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Analysis: The Ivy League Preseason Poll

Princeton is the early favorite, but Harvard isn’t far behind.

NCAA Basketball: Princeton at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016-17 Ivy League men’s basketball media poll was released last week, and for the 11th time, Princeton was chosen as the favorite to take the crown. Princeton sits atop the poll with 12 first-place votes, topping Harvard, who came in second, with five first-place votes. Last year’s champion, Yale, came in at a more distant third.

Princeton’s roster features a who’s-who of All-Ivy League choices. Rising senior Henry Caruso was a First Team All-Ivy selection. Caruso was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, cashing in 15 points per game. Caruso also lead the team in total steals (37), and was in the top-10 in the conference in total field goals made (152), field goal percentage (.522) total rebounds (181), total steals (37), and total points scored (435).

Caruso is joined by Second Team All-Ivy selection Spencer Weisz, and Honorable Mention All-Ivy player Steven Cook. Weisz was Princeton’s team leader in assists per game (3.9), and minutes per game (31.8), and was also the Tigers fourth leading scorer. Cook was the Tigers’ second-leading scorer, with 11.7 points per game, and chipped in seven double-digit scoring efforts over the course of the season. You will notice a scoring theme here -- and Princeton fans will be happy to note that four of their top five leading scorers will return this season.

That returning talent is what earns Princeton the top nod over Harvard and Yale. While Makai Mason may be the single best player in the Ivy League, Yale lost more talent than the other two teams projected to be in the top three. Notable losses include 2015-16 Ivy League Player of the Year Justin Sears, and First Team All-Ivy selection Brandon Sherrod.

Harvard, after reigning atop the Ivy League for four straight seasons, finished fourth in the group last season, and will certainly be looking to regain its crown. The Crimson return star player Siyani Chambers, lost last season to a knee injury, and have a heavily hyped freshman class. But still, after a 14-16 season, the Crimson are unproven, and only time will tell how the group meshes together to play as one.

Princeton and Yale entered the race for the finish line of the 2015-16 season in a dead heat. Both teams had just one loss in conference play. A one-game playoff to determine who would be the Ivy League representative at the Big Dance seemed imminent, but as Ivy League aficionados will recall, with three games left in the season, Harvard upset Princeton, and Yale pulled ahead in the standings for good.

A scenario like this will not unfold this season, as the Ivy League has finally added a conference tournament. The top four teams in the conference will play in the two-day tournament, with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The competition in the Ivy League is rapidly becoming more rigorous, and with the addition of more and higher quality players, the group has seen an increase in the caliber of play to match. All of this culminates to make the 2016-17 season the perfect time for the possibility of more than one team punching its ticket to play through March.

Complete Ivy League Preseason Poll:

  1. Princeton (12)
  2. Harvard (5)
  3. Yale
  4. Penn
  5. Columbia
  6. Dartmouth
  7. Cornell
  8. Brown