After a year-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ivy League basketball is back this fall. Here’s how the Ancient Eight teams stack up heading into the 2021-22 season.
Princeton is the obvious pick based on the team's performance during the 2019-20 season. The Tigers are coming off of a season in which they had a 26-1 overall record and a 14-0 Ivy League record. In addition to their impressive record last season, they are riding a 22-game winning streak that they are hoping to extend even after a long hiatus. Additionally, the Tigers were picked as the favorite in the recent Ivy Preseason Media Poll.
Although they were ranked third in the Ivy Preseason Media Poll, Columbia moved up a spot in our rankings after Penn announced four-game suspensions for each of their junior and senior players. Regardless of the status of other Ancient Eight teams, Columbia is a squad to look out for this coming season. Despite the two-year gap in play, the Lions have retained a large amount of talent from their 2019-20 team, including over 80 percent of their scoring output and over 83 percent of their rebounding total.
Penn should be higher on this list, but due to the recent suspensions of their junior and senior players, the rhythm of the team might be thrown off balance going into Ivy play. Still, entering the season, the Red and Blue are coming off a 20-7 overall and 10-4 Ivy record in the 2019-20 season, good enough for a second-place finish in the conference. The year before, Penn finished with a 22-10 overall and 12-2 Ivy record to tie for first in the Ancient Eight. Additionally, despite the suspensions, the Quakers have some newcomers with great potential that will have a chance to debut in the first four games of the season.
Similar to Columbia, Harvard enters the 2020-21 season with the advantage of a solid returning crop of players. Of their top five leading scorers from the 2019-20 season, three are returning this go around. On top of their consistency on the court, Harvard is led by Kathy Delaney-Smith, who’s entering her 40th season as the team’s head coach. That factor, along with the meaningful group of returning players bumps Harvard up from their fifth-place ranking in the official Ivy League preseason poll.
Yale is definitely in a different place than the top four teams on this list. The Bulldogs are coming into this season with only one of their starters from their 2019-20 core group returning this season, and six players coming off the bench. This puts them at a disadvantage from teams with more high-scoring returning players. Still, they have reached 19 wins in two of their last three seasons, and it seems they might reach it again this year especially with eight new core players eager to do well.
Going into the upcoming season, the Big Red will need to significantly improve their game if they want to have any chance at an Ivy title. In the 2019-20 season, Cornell finished second-to-last in the conference with a measly 3-11 Ivy League record. Luckily, the team will have a decent amount of new blood coming onto the team, with eight players set to make their Big Red debuts. Of the six players returning to the team, only two averaged double-digit minutes during the 2019-20 season, so the influx of new players to the team may cause a lack of experience on the court.
In the past couple of seasons, Dartmouth has not been doing too hot. In the 2019-20 season, Dartmouth’s record was 10-17, and 4-10 in the Ivy League. The Big Green now have a chance to rebuild their team this season. They recently hired a new coach, Adrienne Shibles, who created a Division III powerhouse at Bowdoin College in Maine. She is starting fresh with all young players and two seniors who did not play last season due to the pandemic, so the potential to build a new culture and leadership is definitely there but it will take time.
At the bottom of the rankings is Brown, which sits in the last spot for good reason. During the 2019-20 season, the Bears went 2-12 in Ivy League matchups and finished the season on a four-game losing streak. Fortunately for the team, few players from that iteration of the Bears are returning, with only one senior currently on the roster. To fill that gap, 10 players will be making their collegiate debuts this season, four freshmen and six sophomores. Whether or not Brown succeeds will come down to how quickly these players can adapt to collegiate gameplay and whether or not they can match up with the other seven teams in the Ivy League.