Big Apple Buckets’ 2015-16 Ivy League Awards

With the Ivy League’s 14-Game Tournament fully complete, it’s officially awards season. Here are our picks for the Ancient Eight’s individual honors, determined by our esteemed panel of Ray, John and me. If you think we’re wrong, tell us why!

Player of the Year: Justin Sears, Yale

Who else? Sears won the Player of the Year award as a junior, and he was the Ivy League’s best player as a sophomore. He was as good as ever in his final season, using 27% of Yale’s possessions while on the court with a 114 offensive rating. Sears averaged 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in league play — nearly indistinguishable from last year’s trophy-winning marks — and he took advantage of defensive attention to dish 2.6 assists per game, best among Ivy big men. His style defined the league’s best team: Sears’ relentless pursuit of offensive rebounds, blocks, and contact at the rim made the Bulldogs a dreaded opponent.

Justin_Sears_shot_chart_Ivy

First Team All-Ivy:

  • Justin Sears, Yale
  • Maodo Lo, Columbia
  • Makai Mason, Yale
  • Henry Caruso, Princeton
  • Evan Boudreaux, Dartmouth

Maodo Lo graduates as the Ivy League’s most beloved player: Even opposing fans have to admire his sticky handle, shifty moves and lightning-quick release. Lo’s shooting percentage dipped a bit from last year’s perma-fire, but he still averaged 17.3 ppg in Ivy play, and he developed into a top defender, nearly lapping the rest of the conference in steals. Makai Mason looks like the Ivy League’s heir to Siyani Chambers, a prominent point guard known for his intangibles above all else. Mason’s stats were All-Ivy-worthy (15.8 ppg, 3.1 assists), but they were almost beside the point — despite his own injuries, the sophomore carried Yale’s depleted backcourt down the stretch and was at his best in the clutch, from a game-tying shot against Dartmouth to 22 points that clinched an NCAA bid. Henry Caruso might not have even been a starter this year if not for Hans Brase’s injury, but he quickly became the toughest Tiger to guard. He got opponents off-balance with crafty moves and kept them honest with 47% three-point shooting. And he learned his limitations, cutting his turnover rate dramatically to post a 119 offensive rating for the full season. We’ll get to Evan Boudreaux a bit later…

Second Team All-Ivy:

  • Matt Morgan, Cornell
  • Brandon Sherrod, Yale
  • Spencer Weisz, Princeton
  • Steven Cook, Princeton
  • Grant Mullins, Columbia

Matt Morgan was a second banana in Cornell’s offense, if a productive one, until Robert Hatter suffered an injury before Ivy League play began. Then Morgan was able to show his full skills: He scored 120 points in four games, including a season-high 33 in an emphatic dethroning at Harvard. Morgan was given a permanently green light — he had a 33% usage rate in league play and regularly pulled up from 27 feet — but he was still efficient, posting a 109 offensive rating en route to the Ivy freshman scoring record. Brandon Sherrod set a national record by making 30 straight shots, and that was no fluke: He finished at 65% on two-pointers, second-best in the league. He also had the Ivy’s best free-throw rate with few turnovers, and his presence inside bolstered a top-20 defense nationally. Spencer Weisz isn’t a high-volume scorer, but he’s the heart of Princeton’s offense after three years in Mitch Henderson’s system. He averaged four assists per game (second-best in the league) and made nearly half his three-pointers in league play. Steven Cook struggled early in the season, but by Ivy play he was in peak form, blending the high efficiency he showed as a freshman with the larger role he inherited as a sophomore. On the other end, Cook was Princeton’s best defender, helping lead the Tigers to the league’s second-best defensive efficiency. (He certainly has All-Ivy-caliber footwear.) After being sidelined last season, Grant Mullins returned as one of the nation’s most efficient offensive players. The senior posted a 124 offensive rating, making 42% of his threes and leading the Ivy League in assist-to-turnover ratio, and his ability to drive and draw fouls kept the Lions’ offense running when shots weren’t falling.

