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College Basketball Preview - Ivy League

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -

OUTLOOK: The Ivy League has been dominated by the Harvard Crimson in recent years, and last season was no different.

Harvard actually finished with just 20 wins, its lowest total since going 14-14 in 2008-09, but it was able to breeze through the Ivy at 11-3, qualifying for the NCAA Tournament and even upsetting third-seeded New Mexico as a No. 14 seed in the second round. The Crimson have won back-to-back Ivy League titles, and the stars seem to be aligning for a three-peat performance here in 2013-14.

Princeton was the only other Ivy League team with an overall record above .500 (17-11, 10-4 Ivy), and it appeared to be in line to win the league title before losing two of its final three games. Yale muddled in mediocrity for much of the season, but ended the campaign as the league's hottest team with three straight wins.

Penn was the Ivy's biggest disappointment last season, suffering an 11-win decrease from 2011-12 after finishing just 9-22 overall, but a return to respectability is expected. At the other end of the spectrum was Brown, which shocked many with a strong showing against its league brethren at 7-7 and is expected to continue its rise with a strong core of returning players. Cornell appeared to be one of the league favorites early on, but stumbled down the stretch with six consecutive losses to close out the season.

Dartmouth has been a perennial bottom dweller in the Ivy League, recording single-digit win totals in five straight seasons. Columbia brought up the rear last season at 4-10, and is expected to endure another poor season with the loss of a few key components.

CONFERENCE CHAMPION: Harvard

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Harvard, 2. Princeton, 3. Yale, 4. Penn, 5. Brown, 6. Cornell, 7. Dartmouth, 8. Columbia

TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS:

HARVARD: The Crimson's success last season was anything but a surprise, as they have notched four straight 20-win seasons under head coach Tommy Amaker, making them one of the most consistent mid-major teams in the country. Harvard should have no problem building upon the success of 2012-13, as it returns its top three scorers and six players who logged significant minutes last season. Wesley Saunders was the Ivy League's second-leading scorer as a sophomore, putting up 16.2 ppg on greater than 52 percent shooting. Siyani Chambers (12.4 ppg) runs the point and dished out 5.7 assists per game, while Laurent Rivard (10.3 ppg) drained 2.7 3-pointers per game at a 40.2 percent clip. Steve Moundou-Missi (7.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg), Jonah Travis (6.2 ppg) and Kenyatta Smith (5.8 ppg) round out an impressive rotation.

PRINCETON: After posting another strong campaign in 2012-13, the Tigers improved to 37-23 in Mitch Henderson's two years as head coach, and they will likely remain a big threat in the conference thanks to the return of reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Ian Hummer. The senior forward has no discernable weakness to his game, tallying a league-best 16.3 points per game a season ago to go along with 6.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks per game, and impressive percentages from the field (.525), 3-point range (.385) and the foul line (.797). Princeton is far from a one-man show, however, as it welcomes back each of its top six scorers from last season. Denton Koon (10.5 ppg) is the second option on offense, T.J. Bray (9.9 ppg, 3.6 apg) came up with more than two steals per contest, and Will Barrett (9.3 ppg) is quite accurate from beyond the arc (48-of-93, .516).

YALE: The Bulldogs' strong finish allowed them to go 8-6 in the Ivy League last season, but their 14-17 overall record was one of the team's worst under James Jones, who's 190 victories are sixth most in league history. Although Yale lost its best player in guard Austin Morgan (10.9 ppg), there is still plenty of returning talent, giving the team ample hope for improvement. Justin Sears was one of the league's top freshmen a season ago, putting up 9.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Javier Duren (7.7 ppg), Matt Townsend (7.7 ppg), Armani Cotton (6.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Brandon Sherrod (5.8 ppg) all played integral roles as sophomores, and each expects to take another step forward in their development here in 2013-14. Jeremiah Kreisberg (5.6 ppg) and Greg Kelley (4.4 ppg) are also important pieces for a team that had 12 players average double-digit minutes per game last season.

