With the race for the Ivy League championship reaching its midpoint this weekend, each member of the Ancient Eight is beginning to show its personality. At this stage, teams adopt a certain character—much like how bars and pubs craft an identity—that becomes the hallmark of their season. As almost half the conference schedule has elapsed, the time for a power ranking has come, and, in the spirit of spirits, each team is paired with its Cambridge bar doppelganger.
Starting at the bottom, Dartmouth and Cornell are sharing a scorpion bowl at the Hong Kong. The last time I went to the Kong, my coat was stolen. The time before, a person at the table next to me threw up and ran away. His friend slipped in the pile of puke, bumped into the emergency exit, and set off the alarm. Yup, pretty much sums up Dartmouth and Cornell.
Next on the list, Brown is drinking alone at Grendel’s Den. Grendel’s isn’t a bad time, and the Bears aren’t a bad team; certainly they’re capable of springing an upset on a superior squad. But both Grendel’s and Brown have a pretty low ceiling. Grendel’s peak is a mellow vibe; the Bears are, at best, a spoiler. Don’t expect much excitement from either.
Climbing out of the cellar, we head to Border Café where we find Columbia. The Lions are a bit of a niche team. Noruwa Agho and Brian Barbour offer great guard play, but if those two aren’t clicking, Columbia doesn’t have much going for it. So too, Border is great if you’re looking for margaritas or mixed drinks, but it’s not necessarily a go-to hang out. Nonetheless, the Lions and Border are solid, and neither should be overlooked.
Outside the first tier of Ivy teams and Cambridge bars, Yale and Penn sit together in a booth at the Queen’s Head Pub. Though maybe not the sexiest option, Queen’s Head is cheap, has games, and draws a good demographic. Of course, it’s relatively tame, so it can’t reach the exciting highs of its peers, but the Pub is still a reliably good time. Similarly, the Bulldogs and the Quakers may not have the firepower to compete for the league title over the course of a season, but both can challenge the best teams on any night.
I’m going a little off the map as we crack into the top two. Nestled in the heart of Central Square, the Cantab Lounge is the watering hole for Harvard. Why? Because the Crimson is the youngest team in the league, and the Cantab is the most kid-friendly establishment in Cambridge. The Crimson’s biggest question mark is its youth, and, while that might not matter to the bouncers outside the Cantab, it prevents Harvard from being the title favorite.
That distinction belongs to league-leading Princeton, which patronizes Tommy Doyle’s. Love it or hate it, Tommy’s is the closest Harvard Square comes to a college bar. Likewise, the Tigers might be maddening—eking out close wins at home—but until the preseason favorites are knocked off, they rightfully sit at the top.
YALE (11-9, 4-2 Ivy) at HARVARD (16-4, 5-1 Ivy)
In terms of the league title race, this game is the most important contest on tap for the weekend. It also brings perhaps the best mano-a-mano matchup the Ivies have to offer: Keith Wright versus Greg Mangano. The two big men are the best post players in the league (with apologies to Jack Eggleston of Penn, who’s not a traditional back-to-the-basket forward). Mangano is putting up 15.1 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, and Wright is averaging 15.3 and 8.4.
I expect the showdown on the blocks to be closer than the game itself. Harvard is the deeper, more talented team, and should extend its winning streak over the Bulldogs to four in a row.
Pick: Harvard 74, Yale 64
BROWN (8-12, 1-5 Ivy) at DARTMOUTH (5-15, 1-5 Ivy)
Last Friday, Brown guard Sean McGonagill turned in the league’s best individual performance so far this season. The freshman went 15 of 19 from the field and six of eight from the line en route to scoring 39 points in an 87-79 win over Columbia. Naturally, the next night McGonagill shot four for 16, and the Bears handed Cornell its first league win.
Dartmouth is looking to follow the Big Red’s lead in this game—its best chance to pick up a win for the rest of its schedule. But I see streaky Brown playing well enough to win in Hanover.
Pick: Brown 73, Dartmouth 68