Although most Ivy basketball squads returned from interconference holiday tournament play with their noses bloodied for their trouble, the two perennial powers--Princeton and Pennsylvania--continued to demonstrate that while the League as a whole is not exactly terror-inspiring, its two top teams, and quite possibly two others, can stay with anyone in the country.
Pennsylvania, which ran up 28 consecutive victories last season before losing badly to Villanova in the NCAA tournament, has picked up basically where it left off, winning seven games, and losing only to Big Five rival Temple at the Palestra in mid-December.
The Quakers, still equipped with nine lettermen and two of the best forwards in the country, have yet to play an Ivy squad. But a crushing victory over Southern California in the opening round of the Kodak Classic, and a narrow one at the expense of St. Bonaventure in the finals indicates that Penn is still the team to beat in the League.
Princeton has been equally impressive, but the Tigers' success is a little more surprising. The squad lost 11 of 25 games last year, and despite the return of guards Brian Taylor and Ted Manakas, Princeton was generally expected to finish behind Penn and Harvard in the League race, and not fare exceptionally well in outside competition.
But after a 73-70 loss to Penn State in the season's second game, the Tigers pulled off shocking upsets of third-ranked North Carolina and 17th-ranked Villanova within five days, and enter tonight's game with Michigan with a 6-2 record. Only powerful Kentucky has defeated Princeton since early December, and it is readily apparent that Pennsylvania is in for a much stiffer battle this winter than last.
But if Princeton and Penn are the heavy favorites, Harvard and Dartmouth are genuine challengers, and when the four clash in contests at Philadelphia and Princeton this weekend, the Ivy title race will be halfway settled.
Harvard, which lost its only Ivy game at Hanover early last month, is in the most tenuous position. If the Crimson loses both games at Princeton and Penn this weekend, it must defeat Dartmouth in a return match two weeks from today and whip both the Tigers and the Quakers when they travel to Cambridge in early February, in order to have a chance at the League championship.
Not Since Elvis
Harvard last won at the Palestra in 1968. It has not beaten Princeton at Princeton since Elvis and "Don't" were on the top of the charts at WFIL.
Dartmouth, with a victory over Harvard to its credit, is somewhat better off. The Indians were unbeaten until they fell afoul of the Far West Classic field last week, dropping a 100-75 decision to Washington and a 106-82 contest to Oregon State. Still, the squad managed a 92-82 triumph over an Oregon team coached by former Penn mentor Dick Harter, and entered last night's game at Stanford with a commendable 5-2 record.
Penn and Princeton should be decisively favored over Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend, and their game at Princeton a week from today may well decide the League title if the Quakers manage to win.
But outside of those four teams, the League is pitifully weak, and that fact was illustrated rather graphically during the past two weeks, when Yale, Columbia and Cornell managed to win only one of nine games with major intersectional opponents.
Brown, playing in the relatively undemanding Hall of Fame Tournament at Springfield, Mass., won all three games, including an 80-69 match with Morris Harwey in the finals, to take the championship. But Yale lost games to Oklahoma City and SMU in the final ten seconds, dropped one to St. Louis by 25 points, and fell to Xavier 75-69.
Columbia fared even more poorly. After four men quit because of varying degrees of unhappiness with the program, the Lions lost to Florida 87-47 and North Carolina State 76-48 at the Gator Bowl Tournament. Their record stands at 1-8.
And at Cornell, where the Ithacans are incapable of playing a sport on anything that doesn't grow grass or freeze, losing has become a habit. After five blacks boycotted the squad last month to protest an alleged coaches' quota on the number of blacks in the starting lineup, any chance Cornell had of doing anything vanished.
The Big Red lost to Niagara 95-69 and Long Island 78-67 at the Queen City Tournament in Buffalo, and its problems appear to be just beginning