In 1946, Harvard played in the NCAA tournament, losing in their first game to Ohio State. For the next 64 years, the Crimson did not play in a single postseason game. Tommy Amaker took over in 2007-08 and had the Crimson in the postseason two years later, playing in the 2010 CIT. 2011 saw Harvard in the NIT, and the past three seasons have seen Ivy League championships and berths in the NCAA tournament, including last season when this team upset #5 seed Cincinnati in the Round of 64 (after winning a game as a #14 seed in 2013). This season should be more of the same as the Crimson will be favored to capture their fourth consecutive conference crown.
The Ivy League is the only conference that does not have a postseason conference tournament. The regular season champion claims the conference’s automatic bid (with a playoff to occur between any and all teams that tie for first place). While the Ivy League placing its second place finisher into the field as an at-large team has never happened, and probably won’t this year either, the conference does return enough talent to give the Crimson a run for their money. Four other Ivy League teams joined Harvard in the postseason last year as Princeton was in the CBI while Brown, Columbia and Yale all played in the CIT, with Yale making it all the way to the championship game before falling to Murray State. Yale and Columbia could both challenge Harvard this season, though in the end the Crimson are just too deep and too strong to not win the league title.
Predicted Order of Finish:
1. Harvard: Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders in the backcourt, complemented by a healthy Kenyatta Smith and Steve Moundou-Missi up front should have the Crimson dancing again. This team in fact should be good enough for an at-large bid, though with no conference tournament, they will not need one.
2. Columbia: The Lions have a very deep team with all five starters returning. They suffered a setback this week though as leading returning scorer Alex Rosenberg broke his foot and will be out six weeks. Assuming he is healthy in time for conference play (which he hopefully will be), the Lions should still be the second best team in the league.
3. Yale: The Bulldogs return all five starters led by Justin Sears to a team that should be very tough for anyone, even Harvard, to beat.
4. Dartmouth: Alex Mitola, Gabas Maldunas and Connor Boehm lead a balanced and experienced team that could surprise.
5. Brown: Four returning starters from a CIT team is normally a recipe for success, but the one man they lost was their best player, Sean McGonagill.
6. Princeton: The loss of two of their top three players will make things tough, but if talented freshmen and sophomores (including last season’s conference Freshman of the Year Spencer Weisz) can step up, the Tigers could finish in the upper division.
7. Pennsylvania: Tony Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry can both play, but there isn’t much on the roster beyond the two of them. Head coach Jerome Allen could be in trouble if things don’t start turning around soon.
8. Cornell: Shonn Miller returns after missing all of last season to injury, but Nolan Cressler’s transfer to Vanderbilt is going to make this another long season.