October 28, 2023 

2023-24 Ivy League preview

Stars return leaguewide, and potential breakout players are waiting in the wings

In 2022-23, four of the eight Ivy League women’s basketball teams made the NCAA Tournament or WNIT, and three won at least one game in the postseason. That success reinforced something that people within the league had noticed for some time.

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“Ivy League basketball is getting a lot more competitive,” Princeton senior forward Ellie Mitchell told reporters at the conference’s media day on Oct. 16. “We’ve been in growth mode.”

“I think the entire eight as a group is the best … that it’s ever been, which is exciting,” Harvard head coach and former Princeton assistant Carrie Moore added.

The Ancient Eight is poised to continue its rise in 2023-24, partly because of its elite returning talent. Nine of last season’s 14 All-Ivy selections and all four major award winners are back, led by the reigning Player of the Year, Princeton’s Kaitlyn Chen. Harvard (three) and Columbia (two) bring back multiple All-Ivy honorees.

Despite that star power, though, Ivy teams overall are somewhat less proven than they were last season. Entering 2022-23, Ivy teams returned a median of 72% of their minutes and 74% of their points from the previous year. This season, they return a median of 60% of their minutes and 67% of their points.

What that means is there are openings for less decorated players to establish themselves around the returning stars. Which teams’ supporting casts step up the most could go a long way toward determining the four-team Ivy League Tournament field and the league champion.

Let’s break down each Ivy League team’s outlook for the 2023-24 season, including who their stars are and what their supporting casts might look like. We’ll start with the preseason favorite and move down the preseason poll, or you can click the links below to skip to specific teams. (All statistics are from the teams’ websites unless otherwise hyperlinked.)

Brown | Columbia | Cornell | Dartmouth | Harvard | Princeton | Penn | Yale

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The favorites

Princeton players hug each other and scream in celebration after winning the Ivy League Tournament title. Forward Ellie Mitchell is shown in the center of the photo, beaming and holding her right pointer finger in the air.
Princeton players, including forward Ellie Mitchell (center, with one finger in the air), celebrate winning the Ivy League Tournament at Jadwin Gymnasium in Princeton, N.J., on March 11, 2023. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)


2022-23 record: 24-6 (12-2 Ivy, T-1st in the league)
Preseason ranking: 1st (16 first-place votes, 128 points)
Percentage of minutes returning: 59.4% (5th-highest in the league)
Percentage of points returning: 63.0% (5th-highest in the league)

Top returners:

  • Kaitlyn Chen, SR guard (16.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.8 APG, Ivy League Player of the Year in 2022-23)
  • Ellie Mitchell, SR forward (5.8 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 2.5 SPG, two-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year)
  • Madison St. Rose, SO guard (8.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, Ivy League Rookie of the Year)

The last season that Princeton didn’t claim at least a share of the Ivy League regular-season title was back in 2016-17, and the Tigers were unanimously picked to win it again this year. They return all three of their major award winners from last season in Chen; Mitchell, the co-Defensive Player of the Year; and Rookie of the Year Madison St. Rose. That trio will anchor the Tigers on both ends as they look to build on two straight appearances in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Head coach Carla Berube told reporters at media day that Chen has shored up her 3-point shooting, one of her few weaknesses last season. Chen, a 5’9 guard, already shot the ball efficiently at the rim and in the midrange, so an improved long-range shot will only open things up further for her inside the arc.

St. Rose, meanwhile, has improved her all-around game and become a leader in her second season. “Everyone on our staff and team [is] really, really excited about just how much better she’s gotten,” Berube said. “… A lot of it is off the court, too, just great leadership and the work ethic she’s bringing every day. But yeah, we’re excited about her defensive prowess … [and] smart playmaking ability and shot making.”

Even with that elite trio back, though, there’s also a feeling that the Tigers aren’t quite the juggernaut they were in previous years after graduating five seniors, three of whom were key rotation players.

