Men's basketball sets high goals
The Big Green open their quest for their first Ivy League championship since 1959 when they host Colgate and their star center Adonal Foyle at Leede Arena on Friday night.
Dartmouth, which finished last year with an overall record of 16-10, will be looking to improve on its third place Ivy League finish a year ago. The team remains in tact with all five starters returning to try and knock off league favorite Princeton.
Returning to lead the team are four seniors who have established the Big Green program as a member of the upper eschelon of the Ivy League with back-to-back 16-win seasons. The team is the most experienced team Head Coach Dave Faucher has ever worked with and he believes that will make a difference in winning the necessary games this year.
"To win the Ivy League, you need to be able to win the close games and I think our experience should help us do that this year," Faucher said. "We are a very good team but not a great team. That means we need to play our best to win every game which is a good thing and makes the players work their hardest."
Once again, the team's workhorse will be guard Sea Lonergan '97, a first team Ivy League selection the last three years. This year the offense will still be geared to getting Lonergan the ball, but the Big Green will focus on spreading out the distribution.
The Big Green was 14-2 when Lonergan, who averaged over 17 points per game last year, was the leading scorer but could only manage two wins in the other 10 games when he was shut down.
"If teams can know going into a game that if they stop Sea they can stop Dartmouth, then they are going to be able to shut him down," Faucher said. "We need to make him less visible by moving him around and when he gets the ball he needs to be able to get it to his teammates around him."
Lonergan said, "I think a large part of my role this year is to make my teammates better, and I really believe that I can do that. It is not difficult to do from my standpoint because this team has tremendous talent, and I have confidence in them. But I do have to remember that if I start to force my game."
Lonergan will be joined in the back court by point guard Kenny Mitchell '97, the player who starts everything for the Big Green. Besides his playmaking ability, Mitchell's greatest asset is his defensive ability, often being matched up against the opposing team's ballhandler.
P.J. Halas '98 will join Mithcell in the backcourt. With his career three point percentage hovering around 40 percent, Halas will be a force to be reckoned with.
Aside from Lonergan, Mitchell will be looking for is the Ivy League's only 7'0" center, Brian Gilpin '97. Gilpin emerged as the offensive threat that he can be towards the end of last season and once again will be the featured Big Green post player.
"Brian has all of the skills to be a dominant center in this league," Faucher said. "The most important thing for our offense is that we get consistent play from the post position throughout the season."
Gilpin will face his biggest challenge of the season when he goes up against Foyle on Friday night. Foyle is the heart and soul of the Red Raider team that has captured the Patriot League title the last two seasons and had impressive showings in the NCAA tournament.
"It is impossible to simulate or prepare for a player of Foyle's ability," Faucher said. "He just has such great strength and quickness. It is going to be a battle inside and a great game to open up with because they are one of the top programs we will face all year."
Forward Keith Stanton '97 will get the nod at the power forward position. Stanton is a physical forward whose greatest asset is his rebounding but has often struggled with his stamina. As a result Faucher will use his bench which includes Asa Palmer '98, Chris Butler '97 and Rob Davis '99 in the forward positions.
After getting off to such a quick start last year that included a victory over Pennsylvania, the Big Green struggled down the stretch and let the Ivy League title out of their reach. Although the team is predicted to come in second in the league preseason poll and returns all of their starters, they don't feel that the only goal this year isn't to win a championship.
"We definitely have a strong desire to wear a ring this year and winning the Ivy League is a goal because it is our last chance as seniors," Lonergan said. "But I think when we started thinking about the championship last year we let it get away from us so we just need to go out and play every game."
Standing in Dartmouth's way of a title is league favorite Princeton, which has been a nemesis to the Big Green in recent years. Dartmouth is 1-9 against the Tigers in Faucher's era.
"I think we have the talent to win the title but Princeton is just standing in the way, and we need to find a way to get by them but they are definitely the top program in the league right now," Faucher said.
Most of all, Faucher just wants to get his team out on the court.
"The game against Colgate should help to tell us where we are at and what we need to work on in the weeks leading up to the Ivy League season. We don't have any unwinnable games in our early non-conference schedule but we have a lot of challenging games that we need to be ready for."