2023-24 Ivy men’s media day recap and season preview

With the season a few weeks away, the Ivy League hosted its Men’s Basketball Media Day on Thursday. the second of two hoops-themed media availabilities. The event was hosted over Zoom for media members and is available on the conference’s YouTube channel.

The preseason media poll was released on Tuesday with Yale, last year’s regular season co-champions, securing the top spot. Princeton, which used its Ivy League Tournament title victory as a springboard to a Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament run, was picked second.

The Bulldogs received 14 of 16 first-place votes, while the Tigers earned the other two top votes.

Cornell, which was tied for fourth and earned the last slot in Ivy Madness a year ago, was chosen for third place. That is the best showing for the Big Red since the 2010-11 season, the year after the program made its own Sweet 16 appearance.

Rounding out the top half of the division was Brown. While the Bears have been picked for fifth place in six of Mike Martin’s 11 years at the helm, this is the first time the Bears have been picked as high as fourth.

Penn, which expected to be in the hunt for the top perch when last season ended, find themselves in the fifth due to the loss of All-Ivy seniors Jordan Dingle (transfer to St. John’s) and Max Martz (medical retirement). Harvard was slated for sixth place, only two points away from the Quakers. 

Dartmouth and Columbia were picked a distant seventh and eighth, respectively.

#1 Yale (124 votes, 14 first-place)
2022-2023: 21-9 overall, 10-4 Ivy; Tied for 1st; Ivy Tournament finalist; First Round NIT Tournament

Top Returning Players: Matt Knowling – Senior forward (1st Team All-Ivy; 13.6 ppg, 62.5% FG, 4.8 rpg, 27.3 mpg), Bez Mbeng – Junior guard (Honorable Mention All-Ivy, Defensive Player of the Year; 10.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.4 spg, 28.6 mpg), John Poulakidas – Junior guard (12.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 29.2 mpg)
Key Losses: EJ Jarvis (2nd Team All-Ivy; 11.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 22.3 mpg), Isaiah Kelly (6.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 18.8 mpg)

It’s easy to see why the Bulldogs were picked as the clear favorite heading into the 2022-23 season. The Elis led the conference in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, as well as defensive rebounding rate, and return four of its top five players from last year. Included in that group is Knowling, who shot 63% from the field, and Mahoney, who led the Ancient Eight in three-point (47%) and free-throw (93%) shooting. While Jarvis was the team’s third-leading scorer and top rebounder a year ago, the Bulldogs have a large number of strong frontcourt replacements.

Sophomore Danny Wolf (7′) took Team Israel to the finals of the FIBS Under-20 European Championship this summer, leading the tournament in rebounding and coming in second in scoring. Sophomore Nick Townsend (6’7″), whose brother Matt was a member of Yale’s 2015 Ivy championship team and a Rhodes Scholar, led the Bulldogs in scoring for the first two games of the team’s summer trip to Greece and averaged 16.7 points per game. Coach James Jones also feels Yussif Basa-Ama (6’8″), who shot 63% from the field in 12 games last year, and first-year Samson Aletan (6’10”) will also be in the mix. In the backcourt, Mahoney and Poulakidas totaled 124 three-pointers last year, while Mbeng led the team in assists and steals. If they need additional help at the guard spot, Yassine Gharram, who averaged 15.7 minutes over 30 games last year, can help out, as can Townsend. With one of Jones’ most talented, experienced, deep and talented teams, Yale stands a strong chance at claiming its fourth Ivy title in the last five years and a return to the NCAA Tournament after missing it in 2023.

“All we want to do is go out and be the best team we possibly can be. It’s nice that people think that our team is good enough to win a championship, but we have to go out and prove it. Those things (being picked first) don’t mean anything for the most part. We have to get out on the court and that’s where we’re going to figure out who the best team is.” – James Jones

#2 Princeton (110 votes, 2 first-place)
2022-2023: 23-9 overall, 10-4 Ivy; Tied for 1st; Ivy Tournament Champs; Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament
Top Returning Players: Matt Allocco – Senior guard (2nd Team All-Ivy; 10.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 33 mpg), Caden Pierce – Sophomore forward (Rookie of the Year; 8.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 19 blocks, 30 mpg), Blake Peters – Junior guards (6.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 13.7 mpg)
Key Losses: Tosan Evbuomwan (1st Team All-Ivy, 2022 Player of the Year; 15.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 5 apg, 18 blocks, 31.4 mpg), Ryan Langborg (12.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 18 blocks, 31.3 mpg), Keeshawn Kellman (7.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 26 blocks, 16.9 mpg)