“It’s definitely a different feel for us this year,” Berube said. “… It’s a lot of teaching. We’re really setting sort of the foundation and working our way and building each day.”

Princeton welcomes six freshmen, including 6’ wing Fadima Tall, who is the only Ivy League recruit in the HoopGurlz top 100 rankings for the class of 2023. Berube noted that the freshmen bring more athleticism to the team, which will help Princeton play faster. Last season, despite the Tigers’ usual stifling defense, they ranked in just the 43rd percentile nationally in fast break points per game. But Princeton began to push the pace in a trip to Spain and Greece in August and added the freshmen to the mix in September.

“I think we’ll look a bit different this year,” Berube said. “Hopefully, we’ll still have our standards on the defensive end. But offensively we’ve got some different firepower.”

So far, the offense has outperformed the defense in practice, Berube said, but it’s a safe bet that Princeton’s defense will be elite again. The Tigers have ranked in the top 10 nationally in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) in each of the past three seasons. They also retain Mitchell, who led the league in rebounding, ranked third in steals and almost certainly led in floor burns.

In part because of that defense, others around the league expect Princeton to be as strong as ever this season.

“Princeton is a really good team, always,” Penn forward Jordan Obi said on the Quaker Nation podcast on Oct. 1. “… We always have trouble scoring against Princeton. And then defending the ball, they always get into gaps and just pick apart our defense.”

“I’m never worried about Princeton,” Brown head coach Monique LeBlanc said at media day. “They’re well coached and they’ll always find a way.”

Columbia guard Abbey Hsu holds the ball with both hands near her right hip. She stands on the perimeter with a defender squared up to her and scans the court.
Columbia guard Abbey Hsu (35) assesses her options during the WNIT championship game against Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan., on April 1, 2023. (Photo credit: Columbia University Athletics / Josh Wang)


2022-23 record: 28-6 (12-2 Ivy, T-1st)
Preseason ranking: 2nd (103 points)
Percentage of minutes returning: 45.9% (8th)
Percentage of points returning: 47.3% (8th)

Top returners:

  • Abbey Hsu, SR guard (17.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 37.7% 3-point shooting, First Team All-Ivy in 2022-23)
  • Kitty Henderson, JR guard (9.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.4 APG)
  • Paige Lauder, SR guard/forward (6.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 53.8% field goal percentage)

After two of the best seasons in program history, including its first Ivy League title last season, Columbia is looking for more. Senior guard Abbey Hsu, a WBCA All-America Honorable Mention last season, will lead the way. She already holds the Columbia record for career 3-pointers, is two away from the Ivy League record, and could set Columbia’s career points record this season.

This summer, Hsu played for Team USA at the FIBA AmeriCup, becoming the first mid-major player since 1997 to represent the U.S. in that event. “I just wanted to make sure I came back with as much information as I could hold,” Hsu said at media day. She brought that information back to Columbia, along with the experience of playing deep into the WNIT in two straight years.

“I’m super excited to get going with Ab again,” said junior Kitty Henderson, the Lions’ do-everything point guard. “I mean, she’s breaking records every year, as is this team. So we’re really looking to do that again.”

Last season, the Lions returned over 96% of their points and minutes from 2021-22, the highest shares in the league. In contrast, they return less than half of their minutes and points this season, the lowest shares in the league, after graduating seven seniors. But they still have lofty goals, and they’ll be tested in the non-conference with six Power Six teams on their schedule, tied with Princeton for the most in the Ivy League.

Head coach Megan Griffith will look to some returners to step up, including senior forward Paige Lauder and sophomore wing Perri Page. Both played regular minutes off the bench last season, and Page was recently cleared to play after a knee injury ended her season in February. Junior forward Noa Comesaña, who was a part-time starter as a freshman, is also back after missing last season due to hip surgery.

