November 1, 2021 

2021-22 Ivy League preview

Ivy League women's basketball is back—and as deep as ever

At the Ivy League’s virtual media day on Oct. 19, Princeton women’s basketball head coach Carla Berube seemingly spoke for the entire league, not just her Tigers, when she said, “We’re all so excited and grateful to be back on the court, all together. It was a long—I don’t know—18, 19 months.”

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It’s been that long because the Ivy League canceled sports in 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some players learned virtually, from all over the globe, while others took a year off of school to preserve their athletic eligibility in the Ivy League. The ripple effects will make the 2021-22 season unpredictable and unique: Most freshmen and sophomores have yet to compete for their school, some players’ graduation years changed and players had differential access to weight rooms and basketball courts to improve their games.

For Harvard head coach Kathy Delaney-Smith, it is always exciting to have players return to campus for another school year, but this fall feels supercharged because of all that preceded it.

“It’s times 100,” Delaney-Smith said. “It’s an energy that I haven’t felt in 40 years at Harvard.”

The eight Ivy League head coaches all brought that joy and optimism to media day, though many of them also cautioned that their rosters are young and inexperienced. Nearly every team has at least as many newcomers as returners, including five incoming transfers around the league. Columbia is the only team with more returners (eight) than newcomers (seven).

A graph showing the number of returning players, new players and players lost since 2019-20 for each Ivy League team.

The balance between classes has also shifted: While the share of freshmen on Ivy rosters (27.6%) this season is nearly identical to what it was in 2019-20 (28.6%), the share of juniors is eight percentage points higher and the share of seniors is six percentage points lower. Not to mention, most players have a year less college basketball experience than their academic standing would suggest, so it makes sense that the rosters seem especially young to coaches.

Yet several returning upperclassmen had already established themselves in the league pre-pandemic, including the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year in Penn’s Kayla Padilla and five other players who made All-Ivy teams that season. That star power could give their teams an early advantage.

“There’s some teams that have significant people back, so I’m not … buying some of the stock [other coaches are] selling that they’re young,” Cornell head coach Dayna Smith said. “… There’s some really talented athletes in our league, and there’s some very, very strong teams that have a core together.”

To Smith’s point, her returners accounted for just 27% of Cornell’s minutes and points in 2019-20, the second-lowest share in each category in the league. Only Dartmouth is less experienced, by those metrics, while Columbia and Harvard are at the other end of the spectrum. Both teams had significant contributions from underclassmen two years ago, and they return at least two-thirds of their minutes and points.

A graph showing the percentage of minutes and points each Ivy League team returns from 2019-20. In order from most to least minutes returning: Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, Brown, Yale, Penn, Cornell, Dartmouth.

Even for a team like Harvard that returns nine players—the most in the Ivy League—integrating an equal number of newcomers can be challenging. “The basketball is a little bit ugly—I’m going to be honest,” Delaney-Smith said at media day, about two weeks into preseason practices. “… So our job is to put it together as a system, as a unit, as a team. And if we do, then we will be a team to be reckoned with.”

(Asked about Delaney-Smith’s statement, first-year Dartmouth head coach Adrienne Shibles joked, “Our basketball’s looking great. It’s just perfect right now.”)

That newness and unpredictability is part of the fun, too, as players take on new roles, coaches invent new schemes for new-look teams and everyone has high hopes for what their ceiling can be.

“What’s really exciting about this year is that we’re learning about ourselves, our identity, but we’re also learning about Harvard’s identity, Princeton’s identity,” Yale junior forward Camilla Emsbo said. “And I think in the Ivy League, you get pretty used to the players that you’re playing against and you learn their games almost as well as you know your own team’s games. So I think this is kind of throwing a fun, interesting wrench in that. And we’re going to get to figure it out on the fly.”

Although the teams are still figuring themselves out, the media didn’t have the same luxury, as 16 voters (including me) had to submit ballots for the preseason poll before media day. Let’s preview each of the Ancient Eight teams in order of their preseason ranking, starting with the defending regular-season champion Princeton Tigers. All statistics are from the school or Ivy League websites unless otherwise noted.

1. Princeton

2019-20 record: 26-1 (14-0 Ivy, 1st in the league)

My preseason ranking: 2

Top returners:

  • Julia Cunningham, JR guard (8.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.4 SPG in 2019-20)
  • Abby Meyers, SR guard (6.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG)
  • Grace Stone, JR guard (5.8 PPG, 2.2 APG, 39.7% 3-point shooting) 

In response to a question about whether she is comfortable with the Tigers being the preseason favorite, Berube gave a verbal shrug. “Um, I mean, it’s fine,” she said.

