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Three-Time Defending Champion Princeton Selected as Women's Basketball Preseason Favorite

Princeton's Niveed Rasheed
Princeton's Niveed Rasheed

Photo courtesy of Princeton Athletic Communications

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Three-time defending Ivy League champion Princeton has been selected to win its fourth-straight conference title after a vote by conference media and women's basketball sports information directors. The Tigers are 41-1 in Ivy play the past three seasons, including a pair of undefeated campaigns (2009-10 and 2011-12).

Princeton (24-5, 14-0 Ivy), which received 13 first-place votes and 132 points, is looking to become the first team to win four-straight championships since Dartmouth won five in a row from 1985-90. The Tigers ran right through the League last season, winning their Ivy games by an average of 31.0 points.

The Tigers return the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year in senior Niveen Rasheed, who led the League in scoring (16.9) and rebounding (8.8) a year ago, as well as the two-time Defensive Player of the Year in senior Lauren Polansky. Princeton fell to Kansas State in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, 67-64.

For the fourth-straight year, Harvard (18-12, 10-4 Ivy) came in second in the preseason poll, garnering 120 points and four first-place votes. It marks the highest total of first-place votes for the second-place team since the Crimson received five prior to the 2009-10 campaign. Harvard finished second in the League last season and went 1-1 in the WNIT, with its 73-71 win at Hofstra in the first round marking the first postseason victory for an Ivy team since Harvard knocked off No. 1-seed Stanford in the opening round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament. The Crimson then fell at Temple in the second round of the WNIT, 64-59.

Harvard will rely on junior Christine Clark, a first-team All-Ivy honoree a year ago, as well as sophomore Temi Fagbenle, who will be competing as a rookie after sitting out last season. Fagbenle played for Great Britain in the 2012 London Olympics, averaging 4.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steals and 1.0 assists per game.

Yale (16-12, 8-6 Ivy) came in third-place with 96 points. The Bulldogs return senior Megan Vasquez, who earned first-team All-Ivy honors last season after averaging 15.3 points per game, fourth-best in the League. Last year's Rookie of the Year, sophomore Sarah Halejian, also is back for Yale.

Penn (13-15, 6-8 Ivy) tallied 76 points to come in fourth. Quakers' junior Alyssa Baron finished 18 points off the League lead for scoring, averaging 16.9 points per game. Penn will also benefit from the return of sophomore Kara Bonenberger, who averaged 8.4 points and 5.8 rebounds as a freshman.

Brown (16-12, 7-7 Ivy) and Cornell (12-16, 6-8 Ivy) came in fifth and sixth with 61 and 58 points, respectively. The Bears will look to second-team All-Ivy recipient Sheila Dixon to lead the team. The senior led the team in both scoring (13.1) and rebounding (6.1) last season. The Big Red return a pair of Honorable Mention All-Ivy performers in senior Clare Fitzpatrick (10.8 points, 6.9 rebounds) and junior Allyson DiMagno (10.7 points, 7.3 rebounds). DiMagno ranked second in the League in rebounding, while Fitzpatrick finished in fourth.

Dartmouth (6-22, 4-10 Ivy) and Columbia (3-25, 1-13 Ivy) round out the final two spots in the preseason poll. Dartmouth senior Faziah Steen finished third in the League in scoring with 15.4 points per game en route to All-Ivy second team honors in 2011-12. Lions senior Tyler Simpson earned Honorable Mention All-Ivy accolades last year after leading the team in scoring, at 12.6 points per game, including an impressive 15.6 points per game in League contests.

First-Place Votes in Parentheses

1. Princeton (13) 132
2. Harvard (4) 120
3. Yale 96
4. Penn 76
5. Brown 61
6. Cornell 58
7. Dartmouth 46
8. Columbia 23