The Ivy League basketball preseason media poll was released today, and the Quakers were picked to finish fourth for the second straight year. Harvard received 16 of 17 first-place votes, while Yale received the other. The Bulldogs tied for second with Princeton in the poll, followed by Brown, Cornell, Columbia and Dartmouth.
[UPDATE: The women's team was also picked to finish fourth. That's a major sign of respect for coach Mike McLaughlin's program, as the team finished in last at 2-26 in 2009-10 and sixth last year. Contending for the title two years removed from two wins would be an incredible turnaround. More realistically, a .500 league record would be another step forward.]
We all know that Harvard enters this season as the title favorite. But the surprise here is Yale, which hasn't won the league title outright since 1962. The Bulldogs have legitimate championship aspirations this season, led by first-team All-Ivy big man Greg Mangano. Coming off a junior campaign in which he put up a monster line of 16.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks, the 6'10 forward may be the preseason favorite for Player of the Year. He spent the summer declaring and withdrawing from the NBA draft before playing alongside some of the nation's best players in the World University Games. For any long-time Ivy basketball fans, it's definitely weird to see Harvard and Yale listed at the top of the standings.
Penn head coach Jerome Allen also spoke during a media teleconference for Ivy coaches today. He called the Quakers a "fairly young" team that is still in the process of learning how to play championship-level basketball. He explained that the young guys come in "pure," allowing Allen and his staff to "shape and mold" them into the players and citizens they want them to be. He again singled out sophomore forward Fran Dougherty for the "level of commitment" and "demeanor" he showed this offseason in setting an example for the rest of the young guys.
Allen also discussed how the league has "changed for the better" since his mid-1990s playing days because of its balance. "You have to come to play every night." Of course, Allen is a fierce competitor and welcomed that challenge, saying that it will make every team in the league better ("iron sharpens iron").
Perhaps his most interesting comments, however, regarded the Quakers' "centerpiece," senior point guard Zack Rosen. "His leadership on and off the floor has probably been unmatched throughout the nation," Allen said of his protege. He talked about how Rosen has acted as the perfect role model for sophomore guard Miles Cartwright, demonstrating how to approach "getting better every day" and being the leader of a team. Their "competitiveness" and "high basketball IQ" allow them to play together in the backcourt. "They don’t have a selfish bone in their bodies," Allen said. While it's hard to believe, this is Rosen's final year, so his bond with Cartwright will pay off: "Someday, it'll be Miles showing them the way," Allen said. "And he can honestly say that he saw how someone else did it."
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