The Quakers will take their home court on Saturday as the overwhelming favorites to earn their second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. Following their 64–46 win over Harvard last Saturday, Penn was crowned back-to-back Ivy League Champions for the first time in program history. In addition to leading the Ivy League, Penn is near the top of the nation in many statistical categories including fewest turnovers (2nd, 300) and fewest fouls (2nd, 337). The Quakers currently have the third best defense in the nation and have been able to hold opponents to just 52 points per game. Senior captain Sydney Stipanovich is the greatest shot blocker in Ivy history with 313 career blocks — the most of any men’s or women’s player — and as a team, the Quakers are 9th in the NCAA in blocked shots per game with 5.9. Last year’s Player of the Year Stipanovich is joined by junior Michelle Nwokedi, who was awarded this year’s Ivy League Player of the Year and unanimously voted onto the All-Ivy first team. Nwokedi led the Red and Blue in scoring and totaled 75 blocks and 27 steals on the year. Stipanovich earned second team All-Ivy alongside teammate and junior guard Anna Ross who led Penn with 110 assists. The Quakers will face off against the No. 4 seed Brown Bears on Saturday at the Palestra.
The No. 2-seeded Princeton women will take on Harvard in the second women’s semifinal on Saturday. The Tigers’ season began slowly with an 0–4 nonconference start, but they quickly salvaged their season with wins over Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Lafayette, Rutgers and Wagner and completed season sweeps over Columbia, Harvard and Yale. Princeton, which earned an NCAA Tournament berth last year despite finishing second in the league, is at the top of the conference in offensive rebounds, total rebounds and steals and second in field goals made, assists and points allowed. Additionally, the Tigers are ranked 14th nationally in rebounds per game with an average of 43.2. Freshman sensation Bella Alarie leads the team in scoring and blocks and is second in assists. Alarie was the first player to score 25 or more points in one game for the Tigers since 1983. She has been named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week nine times and the conference Co-Player of the Week three times, in addition to being selected as first team All-Ivy and Rookie of the Year yesterday. Junior forward Leslie Robinson was also named second team All-Ivy after finishing the season second in the conference in field goal percentage with 49.8 percent and leading the Tigers in rebounds at a 7.5 clip and averages 10.2 points per game.
The Crimson finished third in Ivy League play for the 12th year in a row. Throughout the season, Harvard has established itself as one of the top three-point shooting teams in the league. The Crimson rank 72nd in the nation, averaging seven three-point field goals per game. Freshman star Katie Benzan, the sole freshman to receive first team All-Ivy honors, leads the team with 77 three-pointers this year and a 0.395 percentage from beyond the three-point line. In doing so, she became the first freshman since 2002 to earn a spot on the All-Ivy first team in her rookie campaign. During the regular season, Benzan led the team in scoring with an average of 13.6 points per game and led the league with 4.1 assists per game. Benzan is also 64 for 68 from the free throw line, making her one of the best free throw shooters in the nation. Crimson senior forward and co-captain Destiny Nunley earned an All-Ivy honorable mention, as she averaged 1.7 blocks per game and ranks fourth in the Ancient Eight. With 145 blocks, Harvard is on the road to top its team record of 157 blocked shots in a season set by the 1988–89 Crimson team. Harvard currently outranks every other Ivy League school at 43rd in the NCAA RPI rankings, though Princeton is narrowly favored to win Saturday’s game, according to the Yale Undergraduate Sports Analytics Group.
Although the Bears were predicted to finish seventh in the conference in the 2016–17 Ivy League Preseason Media Poll, the Bears outplayed expectations and ended their regular season in the fourth seed. The Bears enter the tournament with a 7–7 Ivy League record, a mark that belies the team’s performance: Brown’s losses to Penn, Princeton, Dartmouth and Harvard were all by margins of six points or fewer. Brown is the Ivy League’s top scoring team with 1,944 total points this season. For the first time in program history, Brown has four players who have scored over 300 points in a single season, all of whom are underclassmen: sophomore guards Shayna Mehta (405 points) and Taylor Will (345 points), freshman guard Justine Gaziano (356 points) and sophomore forward Erika Steeves (319 points). Mehta was the 2016 Ivy League Rookie of the Year and was voted Ivy League Player of the Week three times this season. She averaged 15 points per game, making her the fourth leading scorer in the Ancient Eight, where she also ranks second in steals with an average of 1.9 per game. Gaziano is the second most prolific scorer in the Ivy League, averaging 17.0 points per game, and is ranked second in the conference in field goals made per game with 5.9. Mehta and Gaziano both earned second team All-Ivy honors.