After a historic 2015-16 season that saw the Princeton women’s basketball team become the first Ivy League team to secure at at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, the team graduated four of its top rebounders, as well as 71 percent of its offense. Despite those huge losses, the Tigers were still projected for second place in the preseason Ivy media poll. With four new starters, including a first-year and a sophomore, as well as a schedule that had the squad facing 10 2017 postseason participants, the Orange and Black ended the year second in the conference’s regular season, runner-up in the Ivy Tournament and selected to the NIT Tournament. With another challenging schedule on tap for 2017-18, Princeton aims to improve upon its various records (16-14 overall, 9-5 Ivy, 6-7 nonconference and 5-10 vs postseason teams) to secure a return ticket to March Madness.
After loses to Harvard and Princeton, the Yale women’s basketball team found itself at 2-7 in league play, one game ahead of last place. With upcoming games against undefeated Penn and third-place Harvard, it would have been easy to give up and play out the season.
But the Elis won four of their last five games, including back-to-back victories over the Quakers and Crimson, to end up one game out of the Ivy Tournament. The Bulldogs will look to build on this late-season success to move into the conference’s upper division for 2017-18.
Former Columbia star and Princeton assistant coach Megan Griffith was hired in March 2016 to rebuild the Lions women’s basketball program. In her first season, the team opened up the season with a school record winning percentage in nonconference play (10-3, .769) and a program first-ever victory over a Big East opponent (66-64 in overtime over Providence). Ivy League play, though, was not as kind to the Lions, as they ended up losing eight of their last nine and finished tied for seventh place with a 3-11 conference record. As the new season approaches, Griffith has unveiled an ambitious schedule that seeks to toughen the team for league action.
After then-sophomore guard Jackson Donahue hit his first shot of the game with 6.3 seconds left in Penn’s regular season finale against Harvard, the Quakers earned the hard-fought 75-72 victory, completed an improbable comeback in league play and secured the final spot in the inaugural Ivy Tournament.
One week later, Penn, playing on its home court as the No. 4 seed, held a two-point lead over top-rated Princeton with 12 seconds left. Unfortunately for the Quakers, then-senior Matt Howard missed the front end of a one-and-one and the Tigers tied the game with 5.3 seconds left, sending the contest into overtime. Princeton dominated the extra period, ending Penn’s up-and-down, yet ultimately successful 2016-17 season.
Prior to the 2016-17 season, the Brown women’s basketball team was picked seventh in the Ivy League media poll. Despite three league wins in 2015-16 and a youthful roster that did not have any seniors, the Bears ended up with a 17-13 record (7-7 Ivy), a fourth-place tie in the conference, a slot in the inaugural Ivy Tournament, and a first-ever postseason victory with a win over UMBC in the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) Tournament. With the loss of only one player, Brown will look to establish itself as a first-division team, challenge the Big Three for conference dominance, and achieve greater post-season success.
Following an early conference win against Harvard and a late February victory over Penn, the Columbia men’s basketball team was poised to secure the last spot in the inaugural Ivy Tournament. After two road losses to Brown and Yale on the season’s final weekend, the Lions missed the tournament, ending up in fifth place with a 5-9 conference record (11-16 overall). In Jim Engles’ second season in charge, he will focus on the positives from last season and his first recruiting class to reach this year’s postseason tournament.
Heading into the 2016-17 season, many experts predicted that the Princeton Tigers would win the Ivy League title due to its senior leadership. It was hard to bet against a team that would be starting Spencer Weisz, Steven Cook, Hans Brase, and Henry Caruso. When Brase and Caruso went down with season-ending injuries early in 2016, there was cause for concern. A slow start from starting guard Amir Bell only added to the growing worries for the Tigers. However, the arrival of Devin Cannady and Myles Stephens into the starting lineup righted the ship and had the Tigers in great position heading into the Ivy schedule. With first-team All-Ivy performances from Weisz (Ivy League Player of the Year), Cook (IHO Player of the Year), and Stephens (Ivy and IHO Defensive Player of the Year), along with strong performances from Cannady (Ivy and IHO Honorable Mention) and Bell, Princeton ran through the league with a 14-0 record, winning the regular season title by four games over Harvard.
Harvard women’s basketball tries to keep upper division streak alive
The Harvard women’s basketball team released its 2017-18 schedule and hopes to build on its post-season Ivy Tournament appearance and first-round WNIT victory in 2016-17. This will be the 36th season for legendary head coach Kathy Delaney-Smith, who is the only coach to ever guide a No. 16 seed in a victory over a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Smith’s teams have been in the Ivy upper division for 32 of her 35 seasons at Harvard, while placing in the top three each of the last 14 years. With the continuation of the postseason Ivy Tournament, the odds look strong for the Crimson to return to the Palestra in early March.
Dartmouth women’s basketball looks to rebound in 2017-18
In 2013-14, coach Belle Koclanes started her career at Dartmouth with two conference wins and a 5-23 overall record. By the end of the 2015-16 season, the Big Green had increased their total wins to 12 and Ivy victories to seven. With a fourth-place finish, its best since 2009, the team looked to continue its upward trend and secure a spot in the first-ever four-team Ivy Tournament by the end of 2017. Despite being picked fifth in the preseason Ivy media poll and expecting to challenge Cornell for the last spot in the post-season event, Dartmouth took a step backwards with a 3-11 (8-19 overall) last-place record in conference play.
What happened last year (22-7, 12-2): With Yale’s performance declining mid-slate and Jack Montague’s departure via expulsion, Princeton looked to be closing in on at least forcing an Ivy playoff game, and during Yale’s overtime win over Dartmouth, it looked like Princeton would clinch outright. But then it was the Tigers who stumbled, thanks to Patrick Steeves’ career game on the final Friday night of conference play. Then came an 86-81 NIT loss at Virginia Tech.
What’s new: Not much, and that’s just the way Tigers fans want it. Hans Brase returns after having a torn ACL last year, bringing with him a strong rebounding presence (particularly on the defensive end), an ability to get to the foul line, and a knack for stretching a defense with three-point shooting. All other major contributors from last season return.