Harvard University Favored to Win Its First Ivy League Basketball Title

Harvard University will win its first outright Ivy League men’s basketball title and end a 65- year National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament absence, according to a preseason media poll.

Harvard, which tied Princeton University atop the standings and lost in a one-game playoff for an NCAA berth last season, received 16 of the 17 first-place votes and 135 points, the first time it’s topped the poll, according to an e-mailed release by the league. Votes are cast by reporters who regularly cover the conference.

Princeton and Yale University tied for second at 103 points, with the Bulldogs receiving the only other first-place vote. The University of Pennsylvania was picked to finish fourth, followed by Brown University, Cornell University, Columbia University and Dartmouth College.

“We were one of the younger teams a year ago, and now we’ve become a veteran team this year with a strong incoming freshman class,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said yesterday in a conference call with reporters.

The Crimson return 12 players from last year’s team, which went 12-2 in league play, including senior co-captain and 2011 Ivy League Player of the Year Keith Wright, who led the team with 14.8 points and 8.3 rebounds a game. Harvard never has won an outright conference title and hasn’t played in the NCAA tournament since 1946.

Amaker said the program’s focus was to become a consistent presence atop the league standings, which will increase its national reputation. Penn and Princeton have won at least a share of the league title in 48 of the past 53 seasons.

“If you become really good in this league, you can become a national team and program,” Amaker said. “Certainly that’s what Penn and Princeton were able to accomplish.”

Scorers Graduate

Princeton graduated two of the top three scorers from a team that came within three points of beating the University of Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament in March. Yale will be led by junior center Greg Mangano, who last season was the first Ivy League player in 15 years to average more than 10 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Yale coach James Jones said the Ivy League has reached an unprecedented level of equality, unlike years when the conference was dominated by Penn and Princeton.

“We have a lot of strong teams in the conference,” Jones told reporters. “The great thing about this league is that you have to show up every night, and if you don’t, you’re going to get beat.”

Princeton’s women’s basketball team, which won its fifth Ivy League title last year, is favored to win the conference for the third consecutive season, according to the media poll. The Tigers are 27-1 in conference play over the past two seasons, and are followed in the poll by Harvard and Yale.

Ivy League Men’s Basketball Preseason Media Poll
(First-place Votes in Parentheses)

Rank School       Points
1.   Harvard (16)   135
2.   Yale (1)       103
     Princeton      103
4.   Penn           90
5.   Brown          62
6.   Cornell        52
7.   Columbia       50
8.   Dartmouth      17

Ivy League Women’s Basketball Preseason Media Poll
(First-place Votes in Parentheses)

Rank School        Points
1.   Princeton (14) 133
2.   Harvard (3)    118
3.   Yale           103
4.   Penn           68
5.   Brown          66
6.   Columbia       52
     Dartmouth      52
7.   Cornell        21

To contact the reporter on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York at enovywilliam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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