With the dawning of April have come the way-too-early projections for the 2017 college basketball season. Kicking off the empirically foolish prognostications is Joe Lunardi, who selected Princeton as the Ivy League’s representative to the 2016-2017 NCAA Tournament. Lunardi has Princeton, a 12 seed in the South regional, playing Iowa State in the first round.
The Tigers are the obvious frontrunner for the Ivy League title last year, returning every single player who got meaningful minutes this year and adding Hans Brase, a Class of 2016 forward who withdrew from school to preserve his eligibility after tearing an ACL in November. In his last full year for the Tigers, Brase ranked second on the team in scoring (11.5 points a game) and led Princeton with 7.5 rebounds a contest.
At 6’8”, Brase gives the Tigers a post presence they lacked in his absence; 6’10” junior Pete Miller, the team’s nominal center, averaged just six points a game this year and had just five points and four rebounds in the team’s 73-71 loss to Harvard that eliminated the Tigers from Ivy League contention. Behind Brase, the team is stocked with wings that can score and shoot. Juniors Henry Caruso, Steven Cook, and Spencer Weisz all averaged double digits while shooting better than 35 percent from three and 70 percent from the line. Freshman point guard Devin Cannady was a sparkplug in limited action, scoring nearly 12 points a game in 22 minutes and making 46 percent of his threes and 90 percent of his free throws.
Behind Princeton, the league is unsettled. Harvard brings in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes and All-Ivy point guard Siyani Chambers to flank junior Zena Edosomwan, but there are a lot of new pieces for Tommy Amaker to integrate in the offseason. The Crimson is undoubtedly as talented, if not more, than Princeton, but it will have to make up for its lack of continuity. While Princeton’s starters have been playing together for three years, the hypothetical Harvard starting lineup—Chambers, Edosomwan, freshman Corey Johnson, and sophomores Chris Egi and Andre Chatfield—has never played a single minute together.
The Crimson and Tigers remain the surest bets in a league of uncertainty. With the departure of Kyle Smith and the graduation of Maodo Lo, Alex Rosenberg, Grant Mullins, and Isaac Cohen, Columbia loses the head of its program and nearly all of its productivity. Cornell and Dartmouth will likewise try to integrate new coaches, while Penn will build on a promising fifth-place finish in the absence of its dependable senior big man Darien Nelson-Henry. With the last two Ivy League Rookies of the Year, the Big Green’s situation closely resembles Brown’s, who hopes to ride up the standings behind its young guns (Miles Wright and Evan Boudreaux for Dartmouth, Tavon Blackmon and Obi Okolie for Brown).
The league’s biggest puzzle, however, is two-time defending champion Yale. The Bulldogs will likely get sophomore standout Makai Mason back—his declaration for the NBA draft appears to be more of a promotion than anything—but lose two-time Ivy League Player of the Year Justin Sherrod and fellow starters Nick Victor and Brandon Sherrod. Freshman Blake Reynolds and junior Sam Downey had some nice moments in the tournament, but have never seriously received playing time. With Mason and junior Anthony Dallier, the team will have some good building blocks to rely on, but if the team makes a run, it will likely hinge on Mason averaging north of 25 points a game.
–Staff writer David Freed can be reached at email@example.com.