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Sophomore guard George Smith looks to dribble through defenders on the Blue team during the intra-squad Red and Blue Scrimmage at the Palestra on Oct. 29.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

After a long wait since Penn's conference tournament run last season, Ivy League basketball is on the cusp of returning. Several preseason polls have Penn in the top spot, but a slew of teams are aiming to claim that status. Here are our rankings for the upcoming season:

1. Penn (2021-22: 12-16, 9-5 Ivy)

Penn fell short of the conference title, placing third last season after a heartbreaking loss in the Ivy Tournament semifinal to Yale. This year, however, Penn received first-place designation in the Ivy preseason media poll, and for good reason.

Almost all of Penn's key contributors are returning, including junior guard Jordan Dingle. After an impressive 2021 campaign in which he averaged an Ivy-high 20.8 points per game, Dingle will once again be a crucial engine behind the Quakers’ offense. Additionally, Dingle has support in the form of last year’s standout, junior Clark Slajchert. The guard added 10.7 points per game and made some clutch baskets for Penn off the bench.

Defensively, Penn will rely on junior guard/forward Max Martz, who was an effective three-and-D wing averaging 10 points on 35% shooting with a total of 11 blocks and 13 steals. Senior forward Michael Moshkovitz, who tied to lead the team with 29 steals last season, will also be crucial in strengthening the team's defensive presence along with providing rebounding.

2. Princeton (2021-22: 21-7, 12-2)

The Tigers dominated the Ivy League last season with their trio of forward Tosan Evbuomwan and guards Jaelin Llewellyn and Ethan Wright. Combined, they averaged 46.4 points per game. Unfortunately for Princeton, it's lost both Llewellyn and Wright. 

This doesn’t mean the Tigers are out of contention, though. Senior guard Ryan Langborg will jump into an increased role from last year along with Evbuomwan. Langborg shot over 40% from downtown on high volume.

Princeton still holds depth that has allowed it to average nearly 80 points as a team last season. Efficient offense combined with above-average defense is the Tigers' formula, and they likely won’t deviate. The loss of two of their top three scorers from last year is concerning and could see them drop games they would have won last year, but at the moment, they are hunting Penn for the premier spot.

3. Yale (2021-22: 18-12, 11-3)

It would be unwise to count out the champion Bulldogs at the start of the season, but the team hasn’t shown signs of improvement since. Yale lost arguably the best scorer in the Ivy League, guard Azar Swain, who averaged over 19 points last year. Its number-two scorer, Jalen Gabbidon, who chipped in 11 a game, is also absent from the lineup. 

Last year, Yale's defense impressed throughout, allowing just 69 points per game. Forward Isaiah Kelly and guard Bez Mbeng will be keys to keeping that up this season, as the duo tallied a solid 26 blocks and 36 steals, respectively.

Scoring could be an issue for this Yale team as well. Look for junior forward Matt Knowling to step up as an offensive leader. Sharpshooter August Mahoney can help out from the perimeter, too.

4. Harvard (2021-22: 10-13, 5-9)

The Crimson landed tied for sixth after a disappointing season. Offensively, Harvard loses its top scorer in Noah Kirkwood, which is detrimental to a team that has already struggled scoring-wise. Senior guard Luka Sakota should fill some of that void with his solid three-point shooting, but it will be forward Chris Ledlum that could make the difference. Ledlum averaged 16.7 points in 13 games last year, along with 9.3 rebounds.

All in all, Harvard isn’t impressive in any one area. The Crimson’s best attribute last year was their defense, so if they can replicate that, they have a shot at being in the mix for the top four.

5. Brown (2021-22: 11-16, 5-9)

Brown was one of the teams last season whose standing in the Ivy League didn’t truly reflect its regular season. The Bears had a slightly better regular season than Penn, but were poor within division play. Losing last year’s leading scorer Tamenang Choh won’t help, but Brown can look forward to guard Kino Lilly Jr. stepping up, who had an impressive freshman year, averaging 13.3 points.

Brown's defense will be the main area of concern. Jaylan Gainey amassed 62 blocks last season and was the foundation of a solid Brown defense. Unfortunately for the Bears, he has since graduated, so the Bears will have to look elsewhere for a rim-protecting presence. 

6. Cornell (2021-22: 13-11, 7-7)

Cornell had a pretty strong season, sneaking into the top four of the Ivy League last year, but whether it’ll have the same success this season is up in the air. The Big Red's defense was their Achilles’ heel last season, allowing an average of over 74 points per game. 

On the offensive side of the ball, Cornell loses Dean Noll, one of its better scorers. In a deeper Ivy League, this team feels like the odd man out. Guard Chris Manon will likely be the player to watch, as he was last year’s second-best scorer.

7. Dartmouth (2021-22: 8-16, 6-8)

Dartmouth is another squad hurt by the loss of some top scorers. Aaryn Rai and Brendan Barry, who averaged nearly 27 points per game combined, are gone this season. Barry was an elite shooter at 41% on the year from distance. This will be a huge loss for a team that relied on the duo for much of its offense. 

Additionally, some of the Big Green's other starters, including Taurus Samuels and Garrison Wade, are not on the roster anymore. It’s hard to see Dartmouth making much noise without a clear number-one or even number-two option.

8. Columbia (2021-22: 3-22, 1-13)

Last season’s record is clear for why the Lions land at the bottom of these rankings. Columbia was abysmal in the Ivy League, notching just one win and 13 losses. The Lions lose their number-one scorer, so look for Geronimo Rubio De La Rosa to be the new offensive leader. Defensively, allowing nearly 79 points per game won’t cut it against the rest of the Ivy League. Unless it can gain significant offensive ground, Columbia will likely guard the bottom for the rest of the season.