Busting Brackets

Ivy League Basketball: 2024 conference tournament preview and predictions

The 2024 Ivy League men's basketball tournament kicks off with semi-final action on Saturday, March 16 at 11:00am. Get to know the field and the key players to watch ahead of this weekend with a comprehensive Ivy Madness preview.
Yale v Kansas
Yale v Kansas / Jamie Squire/GettyImages
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Key Players

#1 Princeton Tigers 24-3 (12-2) 

The Tigers had quite a tough act to follow this season. Last year’s Sweet Sixteen run marked the deepest the school had gone into the NCAA Tournament since 1964-65, and  Head Coach Mitch Henderson was now tasked with replacing three of the team’s top-five scorers from the previous campaign.

Luckily enough, three players who I’ve deemed the “internal development darlings” have helped pave the way to another successful season at Princeton.

Sophomore Xaivian Lee leads the way in this category. The Canadian wasted no time acclimating to his new, more impactful role with the team, boosting his scoring numbers from 4.8 to 17.7 PPG, including a season-high 33-point performance against Harvard back in January. Aside from scoring the rock, the guard’s 2.6 assist-to-turnover ratio leads the Ivy League and has helped open up the floor for his teammates throughout the year.

Fellow sophomore Caden Pierce has followed in Lee’s footsteps, also taking a large leap from last season’s 8.2 PPG up to 16.3. The forward’s presence in the paint has helped this team’s undersized frontcourt remain competitive while corralling 9.3 RPG, the second-best figure in the conference. Senior guard Matt Allocco has also joined in on the fun, refining his three-point and free throw strokes to knock down 42.7% and 92% this season respectively.

#2 Yale Bulldogs 20-9 (11-3)

After narrowly missing out on a NCAA Tournament berth in 2022-23, the Bulldogs are back in the mix this season. Head Coach James Jones has watched over the Yale men’s basketball program for nearly a quarter of a century, but this group might just be his most dangerous yet. All five of his team’s starters average double-digit point totals heading into the tournament.

Starting with the big fella in the middle, Danny Wolf has stepped up in his sophomore season to average 14.4 PPG and 1.3 BLK, all while leading the conference with 9.7 RPG. Wolf is the only seven-footer remaining in Ivy Madness, presenting an extra wrinkle for opposing coaches to plan against. Senior Matt Knowling joins him in the frontcourt, bringing along his 11.8 PPG and impressive 57.6 FG%, the fourth-best percentage in the conference.

The guard trio of John Poulakidas, August Mahoney and Bez Mbeng round out the starting five and combine to score nearly 35 PPG between them. Mbeng’s intangibles jump off the stat-sheet this year, ranking second in the Ivy League in assists (4.2) and steals (2.0). Meanwhile, Poulakidas and Mahoney both shoot the ball well from beyond the arc, averaging 4.5 three-point makes per game combined.

#3 Cornell Big Red 22-6 (11-3)

It’s hard not to scratch your head when looking back on Cornell’s 2023-24 campaign. No one on the roster averages more than 13 points per game, with only two players contributing double-figure scoring numbers. However, it’s hard to ignore the crucial role depth has played. Nine different players average over 14 minutes per game for the Big Red this season, making them the deepest team in this field of four by far.

Chris Manon has provided a consistent and reliable burst of offence for the team, averaging 12.6 PPG on 57.7 percent from the field. The guard scored double-digit points in each of his team’s final 11 regular season games that helped pave Cornell’s way into the Ivy League Tournament. Manon is one of five players in the rotation that shoot over 50% from the field, along with Isaiah Gray, Sean Hansen, Guy Ragland and AK Okereke.

The team boasts one of the strongest bench units in the conference that can change the complexion of a game in an instant. Ragland, a 6’8” forward from West Hartford, Connecticut, leads his team in rebounds with 5.2 per game. Alongside him, senior forward and three-point specialist Keller Boothby has knocked down 41.8 percent of his shots beyond the arc.

#4 Brown Bears 12-17 (8-6)

One of these Ivy Madness teams is not like the others. The Bears’ 2023-24 season has been a tale of resiliency. Mike Martin’s group started the year with a dismal 2-8 record and limped into conference play at just 4-11. However, a late-season surge has simultaneously forced Brown back into the fray and put the entire league on notice.

Junior Kino Lilly has been a consistent force for his team through the good, the bad and the ugly. His volume shooting has vaulted his scoring numbers up to 18.4 PPG, the best figure in the conference. Lilly also connects on 3.0 three-pointers per game, leading the Bears in the category. 

However, the program is more than just a one-trick pony (or Bear, if you will). For instance, backup guard Kimo Ferrari’s 10 three-pointers helped punch Brown’s ticket to Ivy Madness, finishing the game with an eye-popping 39 points off the bench against Dartmouth. Just a couple weeks prior, sophomore Kalu Anya stepped up with 23 points in a pivotal road win over Cornell. And don’t forget junior guard Aaron Cooley who, after falling out of the starting five, delivered the dagger in overtime in the Bears’ final regular season win over Yale.