Princeton returns all but one starter from a team that went 13-1 in the Ivy League a year ago. Penn has some rebuilding to do, but reloading might be a better term for it. Yale has a dangerous starting five, but its bench is a bit suspect. The rest of the Ivies are up in the air as Brown, Cornell, Columbia and Harvard will all battle for the fourth spot. Dartmouth should remain mired in the basement of the Ivy League standings for a second straight season.
No. 1 PRINCETON
Last Year’s Record : 20-8 (13-1)
The 2003-2004 edition of the Princeton basketball team won 14 of its final 15 regular-season games to take the Ivy title for the third time in four seasons. After losing just guard Ed Persia to graduation, not only does it seem the Tigers have the inside track to make it four of five, but the squad might also have a shot to crack the top 25. The Tigers already played No. 6 Syracuse tough and will have two other opportunities—against Rutgers and Duke—to make a national statement. Coach Joe Scott comes back to Princeton from Air Force, taking over for John Thompson III, who moved on to Georgetown. Scott has an intimate knowledge of the Princeton offense, so the transition should be relatively seamless.
No. 2 PENN
Last Year’s Record : 17-10 (10-4)
It’s never fair to say that Penn is rebuilding. The Quakers don’t rebuild: they reload. Sophomore point guard Ibrahim Jaaber and classmate Mark Zoller are ready to make a huge contribution to the club after posting outstanding rookie campaigns. Tim Begley shot the lights out last season hitting 46 percent of his three-point attempts. With Jeff Schiffner gone, Begley will get even more looks from long range, but the attention should shift to the senior guard, which should force his three-point percentage to take a bit of a hit. Penn should have little trouble racking up 10 Ivy wins, but challenging the Tigers for the league title will prove far more difficult.
No. 3 YALE
Last Year’s Record : 12-15 (7-7)
Despite losing Matt Minoff and Paul Vitelli to graduation, Yale might still have the best starting five in the Ivy League this season. Edwin Draughan, Alex Gamboa and Casey Hughes comprise one of the top backcourts in the league. Sam Kaplan and Dominick Martin provide the Bulldogs with a formidable frontcourt. But the weakness clearly lies in the bench, and that should keep Yale from challenging for the league title. The Bulldogs faded late last season, dropping out of contention midway through the Ivy slate and stumbling to a 7-7 finish. Don’t expect a repeat performance of last season, as Yale is clearly better than the logjam of teams vying for fourth.
No. 5 CORNELL
Last Year’s Record : 11-16 (6-8)
The Ka’ron Barnes era is over at Cornell, leaving behind a group of solid shooters and role players who will need to fill a huge void. Lenny Collins and Cody Toppert will be the new keys on offense, but neither has the scoring ability of Barnes. Air Force transfer Ryan Rourke should help out immediately on the offensive end of the floor, and Eric Taylor will be called upon to anchor the interior. Cornell has the talent to make a push for that last upper division spot behind Princeton, Penn and Yale, especially if Rourke makes as big of an impact as many of the Ithaca faithful are hoping he will. But in the end, the loss of Barnes will be far too much for the Big Red to handle, and it’ll struggle to match last season’s 6-8 Ivy record.
No. 6 COLUMBIA
Last Year’s Record : 10-17 (6-8)