October 31, 2022 

Non-conference games to watch for every Ivy League team

We’re picking eight games for Ancient Eight teams — plus a few bonus selections

Strength of schedule is a hot-button topic for Ivy League women’s basketball coaches lately. They talk about it behind closed doors and with the media, aware that better schedules can help Ivy League teams get more postseason berths and better seeds.

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Last season, for instance, Princeton had a 24-4 record entering the NCAA Tournament, including a perfect 16-0 mark in conference play and a road win over a ranked Florida Gulf Coast team. It wound up with a No. 11 seed. In 2014-15, despite a 30-0 record entering the NCAA Tournament and a No. 13 national ranking, the Tigers got only a No. 8 seed — the best an Ivy League team had ever received.

“Each year, it’s about building and scheduling better games, scheduling better opponents and being intentional about that,” Columbia head coach Megan Griffith, who was an assistant coach on that 2014-15 Princeton team, said at the conference’s media day on Oct. 18. “And I have seen the schedules being released [for this season], and I do think our coaches are being intentional.”

It is difficult to evaluate teams’ strength of schedule before the season starts, but one proxy for mid-major teams is the number of opponents from Power 6 conferences. This season, Ivy League teams will play at least 20 regular-season games against Power 6 teams, the most since the 2017-18 season. (That season, incidentally, half of Ivy teams earned postseason berths: one to the NCAA Tournament, two to the WNIT and one to the Women’s Basketball Invitational.)

There are also challenging mid-major opponents on Ivy teams’ schedules, including teams that made the NCAA Tournament or WNIT last season and are preseason favorites in their conferences. Like the Power 6 games, these games can boost Ivy teams’ strength of schedule and help prepare them for conference play and the postseason.

The Next identified one non-conference game to circle on your calendar for each Ivy League team, whether because it’s that team’s biggest test, its best opportunity for a signature win, or a fun rivalry. Games are listed in chronological order, with teams’ preseason AP rankings noted where applicable, and all tip times are Eastern. There are also some bonus games listed for fans who want to get to know the Ancient Eight even better before conference play.

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Yale at Saint Joseph’s, Nov. 11, 7 p.m., ESPN+

Last season, Yale trailed Saint Joseph’s by as many as 19 points and weathered foul trouble from star forward Camilla Emsbo. The Bulldogs came back to tie the game early in the fourth quarter, only to lose 52-49.

Yale will be looking for revenge this season, though it will be missing Emsbo, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. But now-junior point guard Jenna Clark, who tied last year’s game with a 3-pointer, returns, as does her backcourt partner Klara Astrom, who hit three 3-pointers of her own that day. Meanwhile, the Hawks were picked to finish sixth out of 15 teams in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll and return three of their top five scorers from last year. That includes graduate student guard Katie Jekot, who had 11 points against Yale last season.

Also watch: Need something to watch on opening night on Nov. 7? Try Yale at Fordham (5:30 p.m., ESPN+) for a matchup between two teams with several key returners but new head coaches.

Columbia guard Jaida Patrick shoots a free throw as six Columbia and Seton Hall players box out on the lane lines
Columbia guard Jaida Patrick shoots a free throw during a WNIT quarterfinal game against Seton Hall at Levien Gymnasium in New York, N.Y., on March 28, 2022. (Photo credit: Columbia University Athletics/Mike McLaughlin)

Columbia vs. Seton Hall, Nov. 17, 7 p.m., ESPN+

Last year, Seton Hall ended Columbia’s season in the WNIT quarterfinals with a 78-75 win. The game had nine ties and 19 lead changes and Columbia felt that it squandered the opportunity to extend its historic season. The Lions return every player who appeared in that game, while Lauren Park-Lane, the Seton Hall point guard who scored 29 points that night, is also back. Columbia was picked to finish second in the Ancient Eight this season, while Seton Hall was picked fourth in the BIG EAST.

“I’m excited to get another shot at them,” Griffith said at media day. “I know our team is just as excited as I am, if not more. That’s a game I think that we wish we could have gotten a few possessions back and probably all of our defensive ones. So we’re excited to re-attack that. … It’s one of the ones we definitely have circled on our nonconference [schedule].”

Also watch: If you like high-powered offenses, Columbia at No. 8 Iowa State on Nov. 20 (noon, channel TBA) is appointment viewing. Both teams ranked in at least the 88th percentile nationally last season in 3-pointers made and attempted, per Her Hoop Stats, and Iowa State brings back All-American guard/forward Ashley Joens, who averaged over 20 points per game. It’s also a homecoming for Columbia senior forward Sienna Durr, a native of Grinnell, Iowa.

Penn vs. Villanova, Nov. 17, 7 p.m., ESPN+

This is one of the annual Big 5 games each program plays against other Philadelphia colleges, so it carries additional weight compared to other nonconference tests.

“I’ve been accustomed to just how gritty these Big 5 games are,” Penn senior guard Kayla Padilla said at media day. “… I think the underclassmen and [junior transfer] Floor [Toonders] will see just how intense it can be, and hopefully, that can translate to later games.”

