Ivy League men’s basketball Media Day roundup

Two days after the Media Day for Ivy women’s hoops, the men had their turn at the virtual podium.  A day prior, the results of the preseason poll were released.  While five different teams earned top votes, the overall totals showed no changes from the last day of competition in 2020.

Yale, two-time defending Ivy champion, was again picked to come in first with 115 points and seven first-place votes.  Harvard, the 2019 co-champion, was close behind, tallying 110 points and four first-place votes.  Princeton, the 2017 title winner, closed out the top tier with 108 points and two first-place votes.

Penn, the 2018 co-champion, secured the last slot in the upper division with 93 points and two first-place selections.  Brown, which last held the title in 1986, again found itself behind the Quakers for fifth place with 79 points and a pair of title votes.

Dartmouth, which last entered the winner’s circle in 1959, was tabbed in the six slot with 43 points, four points more than Cornell, which last held the top spot in the Sweet Sixteen season of 2010.  Columbia, the 1968 champion, was projected to finish last with 25 points.

Yale lost two first team All-Ivy players from the 2020 championship squad, Paul Atkinson (co-Player of the Year) and Jordan Bruner to grad transfer years at Notre Dame and Alabama, respectively, but still has the remainder of its league-leading quartet, senior guards Azar Swain (first team) and Jalen Gabbidon (co-Defensive Player of the Year).  Joining Swain (16 points and four rebounds per game, 93 made threes, 38.8% from three-point range) and Gabbidon (5.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, 40 steals) in the team’s leadership will be junior guard Matthue Cotton (30 games played, 19.3 minutes and 7.6 points per game). As coach James Jones looks for his sixth league title and 21st straight upper division finish, he will not only need to rebuild the frontcourt but find someone to take over the point from Eric Monroe.  While the Bulldogs have always lived by the “next man up” principle, the coach is not ready to say who those players will be.  After the last few practices, though, he sees a path for his team to be successful and is confident there will be two or three players making the leap this year.

Harvard’s vaunted class of 2020 has moved on, but the Crimson still have a loaded roster and welcome one of the league’s brightest new stars.  Tommy Amaker, starting his 15th season in Cambridge, will put a lot of the responsibility on versatile first team All-Ivy guard Noah Kirkwood.  Kirkwood, a 2020 POY candidate, may have to play multiple positions, but he’ll have plenty of assistance down low with a trio of experienced forwards, Chris Ledlum (16 minutes, 7.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game), Mason Forbes (10.1 minutes, 3.6 points and 2.1 rebounds per game) and Kale Catchings.  On the perimeter, senior Spencer Freedman, a highly touted recruit with an injury-filled career, and a pair of juniors, Idan Tretout and Luka Sakota, will compete with two first-years showing early promise, Tyler Simon and Denham Wojcik. Speaking of first-years, the Crimson expect big things from Louis Lesmond, a 6’6″ first-year from France named the league’s preseason Rookie of the Year by Blue Ribbon.

Princeton will be without first team All-Ivy center Richmond Aririguzoh and Ryan Schwiegert, who is a grad transfer at Loyola Chicago, but the Tigers return the most experienced roster in the league. The Tigers will be led by a starting five of second team All-Ivy senior guard Jaelin Llewellyn (33.4 minutes, 15.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists per game), senior forward Drew Friberg (13 games, 25.9 minutes, 8.3 points, 3.6 rebounds per game), senior guard Ethan Wright (17 games, 24.3 minutes, 7.2 points, 3.8 rebounds per contest), junior guard Ryan Langborg (nine games, 16.3 minutes, 4.4 points, 1.8 rebounds per game) and junior forward Tosan Evbuomwan (19 games, 14.3 minutes, 3.9 points, 1.8 rebounds per game). Coach Mitch Henderson has eight new players on the roster but expects sophomores Matt Allocco, a 6’4″ guard from Ohio, and Zach Martini, a 6’7″ forward from New Jersey, to help the team out this year.  Despite all the experience, the coach feels the key to this season is how well his leaders maintain a sense of togetherness on the large 19-man roster.

