It’s still Princeton’s conference until another Ivy proves that it isn’t. Our contributors are united in believing that the Tigers will stay on top in 2022-23, with Megan Griffith’s ascendant Columbia program again placing second.
But there wasn’t consensus on how the rest of the top half of the league will fill out.
Penn could break back into the Ivy League Tournament after missing it for the first time last season, but we expect the Red & Blue to draw stiff competition from Harvard and Yale in their first years under new coaches.
Will #2bidivy happen in the league for only the second time in conference history? It very well could, and the bottom half of the conference is likely to be substantially stronger this season as Brown and Dartmouth return more experienced rosters under coaches that now have a year of Ivy play under their belts.
2021-22 season: 25-5, 14-0 Ivy
The Tigers lose 2021-22 Ivy Player of the Year Abby Meyers, and they’ll miss her pure scoring prowess, especially from three-point land. But Princeton’s firepower remains formidable enough to extend its 42-game conference winning streak for a good while.
Princeton is ranked No. 24 by the Associated Press for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons is senior guard Julia Cunningham coming off a season in which she posted double figures in 22 of the Tigers’ 26 games and made teams pay from not only beyond the arc but on the offensive glass, trailing only inside stalwart and junior forward Ellie Mitchell in offensive rebounding.
Defense matters most on coach Carla Berube’s watch, and Mitchell returns to anchor the frontcourt of what should be a characteristically stingy defense. Mitchell cleans the boards relentlessly, ending opponent possessions that end in frustrated, low-percentage shots.
That’s when opponents don’t turn the ball over first. Princeton returns three of the four players that finished in the league’s top 15 in steals in 2021-22 – Mitchell, Cunningham and senior guard Grace Stone. Stone showed what she could do offensively with a 13-point performance against Indiana in Princeton’s heartbreaking NCAA Tournament second-round defeat at Indiana. Stone picked up the scoring slack early in that game with Meyers and Kaitlyn Chen in foul trouble. Expect her to pick up that slack on a permanent basis with Meyers gone.
Chen, a junior guard, should was the 2022 Ivy League Tournament Most Outstanding Player and posted 17 points in Princeton’s NCAA Tournament first-round win over Kentucky. Chen had the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the team as a sophomore, and she’s got the offensive chops to keep that ratio high even if her usage increases in 2022-23.
But Chen’s usage may not have much of an uptick given the talent of the incoming first-year class.
Among first-years, guard Madison St. Rose could make an immediate impact in Princeton’s backcourt, with forwards Tabitha Amanze and Parker Hill poised to become parts of the frontcourt rotation.
Only six Tigers averaged 11 minutes or more per game last season. That number should grow given the strength of this first-year class, and Princeton should be stronger offensively this season because of it.
2021-22: 25-7, 12-2 Ivy
The Lions may not appear ready yet to topple the Tigers, but since they return all of their major contributors from last year’s team and are stellar enough on paper to make #2bidivy a real possibility.
The 2021-22 season was the best in program history, with Columbia advancing to the WNIT Elite Eight courtesy of its first postseason wins since it joined Division I in 1986.
Columbia returns the Ivy League’s most potent sharpshooter, junior guard Abbey Hsu, stat sheet-stuffing senior guard/forward Kaitlyn Davis and one of the league’s most efficient ball distributors in senior guard Carly Rivera, board-crashing, paint-driving sparkplug senior guard Jaida Patrick.
Oh, and there’s senior guard/forward and 2018-19 Ivy Rookie of the Year Sienna Durr, who scored in double figures nine times in 2021-22, and sophomore guard Kitty Henderson, who earned All-Met Basketball Women’s Division I Rookie of the Year honors with confident shooting and passing as a first-year.
If Columbia does earn an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, it’s likely that Patrick and Henderson picked up where they left off last season.
Henderson played all 40 minutes of the Ivy League Tournament final loss to Princeton, started throughout the WNIT run and led the team with 18 points and seven assists in the Elite Eight loss to Seton Hall. Patrick started Columbia’s last 12 games and contributed 13 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.7 steals in the final 16 games of the season. The eight-steal defensive clinic that Patrick put on in Columbia’s WNIT second-round win over Old Dominion suggests that the Light Blue could harass opposing offenses more in 2022-23 and cut down on what was the league’s second-worst turnover margin a season ago.
The Lions’ nonconference slate will determine how much NCAA Tournament at-large consideration they garner. That schedule features a home game against Vanderbilt, a rematch with Seton Hall in South Orange, a trip to No. 8 Iowa State and a Miami Thanksgiving Tournament appearance in Coral Gables that could yield a clash with the Hurricanes, who come off a 20-12 record in 2021-22 that included a 10-8 showing in ACC play. All those games come in November, so Columbia will have to gel early to have a successful out-of-conference showing. The Lions have more than enough experience and depth to make that happen.
