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2013-14 Ivy League Post-Mortem

May 5, 2014 Columns, Conference Notes No Comments

As good as the 2013-14 season was in the Ivy League, it might be just the beginning of a great stretch for the league. The results were great, and there is a lot to be optimistic about going forward.

Harvard won the league as expected, then beat Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament. For the first time since Princeton in 1983-84, an Ivy League team has won an NCAA Tournament game in consecutive years. The Crimson were basically prohibitive favorites, and while Yale was able to hang around late, the Crimson were never behind in the standings.

Speaking of Yale, they joined Harvard among a record five teams that saw postseason play and made it all the way to the CIT championship game, losing at Murray State. They eliminated Columbia after they eliminated a Holy Cross team that beat Brown. Princeton also won a game in the CBI before losing to Fresno State in the quarterfinals.

The league has a lot of good talent, and most of it will return next season. The league doesn’t name an All-Rookie team, but if they did they would have quite a task. Beyond the players who had success right away, there are others who were behind good veterans and will show their potential later.

The league was as competitive as ever and is in the midst of a nice upswing, all coming not long after it was easy for prognosticators to think that the league was headed for a permanent downturn. If it wasn’t for Harvard being as good as they were, the league would have had a tremendous race for the title. As it is, the race for second was quite good.

Final Standings

League
Overall
Harvard
13-1
27-5
Yale
9-5
19-14
Princeton
8-6
21-9
Columbia
8-6
21-13
Brown
7-7
15-14
Dartmouth
5-9
12-16
Penn
5-9
8-20
Cornell
1-13
2-26

Postseason Awards
Player of the Year: Wesley Saunders, Harvard
Rookie of the Year: Spencer Weisz, Princeton
Defensive Player of the Year: Cedric Kuakumensah, Brown
Coach of the Year: James Jones, Yale

All-League Team
T.J. Bray, Sr. G, Princeton
Sean McGonagill, Sr. G, Brown
Alex Rosenberg, Jr. F, Columbia
Wesley Saunders, Jr. G, Harvard
Justin Sears, So. F, Yale

Season Highlights

  • Harvard won a game in the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row
  • Five teams made it to a postseason tournament, a league record
  • Yale was the runner-up in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament
  • League teams had a winning non-league record (61-56)

What we expected, and it happened: Harvard won the league. It would have been a major shock if anyone managed to topple the Crimson for the league title given their combination of talent and experience, along with playing some of the best team basketball in the country.

What we expected, and it didn’t happen: Princeton was expected to be Harvard’s toughest competitor. The Tigers were very quickly out of the picture and finished tied for third place. Also, Penn was expected to be a sleeper contender, but never got untracked and finished tied for sixth in the league.

What we didn’t expect, and it happened: Columbia was one of the postseason teams, and even won a game in the CIT before Yale knocked them off in the quarterfinals. Expected to finish in the second division, the Lions instead finished tied for third place.

Team(s) on the rise: Brown. Mike Martin has his alma mater on the path to contention soon. The Bears will miss Sean McGonagill, but return just about everyone else from a team that got better as the season went along en route to a CIT bid and a home game to start it off. Included was easily the best freshman class in the league.

Team(s) on the decline: Penn. The Quakers have not lacked talent, but they haven’t been better than the sum of their parts and now players are leaving the program. Head coach Jerome Allen is one of the school’s all-time greats, but you have to wonder if his seat isn’t heating up a bit.

2014-15 League Outlook

Harvard won’t be quite as good as they lose a lot, but the Crimson still figure to be the class of the league. Remember, this team had all the success this year with Kenyatta Smith, who would be a difference-making big man on any team in the league, playing just two minutes all season due to injury. He returns next season along with the league’s best backcourt in Saunders and Siyani Chambers.

There will be plenty of good competition, though. Yale returns all five starters, including arguably the best player in the league in Justin Sears, while Brown is on the way up and so is Columbia. Princeton can’t be written off, either, although the Tigers will miss T.J. Bray dearly. They still have emerging forward Hans Brase and league Rookie of the Year Spencer Weisz among the holdovers. Dartmouth has a lot of talent and some experience, but the Big Green need to stay healthy if they are to finally turn a corner under Paul Cormier. Cornell will continue rebuilding, especially with Nolan Cressler’s transfer, but Shonn Miller, who missed the season due to injury, is now healthy and working his way back for next season.

As good as this year was for the Ivy League, next year has the potential to be even better.

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