Villanova will likely be favored in its Big 5 games, as it received votes in the AP preseason poll and has last season’s BIG EAST Player of the Year in forward Maddy Siegrist. But Padilla is a star, too, as an Ivy League Player of the Year favorite and a preseason selection to the Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year preseason watch list. Seeing Padilla and Siegrist in action is reason enough to watch this game. And if they cancel each other out, it could be anyone’s game down the stretch.

Cornell at Rutgers, Nov. 27, 2 p.m., TBA

If you’re full from Thanksgiving leftovers and tired of trying to figure out your holiday shopping list, turn on this game between two teams trying to figure out their identities. Cornell head coach Dayna Smith admitted as much at media day, saying that she isn’t sure what the Big Red will run on offense or defense or which players will be in her rotation. Cornell returns the fewest minutes and points in the Ivy League and was projected to finish sixth, out of contention for the Ivy League Tournament.

Meanwhile, Rutgers has a new coaching staff for the first time in nearly three decades, with Coquese Washington taking the reins from now-retired Hall-of-Famer C. Vivian Stringer. There are only eight players on the roster for 2022-23, just three of whom were with the program last season. With this game coming less than three weeks into the season, we’ll get to see both teams experiment and learn on the fly, which could make the game unpredictable and exciting.

Brown's Bella Mauricio brings the ball over half court as a teammate and two Providence defenders trail the play.
Brown’s Bella Mauricio (30) brings the ball up in a game against Providence at the Pizzitola Sports Center in Providence, R.I., on Dec. 8, 2021. (Photo credit: David Silverman)

Brown at Providence, Dec. 7, 7 p.m., FloHoops

Brown’s only Power 6 matchup this season is against Providence, whose gym is just three miles northwest of the Pizzitola Sports Center. The Bears and Friars both finished eighth in their respective conferences last season and are projected to land there again. However, Brown brings back nearly all of its minutes and points from a season ago, including leading scorer Bella Mauricio. After falling to Providence at home last season, can Mauricio and the Bears return the favor?

No. 24 Princeton at No. 6 UConn, Dec. 8, 7 p.m., SNY

This matchup is one of two games against top-10 teams for AP preseason No. 24 Princeton, which returns most of its roster after falling one point shy of the Sweet Sixteen last season. But beyond the opportunity the Tigers have to get their first win over a top-10 team in program history, the game also brings UConn alumna and current Princeton head coach Carla Berube home to Storrs to face her former coach, UConn’s Geno Auriemma.

“We’ve been trying to get them on the schedule [the] last couple years,” Berube said at media day. “I think we finally found a date that we could do it and it could be at Gampel [Pavilion], which is, I think, meaningful to be back on the campus. And it’s going to be, I think, just a great experience and environment … [to] bring my team there and to compete against a really storied program.”

Also watch: Princeton’s other top-10 matchup, at No. 3 Texas, on Nov. 27 (1 p.m., TBA). Last season, Princeton lost to then-No. 12 Texas by 17 points, but it was competitive throughout, with Princeton cutting the Longhorns’ lead to five late in the third quarter. This season, both teams could be even better.

Harvard at Boston University, Dec. 21, 4 p.m., ESPN+

Another intra-city rivalry pits Harvard against Patriot League favorite Boston University just before the holiday break. Last season, the Crimson won at home despite trailing by as many as 19 points, getting a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds remaining from then-junior McKenzie Forbes.

There is star power on both sides this season: Harvard returns Forbes and 2022 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Harmoni Turner, who combined for 50 points against BU last season, in a loaded backcourt. The Terriers will counter with senior guard Sydney Johnson, the Patriot League’s preseason Player of the Year, and four other returners who started at least 19 games last season. This game also has added significance for Harvard because it is the last non-conference tune-up before hosting Ivy League favorite Princeton on Dec. 31.

Also watch: Harvard plays a trio of Power 6 opponents at a tournament in Cancun, Mexico, on Nov. 24-26 (times vary, FloHoops).

Dartmouth at UMass, Dec. 28, 7 p.m., NESN+

Dartmouth will be the fourth and final Ivy League team to play UMass, following Harvard on Nov. 18 (7 p.m., ESPN+), Yale on Nov. 30 (7 p.m., NESN+) and Columbia on Dec. 10 (noon, NESN). UMass is the preseason favorite in the A-10 and returns its top six scorers from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, so it will pose a challenge for every Ancient Eight opponent.

That is especially true for Dartmouth, which is projected to finish second-to-last in the Ivy League and faces UMass on the road after the holiday break. But as Dartmouth’s final nonconference game, it will be an important measuring stick for the Big Green, especially after playing AP preseason No. 4 Iowa on Dec. 21 and with Princeton looming in the Ancient Eight. Can Dartmouth use what it learns from those nonconference tests to win its Ivy opener at Cornell on Jan. 1?

For further reading on Ivy League women’s basketball, check out Jenn Hatfield’s season preview featuring all eight teams.

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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