I was wrong. The crap hit the proverbial fan last weekend in Ivy League men’s basketball, and out of the rubble, three contenders remain: Princeton (9-8, 4-0 Ivy), Cornell (15-7, 5-1 Ivy), and Dartmouth (6-14, 4-2 Ivy).
That’s right, Princeton—which was picked last in the Ivy League Preseason poll—is now in first place. Dartmouth, the team picked just ahead of the Tigers at the beginning of the year, is in third. Normally, I would chuck the lack of a clear-cut number one in the league to poor research by the Ivy officials.
But at least the experts got Cornell right.
Harvard beat then-No.24 Boston College—after that team had taken out the No.1 team in the country, UNC.
Yale has some talented low post players, and Columbia is a good young team. Penn is young, but looked like a serious threat in the Ivies after some strong play early.
Those programs seemed like logical picks to round out the top of the Ivy standings, while the rest of the league looked to be suffering from youth or just lack of talent.
But junior Alex Barnett has been sensational for Dartmouth, and Princeton is just playing out of its mind.
On Friday night, the Tigers did not just beat Cornell, they shellacked them, 61-41. And then on Saturday, against Columbia—the team I called the clear No.2 last week—it wasn’t even close, as Princeton held the Lions to 11 points, yes 11 points in the first half en route to a 63-35 beatdown.
Those aren’t just wins, those are big time season-changers.
Can you imagine the confidence the Tigers have, as they travel to Brown and Yale this weekend?
But then again, I’ve been wrong before. You know the drill, Friday’s games predicted first, followed by Saturday’s.
HARVARD at CORNELL
The Crimson was lucky to get the monkey off its back and break its recent slide when it did—at home against measly Brown. To his credit, coach Tommy Amaker made a good call in switching to a more pressing defense in the second half, and he said he didn’t panic at halftime.
The result: Harvard shut down the Bear’s guards on the defensive end and the team started making shots on the other.
Check that, junior phenom Jeremy Lin scored 22 in the second half, including his free throw as time expired that sent the Crimson to a much-needed 64-63 win.
Now, Harvard is still in the race, but just barely. It’s desperation time now as the squad must sweep arguably its toughesroad trip of the season.
Don’t be fooled by the Big Red’s performance against Princeton. Look to the next night for the real deal, as the squad went to the Palestra and dominated Penn 88-73. Wittman posted a game-high 21 points, and the team is confident coming back home.
Cornell 75, Harvard 63
DARTMOUTH at COLUMBIA
Now we’ll see what the Big Green is really made of. Dartmouth leaves the friendly confines of its small New Hampshire town for a heaping helping of the Big Apple. Columbia had an up-and-down weekend as it took down Penn (which is struggling mightily these days), but then choked at Princeton. Barnett has the capabilities to score 35 points, so the Lions better score on Friday. This is a toss-up, but I really expect Dartmouth to come down from its recent high against a good Lions squad. Let’s not forget—it’s on the road.
Columbia 58, Dartmouth, 54
PRINCETON at YALE
I really have no idea with this game. Last weekend, Princeton looked phenomenal, but can the team keep it up on the road?
Yale crushed Harvard, which played miserably, but then fell to Dartmouth in a game it needed to win to get into third place in the Ivies. Which Bulldog team will show up? Yale will have the advantage at home, and I’m sticking to my guns: Princeton can’t be this good. Can it?
Yale 66, Princeton 62
PENN at BROWN
Look who’s on a tough three-game skid and sitting near the bottom of the Ivies? Your Penn Quakers! And you know what, it will not be getting any easier for sophomore Tyler Bernardini and company. Brown has two players—junior Matt Mullery and sophomore Peter Sullivan—who work a lethal one-two combination for the Bears. I think the squad can get a game this season—just not this one.
Penn 60, Brown 55
HARVARD at COLUMBIA
Columbia is going to be drained from a tough match-up against Dartmouth. Harvard most likely won’t be in the Cornell match for too long, so the Crimson may have more legs for this match-up.
Columbia doesn’t offer many match-up problems for Harvard down low, and if senior Evan Harris can keep it going, the team may pull out this game. Although I tell myself: never trust your instincts on Harvard, my gut says they got to win this one.
Harvard 72, Columbia 69
PENN at YALE
I’ll make it brief: this is a total tossup. I just flipped a coin—25 times. Winner: Yale.
Yale 13, Penn 12
PRINCETON at BROWN
If Princeton is undefeated by the time this weekend is out, I’m going crazy. But I already predicted Yale would beat them, so the squad can take care of the stinky Bears.
Princeton 54, Brown 45
DARTMOUTH at CORNELL
I will never pick anyone to beat Cornell. Tigers, prove me wrong in three weeks. I defy you!
Cornell 77, Dartmouth 55
RECORD LAST WEEK: 3-5-0 (To date: 3-5-0)
—Staff writer Walter E. Howell can be reached at wehowellfas.harvard.edu.