After a year-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ivy League basketball is back this fall, and the Quakers look to make their first trip to March Madness since 2018. Here’s how the Ancient Eight teams stack up heading into the 2021-2022 season.
1. Yale (2019-20: 23-7, 11-3 Ivy)
The preseason favorites and 2020 de facto Ivy League champion Bulldogs head into 2021 with one of the most star-studded lineups in the Ancient Eight.
Though former forward Paul Atkinson transferred to Notre Dame for his final year of eligibility, senior guard Azar Swain is returning, having set a single-season program record in 2019-20 with 93 three-pointers made on his way to earning All-Ivy first team recognition.
Coach James Jones was also able to retain senior guard Jalen Gabbidon. The Harrisburg, Pa. native tied for fourth in the Ivy League with 40 steals and was one of only two Bulldogs to start all 30 games last season. It’s safe to say that the Elis have a target on their back this season, as other teams will be eager to knock them off the podium.
2. Penn (2019-20: 16-11, 8-6 Ivy)
Entering his sixth season as the head coach for the Red and Blue, coach Steve Donahue is faced with the daunting task of replacing the program’s all-time leading scorer in AJ Brodeur. However, the extended time off may have been a blessing in disguise for the Quakers.
Penn returns five seniors and four juniors, including one transfer, and the Red and Blue will also hope to see big minutes from Jelani Williams, Michael Wang, Jonah Charles, and Bryce Washington, who have all missed significant time during their collegiate careers.
Ivy League Rookie of the Year Jordan Dingle returns at point guard, but the biggest question for the Quakers will be in the post, where Max Lorca-Lloyd figures to slot in. Still, with a bevy of weapons and a seasoned head coach, the Quakers will be a tough match for their opponents.
3. Princeton (2019-2020: 14-13, 9-5 Ivy)
The Tigers, who lost their first five games of 2019 before starting 4-0 in conference play, figure to compete for a March Madness bid with a large cohort of returning upperclassmen.
Heading the pack is senior guard Jaelin Llewellyn — an All-Ivy second team performer in 2019-20 and the Black and Orange’s points leader the last time Ivy League basketball was in action. Llewellyn struggled in his efficiency last season, but still found ways to create his own shot, and he regularly presents a matchup problem for opponents.
The Tigers return five of 10 players who averaged more than 10 minutes per game in 2019-20, and with a weak non-conference schedule to start the year, the Tigers figure to come into conference play rolling.
4. Harvard (2019-2020: 21-8, 10-4 Ivy)
Perennial contenders in the modern era, the Crimson will sport new faces this season; the only holdover from 2019-20 is senior guard Noah Kirkwood, who was an All-Ivy first team selection that season. Still, Harvard has played well with new faces before, most notably in 2019-20, when star senior guard Bryce Aiken played just seven games.
Coach Tommy Amaker will hope to get junior forward Chris Ledlum and senior forward Mason Forbes involved early and often with an underclassmen-heavy roster. Both Ledlum and Forbes, along with Kirkwood, were the only current Harvard players to see action in 2019-20. Senior guard Spencer Freedman could be another name to watch.
The Crimson are a bit lower on this list given their lack of experienced talent, but with Amaker at the helm, it’s tough to discount Harvard, who have won the Ivy League seven of the last 10 seasons.
5. Brown (2019-2020: 15-12, 8-6 Ivy)
A school with a lack of success on the basketball court, Brown posted its first winning record in conference play since 2007-08 the last time Ivy League basketball was on display. The Bears leading offensive scorer and second-highest Ivy League scorer in 2019-20 Brandon Anderson graduated, but Brown returns graduate student forward Tamenang Choh, who nearly averaged a double-double in 2019-20.
The highest-impact player for the Bears is senior forward Jaylan Gainey, who was the 2020 Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year and led the Ancient Eight in blocks per game. Gainey will be the focal point of the Bears' defense - an eraser at the rim thanks to his 6-foot-9 frame and leaping ability - but the Greensboro, N.C. native has been battling a hamstring injury throughout the preseason.
Paxson Wojcik, a junior guard transfer from Loyola Chicago, figures to factor in as well. The Charleston, S.C. native led all scorers in Brown’s preseason scrimmage this past weekend.
6. Dartmouth (2019-2020: 12-17, 5-9 Ivy)
After a horrendous 0-6 start to Ivy League play in 2019-20, the Big Green quietly notched a 5-4 record the rest of the way thanks in large part to the dominant play of big man Chris Knight. With Knight now playing as a graduate student at Loyola Chicago, coach David McLaughlin will need to find a game-changing player if the Big Green want to improve on their previous season’s success.
Among players to watch for Dartmouth include senior guard Taurus Samuels, who was second in minutes played in 2019-20, and graduate student Aaryn Rai, who received the team’s most improved player award in 2020 after starting all 29 contests and leading the team in rebounding with 6.4 boards per game.
7. Cornell (2019-2020: 7-20, 4-10 Ivy)
The Big Red still just can’t seem to find solid footing after the departure of coach Steve Donahue at the conclusion of the 2009-10 season. The team has failed to post a winning record since its Cinderella Sweet 16 appearance that year.
This season looks to be much of the same for Cornell, as the team returns just four players who have collegiate playing experience. Coach Brian Earl will be tough pressed to find success for Cornell this season, which includes some tough non-conference matchups at Virginia Tech and at Syracuse.
8. Columbia (2019-2020: 6-24, 1-13 Ivy)
The 2019-20 season proved to be the worst campaign of coach Jim Engles’s career. After thrashing Cornell in its season opener, Columbia proceeded to drop 13 straight conference matchups, including a heartbreaking double-overtime loss to Harvard.
With a number of close losses the last time out, some might say Columbia is due for a rebound, but the Lions will be hard pressed to replicate the scoring of guard Mike Smith, the League’s points leader in 2019-20.
The only starter returning is senior forward Ike Nweke, who was second in the conference in offensive rebounds per game the last time the Ivy League played. On the bright side, Columbia welcomes the return of senior guard Maka Ellis, who missed most of 2019-20 with injury but played over 20 minutes per game when healthy.