Alongside the returners, Griffith has a deep pool of newcomers with two transfers and six freshmen. The transfers — junior Cecelia Collins from Bucknell and sophomore Ava Sciolla from Maryland — have been incredibly versatile, Griffith said on media day, playing positions one through four in the preseason. The freshmen have also impressed with their energy and basketball IQ.

“I don’t even see them as real freshmen,” Hsu said on Oct. 6. “They’re playing like upperclassmen, just how fast they’re picking up things.”

“The energy in our gym has been fantastic,” Griffith said at media day. “… [The newcomers are] extremely intelligent and smart and they’re picking up on concepts really fast, which has allowed us to progress faster than even I think I thought at the beginning of this season.”

Columbia finished within striking distance of Princeton and just one point ahead of Harvard in the preseason poll, showing how tight the race is expected to be between the top three teams. But the Lions are confident that, even with so much turnover, they can win the league and make their first-ever NCAA Tournament.

“We’re coming back for that Ivy title again,” Henderson said. “… We have a lot of goals, and I think that some of those we fell short of [last year] and we’re definitely looking to knock them down this year. And I’m definitely confident in the team that we have.”

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Harvard guard Harmoni Turner walks onto the court and high-fives her teammates as she is introduced as a starter.
Harvard guard Harmoni Turner (14) is introduced as a starter before the Ivy League Tournament championship game against Princeton at Jadwin Gymnasium in Princeton, N.J., on March 11, 2023. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)


2022-23 record: 20-12 (9-5 Ivy, T-3rd)
Preseason ranking: 3rd (102 points)
Percentage of minutes returning: 74.0% (3rd)
Percentage of points returning: 75.8% (3rd)

Top returners:

  • Harmoni Turner, JR guard (16.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 4.5 APG, First Team All-Ivy in 2022-23)
  • Lola Mullaney, SR guard (14.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 36.6% 3-point shooting, Second Team All-Ivy)
  • Elena Rodriguez, JR forward (11.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.8 APG, 62.3% field goal percentage)

One advantage Harvard has over Columbia and Princeton is that most of its core returns from last season’s run to the Ivy Tournament final and WNIT quarterfinals. That includes 76% of its points, compared with 63% for Princeton and 47% for Columbia. And in guards Harmoni Turner and Lola Mullaney and forward Elena Rodriguez, Harvard has a Big Three as good or better than any team in the Ivy League.

Turner is the engine, a First Team All-Ivy guard who can play on or off the ball and is a menace on both ends. “Harmoni is one of the most competitive players that I’ve ever been on a team with,” Mullaney said at media day. “So it’s just so great to play alongside her and against her in practice. And she just brings so much offensively and defensively.”

Mullaney has sunk over 200 3-pointers in three seasons and is so accurate that Turner joked that she runs back on defense every time she passes Mullaney the ball.

Rodriguez had a breakout season last year as a sophomore — and could be in line for another. At 6’2, she played center often last season, but she considers herself a big guard, and she’ll get to show that more this season because Harvard has more post depth. This summer, Rodriguez played with the Spanish national team in the Under-20 European Championship, which Moore said “catapulted” her game forward.

“She’s our [quarterback] on the floor,” added Moore, who is in her second year with the Crimson. “She makes a lot of decisions for us in the middle of the floor. I think she works really well with Harmoni in the middle of the floor, and … then you add Lola to the piece. It’s an amazing trifecta.”

The added post depth will primarily come from 6’1 sophomore Katie Krupa, 6’1 freshman Abigail Wright and 6’2 junior Mona Zarić, who is in her first season at Harvard after transferring from Indiana. That size has been nice to have after 6’ guard McKenzie Forbes, now a graduate transfer at USC, sometimes played center in years past.

“I joke about it in practice every day,” Moore said. “I’m like, ‘Where are all of our guards?’”

Wright is one of three freshmen in Moore’s first recruiting class, and the hope is that all three will contribute this season. “They bring that that gritty factor to a team that already plays pretty, if you will,” Moore said.