This was an especially difficult year to determine All-Ivy honors — you could replace our second team with the next five guys, and I couldn’t argue much.

Also considered: Zena Edosomwan, Harvard; Alex Rosenberg, Columbia; Agunwa Okolie, Harvard; Cedric Kuakumensah, Brown; Darien Nelson-Henry, Penn; Devin Cannady, Princeton

Rookie of the Year: Evan Boudreaux, Dartmouth

In a just world, Boudreaux and Morgan would both win this award. Both had historic seasons, not just for rookies but for anyone: Morgan’s 22.6 ppg Ivy average was the highest in 23 years, while Boudreaux was the first to average 20 points and 10 rebounds in league play in three decades. But the world is cruel, so we went with Boudreaux, who was more consistently excellent throughout the season. The Illinois native debuted with a bang — scoring 25 points at Seton Hall, which should be a single-digit seed in the NCAA tournament — and was held below 10 points only three times, all in non-league play. Boudreaux is a physical rebounder but showed touch away from the rim, making more than 40% of his threes and 83% of free throws (easily best among Ivy big men).

Evan_Boudreaux_shot_chart_Ivy

Also considered: Matt Morgan, Cornell; Devin Cannady, Princeton

Defensive Player of the Year: Agunwa Okolie, Harvard

After a win at Harvard, Columbia coach Kyle Smith explained that freshman John Sica had played for his defense, saying, “I’m hoping he turns into an Okolie.” After a game that didn’t even involve the Crimson, Mitch Henderson said of his own freshman, Myles Stephens, “We think he can be the best defender in the league at some point … Kind of like the Okolie kid from Harvard.” Coaches were justified in their praise for the 6’8” senior: As the only stalwart defender in Harvard’s backcourt, Okolie battled top scorers every night, helping keep the Crimson’s defense in the top 100 nationally despite losing two of last year’s top DPOY contenders. The senior took on opponents of all sizes — from six-foot jitterbug Kareem Canty to 6’6” David Walker — and was a stout one-on-one defender, while learning to gamble less off the ball.

Also considered: Nick Victor, Yale; Cedric Kuakumensah, Brown; Justin Sears, Yale; Maodo Lo, Columbia

Coach of the Year: James Jones, Yale

After 17 seasons and 141 Ivy League victories, James Jones is finally dancing. The dean of Ancient Eight coaches led Yale to a truly remarkable season: A 13-1 league record (22-6 overall), an efficiency margin of +.21 points per possession, and a #42 ranking in KenPom, all comparable to the best Ivy teams of this century. And he did so despite losing three starters from last year’s co-champions. Jones oversaw big leaps by Makai Mason and Nick Victor, managed a short rotation, and put the league’s best frontcourt in position to succeed.

Also considered: Mitch Henderson, Princeton; Kyle Smith, Columbia

5 thoughts on “Big Apple Buckets’ 2015-16 Ivy League Awards

  1. Excellent article. However, I believe Darryl Smith of Cornell has to be somewhere in the picks. Basically ,every time he got the ball something good happened. According to Ken Pomeroy he had the second highest effective field goal percentage in the nation! He also had the eleventh highest offensive rating in the nation at 130.5 according to Ken Pomeroy.

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    1. Smith didn’t shoot enough to be as valuable as the players here (14% usage rate), but he had maybe the most interesting season of anyone. He set the Ivy record for effective field goal percentage (http://cbbref.com/tiny/xPbjm), from a guy who never had even average efficiency in the past. He really should have been shooting more, given the rest of Cornell’s offense.

      I’ll have a little more on him in a review post with some more of the shot chart data Friday.

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  2. I think Agunwa Okolie’s improved offensive game warrants inclusion on the second team. That being stated, there were at least 15 players worthy of being on the first or second team.

    Also, I think it is time for an All Ivy freshmen team. The league’s deeper talent warrants it.

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