PHILADELPHA - Following the largest single-season turnaround in program history, prognosticators are starting to believe in head coach Mike McLaughlin and the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball program. For the first time in seven years, Penn was picked to finish in the top half of the Ivy League when the Quakers were slated to finish fourth in the 2011-12 Ivy Preseason Media Poll released Wednesday. The preseason poll features a select panel of 17 Ivy media representatives.
Princeton, the two-time defending Ivy League champion, was picked to finish first with 14 of the 17 first-place votes and 133 points. The Tigers were followed by Harvard, which received the other three first-place votes and 117 points. Penn received 68 points in the poll behind Yale's 103 points, but ahead of Brown (66), Columbia (52), Dartmouth (52) and Cornell (21).
Just a year ago, Penn was picked to finish eighth in the league with a last-place vote from 15 of the 17 voters. But the Quakers finished in sixth-place with a record of 5-9 in the league. In addition, the Quakers posted a nine-win improvement from the 2008-09 campaign to record the best one-year turnaround in the history of the program at 11-17 overall.
The Quakers will look to continue that winning trend this season with the return of eight letterwinners. That includes the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Alyssa Baron - the first freshman in league history to win the scoring title. Sophomore Meghan McCullough, who started 28 games last season and senior Jess Knapp, who started 27, also return for a squad that features six freshman and five sophomores on the 15-man roster.
The last time Penn was picked to finish in the top half of the Ivy League was in 2004-05 when the Red and Blue were defending Ivy League champions. The Quakers were predicted to place third and finished fourth with an 8-6 Ivy record.
2011-12 IVY LEAGUE WOMEN'S BASKETBALL PRESEASON MEDIA POLL
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
First-Place Votes in Parentheses
Rank School Points
1. Princeton (14) 133
2. Harvard (3) 117
3. Yale 103
4. Penn 68
5. Brown 66
6. Columbia 52
8. Cornell 21