2021-22: 12-14, 7-7 Ivy
Penn finished just one point ahead of Harvard and two ahead of Yale in our preseason poll, meaning it’s just one contender in a three-team cluster expected to vie for two available slots. That may be tough to swallow for Penn fans who recall that it was their program, not Princeton’s and certainly not then-lowly Columbia’s, that was the class of the league during a four-season run that yielded three Ivy titles for the Quakers from 2013-14 through 2016-17.
But the Red & Blue underwhelmed in 2021-22, their offense coming up short in one too many key Ivy matchups to qualify for the Ivy League Tournament. Now Penn has been pegged to finish fifth in league play in the Ivy Preseason Media Poll, a fate that it won’t escape if it can’t come up with an offensive attack that isn’t just the Kayla Padilla show.
Padilla led the Ivy in scoring, assist-to-turnover ratio and minutes as a junior guard last season, accounting for 22% of the team’s scoring herself.
Penn has a rich history of powerful paint patrollers under coach Mike McLaughlin, and junior forward Jordan Obi fits that bill. Obi finished fifth in the conference in blocks and third in defensive rebounds in her first year of action last season, also ranking third in the Ivy in minutes as Penn quickly learned to lean on her.
Now joining Obi in the frontcourt is junior forward transfer Floor Toonders, a Netherlands native who spent the last two seasons at Florida. Toonders started 10 games for the Gators last season, averaging three rebounds and 1.5 points in 12.9 minutes in 29 appearances. At 6-foot-4, Toonders should make a size a factor in Penn’s favor playing alongside Obi, who plays larger than her 6-foot-1 frame.
Whether Penn can secure an Ivy League Tournament berth may hinge on how much further development the team gets from senior guard Mandy McGurk, the team’s lead pickpocketer from a year ago while starting 17 of 22 games played. Penn will miss the graduated Mia Lakstigala and Kennedy Suttle, who started all 22 games for Penn in 2021-22, comprising nearly a quarter of the team’s scoring.
2021-22: 13-14, 7-7
Kathy Delaney-Smith didn’t leave the cupboard bare upon retiring after 40 years at Harvard’s helm. First-year coach Carrie Moore, a longtime former Princeton assistant coach under Berube’s predecessor Courtney Banghart, inherits many of the key contributors to what was the Ivy’s highest-scoring offense last season.
Chief among them is sophomore guard Harmoni Turner, who earned Ivy Rookie of the Year honors last year by showing she can do pretty much anything. Turner established herself as one of the Ivy’s most dynamic scorers (15.8 points per game, fourth leaguewide), defenders (2.5 steals per game, second leaguewide) and passers (2.6 points a contest, eighth leaguewide) as a rookie.
Turner was one of four Crimson players to hit 33% or more of their three-point shots with 10 or more three-pointers made a season ago. All four return.
The other three are senior guards McKenzie Forbes and Maggie McCarthy and junior guard Lola Mullaney, each of whom should be key cogs in a high-octane offensive machine this season.
Forbes scored in double figures in seven of the Crimson’s last eight games en route to their Ivy League Tournament berth, finishing in the league’s top 10 in scoring, assists, free-throw and three-point percentages and three-pointers made.
Mullaney is a sharpshooter extraordinaire. Even if her three-point percentage didn’t quite match McCarthy’s or Forbes’ a season ago, it was still ninth-best in the conference.
It was McCarthy who led the team in minutes in 2021-22, scoring efficiently and crashing the boards with great aplomb from the backcourt.
But the Crimson were just 7-7 in Ivy play because their defense held them back. Harvard ranked dead-last in the conference in points and field-goal percentage allowed, largely a product of undersized lineups. Harvard struggled to keep opponents off the offensive glass. The team did lead the Ivy in steals, reflecting an aggressive approach that partially made up for its lack of rim protection.
Sophomore guard Elena Rodriguez (who is listed at 6-foot-2) and first-year forwards Katie Krupa and Katie Lebuhn could mitigate Harvard’s size problem.
2021-22: 16-11, 9-5
The recent news that Camilla Emsbo will miss the 2022-23 season with a Yale career-ending injury is a huge blow. Emsbo averaged 13.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in 82 games for Yale, which under Allison Guth primarily relied on rugged defense to win Ivy games.
Now Guth has been succeeded by former Princeton assistant coach Dalila Eshe, under whom that defense-first focus should continue.
But with Emsbo no longer in the lineup, Yale could embrace a faster tempo on offense, something that junior guard and offensive conduit Jenna Clark can handle. Clark was named IHO’s Most Improved Player of the Year last season for making the leap from a barely used benchwarmer as a first-year to the Ivy’s assists leader and second-leading minutes logger (behind only Padilla) as a sophomore. Rejoining Clark in the backcourt will be the underrated junior guard Klara Astrom, a strong defender and shooter who will be especially key to any Ivy League Tournament run the Bulldogs make this season. Sophomore Christen McCann, like Astrom, will have to step up even more at both ends of the floor to propel Yale past Penn and Harvard in the race for an Ivy League Tournament berth, especially with no Emsbo to dominate in the post.
But the question will be who replaces Emsbo in the frontcourt.
