shots. Thanks to three 30-point performances, Maodo Lo was the league’s scoring leader at 19.6 ppg — the highest Ivy mark since 2009 —despite playing for the slowest-paced team. Shonn Miller used nearly 30% of Cornell’s possessions on offense while playing outstanding defense, leading his team to within shouting distance of .500 after going 2-26 last season. Javier Duren ranked in the top five in points and assists, hitting big shots and starring in last weekend’s Harvard-Yale showdown.

Second Team All-Ivy:

  • Steve Moundou-Missi, Harvard
  • Siyani Chambers, Harvard
  • Gabas Maldunas, Dartmouth
  • Rafael Maia, Brown
  • Hans Brase, Princeton

Steve Moundou-Missi is an elite defender, as he showed in both meetings with Yale, when he held Sears well below his season average. With a strong jumper and powerful dunking ability, he’s no slouch on the other end either. Siyani Chambers shot poorly in non-conference play, but he rebounded to score 10.9 ppg with a 107 offensive rating against Ivy competition. For the full year, he led the conference in assists, and his plus-minus rating is off the charts. Gabas Maldunas stole the spotlight with his game-winning basket against Yale, which was a fitting reward for a strong senior season. A year after tearing his ACL, Maldunas was Dartmouth’s go-to offensive option while ranking among the league leaders in blocks, rebounds and steals. Rafael Maia helped Brown stay afloat after losing top scorer Leland King midseason. He increased his usage dramatically in Ivy play while maintaining a 109 offensive rating, and he did so while grabbing 10.0 rebounds per game. Hans Brase helped the balanced Tigers lead the league in offensive efficiency, opening up the paint with high-volume three-point shooting and good passing for a big man, while grabbing 25% of available defensive rebounds.

Also considered: Galal Cancer, Cornell; Steven Cook, Princeton; Tony Hicks, Penn; Cedric Kuakumensah, Brown; Kyle Castlin, Columbia; Alex Mitola, Dartmouth

Player of the Year: Wesley Saunders, Harvard

Saunders and Sears are both fine choices for this year’s award, but our pick is Saunders. The Harvard senior was sublime for the first month of the year; after dipping a bit in January, he’s returned to form in conference play. Saunders used 31% of the Crimson’s possessions against Ivy competition, scoring double figures in all but one outing while leading the league with 4.8 assists per game. He ranks among the top five in steals and top 10 in rebounding, all while taking the majority of assignments against the opponent’s best perimeter player.

Defensive Player of the Year: Shonn Miller, Cornell

In 2013-14, when Miller was sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Big Red ranked 350th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency. This year, they jumped all the way to 80th. Not all of that rise can be attributed to Miller’s return, but he’s the biggest reason why Cornell stopped leaking points and leapt from last place in the Ivy League to a tie for fifth. The senior’s 28% defensive rebound rate ranked seventh in the nation and his 7.2% block rate ranked 96th. Miller has been top-100 nationally in both categories for all three healthy seasons, making him very attractive as a graduate transfer this summer.

Also considered: Justin Sears, Yale; Steve Moundou-Missi, Harvard; Gabas Maldunas, Dartmouth; Wesley Saunders, Harvard

Most Improved Player: Henry Caruso, Princeton

As a rookie last season, Caruso played a total of 14 minutes, scoring all three of his points against D-III Kean. He showed some promise at the Wooden Legacy tournament, but still seemed too green to make much impact this year, playing significant time in just one of six games to end December. But with Steven Cook limited due to illness at the beginning of 2015, Caruso finally got his shot — and he made the most of it, scoring 14 points against Norfolk State, then leading the Tigers with a hyper-efficient 23 in a comeback win over Penn. The sophomore still room to improve on both ends, but he proved himself a capable scorer, dropping double figures in five Ivy games (including 25 against Yale).

Also considered: Galal Cancer, Cornell; Steven Cook, Princeton; Jack Montague, Yale; Malik Gill, Dartmouth

Rookie of the Year: Kyle Castlin, Columbia

Castlin started for the Lions from day one; by the end of the season, he was the clear #2 option to Maodo Lo. He finished as the 10th-leading scorer in Ivy play (11.0 ppg), showing off the ability to rebound, hit three-pointers, get to the free-throw line and slam highlight-reel dunks. For the entire season, Castlin finished with the second-highest offensive rating of any Ivy rookie over the past six years (min. 15 mpg, 20% usage).

Also considered: Miles Wright, Dartmouth; Antonio Woods, Penn; Amir Bell, Princeton

Coach of the Year: Paul Cormier, Dartmouth

A brutal schedule gave the Big Green five straight road games early in the Ivy League slate; when they were 1-6 at the midway point, they could have checked out for the season. But Dartmouth rallied to win six of its last seven, including two final-weekend comebacks to finish 7-7 (14-14 overall). Highlighted by upsets of Harvard and Yale, the Big Green earned its first top-four finish of this decade, its first top-200 ranking of the KenPom era, and its first postseason appearance since 1959. For the fifth-year head coach, 2014-15 marked the culmination of four solid recruiting classes, from Maldunas at the beginning to Wright at the end. Cormier made some smart adjustments throughout the season, giving more playing time to havoc-wreakers Wright and Malik Gill, and drew up a dastardly baseline out-of-bounds play to beat Yale in the regular-season finale.

Also considered: James Jones, Yale; Mitch Henderson, Princeton

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