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With Harvard vulnerable, who will challenge the Crimson for Ivy dominance?

Who are some potential top challenges to Harvard in the Ivy League this season?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

When news hit that Harvard had lost captain Siyani Chambers for the season to a torn ACL, speculation began that the 2015-2016 season would signal the end of Harvard’s reign atop the Ivy Group. Harvard, as the winner of the past 5 Ivy League championships, has enjoyed a lengthy run in the upper echelons of the group, but it seems inevitable that a shakeup in the rankings is forthcoming.

With these thoughts in mind, let's look at some of the top potential contenders outside of Harvard in next year's Ivy League and whether they can put it all together.

Yale Bulldogs

One obvious contender is Yale. The Bulldogs finished second in the group last season, and lost a narrow 2-point game to the Crimson in the Championship game. Yale can attribute much of last seasons success to the depth of their roster. Though they will enter the 2015-16 season having lost several key players to graduation, including top scorer Jose Duren and captain Matt Townsend, they don’t appear to have compromised their versatility.

The Bulldogs welcome back 5 seniors, including Captain Jack Montague and reigning Ivy League player of the year, Justin Sears, who is the first Yale player in 17 years to be awarded that honor. Sears will undoubtedly enter the season with a chip on his shoulder, after missing a final second shot during Yale’s regular season finale loss against Dartmouth, which resulted in a playoff against Harvard, and Yale’s eventual defeat. Other returning seniors are Khaliq Ghani, Brandon Sherrodwho missed last year to sing with the all male a cappella group at Yale, the Whiffenpoofs, and Nick Victor, who was a starter for much of the 2013-2014 season but was sidelined last year due to injury.

Among underclassmen on the Bulldogs, the competition for minutes will be considerable. There is 6’10 sophomore Sem Kroon, and a talented group of 6 new freshman recruits, headlined by Trey Phills, the son of late NBA player Bobby Phills. Yale should not be complacent in their assumed position at the top of the Ivy ranks, as there are several other viable contenders clamoring to establish themselves as legitimate threats.

Columbia Lions

One team that may be overlooked by many but should be considered a sleeper with enough talent to make real noise in the group are the Columbia Lions. The Lions are in pursuit of their first trip to the tournament since 1968 and believe they have the talent to make this year their year. Their roster bolsters two of the Ivy Groups most talented players, in Kyle Castlin and "Chairman" Maodo Lo.

Last season, Lo strung together a series of impressive performances, including dominant showings against national powerhouses UConn and Kentucky, and 33 and 37 point performances against Harvard and Princeton respectively. Lo’s performance was so impressive that rumors swirled that he was considering leaving Columbia early to declare for the NBA draft- luckily for Lions fans, these rumors did not materialize.

The duo of Castlin and Mo will be further complemented by a returning core of players in Alex Rosenberg and Grant Mullins. Mullins, a senior, missed a substantial amount time last season due to a concussion. His return is welcome, as the 6’3 guard was a consistent contributor during his freshman and sophomore years, averaging 10.5 points, 2 assists and 3 rebounds.

Overall

The Ivy Group is filled with talent, and the unfortunate loss of Harvard’s Siyanai Chambers means that the Crimson will face significant challenges as they seek to defend their status as the 5-time Ivy Group champions. Who the eventual champion will be is unknown, but Ivy fans can confidently look forward to an exciting season.