Guard Karlee White may be the most prepared to make an impact on Day 1. She can play the point or off the ball, allowing her and Turner to share lead guard duties. “She’s super confident and ferocious out there and not afraid,” Turner said, “and that’s a key factor in what we need.”

With so much returning and the added depth, third place might be too low of a projection for the Crimson. But to win a championship, they need to improve their defense to match their elite offense — and get used to having a target on their backs.

“We worked tremendously hard in Year 1 [of my tenure], and I think ultimately we wanted to let folks know who we are,” Moore said. “… Now it’s, how do we respond now that we are no longer a surprise?”

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The dark horses

Penn forwards Floor Toonders and Jordan Obi high-five as they run back on defense during an Ivy League Tournament semifinal game.
Penn forwards Floor Toonders (14) and Jordan Obi (0) high-five during an Ivy League Tournament semifinal against Princeton at Jadwin Gymnasium in Princeton, N.J., on March 10, 2023. (Photo credit: Ryan Samson, Sideline Photos)


2022-23 record: 17-12 (9-5 Ivy, T-3rd)
Preseason ranking: 4th (77 points)
Percentage of minutes returning: 53.4% (6th)
Percentage of points returning: 50.4% (7th)

Top returners:

  • Jordan Obi, SR forward (12.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 35.5% 3-point shooting, Second Team All-Ivy in 2022-23)
  • Simone Sawyer, SO guard (6.8 PPG, 33.1% 3-point shooting)
  • Floor Toonders, SR forward (6.2 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.2 APG)

The Quakers have as much to replace as any team in the conference after graduating their starting backcourt of Mandy McGurk and Kayla Padilla. Padilla, a three-time First Team All-Ivy selection in as many seasons, is one of the best players in program history and often carried the offense, averaging 17.8 points per game and shooting 38.5% from 3-point range in her career.

“It’s challenging to lose anyone, especially of Kayla’s status and what she meant for our program both on and off the floor,” head coach Mike McLaughlin said at media day. “But … she rubbed off on this program, and I think we’ll see the benefits of that this year.”

One player who watched and learned from Padilla is Obi, a 6’1 senior forward. Obi describes herself as someone who leads by example rather than vocally, and she’s now doing “all the extra little things” she saw Padilla do as a leader, such as staying after practice to shoot and proactively getting treatment.

“[I’ve] been at Penn 15 years. I haven’t seen a kid make as much [of a] jump as Jordan has,” McLaughlin said. “I mean, on the floor, off the floor … the way she handles herself, her maturity jump, her selflessness. I can’t say enough about her.”

Penn’s offense will now run through Obi, whether she’s shooting on the perimeter, battling in the post or distributing as a point forward. “Coming into college, I never really thought of myself as a scorer per se,” Obi said. “… I’m kind of trying to take on that role more.”

Obi will also need help, which is likely to come primarily from senior center Floor Toonders and sophomore wing Simone Sawyer. McLaughlin called Toonders “a total professional at the college level” for her consistency and unflappable nature, and Sawyer has expanded her offensive game and been more active defensively.

“Last year we knew [Simone] as a 3-point shooter, but in practices, she’s been getting a lot of her buckets different ways: cutting to the basket really hard, attacking the basket really hard,” Obi said. “So I’ve been really impressed with Simone.”

Around that trio, there will be lots of opportunities for freshmen and less experienced returners to carve out roles. One player who appears to have done so is freshman Mataya Gayle, who McLaughlin said would start at point guard if the season began on media day. In high school, Gayle set four school records in track as well as her school’s career points record in basketball, so she’ll be a threat in transition and in the half court, and she is also a good on-ball defender.

The Quakers have several question marks in their first season post-Padilla, but one thing that can’t be questioned under McLaughlin has been defense. They have ranked in the top third nationally in defensive rating for 10 straight seasons and in the top 10% in five of those years. They’ll rely on that again this season as they find their footing offensively.

