There’s only one league in the nation in which every team goes into the season knowing, just knowing, that it has a shot to win the title. That league, of course, is the Ivy League. Especially in the last few years, parity has never been more evident. Although league records ranged from 11-3 to 3-11, the cellar dwellers could upset the leaders on any given night. Cornell and Dartmouth (3-11 alike) both defeated eventual winner Princeton. And yet, in spite of parity, only two teams have won the championship the past 13 years: Princeton and Penn. The last non-P school to win it — Cornell, 1988. And 1954 before that. And 1924 before that. Do you see a pattern?
1. Brown Bears
Last year: 15-12, 9-5 Ivy
After recording its first winning season in over 15 years, Brown returns all five of its starters and looks to capitalize on last season’s momentum. Junior guard Earl Hunt and senior guard Omari Hare lead the backcourt and will be the mentors for freshman Jason Forte, brother of UNC star, Joseph Forte.
Brown’s frontcourt is one of the deeper ones in the league as nine players will look to make contributions. Junior Alai Nuualiitia leads the way as he was second in the league in rebounding and first on the team in field goal percentage.
Gameplan: Allow Forte to develop while Hunt and Ware run the show from the backcourt.
2. Princeton Tigers
Last year: 16-11, 11-3
Preview: They’ve made the backdoor famous, they’ve made the Ivy League respectable, and they’ve won eight of the past 13 league championships. Without a doubt, the Tigers own the Ivies, and make a strong case, once again, to repeat. In spite of losing star Nate Wilson, a unanimous All-Ivy selection who led his team in points, rebounds and assists, Princeton has recruited two 6-10 centers to take his place. The team also returns guards Ahmed El-Nokali and Mike Bechtold, who combined for over 16 points per game.
Gameplan: Princeton’s offense has always been a quick-paced, pass-oriented affair, but having freshmen at center will force its shooters to step up.
3. Columbia Lions
Last year: 12-15, 7-7
The Lions, like Brown, have much to look forward to. The team returns all five starters from a team which defeated and lost to every other Ivy exactly once. Columbia sports a solid middle headed by senior forward Chris Austin, an honorable mention All-American. At center, junior Chris Wiedemann, last season’s blocking king, returns. Backing him up will be league behemoth David Bizga, who stands a mighty 7-0. The freshman class will give the Lions a potent outside game to match the inside one. Jeff Kirkeby shot an unreal 52 percent from behind the arc in high school.
Gameplan: Stay healthy and establish an inside presence before letting the freshman shooters do their thing.
4. Cornell Big Red
Last year: 7-20, 3-11
Preview: See pgs. 14-16
5. Penn Quakers
Last season: 12-17, 9-5
The Quakers. If they can’t play basketball, they sure have come up with the best set of names in the league. On the front line are Koko Archibong, Ogonna Onyekwe, and Adam “The Chubster” Chubb. Behind them you’ll find Charlie “Robo” Copp. The only thing is, they can play basketball. Onyekwe led the team in rebounds while adding 14 points per game, earning All-Ivy League honors for the second year in a row. Penn looks to a large freshman class to bolster a backcourt which failed them last season. Tim Begley, its sharpest recruit will look to get playing time early on.
Gameplan: Get the ball into Onyekwe’s hands.
6. Harvard Crimson
Last season: 14-12, 7-7
You’d have to admit that the Crimson played gutsy basketball last season. It ended Penn’s 25-game conference win streak, it fell to archrival Yale in overtime, came two seconds from beating Princeton, and downed the Red in one of the highest scoring games of the season. Four starters return from that squad, including 6-11 junior center Brian Sigafoos, who shot 63 percent from the field. Joining him on the frontlines will be junior Sam Winter and Navy transfer, Onnie Mayshak. Harvard’s backcourt is one of the best in the league with Patrick Harvey, Elliot Prasse-Freeman and Andrew Gellert.
Gameplan: Defensive pressure, defensive pressure, defensive pressure. And top it all off with some defensive pressure.
7. Yale Bulldogs
Last year: 10-17, 7-7
After an impressive, and sometimes surprising, season, Yale looks to retool its front lines. Forwards Neil Yanke and Tom Kritzer both graduated and leave a number of juniors, led by T.J. Machugh, in their wake. Jerry Gauriloff, a 6-9 freshman looks to have an impact right away. The strength of the team lies in the backcourt where juniors Chris Leanza and Ime Archibong return for another campaign. Leanza led the team in assists, scoring, and 3-pointers.
Gameplan: Forwards step back and let the guards run the show.
8. Dartmouth Big Green
Last year: 8-19, 3-11
Dartmouth, like Cornell has been banished to the cellar of the Ivies for the past few years. To the Big Green’s credit, it played many games close and even beat Cornell in both its meetings last season. But excuses aside, Dartmouth simply did not produce, and will have an even tougher time this time around with the loss of four seniors. But a new season reigns, and with it, new names. Senior point guard Flinder Boyd is the assist-master on a team that averaged 14.4 assists per game. Senior Vedad Osmanovic will take over for Bush while two 6-11 underclassmen, David Gardner and Scott Klingbeil, look to take over for McGinnis.
Gameplan: Learn names and look forward to next season.
Archived article by Sumeet Sarin