Ivy League Basketball: Who Can Contend with Harvard for the Conference Title?

Jesse KramerCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2011

In four seasons, Tommy Amaker has rebuilt Harvard into a premier mid-major program.
In four seasons, Tommy Amaker has rebuilt Harvard into a premier mid-major program.

Harvard is the heavy favorite in the Ivy League this season. The Crimson were one of the top two teams in the Ivy League last year, tying Princeton for first place in the conference. Harvard ultimately fell short of an NCAA tournament bid, losing a tiebreaker game to Princeton. 

In 2011-12, the Crimson return all five of last year's starters plus its sixth man. Last year, these six players carried the team, all scoring more than nine points per game. 

Keith Wright led Harvard in scoring and rebounding with 14.8 PPG and 8.3 RPG. Wright will receive support in the frontcourt from junior Kyle Casey and freshman Kenyatta Smith. 

The backcourt is led by the four-pronged attack of Christian Webster, Laurent Rivard, Oliver McNally, and Brandyn Curry. Webster, Rivard and McNally all averaged double digits in scoring last year, and Curry was the distributor with 5.9 APG.

With a formidable frontcourt, a strong backcourt and depth, Harvard will be tough to beat.

But there are a few teams that stand a chance at bringing down the mighty Crimson.

Yale is coming off a mediocre season where it finished No. 3 in the Ivy League at 8-6. But the Bulldogs are definitely set up for an improved season, with their top two scorers returning. 

They have one of the best big men in the Ivy League in Greg Mangano. In 2010-11, he was the only Ivy League player to average a double-double (16.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG). 

Yale also returns 5-foot-11 guard Austin Morgan. Morgan was the No. 2 scorer on last year's team with 12.6 PPG. He proved to be a dangerous shooter at 44.6 percent from three-point range and was also the main distributor on the team with 3.2 APG.

The Bulldogs also return their main role players from last season in Reggie Willhite and Jeremiah Kreisberg.

Although Princeton lost two of its top three scorers from last season, the Tigers are still set up for a solid season. They will have a strong inside-outside combo with Ian Hummer and Douglas Davis. 

At 6-foot-7 and 226 pounds, Hummer has the ability to score on the inside. Although he does not have dominating height, his post moves are good enough to make him one of the best big men in the conference.

Davis received national recognition for his game-winning shot against Harvard to send the Tigers to the NCAA tournament. But he did more than just that last season.

Davis' 11.9 PPG were key for Princeton last season. However, the 5-foot-11 guard only averaged 1.7 APG. The team's two leaders in assists departed after last season, so Davis will have to step up as a distributor for the Tigers.

Although Princeton might have the talent to compete with Harvard, the big question comes in the Tigers' new coach, Mitch Henderson. Despite there being no reason that Henderson will be a poor head coach, he is a first-year coach. There is always the potential for chemistry issues with a new head coach.

Lastly, the Penn Quakers also have an outside chance at challenging Harvard. They made big improvements last year under Jerome Allen, finishing in the top 200 RPI for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

Penn returns three starters in Zack Rosen, Tyler Bernardini and Miles Cartwright.

Rosen has been an All-Ivy selection the last two years. The senior point guard averaged 14.3 PPG, 5.4 APG, and 3.5 RPG last season.


My projected Ivy League final standings for the 2011-12 season:

1. Harvard

2. Yale

3. Princeton

4. Penn

5. Columbia

6. Brown

7. Cornell

8. Dartmouth