Photo By Kylie Cooper
Sophomore guard Jordan Dingle attempts a day during the game against Lafayette on Nov. 16.
It’s basketball season, folks. With over a month of Ivy League action underway after a year-and-a-half hiatus, here’s a look at how Penn stacks up against its Ancient Eight rivals so far this season.
1) Princeton (5-2)
Boasting some impressive wins against talented competition, the Tigers top my Ivy League power rankings with five wins and just two losses so far. Princeton has notable wins over the SEC’s South Carolina and Pac-12’s Oregon State, with senior guard Ethan Wright pacing the Tigers with a team-high 15.3 points per game.
Princeton’s two losses include a double-overtime loss to Minnesota and a double-digit loss to Monmouth. The Tigers' loss against the Hawks was notable as Princeton led Monmouth coming out of halftime, before collapsing in the second half. The Tigers have one of the easier non-conference Ivy League schedules, but the team has nonetheless impressed so far, and that earns Princeton a No. 1 ranking in this week’s power rankings.
2) Harvard (5-2)
With senior guard Noah Kirkwood as the Crimson’s only returning player with significant college minutes, some might have written off Harvard in the preseason as a contender for the Ivy crown. Through one month of action, though, the Crimson look like one of the best teams in the Ivy League, with wins over quality opponents and two close losses.
Kirkwood (17.1 points per game) and junior forward Chris Ledlum (17.4 points per game) have provided Harvard with a two-way offensive attack, propelling them to wins over Colgate and Northeastern. Despite being underdogs against Northeastern, the Crimson dominated the Huskies in a 20-point victory.
Harvard only has two close losses this season, although the more concerning loss was to Siena College, seeing as Yale beat the Saints 82-54. Still, the Crimson look tough to beat based on the team's non-conference performance.
3) Yale (4-4)
As the preseason favorites to win the Ivy League title this season, the Bulldogs have been mediocre thus far in 2021, with a .500 record in non-conference play. Yale has lost three close contests, but the team did defeat Siena by a wide margin, despite the Saints toppling Harvard. Senior guard Azar Swain has been a key contributor for the Bulldogs as expected, contributing 18.4 points per game.
Still, Yale’s losses to Vermont, Southern Utah, and Stony Brook leave the Bulldogs at No. 3 in this week’s rankings. The Bulldogs have clearly struggled with consistency, and it’s something that the team will need to improve upon if the team hopes to repeat as Ivy League champions.
4) Cornell (6-1)
The Big Red have surprised many around the Ivy League with a 6-1 start, with the team’s one loss coming at the hands of Penn State. Junior forward Jordan Jones has led Cornell in points per game with 13.6 so far, and he poured in a 20-point season-opening performance in the team’s win over Binghamton. Cornell also topped Canisius College by double digits, despite entering the matchup as underdogs.
The big question for Cornell will be whether the team can keep up its momentum heading into Ivy League play. The Big Red haven’t posted a winning record since the 2009-10 season, when the team was still coached by current Penn coach Steve Donahue. Still, the hot start is encouraging, and it is enough to put them in the top half of the Ivy League.
5) Penn (3-6)
Though the Quakers are only the second team in the Ivy League with a losing record, the Red and Blue have faced one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in the Ivy League while playing more games than all but Brown. The Quakers have played two ranked opponents thus far — FSU and Arkansas — in addition to other challenging non-conference games, such as their game against Davidson in the Myrtle Beach Invitational.
The Quakers have strung together some quality wins against Bucknell, Lafayette, and Old Dominion thanks to some strong play by 2019-2020 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Jordan Dingle, but the Quakers’ league-high six losses are enough to put them in the middle of the pack. A strong Big 5 slate would go a long way in improving the Red and Blue’s ranking.
6) Dartmouth (3-1)
Playing the least amount of games thus far, the Big Green dropped its season opener against Boston College by double digits before winning its next three contests. Dartmouth was able to defeat both Bryant and Georgetown despite being underdogs heading into each matchup. Graduate student guard Brendan Barry has been a leader for Dartmouth, averaging a team-high 14.8 points per game.
With so few games so far, some might wonder whether Dartmouth’s winning is sustainable, and with good cause: The Big Green haven’t posted a winning record since the 1998-99 season. Much like the Big Red, all eyes will be on whether the Big Green can sustain its winning streak and put an end to years of finishing at the bottom of the Ancient Eight standings.
7) Brown (5-4)
Besides Penn, the Bears are the only Ivy League team to face a ranked opponent this season. Brown fell to No. 19 UNC 94-87 in a close and relentless contest — certainly an impressive feat — but the Bears' losses since then are enough to place them far down the Ivy League rankings.
Brown has three double-digit scorers this season as the Bears try to replace scoring juggernaut Brandon Anderson. This season, Brown has lost to Creighton, Colorado, and Bryant in addition to UNC. Still, they do have impressive wins over Central Connecticut and Quinnipiac, and the Bears could prove to be dangerous come conference play.
8) Columbia (2-5)
After finishing a league-worst 1-13 in conference play in the 2019-20 season, things aren’t looking much better for the Lions after a long break from basketball. Columbia’s only win against Division I competition was against Binghamton, which the Lions were able to claw away in the final minutes. After Columbia dropped its first two games, the Lions won three straight games before losing another three straight.
Ivy League play tends to be competitive regardless of the teams involved, but Columbia is lagging behind the rest of its Ancient Eight counterparts based on non-conference play so far.