At 8-2 in the league, the Big Red has a two-game lead on four contenders tied for second: Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton, and Yale, all with 6-4 conference marks. The defending champions’ magic number is three to guarantee a return to the NCAAs. If it wins all three, boom, it’s tourney time. Win twice and if each of the other contenders lose once, same result. Lose two of four and one those teams goes 4-for-4 in its remaining games, and we’re looking at a one game Ivy League Tournament.
As one of four teams to take on Cornell this weekend, Harvard will look to pull an upset over the Big Red at Lavietes. Although Cornell is favored, as fans of Ivy League teams have seen all season, nothing is as simple as it seems.
So what to expect? Frankly, after all the crazy out-of-nowhere results since league play began, your guess is at least as good as mine and you might just want to flip a coin. But be sure to sit back and enjoy the exciting action this weekend.
COLUMBIA (11-13, 6-4 Ivy) at HARVARD (10-12, 3-7 Ivy)
Believe it or not, the Lions have the second longest winning streak against the Crimson—after Yale—with the New York school winning the past five games. Columbia needs to extend that streak if it wants to stay alive in the league race. Two weeks ago, a short-handed Harvard team nearly pulled out victory in New York, although it could be even more short-handed if star guard Jeremy Lin is still affected by a hurt ankle suffered at Princeton a week ago.
CORNELL (18-8, 8-2 Ivy) at DARTMOUTH (8-16, 6-4 Ivy)
This is the fixture to watch for the weekend. Imagine if Dartmouth had pulled out the double overtime game in Ithaca, the two teams would be tied for first now! No doubt, this is one of the biggest games in recent history for a Big Green team that last reached the NCAA Tournament in 1959 and Leede Arena should be rocking despite its small space.
YALE (11-13, 6-4 Ivy) at PENN (10-12, 4-5 Ivy)
Who would have thought it would be Yale and not Penn in contention for Ivy accords? Or that Penn would be 0-4 at home so far on the season?? The Quakers do have three more chances to break their goose egg at home, and the Bulldogs haven’t won in the Palestra since 1997. But Penn has been all about breaking streaks at home this season, a good omen for the visitors.
BROWN (7-17, 1-9 Ivy) at PRINCETON (10-12, 4-5 Ivy)
The Tigers would be in control of their own destiny if they hadn’t been mauled by the Bears for Brown’s lone win in the Ivy season. That is a big dent in their title drive. Look for Princeton to exact revenge this weekend.
COLUMBIA at DARTMOUTH
An elimination game for both teams, although they have to get through today unscathed. Regardless, another interesting race to watch this weekend is the league Player of the Year award. Big Green star Alex Barnett has won three of the five Player of the Week awards since Ivy play began in earnest. He also leads the Ivies in scoring and is near the top in many other categories. My money for POY is on him. For now.
BROWN at PENN
This is the one game that is sure to be irrelevant for the Ivy League race. The Bears have a tough road back to the top of the league, but do you know what would be a great step in that direction? If at quiet Pizzatola Sports Center, there was a live bear as a mascot! Think about it, a big hairy scary bear would constantly roar at the opposing team to frighten the jeepers out of it and also dance around the court at halftime to provide better entertainment than any other halftime stuff I’ve seen in the Ivies.
YALE at PRINCETON
Just like the Columbia-Dartmouth matchup, this will be a crucial game if both teams win Friday. After schooling the Tigers in the reverse fixture and sweeping Cornell and Columbia last weekend, the Bulldogs seem to have the edge as the Tigers have lost two of their last three home games. But Yale is just 2-3 on the road in the league, so who knows?
CORNELL at HARVARD
The last two times these schools met here, the games were decided on the final possession, with a one-point Crimson victory in 2007, and a Cornell win by the same margin last year. It was this time last year in Ithaca the Big Red clinched the Ivy title. If it wins at Dartmouth, it can clinch at least a tie with a win at Harvard. In the Crimson’s favor, it has by and large played much better on the second night of back-to-back games so far. And surely Cornell would rather wait until next weekend to clinch in front of its own fans where it has not lost all season, yes? Hopefully?
—Staff writer Ted Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.