It’s safe to say that she and her players are more enthusiastic about every other aspect of the season. Senior guard Abby Meyers characterized the Tigers as “an eager, excited team” and said they still have something to prove after the 2020 Ivy League and NCAA Tournaments were canceled. Those cancellations ended the Princeton career of current Dallas Wings forward Bella Alarie and denied the Tigers—who were then on a 22-game winning streak—a chance to make a run on the national stage.

“I think our identity this year is really just come out and try and keep with the momentum that we ended with in 2020 … and that is our defensive identity, our tough mentality, our competitiveness and our will to be the best,” Meyers said. Princeton ranked No. 1 in the country in 2019-20 in points allowed per game (47.9) and per 100 possessions (69.9), and junior guard Julia Cunningham said the team has been doing lots of shell drills in practice to maintain that level of execution.

Princeton will rely on its two seniors, Meyers and guard/forward Neenah Young, and five juniors to provide continuity and teach the program’s culture to the eight newcomers. Berube praised the upperclassmen for their leadership and the improvements in their individual games. She specifically cited the improvement of three guards—Meyers, Cunningham and junior Maggie Connolly—which will be critical because star point guard Carlie Littlefield graduated in 2021 and is now a graduate transfer at North Carolina.

Still, Berube said, Princeton will rely “quite a bit” on newcomers, with the most likely contributors being sophomore point guard Kaitlyn Chen and freshman forward Paige Morton. Both are former McDonald’s All-Americans, and Chen was the No. 66 recruit in the country out of high school, according to espnW.

The returners and newcomers are blending well, Cunningham said, which is difficult to do after so much time apart and roster turnover but is crucial to a team’s success. That could make the Tigers an early favorite—and Yale head coach Allison Guth agreed.

“[The voters] nailed it in terms of understanding the success that Princeton has had, the defense that they play,” she said. In the 11 seasons from 2009-10 to 2019-20, the Tigers won the Ivy League eight times and finished second the other three times. Expect more where that came from in 2021-22.

2. Penn

2019-20 record: 20-7 (10-4 Ivy, 2nd)

My preseason ranking: 1

Top returners: 

  • Kayla Padilla, JR guard (17.1 PPG, 2.4 APG, 39.9% 3-point shooting)
  • Kennedy Suttle, SR forward (4.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.0 SPG)
  • Mia Lakstigala, SR guard (3.5 PPG, 43.5% 3-point shooting)

The Penn Quakers have won the conference title in all three seasons Princeton has not since 2009, and this year, they have two advantages over the rest of the league. First, several players lived off-campus in Philadelphia last fall while Penn’s campus was closed, and Penn was able to practice for eight weeks in the spring with many of its players. That gave Penn more opportunities to practice and develop chemistry than other teams whose players were widely scattered and/or taking time off school.

Second, the Quakers have Padilla, who ranked sixth in the country among freshmen in scoring in 2019-20 and made the fourth-most threes in a single season in Penn history. According to head coach Mike McLaughlin, the junior has only become a better player and leader since then. “Kayla has been exceptional,” he said. “… We’re very fortunate that we have a player to play around.”

In part because of Padilla, an early candidate for Ivy League Player of the Year, the Quakers will be more guard-oriented than in years past. Senior guard Nikola Kovacikova, who transferred from Georgetown after averaging 7.9 points and 2.4 assists per game in 2019-20, is expected to contribute, and returning senior guards Meg Hair and Mia Lakstigala also earned praise from McLaughlin for their preseason play.

Another reason Penn will play more on the perimeter is the graduation of star center Eleah Parker, the two-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year who is now at Virginia. But McLaughlin identified sophomore Jordan Obi and especially senior Kennedy Suttle as frontcourt players whom the offense can flow through as well.

“Kennedy’s been exceptional,” McLaughlin said. “Her leadership, her play has been very good. She has really taken that next step that you would only hope that your players take.” At 6’ to Parker’s 6’4, Suttle’s methods in the post may look different than Parker’s, but her success will be similarly crucial to balance out the perimeter attack.

Including Parker, Penn lost 11 players to graduation over the past two years, the result of large senior classes and no players taking last year off of school. That is the highest number in the league, and it means that newcomers might play more minutes than usual. McLaughlin said he has loved seeing players assume new roles, bring energy and improve in just a few weeks of preseason practices.

