MEN’S BASKETBALL: What to expect around the Ivy League in 2019–20
Harvard, Penn, Yale, Princeton top 2019-20 preseason media poll
The 2018–19 Ivy League basketball season saw Harvard and Yale share the conference’s regular season crowd, and a winner-take-all bout between the two in the Ivy Madness championship sent the Bulldogs dancing.
The two rivals ultimately established themselves as superiors in the Ancient Eight, but the conference also displayed its relative parity last winter. Teams who found themselves at the bottom of the heap in March continually threatened Ivy opponents throughout the season. Dartmouth, who finished in eighth, took down the Crimson by nearly 20 to start its conference slate in mid-January. Columbia, who finished in seventh, beat Yale in New Haven and battled Harvard in a dramatic triple-overtime loss. Three teams finished 7–7.
Collectively, the Ivy League opened last year’s season with impressive performances throughout the nonconference slate. Yale beat Miami, Princeton took down Arizona State and Penn defeated crosstown rival Villanova. The league as a whole ascended to its highest-ever standing in rating percentage index (RPI) — a 10th-place ranking among the 32 Division I men’s basketball conferences — and opens 2019–20 with the same 10th-place standing.
Here is what to know about Yale’s seven Ivy League opponents, listed according to results from the Ivy League’s 2019–20 preseason media poll, which was released last Tuesday. The poll picked the Bulldogs to finish third.
(1) Harvard: 19–12 overall, 10–4 Ivy in 2018–19
Harvard has dominated league headlines heading into the season, receiving mention as a potential AP Top 25 team and returning a wealth of veteran talent that is arguably deserving of all the buzz. The Crimson return their top nine scorers from last season, including senior guard and unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection Bryce Aiken, who dropped 38 points for his side in the Ivy Madness championship and also nailed a midrange buzzer beater for two of 28 points in a dramatic regular-season win at the Bulldogs. Aiken is set to reunite on the hardwood with classmate and 2018 Ivy League Player of the Year Seth Towns, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. 2019 Rookie of the Year Noah Kirkwood headlines the program’s other returning contributors, who also include senior forwards Chris Lewis and Robert Baker, senior guards Justin Bassey and Christian Juzang and junior forward Danilo Djuricic. Head coach Tommy Amaker also welcomes five first-year contributors in what 247Sports considers the league’s top 2019 recruiting class.
(2) Penn: 19–12, 7–7
Senior forward AJ Brodeur, another unanimous selection to last year’s first-team All-Ivy team, leads a Penn squad that returns three of last season’s five starters: Brodeur, senior guard Devon Goodman and sophomore guard Bryce Washington. Plus, senior guard Ryan Betley, a second-team All-Ivy selection in 2018 who missed last season with a ruptured patellar tendon, is back in the mix for the Quakers. Junior forward Jarrod Simmons and sophomore forward Michael Wang, who spent part of the summer playing for the U19 Chinese national team, both appear poised to fill the frontcourt vacancy left by 2019 graduate and consistent starter Max Rothschild.
(4) Princeton: 16–12, 8–6
After former senior guard Devin Cannady withdrew from the program and took a leave of absence from Princeton in the middle of last season, the Tigers increased their reliance on underclassmen, drawing on their youth to secure a three-seed in last season’s Ivy Madness. Leadership from former senior guard Myles Stephens has also moved on, but the Tigers return almost two-thirds of their offensive production from last year, a younger core that includes sophomore guard Jaelin Llewellyn, junior forward Jerome Desrosiers and junior guard Ryan Schwieger. Senior center and New Jersey native Richmond Aririguzoh anchors Princeton underneath the rim after leading the team in blocks and rebounds last season.
(5) Brown: 20–12, 7–7
The Bears entered the final weekend of Ivy play last March with a shot at the program’s first-ever Ivy Madness bid, but the Quakers defeated them by seven in the final game of the regular season to secure the four-seed. The conference later honored then-senior guard Obi Okolie and current junior forward Tamenang Choh with second team All-Ivy honors, and while Defensive Player of the Year Okolie has graduated, Choh will lead the way for Brown this season. The 6-foot-5-inch junior led the league with 8.7 rebounds per game, but he’ll need help on offense from forward Josh Howard and guard Brandon Anderson, both seniors. Guard Desmond Cambridge — who started all 30 games and led the Bears in scoring with 15.7 points a game last year as a sophomore — transferred to Nevada at the end of the season.
(6) Columbia: 10–18, 5–9
Senior guard Mike Smith, a second-team All-Ivy selection in 2017–18, is set to return for the Lions after tearing his meniscus last December, but his junior counterpart Gabe Stefanini replaces him on the injured reserve for now. NCAA basketball editor Riccardo De Angelis reported on Twitter earlier this month that Stefanini would undergo surgery for a broken foot suffered in practice. Columbia Athletics confirmed with Ivy Hoops Online that Stefanini would be out indefinitely and underwent surgery on Oct. 4, but there is no timetable for his return. Stefanini led Columbia in scoring after Smith’s season-ending injury, while senior forward Patrick Tapé will likely remain a force in the frontcourt. Tapé earned recognition as an All-Ivy Honorable Mention last spring.
(7) Cornell: 15–16, 7–7
Guard Matt Morgan, Cornell’s perennial offensive threat, graduated last spring and will start his postgraduate career in the G-League after signing an NBA deal with the Toronto Raptors. Morgan ended his collegiate career with 2,333 points, the second-most in Ivy League history and the most in Big Red program history. Cornell also graduated forward Steven Julian, who started all 31 games alongside Morgan and led the team with 6.4 rebounds per game. Despite its losses, Cornell retains the duo of senior forward Josh Warren and junior forward Jimmy Boeheim, the son of longtime Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. Both finished last year with scoring averages that ranked second and third behind Morgan.
(7) Dartmouth: 11–19, 2–12
Junior forward Chris Knight established himself as the crux of Dartmouth’s play last season, leading the team with 461 points, 203 rebounds, 37 blocks and 192 field goals made en route to a second-team All-Ivy selection. He will again highlight the Big Green rotation this winter. Guard Brendan Barry created spacing beyond the arc with strong shooting last year, but Ivy Hoops Online reported last month that the sharpshooting senior — who led the nation in three-point percentage for much of last season and also paced the conference with 35.5 minutes a game — will sit out this season due to injury. Dartmouth opens its schedule Friday, Nov. 8, with a big test at Buffalo in what will likely figure as its biggest nonconference game of the season.
William McCormack | firstname.lastname@example.org