Yale head coach Dalila Eshe and guard Jenna Clark smile during an on-court interview with ESPN.
Yale head coach Dalila Eshe (center) and guard Jenna Clark (1) speak with ESPN after a game during the 2022-23 season. (Photo credit: Sam Rubin/Yale Athletics)


2022-23 record: 13-14 (7-7, 5th)
Preseason ranking: 5th (69 points)
Percentage of minutes returning: 89.0% (2nd)
Percentage of points returning: 91.2% (1st)

Top returners:

  • Jenna Clark, SR guard (10.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.4 APG, Second Team All-Ivy in 2022-23)
  • Kiley Capstraw, SO guard (9.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 36.4% 3-point shooting)
  • Nyla McGill, JR guard (7.9 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.6 SPG, Ivy League Co-Defensive Player of the Year)

Yale brings back over 90% of its scoring from last season, the highest share in the league. In head coach Dalila Eshe’s second season, the Bulldogs have a chip on their shoulder after being picked fifth in the preseason poll. That’s where they finished last year, one spot short of the Ivy League Tournament.

Already, the Bulldogs see a huge difference from last season. Eshe is talking and teaching much less, and practices are moving faster because everyone except freshman Lucy Lynn is familiar with the concepts.

“We’re in an incredible space,” Eshe said at media day. “I think that we really trust each other. … They know my expectations. … It’s more of a refresher when we put stuff out on the court.”

Now that the players are used to Eshe’s system, the offense should be less predictable for opponents, senior point guard Jenna Clark told The Next. Last season, Yale ranked in the 26th percentile nationally in offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions). In part, that’s because Eshe had her players slow things down last year as they learned.

This year, though, she’ll let them run. Success in transition starts with Clark, who has led the Ivy League in assists in two straight seasons. She also led Yale in scoring last season and will be asked to score more this season.

“The girl never gets tired,” junior guard Nyla McGill said at media day. “She’s always ready to go. Every single game, she’s out there giving her all the entire time. In practices, same thing. And also she’s always vocal … She’ll always have the energy to continuously talk to us and continuously lead us while also fulfilling the position of the coach on the court.”

McGill and sophomore Kiley Capstraw, along with senior Klara Astrom and junior Christen McCann, are all guards who can help carry the load. McGill, the Ivy League co-Defensive Player of the Year last season, has a unique skillset: At 5’8, she ranked second in the conference in both rebounding and steals per game. And Capstraw looked like a potential Rookie of the Year pick before struggling late in the season.

“[Kiley] maybe was a little frustrated with the end to her season last year,” Eshe said, “which is a good thing. So now she’s … raring for a really, really good sophomore year … She wants us to kind of put it on her back. So we’re excited to have her and to have her where she’s at mentally and physically right now.”

Though Yale has enviable guard depth, questions remain about the frontcourt. The four forwards on the roster each started at least seven games last season but averaged under six points per game. Eshe declined to say who had separated themselves in the preseason, saying instead that they’d all had their moments. Unlocking a post player offensively could go a long way toward boosting Yale’s offense.

Overall, Yale seems like a good bet to make the Ivy Tournament this season. And it’s aiming even higher.

“We want to win the Ivy League, and we want to make postseason play,” Clark said. “… Anything less than that, we wouldn’t be satisfied.”

The Brown women's basketball team stands in a circle on the large "B" logo in the middle of its home court.
Brown women’s basketball stands in a circle during a preseason practice at the Pizzitola Sports Center in Providence, R.I., in fall 2023. (Photo credit: Brown Athletics)


2022-23 record: 11-15 (4-10 Ivy, 6th)
Preseason ranking: 6th (42 points)
Percentage of minutes returning: 90.2% (1st)
Percentage of points returning: 90.9% (2nd)

Top returners:

Brown hasn’t cracked the top four in the Ivy League since 2016-17, but the Bears are pushing for an Ivy Tournament berth this season. They are on an upward trajectory under LeBlanc, winning five more games last season than they did in 2021-22. And they lead the Ivy League with 90% of their minutes returning for 2023-24.