In some ways, the situation reminds him of his second or third season at Penn about a decade ago, when he was establishing a culture and style of play. The big difference is that “we’ve now established a culture of winning.”

And while some things may change after losing so many players, don’t expect the perennial contenders to dip in the standings. “We will be a little bit different, but I think you’ll see a very similar type [of] team,” McLaughlin said. “You’re going to see a very committed, team-oriented, pass-first, play the game the right way, play it together, share the ball [type of team]. I think you’ll see different people out here for sure … but hopefully we can play a very similar style.”

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3. Columbia

2019-20 record: 17-10 (8-6 Ivy, 4th)

My preseason ranking: 3

Top returners: 

  • Abbey Hsu, SO guard (14.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 41.1% 3-point shooting)
  • Sienna Durr, JR guard/forward (12.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.5 APG)
  • Kaitlyn Davis, JR guard/forward (8.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG)

“I think the brand of Columbia women’s basketball that everybody’s going to see this year is going to be very exciting,” head coach Megan Griffith said. “I think it’s just the start for us building off of two seasons ago.”

The pandemic did little to curb the Lions’ momentum after a breakthrough 2019-20 campaign in which they finished fourth in the Ivy League. It was the first time in nine seasons that they had not finished in the bottom two and their best result since finishing third in 2009-10. Best of all, they lost just one player who played more than 140 total minutes and return six of their top seven scorers.

“We have unfinished business,” Griffith said, from not getting to compete in their first Ivy League Tournament. “That’s just—we talk about that all the time.”

The early returns are promising: Everyone is completely bought in, Griffith said, and players are leading more than in her previous five seasons at Columbia. “I just haven’t talked nearly as much [in practice],” Griffith said. “… This team is ready to be player led, and I’m really excited about that.”

Columbia’s returners include two second-team All-Ivy players from 2019-20, sophomore guard Abbey Hsu and junior guard/forward Sienna Durr. As a freshman, Hsu led the Ivy League in 3-point shooting percentage, and both could contend for Player of the Year honors this season. The Lions also have two point guards whom Griffith trusts in junior Carly Rivera and senior Mikayla Markham, as well as guard/forward Kaitlyn Davis and guard Jaida Patrick.

Davis arguably received Griffith’s highest praise of media day with a comparison to NBA legend Magic Johnson. “If anybody has watched her play, I think they know how much that she leaves a mark on the game,” Griffith said. “… She’s like Magic Johnson. That’s what I’ve always said; I even told her that when we were recruiting her. She just makes the game so fun, and she connects the pieces for you really well. She can literally do everything … She can play [positions] one through five, and she erases mistakes.”

Griffith was also bullish on Patrick, a junior transfer from Duke who averaged 11.8 points per game in Duke’s pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season. “She’s an electric player, extremely athletic and … extremely coachable. And I think she’s going to make a big splash in the league,” Griffith said.

The Lions don’t have the tallest roster, with four players topping out at 6’1, but they didn’t need much more size in 2019-20 to succeed both on the glass—ranking third in the league in rebounds per game—and in the standings. With nearly every key player returning and the addition of Patrick, the Lions are in good position for another Ivy Tournament berth.

Yale women’s basketball head coach Allison Guth answers a question at the Ivy League’s virtual media day on Oct. 19, 2021. (Screenshot from the Ivy League’s recording)

4. Yale

2019-20 record: 18-8 (9-5, 3rd)

My preseason ranking: 5

Top returners:

  • Camilla Emsbo, JR forward (15.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.3 BPG)
  • Alex Cade, SR forward (5.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG)
  • Klara Astrom, SO guard (2.8 PPG, 34.0% 3-point shooting)

Even though Guth lost four of her top six scorers from a 2019-20 Bulldogs team that finished third in the Ivy League, she was so excited about this year’s team at media day that I asked her flat-out, “Did we rank Yale too low in the preseason poll?”

She demurred, saying that she doesn’t focus much on those rankings. “But I really have a trust and a faith in this group because of the returning experience we do have combined with the talent that we’ve got coming in,” she added. “… I think we’re going to be a force.”

The returners include forwards Camilla Emsbo and Alex Cade, a duo that Guth said “have really set the tone” and even ran timeouts during a recent scrimmage. Emsbo was a second-team All-Ivy honoree in 2019-20 and ranked in the top six in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots, but Guth said that she has improved “exponentially” after playing with the Danish national team last year. Most notably, Guth said that at 6’5, Emsbo is one of the Bulldogs’ best perimeter defenders.

