The results are out, and Yale is riding high atop the Ivy League Men’s Basketball Poll. The 2014-15 season was the Bulldogs most successful since 1949, but Yale will be anything but complacent entering the 2015-16 campaign. The Bulldogs suffered two heartbreaking losses at the end of last year: a buzzer beater against Dartmouth in the last game of the regular season, subsequently resulting in a nail biting defeat in a one-game playoff match against Harvard. Had Yale won, they would have secured an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Instead, they ended their season as co-winners of the Ivy League title with Harvard.
These defeats will surely be fresh on the Bulldogs mind as they attempt to establish themselves as the team to beat in the Ivy this season. Yale will be lead by forward senior Justin Sears, who is the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, and senior Brandon Sherrod, who is returning to the hardwood after spending his junior year touring with the Yale a cappella group, the Whiffenpoofs.
Yale’s place at number one in the poll was not a runaway. Coming in at second in the poll are the Columbia Lions, who received more number one votes than Yale (6-5), but less points overall (117-114). Still, Columbia has to be feeling good about their place on this list. It is only the second time in program history that they have been ranked this high, the first time coming prior to the 1991-92 season.
Columbia will be bringing back much of its core from last season. They return 4 of 5 starters, as well as two seniors who missed the entirety of last season to injury, Alex Rosenberg and Grant Mullins. Many consider senior Maodo Lo to be the Ivy’s best player. He is sure to enter this season better than ever, after spending the summer sharpening his game as a member of the German National Team along side NBA superstar Dirk Nowitzki and rising talent Dennis Schroder. Lo is currently ranked nationally as the 79th best player and is the only Ivy league representative among the top 100 players, and was also recently placed on a watch list as a potential winner of the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award.
Rounding out the top three are the Princeton Tigers. Princeton tied Columbia for most first place votes (6), but received 6 less overall points (108) than the second seated Lions. The Tigers won 16 games last season, including an impressive 9-5 record in Ivy League play. Head Coach Mitch Henderson is heading in to his fifth season at the helm for the Tigers, and boasts a 71-45 record. Henderson has come up empty so far in his quest for an Ivy League title, but believes that his team has the depth to compete this year.
The Tigers confidence stems from the fact that they’re returning all five starters, and is bolstered by the addition of what they consider to be a competitive and talented group of support players. Princeton has three players who will enter the season averaging double-digit points per game: Spencer Weisz, Hans Brase and Steven Cook. The remaining two starters are Henry Caruso, who recorded multiple double digit scoring efforts in the second half of the season, and Amir Bell. Bell, a sophomore, is a critical part of Princeton’s talented young core.
Harvard, who is the winner of the past 5 Ivy League titles, came in at fourth. With Harvard widely predicted to be entering a transitional season, many in the Ivy are gunning for the top spot. Who will ultimately prevail is yet to be seen, but one thing is clear: the competition at the top will be thick.