By Kevin Sweeney
This coming season is one of the most exciting ones in the history of the conference. Talent level is at an all-time high, thanks to recent NCAA Tournament wins by Harvard & Yale as well as excellent coaching throughout the league. For the first time, the Ivy will have a conference tournament, with the top 4 teams from the regular season advancing to a winner-take-all tournament to determine who receives the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. This new system is great, as it still puts incredible value in the regular season while not eliminating teams for having a couple of bad games. Expect whoever wins this talented league to be a dangerous mid-major in March.
Champions: Princeton- The Tigers went under the radar last season, but were quietly one of the best mid-majors in college basketball. Princeton went 22-7 and were just one game behind Yale for the Ivy League’s best record. They also had an RPI of 39, an outstanding number that was better than that of USC, Wichita State, Wisconsin, and several other teams who received NCAA Tournament at-large bids. Now, with a ridiculous 99.3% of its scoring from a season ago returning, Princeton should be the class of the Ivy League. Sophomore guard Devin Cannady, who averaged 11.7 points per game as a freshman, will be the key for the Tigers. If he blossoms into an all-conference player, Princeton will be tough to stop this season.
Dark Horse: Cornell- There’s no doubt that the Big Red have potential. After all, they have a backcourt duo in sophomore Matt Morgan and senior Robert Hatter that can score against anyone in the country. Morgan led the Ivy League in scoring as a freshman, while Hatter was no slouch, averaging over 17 points per game. However, they must get better production from the rest of the roster. Darryl Smith had a decent season, averaging just over 9 points per game, but no one else averaged over 5 points per game. With the majority of the contributors from last season returning, Cornell should get better production from its bench. new head coach Brian Earl, a former assistant at Princeton, is a perfect fit, as he will immediately improve the defense of the Big Red that ranked 309th in college basketball last season. There are a lot of question marks, but Cornell has an excellent chance to make some noise in the Ivy League.
Preseason First Team:
- F: Henry Caruso- Princeton
- F: Evan Boudreaux- Dartmouth
- G: Matt Morgan- Cornell
- G: Makai Mason- Yale
- G: Siyani Chambers- Harvard
Player of the Year: Makai Mason- Mason is an excellent scorer from the point guard position whose numbers should be even better than they were last season, thanks to the graduation of Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod. A fearless playmaker who seems to step up when it matters most, Mason put up 31 points against Baylor in the NCAA Tournament, 24 against SMU, and 22 in an important win over Princeton. If Yale has any chance of repeating as Ivy League champions, Mason must have an incredible season for the Bulldogs.
Newcomer of the Year: Chris Lewis (Harvard)- Harvard’s 2016 recruiting haul is unprecendented for a mid-major, and Lewis may be the crown jewel. While most mid-major big men come in without the polish to be major contributors right away, Lewis has a college-ready body and game. Despite his muscular 6-9 frame, Lewis can handle the ball and is an excellent pick-and-roll player. He was ranked as a 4 star prospect by most recruiting service, and was the 65th ranked recruit in the country in ESPN’s rankings. With the introduction of Lewis and the rest of the freshman class and the return of point guard Siyani Chambers from a torn ACL suffered before last season, Harvard has an excellent chance of returning to the NCAA Tournament.