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Katherine Tobeason_0012 copy

Katherine Tobeason_0012 copyLast year was hailed as the Ivy League’s best-ever postseason. Harvard headlined a quintet of five tournament teams that earned a combined eight wins. Conference play still seems a distant prospect, but the 14-game gauntlet of league play opens for the eight sides in only one month. Let’s see how this resurgent conference stacks up.

Harvard (7-1 overall): Senior combo guard/forward Wesley Saunders ranks among the nation’s best players, as reflected by his being named to the Naismith Trophy Top 50 watch list. The Crimson’s performance in last year’s NCAA tournament provided some of March Madness’s most thrilling moments. Can this year’s team advance to Sweet Sixteen? It’s not outside the realm of possibility.

Yale (8-3): Rebounds per game of37.5make the Bulldogs the Ivy League’s best rebounding team. Junior guard Justin Sears, a first-team all-Ivy selection last season, has pulled in an impressive 8.8 boards per contest. Their most recent loss, an 85-47 routing at the hands of Florida, should have been expected. Otherwise, Yale has shown an ability to win in a variety of ways, which will be necessary against its slate of conference opponents.

Columbia (5-2): While the Lions haven’t been particularly explosive offensively —their 59.0 points per game average is the Ivy League’s lowest —their defense has been stifling. Opponents have shot 37.0 percent from the field and a mere 23.9 percent from three-point land. Senior forward Alex Rosenberg and junior guard Maodo Lo are two of the league’s elite scorers and should help rally the Columbia offense in the coming weeks.

Brown (5-6): In each of his first two seasons, junior forward Cedric Kuakumensah earned Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year honors. The 6’9” big man is perhaps the conference’s best-ever shot blocker, having broken the league’s single-season records both his freshman and sophomore years. The graduation of senior guard Sean McGonagill will leave a substantial hole in this offense.

Cornell (5-4): Surprising the preseason pundits who picked the Big Red to finish dead last, this Cornell squad has managed some impressive early season wins. Its defensive rebounding has been among the Ivy League’s best, while opponents have shot inefficient marks of 37.0 from the field and 31.5 from beyond the arc.

Princeton (3-6): A lax perimeter defense has allowed opponents to shoot a 44.7 percent from beyond the arc, by far the worst mark in the Ivy League. This squad has more potential than some of their losses indicate. Guard combo Spencer Weisz, a sophomore, and Amir Bell, a freshman, have been effective despite their relative inexperience.

Dartmouth (2-4): The Big Green does not return any all-Ivy selections, making this team somewhat at a loss for production. Junior guard Alex Mitola is a precise shooter who ranks among the school leaders in converted three-pointers. Following Mitola’s lead, Dartmouth shoots a solid 45.8 from the field, although its shooters have taken a league-low 310 shots.

Penn (2-5): Not long ago, Penn was the premier basketball school in the Ivy League. The Quakers graduated their lone all-Ivy selection from last season in forward Fran Dougherty. Penn’s shooters convert 46.9 percent of their field goal attempts. On the other end of the floor, however, this team gets consistently outrebounded by opposing offenses.

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