Similar to the Columbia women, the Princeton men lose three important members of its title-winning starting lineup, but the program’s depth allows the team to remain near the top of the conference. For the Tigers, however, this will be the second straight year it needs to reinvent the opening lineup. Without Evbuomwan (6’8″) and Kellman (6’9″), the team will be smaller up front, pairing senior Zach Martini (6’7″; 4.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 14.3 mpg) with Pierce (6’7″) and Allocco (6’4″). While Langborg and his 66 three-pointers have moved to Northwestern, the program returns plenty of firepower from the perimeter. Peters made 54 from downtown at a 40% success rate last year and Allocco, Pierce and Martini combined for 108 triples at a 35% clip.

Henderson generally favors positionless play, but he is aiming for a large guard core (sophomores Xaivian Lee and Jack Scott, and heralded first-year Dalen Davis), as well as the multi-dimensional Pierce, to run the offense. It will be a challenge for the Tigers to match last year’s production and national success, but their deep roster, experience in tough games and winning culture certainly gives the team a realistic shot at the league and Ivy tourney titles.

“We feel really good about the group. What we’re going to be looking for is not being like we were last year, what’s going to make this group different, and yet maintaining the standards that got us to the point where were successful over the last few years, which is going to have to be our defense.” – Mitch Henderson

#3 Cornell (80 votes)
2022-2023: 17-11 overall, 7-7 Ivy; Tied for 4th; Ivy Tournament semifinalist)
Top Returning Players: Nazir Williams – Junior guard (Honorable Mention All-Ivy; 12.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.8 apg, 25.1 mpg), Chris Manon – Senior guard (11 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.1 spg, 20 mpg), Sean Hansen – Senior forward (8.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.7 apg, 20.6 mpg) 
Key Losses: Greg Dolan (2nd Team All-Ivy; 13.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.6 spg, 29.6 mpg), Marcus Filien (2.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 13.8 mpg)

Cornell continues to possess the most unique style in the Ancient Eight, a team that pushes the pace and has ten players playing double-digit minutes. While most Ivy teams primarily emphasis their defense, the Big Red consciously made a decision to go in a different direction after coming back from the cancelled pandemic season and it has paid off with two straight Ivy Tournament appearances. Cornell was tops in the conference and sixth nationally in two-point shooting. However, the three-point shooting was sixth in the Ancient Eight and #148 in the land. With Dolan’s graduation (grad transfer to Loyola, Chicago), the Big Red loses its top and most accurate three-point shooter (48 made threes, 43%). For a team that focuses heavily on its offensive output and was fifth in the land in three-point attempts, they will need Williams, (43 made threes, 42%), Keller Boothby (47, 36%), Guy Ragland, Jr. (40, 28%) and Max Watson (33, 39%) to pick up the slack from beyond the arc. Defensively, Cornell isn’t reinventing its style but focusing on getting a couple of more stops late in games. Brian Earl’s teams have typically started out in the lower division, exceeded expectations and found a breakout star or two. Now that his team finds itself starting off in the upper half, fans shouldn’t be surprised if this group finds itself playing for a regular season title on March 9 and competing on the last day of Ivy Madness. 

“The lessons are learned because it’s a team sport. You learn teamwork and sacrifice and all those other good details just by trying to be a group winning together. and doing it for each other. That’s what we’re doing here. We’re building those skills and part of it is sacrifice for the greater good.” – Brian Earl

#4 Brown (77 votes)
2022-2023: 14-13 overall, 7-7 Ivy; Tied for 4th place)
Top Returning Players: Kino Lilly, Jr. – Junior guard (1st Team All-Ivy; 16.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.4 apg, 34.6 mpg), Nana Owusu-Anane – Junior forward (10.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 28.6 mpg), Kalu Anya – Sophomore forward (8.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 25.2 mpg)
Key Losses: Paxson Wojcik (2nd Team All-Ivy; 14.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.2 apg, 34.6 mpg), Dan Friday (7.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 21 mpg)

