For five seasons, Harvard Basketball has dominated the Ivy League.
The Crimson have won five straight league titles, and made four straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. And even though Harvard lost most of last season’s production, the Crimson were still considered by many to be Ivy favorites entering the 2015-16 season.
Chambers’ injury not only dealt a major blow to Harvard’s chances of a sixth-straight league title, but also opened the door for other teams to sweep in and steal the Ivy autobid away from the Crimson.
This season is set to be one of the most competitive seasons in the modern era of Ivy Basketball. Four teams — the aforementioned Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia — realistically have a chance to win the conference and represent the Ivy League in the NCAA Tournament.
The question is, who will it be?
Even before Chambers’ injury, some picked Yale to dethrone Harvard this season. After all, they almost accomplished that feat last season, losing to the Crimson in a one-game playoff.
Now, the Bulldogs may the favorite amongst the four contenders to win the league.
Yale returns reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Justin Sears and a few other key pieces from last year’s team. However, the Bulldogs lost three starters to graduation, so coach James Jones will need more contributions this season from experienced players like senior Jack Montague and sophomore Makai Mason — because if the Bulldogs slip up, Princeton and Columbia will be there waiting to seize the opportunity.
However, the Tigers — despite their experience — boast a young lineup (Brase is the lone center in the rotation), and may be a season away from winning the conference.
Meanwhile, Columbia hopes to rebound from a disappointing 13-win season marred by injuries. The Lions return two key players — All-Ivy forward Alex Rosenberg (16.0 ppg in 2013-14) and Grant Mullins (11.7 ppg in 2013-14) — from injuries which kept them off the court last season.
Rosenberg and Mullins will give Columbia an immediate lift, but the Lions also return Kyle Castlin, who led all Ivy freshman in scoring last season, and Maodo Lo, who led the Ivy League in scoring last season.
A lot of people are sleeping on Columbia, but the fact of the matter is the Lions have the talent to compete for the league title this season. With a roster heavy-laden in upperclassmen, this may be the last chance for Columbia to win the conference for a while.
And then there’s Harvard. The standard-bearer for Ivy Hoops was expected to take a step back this season, even before the loss of Chambers.
Now, with his floor general out for the season, coach Tommy Amaker will rely on youth this season. Upperclassmen Corbin Miller, Agunwa Okolie and Zena Edosomwan must step up in Chambers’ absence and lead a talented freshman class in what looks to likely be a rebuilding year.
But it there is one thing we’ve learned about Ivy Hoops, it’s don’t count out Harvard.
Will Harvard repeat for a sixth-consecutive season, or will another team step up and dethrone the champs? While that remains to be seen, one thing is for sure — the 2015-16 season is going to be very compelling.
With Chambers’ injury, Sears’ senior campaign, Princeton’s youth and Columbia finally being healthy, there’s no shortage of storylines among Ivy League contenders this season.
Those story lines, along with the overall competitiveness of the league, should make for an exciting season in Ivy Hoops.