The times they are a-changin' in Ivy League basketball.
For years and years, the Ivies were dominated on the hardwood by Penn and Princeton, who claimed 23 of the 25 Ivy titles between 1960 and 1985. And because they were travelling partners, opposing teams hated to head south on the road trip they called "The Lost Weekend."
But now, the Quakers and the Tigers no longer dominate the Ancient Eight like they once did. In the past five years, four different teams have worn the Ivy crown.
These days, the Ivy League race--and the games--are much closer. In eight of Harvard's 14 league games last year, the contest was decided by five of fewer points.
That's what should make Ivy League basketball so interesting this season. Four teams--Dartmouth, Penn, Princeton and Harvard--have legitimate shots at the title. And there's no guarantee that one of the other squads won't be able to surprise everyone and take home the crown.
Dartmouth is the favorite to win the title this season, after choking last year in a manner reminiscent of the 1978 Boston Red Sox. The Big Green went undefeated in its first six league games before posting a 4-4 mark to end up in second place.
Despite losing Co-Captains Bryan Randall and Len Baselak, Dartmouth still has the best pure shooter in the Ivies in senior Jim Barton. The Green co-captain was 14th in the nation in scoring, fourth in free-throw percentage, led the Ivies with a 23.8 points per game average and is the odds-on favorite to be the league's top scorer again.
But Barton won't have to do it alone, thanks to junior Walter Palmer, the Big Green's 7-foot center. Palmer's long arms swatted away a league-record 12 shots in a game against Harvard last year, and Dartmouth is hoping he can do it again.
Co-Captain Darrin Maccoux and sophomore Brendan O'Sullivan will chip in at forward, and point guard James Blackwell should also help Dartmouth's attack. Guard John Mackay returns to the team after taking two years off to perform missionary work.
Princeton, which finished in third place last year, will also be back in the hunt; veteran Coach Pete Carril simply won't have it any other way.
Carril, who has won 358 games in his career at Princeton, likes a good defensive team, and last year he was a very happy man. The Tigers allowed the third-fewest points in the nation (56.4 p.p.g.), and won 17 games, including an upset over Seton Hall.
The key to the Princeton offense is the three-pointer, and those triples will be taken mostly by first-team All-Ivy forward Bob Scrabis. Scrabis netted 16.4 p.p.g. last season on 56 percent shooting from the field.
The only other starter returning for Carril and the Tigers will be sophomore center Kit Mueller. As a freshman, Mueller showed a lot of poise, averaging 12.7 p.p.g. and 5.9 r.p.g. He also led the league in field-goal percentage (.589).
Carril rarely uses his bench, so most of his upperclassmen have very little game experience. He may rely on his freshmen, since Princeton is considered by many to have had the best recruiting year in the Ivies.
Penn will be led by senior guard Walt Frazier Jr., who turned in a pretty fair imitation of his father at the end of last season. Frazier averaged 13.1 p.p.g. (17.0 in league) and is a solid ballhandler who does not make many mental mistakes.
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