Four 2014-15 preseason predictions for Ivy basketball

Predictions are a fool’s game … so let’s play!

HARVARD WILL LOSE AT LEAST THREE IVY GAMES

We all know this conference is loaded this season. Columbia, Yale, Brown and Dartmouth return nearly everyone. Even Cornell will be more dangerous with Shonn Miller back, so the Big Red will be poised for an upset or two. So what does that mean for prohibitive conference favorite Harvard?

Tough sledding, obviously, enough for Harvard to drop three conference games this season. Of course, all the Ivies will have to endure that tough sledding, meaning 11 league wins will be enough for Harvard to win a fourth straight conference championship, the same magic number that allowed Harvard into the 2013 Big Dance.

Think about it: Harvard survived a lot of close conference games a year ago. The Crimson almost surrendered late fourth-quarter leads in two of their first four Ivy matchups before Yale bullied them into submission at Lavietes on Feb. 8. Then it took Harvard two overtimes and a highly questionable charge call against Columbia to squeak by the Lions at Levien six nights later. Only then did Harvard seem to wake up, winning its final seven Ivy matchups by an average of 18.6 points per game.

You can expect the Crimson to be similarly challenged early in their conference schedule, especially since they play five of their first Ieague games on the road. And their competition is much more experienced across the board than it was a year ago. It takes great shooting to win close games down the stretch, and Harvard is noticeably short on dependable outside shooters.

Don’t be surprised if the Crimson don’t clinch until the final weekend of the season.

JUSTIN SEARS WILL BE IVY PLAYER OF THE YEAR

That’s right, neither Siyani Chambers nor defending Player of the Year Wesley Saunders will be able to edge out Sears for POY honors. Last year, Sears became the first Yale sophomore to be named first-team All-Ivy since Chris Dudley in 1985, which gives me the perfect opportunity to link to Chris Dudley trying to do something resembling shooting a free throw.  Anyway, Sears is the real deal. He finished third in the Ivy in scoring, fourth in rebounding, sixth in field goal percentage, seventh in steals, second in blocks and first in offensive rebounding. He benefits from a solid veteran frontcourt around him of Matt Townsend, who takes smart shots, and team captain Greg Kelley, a reliable shooter who can stretch a defense.

But most importantly, Sears is complemented by a legitimate outside shooting threat who got hotter as last season progressed in Javier Duren, while Saunders and Chambers may suffer ever so slightly from the lack of proven outside shooting threats and guard depth for Harvard this year.

If that doesn’t convince you, just know that this is a guy who broke up a fight in Popeye’s just so he’d get some chicken. Never bet against a man who does that.

MIKE AUGER WILL BE IVY ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Penn’s Mike Auger will have every opportunity to turn heads early and often on a no-name roster. Seven of Penn’s top 10 scorers from a year ago are gone, so there’s plenty of opportunity for a newcomer like Auger to make an impact.

But Auger isn’t just any newcomer. The 6-7, 225 New Hampshire native is a physical forward with the body and attitude to clear a path for himself from game one. He’ll bring rebounding and tough driving in the paint at small forward, and his game will complement Darien Nelson-Henry’s post play well.

SPENCER WEISZ WILL MAKE FIRST-TEAM ALL-IVY

Weisz wasn’t the Ivy Rookie of the Year for nothing and only got better as last season progressed. As a freshman, his assist-to-turnover ratio was a very impressive 1.60, and he fits that Ian Hummer/Denton Koon mold of being able to do a little bit of everything.

The Tigers always seem to be the conference wild card every year, and if they’re going to make a run at Harvard this season, Weisz will have to play on a first-team All-Ivy level. He’s an outstanding defender and ball distributor, so he just may fit that first-team bill.

EXTRA SPECIAL BONUS PREDICTION

THERE WILL BE TWO IVY TEAMS IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT THIS YEAR. THAT’S RIGHT, #2BIDIVY WILL FINALLY COME TRUE!!!

Just kidding. Never gonna happen.

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