Penn may have lost several All-Ivy players from the 2020 team, including AJ Brodeur, the 2020 co-Player of the Year and one of the program’s all-time greats, but the remaining core still has a lot of depth and experience.  Joining 2020 Rookie of the Year Jordan Dingle and fellow starter Max Martz, will be a pair of big men, 6’10” senior Michael Wang, a strong three-point shooter who missed his sophomore year recovering from microfracture knee surgery, and 6′ 9″ junior Max Lorca-Lloyd.  The Quakers will also add two new players to the mix, Michael Moshkovitz, a junior college transfer from Israel, and sophomore point guard Clark Slajchert.  Perhaps the biggest addition to coach Steve Donahue’s lineup is Jelani Williams, the fifth-year senior captain, who will be making his debut in 2021 after multiple ACL injuries.  The Quakers arguably have the league’s toughest nonconference schedule, including Florida State, Arkansas and the annual Big 5 matchup against Villanova, to get ready for the conference schedule in January.

Brown’s Mike Martin feels this is the most talented and deep roster he’s had in his 10 years in charge.  Despite not being picked for the Ivy League Tournament, the coach believes this team can definitely compete for a title and has created an aggressive schedule, including visits to UNC and Maryland, to get ready for league play.  Bruno will be led in the frontcourt by its two All-Ivy forwards, Tamenang Choh (second team; 13.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game) and Jaylan Gainey (co-defensive POY; 5.1 rebounds per game, 54 blocks).  Choh, a 2021 graduate, looked to take his talents to a high major, but a one-time change to the league rules and a chance to hang a banner in the Pizzitola Sports Center kept him in Providence for a postgraduate year.  Gainey missed the team’s Brown-White scrimmage with a hamstring injury, but he has returned to practice and expects to be at full strength for the season.  In the backcourt, which graduated the prolific Brandon Anderson and Zach Hunsaker, Martin will look for returning veterans Dan Friday and Perry Cowan, as well as talented transfers Paxson Wojcik (Loyola Chicago; brother of Harvard’s Denham Wojcik) and Noah Meren (Skidmore), to lead the way.

Dartmouth lost three recent graduates, with second team All-Ivy Chris Knight heading to Loyola Chicago, but returned its own grad transfer, shooting guard Brendan Barry.  Barry, who missed the 2019-20 season to injury and played at Temple in the winter of 2021, was one of the nation’s best three-point shooters the last time he played for the Big Green.  The Dartmouth alum will be joined in the starting lineup by senior forward Aaryn Rai (29 starts, 11.2 points per game) and senior guard Taurus Samuels (28 starts, 8.4 points per game).  Reviewing his 20-person roster, coach Dave McLaughlin sees significant depth in his backcourt, with most being able to play multiple positions, and a frontcourt by committee that will utilize the skills of juniors Dame Adelekun, Cam Krystkowiak and Nate Ogbu, as well as 6’10” first-year Nikola Dmitrijevic.

Four of Cornell’s 2021 graduates moved through the transfer portal, with the highlight being Jimmy Boeheim’s move up I-81 to join his father and brother at Syracuse.  Having a roster with 10 first and second-year rookies, the Big Red have senior forwards Kobe Dickson (24 games played, five starts, 4.3 points, 3.1 rebounds per game) and Jordan Jones (14 games played, six starts, 7.3 points, 3.1 rebounds per game) to provide experience. With three-point shooting a concern from two years ago, coach Brian Earl hopes to find some breakout from the large group of newcomers to add to their veteran backcourt mates, Dean Noll (32.8% three-point field-goal percentage) and Greg Dolan (45.5% three-point field-goal percentage).

Columbia lost four starters to graduation, including second team All-Ivy Mike Smith, who ended up running the point for 2021 Big Ten champion Michigan. Coach Jim Engles will rely on senior forward Ike Nweke (23 starts, 9.6 points, 5.3 rebounds per game) and graduate guard Luke Bolster to provide a winning attitude to a roster with eight newcomers. After losing a number of close contests over the last few seasons, the Lions will aim to use that positive mindset and the return of senior guard Maka Ellis, who missed the 2020 conference season to an injury, to get on the right side of those decisions.