“It’s finally a year where we’re not just talking about how young we are,” LeBlanc said at media day.

“Part of returning a lot of people is that our team chemistry and our on-court chemistry is really, really good right now,” added sophomore guard Grace Arnolie. “People have kind of learned how to play with each other and play off of each other, both on offense and defense … It’s just going to be really exciting.”

Like Yale, the Bears have been able to move faster in practice with 13 returners and only two freshmen this season. Practices have also been more competitive, LeBlanc said.

However, for the Bears to vault up the standings, they need to improve defensively. In conference play last season, they ranked last in defensive rating. Primarily playing a 2-3 zone, they held Ivy opponents to 41.3% shooting, which ranked fifth, but too often they couldn’t close defensive possessions with a rebound.

“Rebounding would be our No. 1 focus right now,” LeBlanc said.

Senior guard Kyla Jones sets the tone defensively and leads the way on offense as an elite slasher and paint finisher. LeBlanc said Jones has always been “a very calming presence” for her teammates, but this season, she’s playing with more urgency, knowing this is her last chance to get Brown to the postseason.

Around Jones, Arnolie and junior guard Isabella Mauricio provide 3-point shooting to help open up driving lanes. Both Arnolie and Mauricio are trying to be more vocal leaders after leading more by example earlier in their careers, and Arnolie feels much more settled in her role in her second year with the program.

“I definitely think that I’m gonna come into more of a leadership role this year,” Arnolie said. “… The kind of hesitation isn’t there anymore that I had last year, and I’m really ready to become more of a vocal leader … especially helping out the freshmen and just hyping up my teammates during practice and games.”

One year ago, Brown was picked last in the Ancient Eight but outperformed expectations to lay a solid foundation for this season. Now, the Bears have a much sunnier preseason outlook, and if they maximize their talent again, they could be a dark horse candidate to make the Ivy Tournament.

The builders

Five Cornell players sit on stools in a horizontal line facing head coach Dayna Smith. Their teammates and the rest of the staff huddle in a semicircle around them.
Cornell players listen to head coach Dayna Smith (seated, center) talk in a huddle during a game against Yale at Newman Arena in Ithaca, N.Y., on Feb. 25, 2023. (Photo credit: Cornell Athletics)


2022-23 record: 10-17 (3-11 Ivy, 7th)
Preseason ranking: 7th (39 points)
Percentage of minutes returning: 50.4% (7th)
Percentage of points returning: 55.9% (6th)

Top returners:

Cornell enters the season with several holes to fill and a lot to learn. But despite the potential growing pains, head coach Dayna Smith is excited about her roster.

The Big Red lost three starters from last season, and they return only four players who averaged even eight minutes per game. “You can’t really teach what those in-game experiences, wins or losses, are like in any other situation than for our players to go through that,” Smith said at media day. “… We’re young in experience and we’re young in age.”

Smith typically uses the non-conference schedule to experiment and learn, and she’ll do that again this season. “We need to find people that are ready to be our scorers, be that lockdown defender, be the person who’s going to distribute the ball, have that leadership,” she said.

Scoring is high on Smith’s priority list after the Big Red ranked in just the 10th percentile nationally in offensive rating last season. She will likely lean more on forwards Emily Pape and Summer Parker-Hall. Because Pape is efficient scoring from anywhere inside the arc, the pair could play together more often than they did last year, when they shared the court for about 10 minutes per game.

In addition to their potential in high-low sets, Pape and Parker-Hall complement each other as leaders. Parker-Hall is the one who “gets us going … and gets us pumped,” Pape said, while Pape leads more by example.

