The Ivy League Women’s Basketball Preseason Media Poll was released Wednesday, revealing Princeton at the top slot for the eighth time since the poll began in 1999 and the seventh time in the past nine years.
The Tigers won the Ivy League regular season and tournament championships last season, and the poll indicates agreement that they’ll repeat. Of course, Penn topped the poll last season, and that projection didn’t come to fruition.
Penn’s second in this poll, just ahead of Harvard, which also placed third in the final standings last season.
At the bottom is Cornell, just below Columbia.
Then there’s Dartmouth, which narrowly missed out on an Ivy League Tournament berth in 2018, wedged in the No. 6 slot. The Big Green were Ivy tournament-caliber last season but were the odd team out.
But there’s a clear demarcation between the league’s upper and lower tiers, with a lot of daylight between Yale, which won the WBI a season ago, and Brown, whose bottom fell out after a 12-1 start en route to a disappointing 3-11 showing in conference play.
There was even wider margin between the upper and lower tiers in the men’s preseason poll released Tuesday. Such tidy groupings aren’t what the league would like to see from a preseason perspective. Races that are perceived at the outset to be wide open would be much better. But last year’s poll had the same demarcation, only with Yale and Brown flipped, and Dartmouth competed for a slot in the tournament until the next-to-last weekend of league play, while all four tourney seeds were undetermined until the final weekend.
So it’s going to be more interesting than the poll lets on, even if the tiers are likely to hold with maybe an exception each. And if they do, the tournament will again underscore the difference between the tiers, and as David Tannenwald noted on Twitter, that may in turn pressure teams in the lower tier to make changes to their programs. The tournament has all along been an embrace of upping the league’s profile through heightened (and prolonged) competition, so it makes sense that pressure to win would be one of its outcomes.
The Tigers went 24-6 (12-2 Ivy) last year, winning both the regular and postseason Ivy crowns. Their season ended with a first round NCAA Tournament loss to the University of Maryland. Princeton will return four of five starters, including Ivy Player of the Year Bella Alarie. The Quakers were 22-9 (11-3 Ivy) in 2017-2018 with runner up spots in the regular season and the Ivy Tournament. After receiving an automatic bid to the WNIT, they won their first round game against Albany, but lost a close second round contest at St. John’s. Penn welcomes back sophomore forward Eleah Parker, a second team All-Ivy and unanimous Rookie of the Year selection.
The Crimson went 18-11 (10-4 Ivy) a year ago, including a 12-0 home mark at the renovated Lavietes Pavilion. They earned an at-large bid to the WNIT, losing at Fordham in the first round. Harvard will have four of its five leading scorers back, led by unanimous first team All-Ivy guard Katie Benzan and second team All-Ivy forward Jeannie Boehm. On the strength of its WBI title, the first women’s post season title in Ivy history, the Bulldogs finished 19-13 (8-6 Ivy). Yale will return honorable mention All-Ivy guard Roxy Barahman and welcome first-year forward Camilla Emsbo, an ESPN HoopGurlz five-star top 50 recruit.
The Bears went 15-12 (3-11 Ivy), but started its season with a program best 12-1 record. The season took a turn for the worse after Taylor Will was injured and missed the second half of the year. Brown expects to have Will back for the start of the season, joining high scoring All-Ivy guards Shayna Mehta and Justine Gaziano. The Big Green, which was 15-12 (7-7 Ivy), will see the return of senior co-captains Cy Lippold and Isalys Quinones, a member of the Puerto Rico national team that recently competed in the FIBA World Cup. Columbia, which went 8-21 (2-12 Ivy), bring 11 first or second years, to this year’s 15 person roster. The young Lions will be led by two sophomores who started 20-plus games a year ago, guard Riley Casey and forward Madison Pack. The Big Red, 7-20 (3-11 Ivy) in 2017-2018 will be led by Samantha Widmann, who was fourth in the league in scoring, second in steals and eleventh in rebounding.
The predictions reflect the continued dominance of Princeton, Penn and Harvard, as each of these programs has finished in the Ancient Eight’s top three over the last six seasons, claimed both Ivy Tournament titles and won the regular season championship in 11 of the last 12 years. In that time, the Quakers have three regular season titles, an Ivy Tournament championship and two second place finishes. Over the last eight years, the Tigers have six regular season championships, one Ivy Madness title and two second place records. The Crimson, meanwhile, have twelve consecutive appearances in the top three with regular season championships in 2007 and 2008. Yale was the last team to knock one of the Triumvirate out of the top group with a third place finish in 2012 and Dartmouth was the last non-HPP title holder, winning its league-best 17th championship in 2009.
The teams will put all the predictions aside, when they start the season on Nov. 6th.
IVY LEAGUE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PRESEASON POLL
(first-place votes in parentheses)
1. Princeton (14) 133
2. Penn (2) 107
3. Harvard (1) 104
4. Yale 89
5. Brown 66
6. Dartmouth 55
7. Columbia 30
8. Cornell 28
Staff writer Rob Browne contributed to the of this article.