PENN: The Quakers have yet to establish themselves as one of the league's best during Jerome Allen's tenure as head coach, going just 48-65 in three-plus season, but things are looking up in Philadelphia as all five starters return. The senior leader is Miles Jackson-Cartwright, who averaged 13.5 points and 3.8 assists per game a season ago and will once again be leaned on heavily for offense. Fran Dougherty (13.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg) will try to avoid the injury bug after playing only 12 games in 2012-13. At 6-foot-11, Darien Nelson-Henry (7.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg) brings an intimidation factor to the frontcourt, while Tony Hicks (10.4 ppg) and Henry Brooks, Jr. (6.5 ppg) are also invaluable pieces to Penn's puzzle, although the team will need to improve upon its lackluster field goal percentage (.425) if it wants to take the next step.

BROWN: The Bears were one of the most improved teams in the league last season, going 13-15 overall and 7-7 against Ivy foes, and they played particularly well on their home floor (8-5). Mike Martin, who was the fourth youngest head coach in Division I in his debut season in 2012-13, has promising prospects for improvement thanks to an impressive returning core. Sean McGonagill is a well-rounded guard after putting up 14.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.3 steals per contest last season. Brown also has perhaps the most dominating frontcourt in the conference. Rafael Mala (10.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) is a double-double threat on any given night, and Cedric Kuakumensah (6.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg) proved to be a defensive force in the middle as a freshman with 2.4 blocks per game.

CORNELL: The Big Red have fallen a long way since being crowned three-time Ivy League champions from 2008-10, culminating in a disappointing 13-18 season (4-10 Ivy) in Bill Courtney's third season as head coach in 2012-13. They will need to overcome the loss of several key players, including Johnathan Gray (10.0 ppg) and Errick Peck (9.7 ppg), but the good news is that they welcome back one of the league's best forwards in Shonn Miller, who not only put up 11.5 points per game on 47.6 percent field goal shooting, but contributed across the board with 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.9 steals per contest last year. Nolan Cressler (9.3 ppg) drained 40.3 percent of his 3-point attempts in mostly a bench role last season, and will be expected to carry a larger portion of the scoring load as a starter. Devin Cherry (6.2 ppg) and Dominick Scelfo (5.1 ppg) are also back in the mix for Cornell.

DARTMOUTH: The Big Green have gotten used to futility under Paul Cormier, who has a 106-162 record in 10 seasons as head coach. There's still a glimmer of hope on the horizon for Dartmouth, however. It has one of the youngest teams in the league (there's just one senior on the roster), and it returns nine players who enjoyed significant playing time in 2012-13. Gabas Maldunas (11.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg) is a staple in the frontcourt and he's also one of the league's best defenders, logging 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. Alex Mitola (11.3 ppg) makes his living out on the perimeter, connecting on 65-of-166 3-point attempts (.392). Connor Boehm (8.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Tyler Melville (7.5 ppg), John Golden (7.5 ppg) and Malik Gill (5.1 ppg) round out a solid core that has grown together over the past year.

COLUMBIA: Despite finishing in last place last season, the Lions were able to make waves by notching a couple of wins over eventual NCAA Tournament squads Villanova (75-57) and Harvard (76-63), so Kyle Smith's club certainly has it in them to be competitive. One big problem with Columbia this season, however, is the loss of one of the league's best guards in Brian Barbour (12.1 ppg, 4.0 apg, 1.6 spg). In Barbour's absence, Grant Mullins will need to step up as the offensive catalyst after a strong freshman campaign (9.7 ppg, 40 3-pointers). Alex Rosenberg (9.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg) patrols the paint, but he'll need to improve upon his woeful field goal percentage (.380). Steve Frankoski (8.9 ppg) is one of the top 3-point threats in the league, draining 60 treys a season ago at a 45.5 percent clip.