Brown returns six of its top eight scorers, including a Player of the Year candidate in Lilly, Jr., but has to find a way to make up for the graduation of Wojcik, its top all-around performer who will be spending this year at UNC. Fortunately, the Bears have an experienced and deep roster to make up for those offensive and defensive losses. Bruno’s strength is its frontcourt, anchored by Owusu-Anane and Anya, two 6’8″ forwards who can protect the rim, defend on the perimeter and start the fast break. Coach Martin feels that senior Malachi Ndur, who started three games and averaged 14 minutes per game last year, and sophomore Landon Lewis, who played in 16 games last year, will be solid contributors. The backcourt is more of a mystery after Lilly and wing Aaron Cooley, who started 21 games and averaged 5.1 points per game. The coach will use the nonconference schedule to see who breaks out from a group that includes Kimo Ferrari (22.6 mpg, 3.9 ppg, 21 steals), Felix Kloman (7.8 mpg, two ppg), Sam Klores (1.9 mpg), Lyndel Erold (1.8 mpg) and three first-years. In each of the last two years, Brown has been in the Ivy tourney hunt and lost three of its last four games. With each team playing its first seven games in six weeks, the Bears may be the team most likely to take advantage of the new schedule to heal up enough for a late season push over the last four weeks to make its first ever appearance in Ivy Madness.  

“I do think we’re equipped to handle any kind of adversity this year that comes our way, a little bit more than we were last year because of the recruiting, because of our depth, because of another really solid freshman class, but also because of the development of some of other returning players.” – Mike Martin 

#5 Penn (68 votes)
2022-2023: 17-13 overall, 9-5 Ivy; Third place; Ivy Tournament semifinalist
Top Returning Players: Clark Slajchert – Senior guard (13.6 ppg, 3 rpg, 29 mpg), Nick Spinoso – Junior forward (8.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.1 apg, 22.1 mpg), George Smith – Junior guard (5.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 20.5 mpg)
Key Losses: Jordan Dingle (Player of the Year, 1st Team All-Ivy; 23.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, 33.6 mpg), Max Martz (Honorable Mention All-Ivy; 10.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 29.3 mpg), Lucas Monroe (4.9 ppg, 6 rpg, 23.7 mpg)

When Penn finished the season in March, Steve Donahue thought he was going to have four returning players, including the Dingle, the nation’s top scorer in 2022-2023. Six months before the new season, however, the coach realized that he would have to replace three starters, including his best offensive and defensive players. On offense, the Quakers will lean heavily on Slajchert, who has an uncanny ability to get to hoop and is a high-percentage free throw shooter. Moving up from the number two option, he has to avoid last year’s seven-game single-digit scoring streak.  Penn will also have to replace three of its top four three-point shooters (Dingle, Martz and Jonah Charles), who accounted for 61% (150 total) of the team’s made threes. Smith, who tallied 25 deep shots at a 46% success rate, and junior Ed Holland III, who had only 5 triples at a 46% rate, will be expected to join Slajchert (40 made threes) as the Quakers’ main deep threats. Defensively, Monroe was the team’s best on-ball defender and defensive rebounder. Smith and Spinoso will be main contributors on the defensive side this season, and the team is bullish on the all-around abilities of first-year guard Tyler Perkins, as well as not having to make so many situational substitutions as last year. If Donahue can get consistency from his starting lineup, find a sparkplug from his new group and continue his yearly ability to find key role players later in the season, it is possible the Red & Blue can continue its streak of playing in every edition of Ivy Madness. 

“Deep down, we’ve got to be better defensively and be a way better two-way team, so we don’t have to rely on just outscoring opponents to win games. – Steve Donahue 

#6 Harvard (66 votes)
2022-2023: 14-14 overall, 5-9 Ivy; Seventh place
Top returning players:  Chisom Okpara – Sophomore forward (7.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 19.8 mpg), Justice Ajogbor (6.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 17.8 mpg) 
Key losses: Evan Nelson – Junior guard (8.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.4 apg, 28.9 mpg), Chris Ledlum (1st Team All-Ivy; 18.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.8 spg, 31.5 mpg), Idan Tretout (9.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 23.4 mpg), Sam Silverstein (7.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 31.4 mpg)

After missing out on the Ivy Tournament and losing conference stars Ledlum (grad transfer to St. John’s) and Noah Kirkwood in the last two years, as well as having a roster with nine underclassmen, this year’s buzz words from Tommy Amaker are “opportunity” and “possibility.” Losing key production in points and rebounds, as well as being without a presumptive first-team All-Ivy player in this year’s squad, the coach also adds the word “balance.”

