The Ivy League is often a forgotten conference. That isn’t to say it hasn’t had talented teams, but the Ivy League hasn’t produced a national contending team since the days of Bill Bradley at Princeton University. However, this year the Ivy League has caused some drama. Earlier this season, the Penn Quakers of the Ivy League stunned the defending champion Villanova Wildcats in their annual match-up, beating the Wildcats for the first time since 2002.
Both teams belong to the The Big 5 — a group of Philadelphia colleges — where annual match-ups cause rivalry among the programs in the city of brotherly love. The formerly ranked 16th Villanova Wildcats held a 25-game winning streak against Big 5 opponents, but that came to an end when the Penn Quakers beat the Wildcats for the first time in 16 seasons. A week prior, Penn won on the road against ACC opponent, Miami (FL), winning by a 14-point margin, making a statement to power conference opponents that they should not sleep on the Quakers.
“It’s really tough to comprehend right now, to be honest with you,” Penn head coach Ray Friore told NBC Sports Philadelphia after the win. “Wow, just wow. It’s been a long time since this happened.”
In other Ivy League News, the Princeton Tigers went to Cameron Indoor Stadium to face off against the perennial powerhouse Duke Blue Devils. The Blue Devils routed the Tigers by a 51-point margin. Instead of reveling in defeat, the Tigers bounced back and beat the Lafayette Leopards by 2 in Easton, Pennsylvania. In another test, the Tigers traveled to Tempe, Arizona and beat formerly ranked (17) Arizona State in a 1-point thriller. The Tigers seemed to have bounced back from the bad loss against Duke.
To open Ivy League play, the Penn Quakers and the Princeton Tigers faced off and the Tigers just edged out the Quakers by 3 points.
“It felt very much like all the Penn games that I remember as a player. It was just a tense, heavy game,” Mitch Henderson, the Franklin C. Cappon-Edward G. Green ’40 head coach of Princeton men’s basketball, said in an interview. “We lost four overtime games last year in the league and it’s really nice to get one here and sort of feel like that that’s over.”
These two teams look to be two top contenders coming out of the Ivy League in 2019, and given their recent success against high-quality performances against tough opponents, they could be sleeper teams come March.