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Know! Your! Foe! - Dartmouth.

Princeton heads all the way up to Hanover on Friday as they begin an Ivy League stretch run that includes seven of their final nine contests played away from home.

To learn more about a youthful Dartmouth squad for today's Know! Your! Foe!, the only person to talk with was writer Bruce Wood, founder of Big Green Alert, who has been covering Dartmouth athletics for as long as I can remember.

Our conversation follows after the jump. Look for a Harvard edition of K!Y!F! on Thursday.

If you cover a team the Tigers will face down the line, let us know. We'd love to talk with you.

It is excellent to have you back on the site, Bruce. Can you summarize Dartmouth's season to this point?

Dartmouth is 6-14 but could easily be knocking on the double-digit win door. The Big Green lost a two-point game at a pretty good Vermont team, stumbled against the Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne Mastodons by four at home and let a 10-point lead slip way in the final 1:34 in an overtime loss at Harvard. It's a young team that seems to be starting to learn how to win. The next step is figuring out how to put solid back-to-back efforts together on an Ivy League weekend.

How difficult has it been to get a grasp on the Big Green even though we're 20 games in to 2012-13?

It's pretty difficult and that started in the first week of the season. Dartmouth opened with a nice win over a decent Maine team and three days later looked absolutely horrible in a 14-point loss to a bad New Hampshire team. The Big Green struggled in an 11-point loss at a Holy Cross team that has just two conference wins and four days later pushed America East-leading Vermont to the edge before losing two. The overtime loss at Harvard that you would think would have helped develop confidence was followed by a 12-point clunker at home against Brown. More than most teams, Dartmouth needs to shoot well to win. But perhaps more importantly, it needs to learn how to play hard every time out.

Is there any one thing you would call the team's strength or a specific team weakness?

On the plus side, Dartmouth has a lot of balance in the scoring column with four players averaging between 7.4 and 10.4 points on the season. On the minus side, and coach Paul Cormier has spoken about it, is there is no true go-to player when a game is going down to the wire, or when the offense is struggling. Outside shooting is uneven at best and apart from Alex Mitola, who blows hot and cold, there isn't really much of a three point threat.

I'm struck by just how YOUNG this squad is. There are no juniors or seniors among the team's top five scorers. Let's start with the sophomores. What sort of step(s) forward have the trio of Gabas Maldunas, John Golden and Jvonte Brooks taken in their second campaigns?

To be honest, they probably haven't taken the steps forward that Cormier would like to see. Maldunas is a bit of a puzzle. He looks really good around the basket with both hands and yet it's maddening how many bunnies he misses. He seems to be docile and disinterested at times only to pound the ball into the floor and make a few pretty aggressive moves to the basket when he comes off the bench, only to disappear again. And he, like Brooks, has found himself coming off the bench of late. Cormier actually sat Brooks out the entire Brown game because of unhappiness with his effort in practice since then the co-captain has been coming off the bnech. He's a hard-nosed rebounder with a knack for getting to the basket but is limited offensively. Golden is the most athletic of the group but like Maldunas he can be a puzzle. If he starts well he can be a huge factor as he was when he went 6-for-8 from the field and scored 15 points in the game at Harvard. But if he starts poorly he can completely disappear.

On to the freshman! Tell me about Connor Boehm and New Jersey's own Alex Mitola (who leads Dartmouth with 10.4 ppg). What do they add to Paul Cormier's roster?

Boehm has been called a poor man's Ian Hummer. He and Mitola were thought to be the keys to a solid recruiting class and that has been the case. Boehm was slowed by injury early but broke out with 12 points in 23 minutes on 6-of-9 shooting at Elon in the sixth game. He's started the past 13 games and has been the Big Green's leading scorer since breaking into the starting lineup. He's not as athletic as Golden but has range to the arc, is excellent at the lost art of the midrange jumper and just has a nice, all-around game. As for Mitola, his unorthodox, shoot-from-the hip 3-pointer surprises a lot of people. He can't really get it off in traffic but when he's on he can rain them down on you. And when his almost ridiculously high shot is off, it can be way off. He's had some seriously ugly airballs this year, but no shot was prettier than the 3 he hit to stave off Columbia's run at the end last Friday. Mitola is a nice floor general who you would think in watching him would have a decent assist-to-turnover ratio, but he's actually turned the ball over 50 times to 40 assists. You didn't ask about fellow guard Malik Gill, but he's worth keeping an eye on. He's listed at 5-9 but looks significantly shorter, is ridiculously quick and can create absolute havoc as an on-ball defender. He leads the team in steals by a wide margin despite playing 16 minutes a game. He can be a microwave offensively – he heats up quickly – but he is occasionally way out of control and has had a lot of shots blocked trying to drive to the hoop against taller players. Surprisingly, given their size, Gill and Mitola have been on the floor at the same time quite a bit and taller players have been effective posting up one or the other when that's the case.

Are there any upperclassmen we should also be discussing or will this team go as far as the first and second year players take them?

Tyler Melville, a name Princeton folks should be familiar with, has been one of Dartmouth's most valuable players as the season has developed. He's quick and fearless to the hoop and has dramatically improved his 3-point shooting, hitting at a 47 percent clip. When the freshmen guards are struggling or the offense is stagnant, look for Melville to come in and either settle things down or stir them up.

I only saw the very tail end of Dartmouth's painful overtime loss at Harvard. What happened down the stretch and is the next step for this team putting away a game like that late?

It was at Harvard and unfortunately I wasn't there but I can tell you Cormier was beating himself up after that one. Clock management was a bit of an issue but so, to, was the youth of the team. With the first "trophy" win in their sites, but players got nerved up as Harvard made its run. Ironically, Cormier had talked to me just days before about the difficulty of not having that clear "go-to" guy when you need to have a hoop to put a game away.

Actually, did that already occur in the form of a 60-57 win at Columbia?

Again, I wasn't there although I listened to the game (the video feed was frustrating) and read the reports. Mitola made a layup with about 1:30 left, then had a steal and a 3-pointer to help stop the bleeding before Melville iced the game (as much as you can in a three-point win) with a couple of free throws with half a minute left. I'm not sure Dartmouth found out how to put a team away, although it found out it could. It's a different thing but something of value nonetheless.

Dartmouth gets to three Ivy wins for the first time since 2009 by toppling Princeton if...

...Maldunas has a good game and one of the Jersey Boys – Golden or Mitola – goes off.

The Tigers head to a Lavietes Pavilion showdown victorious if...

...Dartmouth freshmen play like freshmen.

How are things up north since we last spoke? Anything you want to plug for the readers before you go?

No complaints, Jon. My main focus continues to be Dartmouth football and it is starting to look as if the Big Green may finally be turning the corner. If you haven't seen freshman quarterback Dalyn Williams you're missing something. He's going to be a huge star in the Ivy League.

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