(Compare to our preseason preview here)
Notable Storylines from the season:
1. I’m Writing an Ivy Tournament Preview! – Back for the first time! The Ivy presents its inaugural conference tournament from the Palestra, featuring the top four teams from the regular season. It’s a decent compromise between no postseason and a diluted tournament that may disadvantage the regular season champ. Oh, but speaking of that – undefeated Princeton has to play a road game on Penn’s home court. It will be an amazing atmosphere, but that’s not much of a reward for thoroughly dominating the league for two months.
2. Princeton Power – The Tigers rolled to a 14-0 undefeated league record, despite losing starters Hans Brace and Henry Caruso to season-ending injuries during the non-conference schedule. Steven Cook and Spencer Weisz stepped up huge in their absence, both being named unanimous first-team all-conference players (I chose Cook as my POY, the league chose Weisz). Devin Cannady is the X-factor that makes this team step up a notch, though – he’s a lights-out shooter, and when he’s hot, Princeton can play with almost anyone.
3. Yale Battles Despite No Mason – Harvard’s freshmen were supposed to be all the rage (and make no mistake, they were excellent), but Yale’s rookie crop was nearly as impressive as they helped fill in for injured star Makai Mason. Miye Oni looks like a four-year Ivy star, and Jordan Bruner was superb after missing the first four games due to injury. Oh, and a fun note – the Bulldogs had the first punch-line (but certainly not the last) in the season-long joke of Lorenzo Romar “coaching” Markelle Fultz and Washington, winning in Seattle on the season’s first Sunday night.
Pretty simple – 1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3, three games in two days from the Palestra.
Best Team(s) and Projected NCAA Tournament Seed(s):
Princeton is the best team and the most likely to win a game in the NCAAs. They missed a bunch of tough chances at big wins in the non-conference, but it’s pretty clear they’re dangerous – they played BYU, VCU, Cal, and Monmouth pretty well. Mitch Henderson’s crew relies heavily on the three-ball, ranking 4th in the country in percentage of points scored from beyond the arc. If they’re hot and they get an opponent that doesn’t run them off the line well enough, they’re fully capable of beating a 4-seed in the opening round (I have the Tigs at a 13 in my latest bracket). Defensively, Myles Stephens is a monster, and he’ll guard the opponent’s best scorer almost regardless of position. Unsurprisingly for an Ivy school, they’re disciplined and play smart basketball, so opponents who play sloppy at times (Florida State? UCLA?) might find some problems here.
Not many teams to pick from when it’s a four-team tournament. “Dark horse” isn’t the right term, but I want to talk about Harvard, so here I go. The Crimson played five freshmen consistently from Tommy Amaker’s nationally-ranked recruiting class, and my two favorites from Youtube scouring, Seth Towns and Bryce Aiken, really broke out. Harvard’s depth and talent makes them incredibly dangerous, especially with fifth-year senior Siyani Chambers running the show, but their youth also makes it possible they’ll lay a stinker in a big moment.
(1) Princeton defeats (4) Penn
(2) Harvard defeats (3) Yale
(1) Princeton defeats (2) Harvard
The Tigers are able to win the first ever Ivy tournament and enter the NCAAs as a 13. They make it back-to-back years in which the Ivy representative wins a first-round game, riding a barrage of threes to a fantastic upset. They fall short of reaching the Sweet 16, though.