Cornell also adds five freshmen this season, all of whom will get opportunities to carve out minutes. The first freshman Smith mentioned at media day was Azareya Kilgoe, a point guard who could make up for some of what Cornell lost on the perimeter. “She’s somebody that has a great presence about herself and has some shiftiness and craftiness,” Smith said.

“We just have to learn who we are and what we’re going to be and how to handle adversity,” Smith added. “How to win a game, how to stay in a game, how to challenge a team that might be significantly better than us. But if we can do all of that by January, then it was a successful non-conference season … All that matters is how many Ivy games we win.”

Smith believes her young team can grow and gel enough to make the Ivy Tournament, though she acknowledges that Cornell faces an uphill climb with the talent throughout the conference.

“We need people to grow, we need them to mature, we need them to develop, and we need a sense of team play and chemistry,” she said. “And we’re getting there. It’s been a good, fun, slow process. But it’s not probably where it is with some of the other teams.”

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Dartmouth forward Clare Meyer attempts a post move against forward Doreen Ariik during a preseason practice.
Dartmouth forwards Clare Meyer (right) and Doreen Ariik face off during a preseason practice at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., in fall 2023. (Photo credit: Kyle Relf)


2022-23 record: 2-26 (0-14 Ivy, 8th)
Preseason ranking: 8th (16 points)
Percentage of minutes returning: 59.6% (4th)
Percentage of points returning: 69.9% (4th)

Top returners:

  • Victoria Page, JR guard (10.1 PPG, 1.8 APG, 34.3% 3-point shooting in 2022-23)
  • Mekkena Boyd, SR guard (8.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG)
  • Mia Curtis, SR guard (7.7 PPG, 38.0% 3-point shooting)

On her first Ivy League media day, new Dartmouth head coach Linda Cimino joined the Zoom call early and listened to some of her peers talk about their goals for the season.

“[They’re] talking about trying to win the Ivy League championship,” Cimino said when her turn came. “I’m sitting here focusing on making sure that we’re not turning the ball over and controlling each possession and making sure that we’re doing the little things on the court. So we’re in a little different position.”

In May, Cimino took over a program that went 5-49 over the previous two seasons. Last season, Dartmouth was outscored by 15.6 points per game, which ranked 348th out of 361 Division I teams. The seniors who are in their fourth year at Dartmouth are now playing for their third head coach, following Belle Koclanes and Adrienne Shibles.

Cimino hopes to return the program to Ivy title contention within a few years. Her vision for her team is a “scrappy” group that plays with “energy, enthusiasm and passion.” She has appreciated how receptive her players have been to her system, and she credited returning guards Victoria Page, Mekkena Boyd and Mia Curtis with “setting the tone” as leaders.

Though those three guards are Dartmouth’s top returning scorers, Cimino has been impressed by the post play in practice — so much so that she now expects to “play inside out rather than the other way.” Cimino has typically liked having a traditional post player or two, and this year she has 6’4 junior Doreen Ariik and 6’3 sophomore Clare Meyer. If she plays them together, the Big Green should have a size advantage against most Ivy opponents.

“It’s definitely opened up new shots for me,” Page said of the more interior-focused offense. “… [And] it’s, as a team, allowed us to play more team basketball instead of it just being more one-on-one and just throwing up bad shots.”

The offense is also opening up for Page because Cimino has simplified her role. She’ll primarily be a wing scorer this season, rather than being asked to facilitate and score at point guard.

“I did have a lot of turnovers last year in trying to do both. And I appreciated Coach Cim’s pure honesty with me,” Page said. “… Having that clarity has given me more confidence to kind of step into my role … [of] scoring and being aggressive.”

Cimino has rebuilt several programs in her career, and she’s familiar with the Ivy League from competing against its teams and coaches over the years. Dartmouth’s path to Ivy League success is daunting, but Cimino is excited.

“This is a very strong league,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge. … As a competitive person, I’m very up for the challenge, and I think our players are as well.”

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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