For the offense, which was ranked seventh in the league and #254 nationally in adjusted efficiency (according to kenpom.com), Nelson would have served as a solid anchoring presence had he not been ruled out for the season after successful left Achilles surgery. However, Okpara, Ajogbor and Chandler Pigge (1.9 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 9.8 mpg) will have to significantly increase their post roles, while junior guard Louis Lesmond (5 games in 2022-2023) needs to stay healthy and achieve the three-point numbers that were expected when he arrived in Cambridge as the 2021-2022 Rookie of the Year favorite. It is possible that the offense-by-committee approach can attain the numbers from last year, but it may be difficult to match the losses of the team’s best all-around defender and four of its top five rebounders. With the need for last year’s seventh-place team to replace significant production on both sides of the ball, in addition to the team’s history of injuries (“we’ve had some major injuries coming into the year,” according to the coach), it will be tough for Harvard to avoid missing its third straight Ivy League Tournament.

“We never deal with the word expectations. It’s something that’s put upon you from the outside. It’s an external word. We only care about what’s internal for us and what’s private to us, meaningful to us and that’s our identity, our goals and out standards. We feel if we’re living up to those three categories of things, then we feel good about us, we know we’ve been a successful team and have had a successful year.” – Tommy Amaker

#7 Dartmouth (28 votes)
2022-2023 10-18 overall, 6-8 Ivy; Sixth place
Top returning players: Ryan Cornish – Junior guard (12.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.6 apg, 28.2 mpg), Dusan Neskovic – Senior forward (12.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 25.1 mpg), Brandon Mitchell-Day – sophomore forward (5.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 16.8 mpg)   
Key losses: Dame Adelekun (2nd Team All-Ivy; 13.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2 bpg, 23.3 mpg), Cam Krystkowiak (4.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 17.9 mpg)

The Big Green return nine upperclassmen, seven of whom, according to head coach Dave McLaughlin, had meaningful minutes. Having run the offense through Adelekun the last two years, the team will look to have a more wide open and balanced attack, focusing on its athleticism, length and speed. Cornish and Nesckovic are known double-digit scorers, and the coach is hoping that Mitchell-Day can be that big third scorer. Looking to replace the two biggest rim protectors from last year in Adelekun (Loyola Chicago) and Krystkowiak (Iona), sophomore forwards Jackson Munro (4.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 13.6 mpg) and Jayden Williams (3.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 9.2 mpg) have impressed in the preseason. Dartmouth tends to be a tough out in conference play, no matter the lineup, and this year shouldn’t be an exception. If the Big Green can weather the absence of one of the league’s premier players and get enough breakout seasons from previous role players, which is a lot to ask, they can finally get their first bid to Ivy Madness. If not, then it will be another season where they fall just short of the postseason.

“Everything we do, the way we approach things, the way I want to coach this team, the way they want to be coached is to finish in the (Ivy League) top four. I think it’s great to make progress and to chase progress and have some wins like we did last year (vs. Yale, Princeton, Penn), but to put it bluntly, we were just out of the top four. It’s great to be close, but that’s not our goal. We want to work every single day to make it to that top four.

#8 Columbia (23 votes)
2022-2023: 7-22 overall, 2-12 Ivy; Eighth place
Top returning players: Geronimo Rubio De La Rosa – Junior guard (13.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, 31.9 mpg), Avery Brown – Sophomore guard (9.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.6 apg, 31 mpg), Zine Eddine Bedri – Sophomore forward (8.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 20.7 mpg) 
Key losses: Cameron Shockley-Okeke (5.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 17.3 mpg)

With six of its top seven scorers returning, Columbia is looking the experience helps the team move out of the Ivy cellar in 2023-2024. There’s lots of room for improvement, since the Lions were ranked #341 overall and in adjusted offensive efficiency, as well as #300 in adjusted defensive efficiency, by kenpom.com. To get more production and efficiency on the offensive side, Columbia will need to rely heavily on its solid backcourt of two-guard Rubio De La Rosa, who was sixth within the conference in scoring and Brown, who was eighth in assists, at the point. The frontcourt, anchored by 27-game starter Eddine Bedri and 23-game stater Josh Odunowo, will need to do much better on the boards, where the team was #344 on the defensive side and #283 on the offensive glass, if the team hopes to be in contention for a spot in the Ivy Tournament being held at Levien Gymnasium.

“From the experience the guys got on the court last year, nonconference and within our league, there’s no surprises now for the guys.” – Jim Engles

This report originally misstated Evan Nelson’s availability for the upcoming season.