Marty Leon is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot and Ivy Leagues.
Predicted Order of Finish:
- Cornell (20 – 9) (12-2)
- Penn (19-9) (10-4)
- Harvard (12-16) (8-6)
- Brown (13-15) (7-7)
- Yale (13-16) (7-7)
- Dartmouth (14-13) (6-8)
- Princeton (13-14) (4-10)
- Columbia (6-22) (2-12)
What You Need to Know (WYN2K). In the conference of the true student-athlete, Cornell looks to be the heavy favorite after a 14-0 league record last season. They posess a huge home court advantage, playing their games in snowy Ithaca and return the league’s player of the year in Louis Dale. Penn will be nipping at their heels trying to regain their championship form, while Harvard, with the best freshmen crop in the league, looks to be third best. Beyond that, a logjam ensues where anyone can beat anyone on a given night. Dartmouth has a possible player of the year in Alex Barnett and Zach Rosen out of Penn should be the best rookie.
Predicted Champion. Cornell (#15 NCAA) should come away with the title, as they have all the pieces to the puzzle. Besides Dale, Ryan Whitman is one of the country’s best 3-point shooters, and 7 footer Jeff Forte provides huge frontcourt presence. Cornell will be a #15 seed at best, as they were pounded by Stanford 77-53 in the NCAA tournament last year. Here’s a video of their clinching game against Harvard last year.
Others Considered. Penn could challenge Cornell as they provide three super sophomores. Tyler Bernardini returns after a rookie of the year season, while forward Jack Eggleston and point guard Harrison Gaines are back. Though very talented, this team will need to rely too much on youth to go the distance. Harvard falls in the same boat, as Coach Amaker has recruited the Ivy League version of the “fab five.” We can’t count out Yale and Brown who are also capable of beating these three teams.
- Penn @ Harvard (1/31/09)
- Cornell @ Penn (2/7/09)
- Penn @ Cornell (3/6/09)
- Penn @ UNC (11/15/08)
- Villanova @ Penn (12/2/08)
- Cornell @ Syracuse (12/3/08)
- Cornell @ Minnesota (12/6/08)
- Cornell @ St. Joseph’s (12/22/08)
- Harvard @ Boston College (1/7/09)
- Temple @ Penn (1/14/09)
1. Intensity – Every league game is crucial with no conference tourney to fall back on.
2. Scholarships – None given in this league. All need based financial aid. Coaches still successfully recruit nationwide.
3. Family Feud – Yale coach James Jones and Columbia coach Joe Jones are brothers.
4. Roots – Hall of Fame coaches Al McGuire of Marquette and Dave Gavitt of Providence began their coaching careers at Dartmouth.
5. Vermont Connection – Brown coach Jesse Agel and assistants TJ Sorrentine and Kyle Cieplicki were all part of the Vermont team that shocked Syracuse in the 2005 NCAA tournament.
65 Team Era. Since 1985, the Ivy has gone 3-24 (.111) in the NCAA Tournament, with all three of the wins coming within five seasons of each other (1994 – Penn; 1996 & 1998 – Princeton). The Ivy is now on an ten-year drought without a win in the NCAAs, and eight of those losses have been by double-digits. Ouch.
Final Thoughts. If you want to see the purest college basketball, the Ivy League is one of the few places left where true scholar-athletes are on the floor. On a rare occasion, the league winner makes a decent showing in the NCAA Tournament, but that won’t be the case this season. No team is athletic enough to compete with the big boys in March. The real story out of the Ivy this year is second year coach Tommy Amaker’s troubles at Harvard. After being vindicated of improper recruiting charges, the NY Times ran an article questioning Amaker’s coaching methods after he dismissed several players for no other reason than he passed over them. The question is, “Is Amaker trying to bring big-time coaching philosophies to a school where winning isn’t the number one priority?”