The excitement/purity/antiquity (take your pick) of the Ivy League’s “14-game tournament” comes out in full force today. Yes, all the schools not starting with P have already have already exchanged travel buddies, but the pace picks up now with four Ivy games on each Friday and Saturday night for the next six weeks.
So each week, the title picture could get clearer and clearer, or it could become more scrambled.
Who knows, we could get all eight teams finishing with 7-7 records and the league would be forced to join every other conference in the country in having a post-season tournament.
If you’re betting at home, that’s about as likely as the Ivy representative in this year’s NCAA Tournament reaching the Final Four. Though one can dream.
On to the games, with today’s fixtures first.
PENN (4-10, 0-0 Ivy) at HARVARD (9-7, 1-1)
Penn is probably not as bad as its record shows, mainly because most of the Quakers’ losses have come against some pretty good teams, such as Villanova and other Philly schools, a solid Big 10 in Penn State, and also some team that wears sky blue and plays in Chapel Hill.
If Harvard’s record looks familiar, that is because it is the same as what the Arizona Cardinals had at the start of their tournament. Unlike the NFC champions, the Crimson needs to win more than just three games in a row to reach the promised land—try 12.
Will that run start tonight? Harvard did beat Penn by 10 last year, snapping a 12-game losing streak. The Quakers are better than they were last year, but so is the Crimson. Harvard by 10. Again.
YALE (7-9, 2-0) at COLUMBIA (5-11, 0-2)
Harvard coach Tommy Amaker and his predecessor Frank Sullivan have both stressed the danger of playing teams “with their backs against the wall.” Losers of its first two Ivy games, Columbia certainly fits the picture of a team desperately needing to win, while the Bulldogs find themselves tied for first and could be alone at the top of the table if they sweep their weekend games. But the Lions played well at home in their loss to Cornell. Expect another solid effort from a team craving Ivy victory. Columbia by five.
PRINCETON (5-8, 0-0) at DARTMOUTH (3-13, 1-1)
This is the Ivy opener for Princeton, which hopes to end a two-year streak of finishing in the Ivy cellar, and a win in New Hampshire would be a great first step. This Tiger team looks to be better than the past two years, led by freshman guard Doug Davis. He leads the team in scoring and has been selected as the Ivy League Rookie of the Week twice already this season.
Dartmouth has its own star player in senior forward Alex Barnett, who not only has three years of experience on Davis, but he also has a contender for the world’s greatest tattoo: the St. Louis Arch. Possibly adding to the Big Green’s advantage is that it has two players from Colorado, a state that has produced a number of skilled Ivy Leaguers in recent times. Dartmouth by three.
BROWN (6-10, 0-2) at CORNELL (12-6, 2-0)
The Big Red won by double figures at Brown at this time last year, anointing it as the team to beat in the Ivies. This year, a win over the Bears won’t bring the same result. Cornell’s undefeated Ivy season last year and fine non-conference schedule has already made it the clear front-runner. Home team by 13.
PRINCETON at HARVARD
Some talk has been made about how the Harvard team and its talented freshmen will do in their first experience with the dreaded back-to-back games. However, the Crimson is not the only team playing back-to-back on this night. The Tigers not only have lost every Ivy road back-to-back game over the past two seasons, they haven’t won ANY Ivy road game in that span. Neither of those two streaks end tomorrow. Harvard by eight.
PENN at DARTMOUTH
According to my clandestine sources close to the Penn team, the Quakers should do well if they realize they aren’t playing the supremely athletic teams they battled in non-conference and are more patient on offense. Also, they need to guard Alex Barnett. Penn should learn from Harvard’s mistake last weekend when Barnett scored 30, and also take advantage of its balanced offense with guard Tyler Bernardini and forwards Brendan Votel and Jack Eggleston all averaging double figures in scoring. Visitors by seven.
BROWN at COLUMBIA
That the Bears got swept by Yale may be the biggest surprise in the Ivy season so far. Brown has a solid starting five and three players averaging more than 13 points per game in forwards Matt Mullery and Peter Sullivan and guard Adrian Williams, yet they could be 0-4 if they lose this game. 0-4 should be remembered as the result of Inter’s road game against Roma in October, not the Bears’ record. Brown by six.
YALE at CORNELL
Do you like seeing Yale lose by a lot? This game, pitting the Bulldogs against a Big Red team with three strong potential First-Team All-Ivy players in guard Louis Dale, forward Ryan Wittman, and center Jeff Foote, is for you! Cornell by 15.
Record to date: 0-0-0
—Staff writer Ted Kirby can be reached at email@example.com.