Junior forward Haley Sabol and sophomore forward Grace Thybulle, who combined to play 11 minutes a game in zero starts last season, could be called on to help fill Emsbo’s shoes.
The battle between Yale and Harvard is likely to be as fascinating as it is tight. Emsbo missing the season has altered Yale’s roster to be more like Harvard’s – shooting-oriented and undersized among established major contributors – and led by former Princeton assistants in their first year at the helm.
2021-22: 6-20, 1-13 Ivy
Like the Crimson, the Bears will be looking to improve on defense this season.
Brown’s defense was second-worst in points allowed per game among Ivies in 2021-22, finishing just a tenth of a point ahead of Harvard. Defense has been the Bears’ bugaboo dating back to the Sarah Behn era, and shoring it up will be key.
But we’re a little higher on Brown than the Ivy Preseason Media Poll, which projected the Bears to finish last in the conference for a second time under second-year coach Monique LeBlanc. The Bears return their top six scorers from last season, a transitional one for the program in which an underclassman-driven team did its best to gel in a new regime.
Back is sophomore guard Isabella Mauricio, who finished fifth in scoring (at an unusually efficient shooting clip for a rookie) and third in three-pointers made in a standout first-year campaign. LeBlanc told Ivy Hoops Online Mauricio should be “seeing green” this season, meaning the green light is on for her to be aggressive.
LeBlanc also noted the importance of adding playmakers around Mauricio to relieve pressure on her.
One of those playmakers will be Kyla Jones, a junior guard who was the team’s second-leading scorer a year ago and finished the 2021-22 campaign on a tear, averaging 16.5 points, 3.5 assists and 3.3 steals per game over the final six games of the season. Watch for Jones to be one of the most exciting players in the Ivy League at both ends of the floor this season.
Junior forward and Uniontown, Pa. product Mya Murray, a 6-foot-2 rim protector, finished third leaguewide in blocks and fifth in defensive rebounds last season, and her continued development should pay dividends underneath.
Junior guard Charlotte Jewell led Brown in minutes in her 19 games, posting 7.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
Brown returns an unusually high level of talent for a team that went 1-13 in Ivy play a season ago. This team should pull off an upset or two against teams above it in the Ivy standings, even if the program doesn’t appear ready to be in that mix quite yet.
2021-22: 9-16, 4-10 Ivy
Conversely, Cornell loses most of its scoring from a season ago.
Longtime coach Dayna Smith made it clear in an interview with Ivy Hoops Online earlier this month that she’s keenly aware that her team needs to improve significantly upon its pedestrian offensive output from last season.
Smith noted that Cornell scrapped its offensive system midway through last season and is focusing on shooting in preparation of this season. Cornell loses Theresa Grace Mbanefo and Samantha Will, who accounted for over a third of the team’s scoring a season ago.
Cornell attempted an Ivy-low 412 three-pointers in 2021-22 – 128 fewer than the Ivy with the next-lowest number of attempts (Princeton). Smith told IHO that she preferred “the old school style” of basketball, and Cornell has very much been old-school under Smith when it comes to eschewing the three-pointer in favor of shots inside the arc. If Cornell can make strides toward shooting the ball better and more often from deep this season, that’ll be a substantial step forward for the Big Red’s program, which has lacked the offensive juice needed to complement defensive stoutness in recent seasons.
Although Mbanefo is gone, Cornell gets back the other three of its top four scorers from last season: senior guards Olivia Snyder (9.3 points, 7.3 rebounds per game), Ania McNicholas (8.5 points, 5.6 rebounds) and Shannon Mulroy (eight points, a team-leading 2.9 assists).
But Snyder’s status has been uncertain since she tore her ACL last season, and it’s unclear how soon and how much she’ll be able to contribute in 2022-23. Sophomore forward Summer Parker-Hall likely will play a greater role than last season, when she started nine times down the Ivy stretch.
The Big Red always play tough under Smith, but making the Ivy League Tournament with so many questions on the offense will be tough as well.
2021-22: 3-23, 2-12 Ivy
Like Cornell, Dartmouth has strides to make on the offensive end. The Big Green had the Ivy’s lowest-scoring offense in Adrienne Shibles’ first season in 2021-22, also finishing with the worst field-goal percentage and lowest number of assists.
Dartmouth returns its top four scorers from last season, welcome continuity that should help Shibles’ team achieve something she identified as a priority in an interview with Ivy Hoops Online – winning more nonconference games.
Returning are junior guards Mia Curtis (6.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in 2021-22) and Mekkena Boyd (six points, 3.5 rebounds), sophomore guard Victoria Page (5.1 points, 2.4 boards) and junior guard/forward Carrington Washburn (five points, 4.2 boards).
Dartmouth’s roster isn’t one likely to win track meets with a high number of possessions. The Big Green will benefit from ensemble, grind-it-out offensive performances while depending on defensive intensity to carry the day.
Five of Dartmouth’s first six games to open the nonconference slate are at home, giving the squad a good shot at building an expectation of winning heading into the Long Beach Classic the following month and Ivy play come New Year’s Day.