Once through Ivy League play, the Penn has posted a promising 5-2 conference record. But with a majority of their remaining games on the road, and Princeton and Harvard following in close pursuit for a top-four spot in the conference standings, their bid to the Ivy League tournament in March isn't guaranteed yet. Here is The Daily Pennsylvanian's ranking of the Ivy League field with seven games left to play this season.
1. Columbia (17-3, 6-1 Ivy)
The question on everyone’s mind right now: How do you stop Columbia?
The Lions are averaging 81 points per game against Ivy League opponents — including three games where they scored more than 90 points. A majority of their points come from their top four scorers who all average double digits, including junior guard Abbey Hsu, who contributes 17 points per game.
But there are also finer parts of their offensive game which make them such a nuisance to defend. The Lions score 19 points per game from turnovers and they share the ball well, generating ball movement and plenty of scoring opportunities, which explains why they average an astounding 20 assists per game. On top of all that, they get to the line and make their free throws.
In their sole loss of the season against Penn, they only attempted three free throws — so maybe the answer is to keep them from getting to the line. But Columbia still has other weapons in its offensive arsenal to make up for it the next time.
2. Princeton (14-5, 5-2)
Princeton continues its legacy as a perennial powerhouse in the Ivy League. After starting off a disappointing 0-2, the Tigers bounced back with a five-game conference win streak — great momentum to have going into the tail end of their season.
Their last match was a 49-point win against Yale, the type of game that reminded the league why they were Ivy champs last season. The team averages 37.7 rebounds per game, and against Yale, they had 18 points following offensive rebounds. Their offense fights for every second chance, the type of gritty basketball play that keeps them in the game no matter the scenario. The same aggressiveness applies on defense, being the one team to keep Columbia under 60 points this year.
The Tigers' main concern is their lack of consistent three-point shooting. The top three scorers on their roster combine for a mere 34% from long range. Although they make up for it with prolific scoring within the paint, the lack of a successful three-point shot could come back to bite them, especially if defenses pressure them to attempt from far out.
3. Harvard (12-7, 5-2)
After a commanding win against Penn, Harvard may have proved it has the offensive power needed for a shot at the Ivy League Tournament come March. The Crimson have four players averaging double digits. Their plentiful scoring options stretch defenses thin, making the team dangerous to opponents.
What also makes them dangerous is their ability to capitalize off opponents’ mistakes. They're scoring 18.4 points off turnovers and average nine steals per game. A consistent free throw percentage of 75% serves as yet another reliable source of scoring for them.
With a defense that has held every team except for Columbia under 60 points, Harvard looks poised to be a genuine contender for the Ivy title.
4. Penn (13-7, 5-2)
The Quakers were firing on all cylinders to start Ivy League play, starting out 4-0. The duo of senior guard Kayla Padilla and junior forward Jordan Obi has been formidable in conference play. Senior guard Mandy McGurk has also been huge offensively, notching two games where she was just shy of 30 points. With key players stepping up, like junior forward Floor Toonders and her interior presence that takes pressure off Obi on the defensive end, Penn's play has only gotten better.
But a recent loss against Harvard will serve as a reminder why Penn’s spot in the Ivy League tournament is not locked up.
Most notably, Penn will play five of its remaining seven games on the road. Both of the team's losses, marked by overwhelming offensive performances by its opponents sealing the nail in the coffin, have been away from the Palestra. Furthermore, both losses proved that if the Quakers' Big Three of Padilla, Obi, and McGurk is even the slightest bit off in their game, there is not a bona fide answer about who will fill that offensive gap.
But if the Red and Blue can adjust early in road environments and their top scorers continue to generate, a spot in the Ivy League Tournament is theirs.
5. Yale (10-10, 4-3)
The Bulldogs had a berth in the Ivy League Tournament last year, but without offensive spark this season, they may miss out on what would be their fifth consecutive trip to the postseason.
The huge difference maker is the loss of senior forward Camilla Emsbo, the team's leading scorer and rebounder last season with 14.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Emsbo was sidelined in October after a season-ending injury. Without her on the court, Yale has had a hole in its offense. The Bulldogs' leading scorer this year is junior guard Jenna Clark, who is putting up only 11.7 points per game, and the team as a whole is averaging only 60.6 against its opponents’ 65.7 points per game. This type of offense is why Yale only put up 30 points against Princeton — who they let score 79.
The main thing setting Yale apart from the bottom three teams is its wins. The Bulldogs had a statement 71-70 victory over Harvard, when four players scored in the double digits. If they can find an offensive rhythm, they may sneak into that coveted fourth spot.
6. Cornell (9-11, 2-5)
Just like Ithaca, Cornell’s offense has been cold all season. Something that jumps out right away is the Big Red's three-point percentage, averaging at 24%. In the modern world of basketball, not having a reliable three-point offense almost always spells out doom. Their leading scorer of the season is senior guard Ania McNicholas with only 11.1 points per game. Despite burying the brunt of their scoring, she has only scored double digits in two of seven Ivy games — one of which was against Dartmouth, their sole victory.
However, even in the Big Red's losses, glimpses of a fighting chance have shined through. For example, Penn and Cornell’s game could have gone completely the other way had it not been a poor showing in the third quarter where Cornell got outscored 21-10. Similarly, Cornell has gotten outscored in the third quarter against both Yale and Harvard as well — the team's other two biggest chances of winning. If Cornell finds a way to play four quarters of basketball, they could quietly climb the rankings.
7. Brown (8-11, 1-6)
Brown scores 64.1 points per game, which is an offensive total that is comparable with some of the top performers in the Ivy League. The team's star player, junior guard Kyla Jones, averages 17.4 points per game and the Bears' other top two scorers average more than 10 points per game.
However, there are two main problems keeping them out of the win column: a terrible three-point shooting offense and defense to match it.
Regarding the former, their top three scorers have a three-point percentage average of 26.3%, essentially making their offense one dimensional and easy to defend. Speaking of defense, Brown is lacking in it. The team has given up an average of 74 points per game through the first half of Ivy League play. They even gave up a whopping 94 points to Columbia. What’s even worse is the lack consistency in Brown's starting lineup, with no player having started all 19 games so far.
8. Dartmouth (2-19, 0-7)
At the bottom … Dartmouth.
Without a win after half a season of Ancient Eight play, Dartmouth looks poised to go back-to-back as last place finishers in the Ivy League. The Big Green have given up an average of 68 points per game in their first half of Ivy League play. However, they had flashes of looking like a competitive basketball team, particularly in their matchups against Ivy league powerhouses Penn and Princeton where they went a combined 20-43 from beyond the arc. But with a lackluster defense that cannot turn turnovers into points, allowing a 16-point scoring margin on average, Dartmouth has yet to get one in the win column.