Cade’s stats aren’t as flashy as Emsbo’s, but Yale is benefiting hugely from her decision to take last year off of school in order to play her senior season. “She’s just kind of the heart of this crew,” Guth said. “… She wanted to stay here, she wanted to get her year back with this team and she wanted to compete for a championship, and so I think it’s sensed and felt in her drive, in her motor, in how she operates in practice each and every day.”

Because Yale returns only about a third of its minutes and points from 2019-20, there are plenty of opportunities for younger players. Freshman forward Grace Thybulle will begin the season behind Emsbo and Cade on the depth chart but earned praise from Guth for her coachability and skill. On the perimeter, Guth expects returning sophomores Jenna Clark and Klara Astrom to step up as a point guard and a shooter, respectively, giving the team offensive balance but also helping it get the ball inside.

“A lot of our experience is returned on the interior. We know that that’s a focus for us, how we play inside out, and our team is loving it,” Guth said. “… When you talk about the vision to the posts and who gets the ball to the post, that’s a big [point of] pride for our guards.”

With so much talent to replace, it may take time for the Bulldogs to fully develop their identity. To aid in that process, Guth redesigned preseason practices to focus more on small group work and chemistry over individual skill development. But she is also staying patient as her team inches toward its potential. “I have full confidence in them, and I think it’s going to be a journey that we’re going to grow together,” she said.

Harvard held an intrasquad scrimmage as part of its Crimson Madness event on Oct. 15, 2021.

5. Harvard

2019-20 record: 15-12 (6-8 Ivy, 5th)

My preseason ranking: 4

Top returners:

  • Lola Mullaney, SO guard (14.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 34.2% 3-point shooting)
  • Tess Sussman, SR guard (7.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.2 APG)
  • Maggie McCarthy, JR guard (7.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.2 APG)

While Guth said she wasn’t focused on the preseason rankings, Delaney-Smith took a peek—and didn’t agree with what she saw. “We think we’re better than fifth,” she said.

She added, “I would say I have the most talent I’ve ever had at Harvard … I’m taking a chance saying that, but I truly feel that way.”

Like Columbia, Harvard was young in 2019-20, which could pay off now: Harvard returns eight of the ten players who averaged at least one point per game and 73% of its scoring overall. Others around the league have noticed: “That’s a very strong team with the players that they have coming back and new faces,” Berube said.

One of the Crimson’s strengths, Delaney-Smith said, is their “enormous scoring power,” led by sophomore guard Lola Mullaney. Mullaney led Harvard in scoring and was named All-Ivy Honorable Mention as a freshman, but Delaney-Smith said Mullaney is “not even the same player; she’s two times better” this season. She said the same about senior captain Tess Sussman, who spent part of her offseason coaching alongside, and learning from, former Harvard point guard and assistant coach Lindsay Hallion Miller.

“[Sussman] has been actually asked to play literally every position in our program, and she does it because her IQ allows her to do it, and her work ethic and her drive and her confidence. So she’s our foundation,” Delaney-Smith said. “She’s our lefty, ‘I can do anything,’ ‘What do you need me to do for the team?’ kind of player.”

Junior guards Annie Stritzel and Maggie McCarthy have also notably improved, according to Delaney-Smith, and she adds junior transfer McKenzie Forbes and freshman Harmoni Turner to the mix. Forbes played her freshman season at Cal in 2018-19, and her “unlimited potential” was evident to Delaney-Smith when she scored 22 points in a loss to Harvard. Meanwhile, Delaney-Smith calls Turner, espnW’s No. 42 recruit in the class of 2020, “a phenomenal talent” and “tremendous at both ends of the floor.”

The result is a team deep enough that Delaney-Smith believes she has seven or eight bona fide starters. Developing chemistry will be a process, as several players took last season off of school and just two players practiced on campus last spring, but sheer talent should keep Harvard in any game early on. By the time conference play rolls around, the Crimson could be a serious title threat.

6. Cornell

2019-20 record: 10-16 (3-11 Ivy, 7th)

My preseason ranking: 6

Top returners:

  • Shannon Mulroy, JR guard (8.3 PPG, 2.5 APG)
  • Theresa Grace Mbanefo, SR forward (5.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 0.7 BPG)
  • Samantha Will, SR guard (3.2 PPG, 1.2 RPG)

Four of Cornell’s five starters from 2019-20 are gone—and so is much of its bench. Eight newcomers join six returners, and all of those players will take on new roles.

