It’s ironic junior point guard Ibrahim Jaaber spent the summer interning for a judge. He was a thief last season, collecting 48 steals in 14 league games to dwarf other players. Such focus and tenacity will likely get the defending champions back to the NCAA tournament. Coach Fran Dunphy, who has led eight NCAA teams over the past 13 seasons, worries about the leadership and production that graduated with Ivy League Player of the Year Tim Begley. But the Quakers have the league’s most experienced starting unit -- the backcourt of Jaaber and David Whitehurst, and frontcourt of Steve Danley, Mark Zoller and Eric Osmundson. The bench rotation is a concern, with senior swingman Friedrich Ebede, freshman forwards Cameron Lewis and Brennan Votel, and forward Adam Franklin, a former North Carolina junior varsity player, eyeing minutes.
2. Harvard (12–15, 7–7)
Frank Sullivan, entering his 15th year at Harvard, will become the school’s longest-tenured coach this season. Sullivan usually relies on his backcourt to lead the way, but this year the Crimson boast the league’s biggest and best frontcourt. First-team All-Ivy power forward Matt Stehle and 7-foot center Brian Cusworth are the league’s top two returning scorers and top two returning rebounders. Cusworth also topped the league in blocked shots. Junior Jim Goffredo moves into the shooting guard’s role and could join the big pair as a double-figure scorer. He will team up with freshman point guards Drew Housman and Andrew Pusar. Veteran small forward Michael Beal is a defensive stopper who’ll be spelled by fellow senior Zach Martin.
3. Princeton (15–13, 6–8)
Joe Scott’s first year at his alma mater was nothing short of a disaster. After a relatively successful run in non-conference action -- featuring wins over Bucknell, Rutgers and Tulane -- the Tigers stumbled out of the gate with a 1–5 record in their first six Ivy League games. This season’s young, small squad will resemble what Scott had at Air Force. The Tigers will rely on the perimeter firepower of Luke Owings, senior point guard Scott Greenman, sophomore Noah Savage and freshmen Alex Okafor and Geoff Kestler. Sophomore center Harrison Schaen returns from a year off from school and will be the backbone of a matchup zone that (hopefully) frustrates the opposition.
4. Cornell (13–14, 8–6)
Last season’s second-place club has graduated three 1,000-point scorers over the last two years, but the Big Red believe they can be better with more unheralded players. Of course, everybody knows versatile senior Lenny Collins, an all-league forward. The Big Red had success with a junior college transfer last season (forward Ryan Rourke) and will bring aboard Jason Hartford, from Chemeketa (Ore.) Community College, this year. Either Hartford or shot-blocker Andrew Naeve will start at center, and Ugo Ihekweazu adds to the solid frontline. The backcourt of senior David Lisle, junior defensive standout Graham Dow and sophomore Khaliq Gant must raise its play if the Big Red want to make a move up the Ivy League standings.
5. Dartmouth (10–17, 7–7)
The soundtrack used to be the best thing going at Leede Arena. Until, that is, new coach Terry Dunn came along and introduced his own brand of sweet music last season. The Big Green posted the second-biggest turnaround in Ivy history, improving from 1–13 in ’03-04 to 7–7 in Dunn’s first season. This year, an eight-player freshman class, led by point guard Marlon Sanders and swingman Alex Barnett, must contribute alongside senior shooting guard and leading scorer Mike Lang, and blossoming sophomores Jonathan Ball and Chuck Flynn. Forward Calvin Arnold and center Paul Bode, both 6-9, are talented shot-blockers.
6. Brown (12–16, 5–9)
Senior Luke Ruscoe lists Michael Jordan and Chinese philosophers Confucius and Sun Tzu as the people in history who he’d enjoy meeting. Each could give the Bears an answer for how to replace dominant guard Jason Forte. A balanced attack figures to suffice, starting with Ruscoe, the team’s top returnee in points (10.3 ppg), rebounds (5.6) and assists (2.2). The other returning starters are point guard Damon Huffman, the 2004-05 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, backcourt mate Marcus Becker, and rugged center P.J. Flaherty. Wing players Keenan Jeppesen and Scott Friske hope to sneak up on opponents.
7. Yale (11–16, 7–7)
While growing up a few blocks from Payne Whitney Gym, Casey Hughes would sneak inside to play pickup games. If the Bulldogs sneak into the title race this season, Hughes will be a big reason why. The 6-6 junior swingman may have a breakout season while stepping in for graduated standout Edwin Draughan. Hughes, who averaged 7.8 points and 6.2 rebounds a year ago, will be paired in the backcourt with one of the league’s top freshmen from last season, Eric Flato. Junior Sam Kaplan and freshman Ross Morin will help carry the load inside until 6-10 senior center Dominick Martin returns in mid-December. Forward Caleb Holmes is a rising sophomore.
8. Columbia (12–15, 3–11)
Nigerian-born Ben Nwachukwu didn’t play basketball until he was 14. Like the 6-9, 235-pound center, the Lions hope to be late bloomers after finishing in last place while losing all seven league road games. They possess a strong sophomore class, including three returning starters -- Nwachukwu, small forward Mack Montgomery, and point guard Brett Loscalzo, the best of the group. Senior forward Dragutin Kravic is the team’s top returning scorer (7.9) and rebounder (3.6) but actually had a disappointing season. Senior guard Dalen Cuff will step into the starting lineup, and freshman forward Joe Bova will be asked to make an immediate contribution.