As Penn men's basketball gets set to begin its Ivy League title defense, the rest of the conference will be preparing to take down the Quakers. The Ancient Eight saw a record number of underclassmen win end-of-the-year awards, so teams will be looking to build on last year's momentum. With most of the teams tipping off this week, here's a brief outlook on each of their upcoming seasons.
Harvard — 2017-2018 Record: (18-14, 12-2 Ivy)
Biggest loss: None
Player to watch: Bryce Aiken
On paper, Harvard has the best roster in the Ivy League, which is why it was picked to repeat as Ivy champs in the preseason poll. Not only do the Crimson return every key player from last year's co-championship team — they also get dynamic guard Bryce Aiken, the 2016-2017 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, back from an injury that sidelined him for much of last year. Reigning Ivy Player of the Year Seth Towns established himself as one of the premier scoring threats last season and helped to anchor the best defense in the Ivy League. Big man Chris Lewis was an absolute nightmare down low, especially against Penn, which he gashed for 25 points in one of the Quakers’ two Ivy losses. Guards Corey Johnson and Justin Bassey will likely round out the starting five; both played above-average and were serviceable change-of-pace options. And that doesn’t even include another stellar freshman class that coach Tommy Amaker brought in. This is a deep and dangerous squad, and as long as the Crimson can stay healthy, they will only get better.
Yale — 2017-2018 Record: (16-15, 9-5 Ivy)
Biggest loss: Noah Yates
Player to watch: Miye Oni
Yale was a step down from Penn and Harvard last year, but still finished comfortably in the top half of the standings. With all five starters returning, the Bulldogs figure to be right in the mix this year as well. The team is undoubtedly led by Oni, a unanimous first team All-Ivy selection last season, who had one of the most well-rounded years of any player in the league. He posted a stat line of 15.2 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game, and 3.7 assists per game, and was only one of two players to finish in the top 10 in the Ancient Eight in all three stats. Like Harvard, the Bulldogs get a big piece back from injury in Jordan Bruner. The junior forward is a force in the paint on defense, as he finished second in the league with 55 blocks his freshman year. The Elis have both the offensive firepower and overall experience to remain one of the best teams in the conference.
Cornell — 2017-2018 Record: (12-16, 6-8)
Biggest loss: Stone Gettings
Player to watch: Matt Morgan
Cornell made a surprising jump last season, securing the fourth spot in the Ivy tournament. But don’t expect the Big Red to make it back — a huge reason for their success, forward Stone Gettings, transferred to Arizona following the end of the season. That means it is up to senior Matt Morgan, the Ivy League’s best pure scorer, to shoulder the load on offense. Morgan, a unanimous first team All-Ivy selection, ran away with the Ivy scoring title last year, averaging 22.4 ppg. But besides him and Gettings, who averaged 16.6 ppg, no other player averaged more than 7.1 ppg. And without additional scoring help, Cornell’s porous defense, which gave up a league-worst 80.0 ppg, will make it difficult for the Big Red to hang with the top teams in the conference.
Columbia — 2017-2018 Record: (8-19, 5-9)
Biggest loss: Lukas Meisner
Player to watch: Mike Smith
The core of Lions’ fifth-place team is back from last year, but a few key pieces are missing. Columbia posted the league’s second-best offense last season, and much of that production came from now-junior guard Mike Smith. Smith led the conference with 4.6 apg, and finished second with 17.6 ppg. The other major scoring threat returning for Columbia is senior guard Quinton Adlesh, who shot a league-leading .442 percent from beyond the arc. But the Lions were struck a big blow over the summer, when senior forward Lukas Meisner, the league's top rebounder, chose to forgo his last year of eligibility and signed with a German basketball team. With him gone, Columbia probably won't crack the top half of the league.
Princeton — 2017-2018 Record: (13-16, 5-9)
Biggest loss: Amir Bell
Player to watch: Jaelin Llewellyn
What can Princeton do to bounce back from last year’s disappointment? After looking like one of the best teams in the league in non-conference play and a solid start in Ivy play, the Tigers lost seven straight league contests and fell out of contention for the postseason. The two main pieces coming back for them are seniors guards Devin Cannady and Myles Stephens. Cannady and Stephens, who were both named second team All-Ivy, averaged 16.7 and 15.3 ppg, respectively, and are both threats to score from anywhere on the floor. Princeton did lose the conference’s best defensive guard, Amir Bell, to graduation. In his place the Tigers now have freshman Jaelin Llewellyn, a four-star recruit who figures to play a big role both as a scorer and a facilitator from the start of the season. With the pieces they have, the Tigers have a very good chance to make last season an outlier and return to the top echelon of the league.
Brown — 2017-2018 Record: (11-16, 4-10)
Biggest loss: Jason Massey
Player to watch: Desmond Cambridge
Brown had a prolific scoring offense last season, and the major pieces are back this year. The guard duo of Desmond Cambridge and Brandon Anderson is perhaps the best one-two scoring punch in the league, with both players averaging 17.3 ppg last year. Cambridge, the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year, burst onto the scene as an all-around offensive threat and finished sixth in the league with 27 blocks. The problem is the Bears’ defense is just as bad as their offense is good. They gave up 79.0 ppg, second worst in the league, and allowed a league-worst .476 field goal percentage. If the team can figure out how to stop teams from scoring at will, it has a chance to sneak into the top four.
Dartmouth — 2017-2018 Record: (7-20, 3-11)
Biggest loss: Miles Wright
Player to watch: Guilien Smith
Dartmouth hasn’t finished above .500 in Ivy play in 19 seasons, and it doesn’t look like that trend will end this year. It is the only Ivy school to graduate its two leading scorers in Miles Wright and Taylor Johnson; no other Ivy even graduated its top scorer. And that doesn’t bode well for the league’s worst offense, which averaged a measly 68.2 points per game. It’s not like the Big Green have an elite defense to cover for it, as they posted a -4.8 average scoring margin, again the worst in the league. The most interesting story line on the team is the return of Guilien Smith, who missed all but three games last season with an injury. In his sophomore season, he finished with 12.0 ppg, second-best on the team.
For more about the upcoming season, check out the project page for the 2018-2019 Penn basketball preview.
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