“[There is] a lot of learning, a lot of newness in every little thing we do,” Smith said, “not just plays and schemes, but what we stand for on both ends of the ball, what we stand for as a Cornell women’s basketball player, how to navigate life as a student.”

The Big Red have been inconsistent in practice, and Smith anticipates “quite a few growing pains” during the season. She will experiment with starting lineups and rotations early on, in hopes that everything will come together in Ivy League play.

“I have to look big picture, long term, and realistically, in my mind, the season starts Jan. 2,” she said. “That’s our first Ivy game at Dartmouth.”

Defense is a big question mark, as the Big Red typically rely on a mix of defenses, including a press and a zone. That makes the learning curve steeper for the newcomers to master all of these and, especially, to execute them in games.

“We’re in the process of implementing that now,” Smith said. “I think I see some great signs … We have some unique players where their instincts are pretty good. We were probably a more defensive-oriented team two years ago … but I think that’s right now what we’re trying to gauge,” she said.

The offensive end may offer reason for optimism, though. Smith believes the Big Red are a better shooting team than the 2019-20 team, which finished last in the league in 3-pointers made and fifth in points per game. Cornell was unable to hold any team practices last year, so it did a lot of skill development with players individually or in very small, socially distanced groups, and Smith has noticed improvements.

Personnel-wise, the two constants entering the season are junior point guard Shannon Mulroy, the lone returning starter, and senior forward Theresa Grace Mbanefo, the sixth woman two seasons ago. Smith said both players are in great shape and have helped show their teammates what the coaching staff is looking for.

But Mbanefo and Mulroy have to learn new roles, too. “They’re not filling in behind somebody; they are the somebody,” as Smith put it.

After them, Smith said, “everything else is unknown.” Guard Samantha Will is the only other senior and could help fill in behind Mbanefo and Mulroy, or perhaps one of Cornell’s four freshmen will catch the league by surprise.

And although Cornell isn’t expected to contend for the league title, that isn’t diminishing Smith’s joy—or that of her players. “I’ve loved our energy; I’ve loved our excitement for every single day,” the 20-year Ivy League veteran said. “They laugh a lot, which makes me laugh, which is probably a good thing … [And] as an old woman, they keep me on my toes.”

7. Dartmouth

2019-20 record: 10-17 (4-10 Ivy, 6th)

My preseason ranking: 8

Top returners:

  • Katie Douglas, SR guard (7.5 PPG, 2.0 APG, 36.8% 3-point shooting)
  • Jimena Abejon, SR guard (3.5 PPG, 1.3 RPG)
  • Allie Harland, JR guard (2.7 PPG, 0.8 RPG)

When the Dartmouth players and staff saw the preseason poll, they mostly shrugged it off. “Rankings, schmankings,” joked Shibles. Junior Karina Mitchell said the players briefly discussed it and decided “to use it as fuel for our fire to make a run this year.”

But Shibles acknowledged that the ranking was “appropriate” because of how much talent the Big Green have lost. Four of the five starters from 2019-20 are gone, and just four players remain who have played even a single conference game.

“It feels a little bit like we’re all first-years right now, just after the pandemic and the year off from play,” Shibles said. Even the coaching staff is rather green, as Shibles is in her first season at Dartmouth and neither she nor any of her staff have Division I coaching or playing experience. (However, Shibles did win over 80% of her games in 13 seasons at Division III Bowdoin.)

Mitchell and junior Emma Koch said that Shibles has held competitive practices that mimic game environments and that she is honest with players while also holding them accountable. Much of the focus has been on defense, rebounding and limiting turnovers, all of which Shibles’ recent Bowdoin teams did exceptionally well, even while playing up-tempo offense.

When Shibles was hired back in May, she didn’t commit to implementing that high-octane offense right away, saying it would depend on her personnel. But at media day, she confirmed that she envisions Dartmouth “pushing the ball in transition and then extending the pressure defensively to try to create that chaotic environment for our opponent.” Dartmouth ranked in just the 13th percentile in 2019-20 in pace, so that will be an adjustment, but its offense—which ranked in the 12th percentile—could definitely use some easy transition points.

