2017-18 Ivy women’s basketball preview – Part 1

This is part 1 of Ivy Hoops Online’s 2017-18 Ivy women’s basketball preview. Read part 2 here and part 3 here.

At the end of the 2016-17 season, the Ivy League ended up as the nation’s eighth-best conference, according to the RPI.  The Penn Quakers went 13-1 to take the regular season title by four games over Princeton.  The Tigers ended up one game ahead of third-place Harvard.  Brown defeated Cornell in Ithaca on the last night of the season to force a tie for fourth-place, and the Bears claimed the last spot in the inaugural Ivy Tournament on the strength of a season sweep of the Big Red.  In the semifinal round of Ivy Madness, Penn defeated Brown 71-60 and Princeton beat the Crimson 68-47.  The next afternoon, the Red & Blue completed a season sweep of the Tigers, 75-49, to earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Each of the four Ivy Tournament participants ended up with a postseason bid. In addition to Penn’s trip to the Big Dance, Princeton and Harvard secured spots in the NIT, while Brown was chosen to compete in the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI). The Quakers were on theirs way to beating fifth-seeded Texas A&M, but an epic fourth-quarter collapse spoiled what would have been the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament victory. Harvard defeated New Hampshire in the first round of the NIT before losing in the second round to St. John’s.  Princeton was beaten by Villanova in its first-round matchup.  In the WBI, Brown won its first-round game against UMBC and lost a close quarterfinal contest against UNC-Greensboro.

There are many questions for the conference heading into the 2017-18 season:

  • Will Penn be able to rebound from its devastating loss to Texas A&M, as well as the graduation of former Player of the Year Sydney Stipanovich, to three-peat?
  • Can the Quakers’  Michelle Nwokedi be able to repeat as the POY?
  • Will Princeton’s Bella Alarie use her experience as a starter for the USA’s Under-19 World Cup team to challenge for the POY and lead the Tigers back to the top of the conference?
  • Can Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith keep Harvard in the league’s top three for a 15th straight season?
  • With all five starters back, will Brown challenge the conference’s big three and make it to a more prestigious postseason tournament?
  • Can Yale build on last year’s late-season momentum to earn a spot in the Ivy Tournament?
  • After losing all five starters, will Cornell be reloading or rebuilding?
  • Will Columbia’s Camille Zimmerman, the nation’s tenth highest scorer in ‘16-’17, be able to repeat last season’s success while helping her team build on its 10-3 nonconference record.
  • Can coach Belle Koclanes get Dartmouth to rebound from last season’s three league wins and return to the Big Green’s .500 conference record of ‘15-’16?
  • Will the Ancient Eight have a second straight season with three first-years on the first and second All-Ivy teams?
  • Can the conference see the return of #2BidIvy following the second Ivy Tournament this March?

In last week’s preseason media poll, Penn (129 points), Princeton (120) and Harvard (98) were chosen first, second and third, respectively, for the second straight year.  The gap between Penn and Princeton narrowed (nine points in ‘17-’18 vs 26 in ‘16-’17), while the Tigers have gained some distance from the Crimson (22 points in ‘17-’18 vs six points in ‘16-’17).  Harvard had a 28-point advantage over fourth-place Cornell in ‘16-’17, but only an 11-point advantage over this year’s fourth-place team, Brown (87).  In the lower division, Yale (64) was securely chosen for fifth place, while the Big Red (48) and Columbia (42) were closely matched for the sixth and seventh spots.  The Big Green (24) was slotted for eighth place, one year after being chosen for fifth.

Check back over the next week, as IHO previews each of the Ancient Eight teams as they head into the 2017-18 campaign.

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