With so many newcomers, Shibles is still determining who her go-to performers will be. “We’re incredibly young, we’re incredibly balanced and I see that as a real opportunity,” she said. She explained that the youth and depth give her team ample room to grow throughout the season, and the players are embracing a mantra of “Get 1% better every day” to try to realize that potential.

Dartmouth’s two seniors, Katie Douglas and Jimena Abejon, are the top returning scorers and the most obvious candidates to separate themselves. But another candidate could be Mitchell, who averaged just 0.7 points and 0.8 rebounds per game as a freshman in 2019-20 but now has a unique leadership role as both a captain and a point guard.

“I can’t wait to see what they do,” Shibles said about the entire team. “I think there’ll be a lot of surprises because, as I said, right now I think we’re a really balanced team, so I’m looking forward to see who rises.”

8. Brown

2019-20 record: 8-19 (2-12 Ivy, 8th)

My preseason ranking: 7

Top returners:

  • Maddie Mullin, JR guard (6.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.6 APG)
  • Ashley Ducharme, SR forward (4.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 0.8 BPG)
  • Fiona Finn, JR forward (2.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG)

Like Shibles, Brown head coach Monique LeBlanc thinks youth might actually be one of her team’s strengths. The Bears have ten newcomers, six juniors and one senior in forward Ashley Ducharme, and Ducharme is the only returner who started at least half of Brown’s games in 2019-20.

“Sometimes [youth] can be intimidating, I guess, for coaches because we feel like we have a young squad and we’re not as experienced as other programs,” LeBlanc said. “But I find it to be a strength because I think that we’re hungry, we’re really competitive and everybody wants to get out there and contribute to this new style of basketball that we’re really excited to play.”

Compared to Dartmouth, though, Brown has slightly more minutes and points returning, and while LeBlanc is technically a first-year head coach like Shibles, LeBlanc was hired a full year earlier and led her team through the 2020-21 academic year. Those differences are why I ranked Brown seventh and Dartmouth eighth on my preseason ballot.

Unlike the Dartmouth staff, LeBlanc and her staff also have experience coaching and playing in Division I—and, in the case of assistant coach Tyler Patch, coaching at Brown specifically—which could help them rebuild the program more quickly. LeBlanc said that they are adopting a style of play that is “fun” for fans and players alike, with a fast-paced and free-flowing offense and an “intense” defense that is “flying around” and creating havoc.

The defensive end is perhaps the greater adjustment, both because LeBlanc’s defense differs from its predecessor and because the Bears struggled defensively in 2019-20. That season, Brown ranked last in the Ivy League in points allowed, opponent 3-point shooting percentage and steals per game and second-to-last in opponent field goal percentage. Defense has been a point of emphasis in practice, LeBlanc said:

“We want to attack our challenges head-on, and there’s no secrets about where maybe we’ve struggled in the past … We work with analytics to inform our strategies defensively, and we’re really excited about being a much better defensive squad this year.”

For Brown to outperform its preseason ranking, it will likely need a big year from Ducharme. At 6’1, she was the team’s leading rebounder two seasons ago, and she will matter on the glass again for a team that has just one player taller than 6’2.

“As we’re trying to build this championship culture, Ash is somebody who has just kind of had that mindset and those intangibles right off the bat,” LeBlanc said. “… She understands the grind of the Ivy League and what it takes.”

Junior Maddie Mullin is poised to complement Ducharme on the perimeter as the team’s leading returning scorer, and classmate Lexi Love averaged 1.9 assists and the team’s best assist-to-turnover ratio in 2019-20. LeBlanc also praised sophomore guard Kyla Jones at media day as a player who is “dynamic” and “can score at all three levels.”

While LeBlanc is intent on making Brown a winning program again, she also appreciates how difficult that is from her own experience. She recalled how, as a player at Bucknell, her team gave up 16 offensive rebounds in a loss at Harvard, and she ended her college career with a 2-5 record against the league.

Since then, she said, Ivy League basketball has only improved. The statistics bear that out, as the Ivy League has ranked in the top third of conferences in RPI in each of its last six seasons.

“Now, this is the place to be if you are a high-level Division I basketball player and smart enough to be here,” LeBlanc said. “… So I think that it’s grown immensely from [my playing] days, and it’s really exciting to be part of it now.”

Written by Jenn Hatfield

Jenn Hatfield has been a contributor to The Next since December 2018 and is currently the site's managing editor, Washington Mystics beat reporter and Ivy League beat reporter. Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats, FanSided, Power Plays and Princeton Alumni Weekly.

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