But number two: that title must go to Columbia. Although the team is all but out of the Ivy running after two losses to the Big Red, they may have pushed Cornell as much as the team will be pushed all year. The Lions took a 5-point lead into the break at home, before the Big Red brought it on to snag a 71-57 win.
Look what happened the next weekend: Columbia trounced the Bulldogs, picked third in the conference, Cornell held the Bulldogs to just 34 points, and Penn, second in the preseason rankings, lost by three to Dartmouth.
So the top two are clear. The rest is a mess.
Harvard fell off the map last weekend, dropping two winnable games at home. Yale laid an egg on the offensive end. And Princeton looks strong. I’m sorry, they look strong-er than last year, which isn’t saying much.
That’s what this weekend is for—we’ll see whether the last was an aberration, if Harvard and Yale can rally, or if it was a harbinger of more messed up things to come.
YALE AT HARVARD
On Friday night, this is the game to watch in the Ivy League. The preseason’s third and fourth ranked teams are reeling. Yale (7-11, 2-2 Ivy) is in better shape than the Crimson to make a run at the title, if the squad can somehow turn things around. But, after scoring 78 total points last weekend, that seems unlikely.
Harvard will have no trouble scoring, as it seems to have found a solution to its offensive struggles of late—make free throws. The Crimson could have won games against Dartmouth and Penn at home with some makes, but showed recent improvement against Princeton. The new guard tandem of senior Drew Housman and freshman standout Oliver McNally should make a difference, if Amaker stays with it. In the end, Yale is struggling too much and Harvard has too much talent. If it can learn to win, this should be its game for the taking.
Harvard 65, Yale 59
COLUMBIA AT PENN
Penn had a chance to snag big points in the Ivy race if it could have won two on the road last weekend. It took care of the hard one at Harvard on Friday with a big 66-61 win, and Dartmouth looked to be a pushover. But Dartmouth senior Alex Barnett, frontrunner for Ivy Player of the Year, showed up strong, scorching Penn for 24 points.
It will be interesting to see how the Quakers respond. They have talent—freshman Zach Rosen played tremendously against the Crimson and sophomores Jack Eggleston and Tyler Bernardini provide a decent one-two punch.
And don’t forget one thing—this will be played at the Palestra, which still packs a wallop in the Ivy League. Columbia won both its games last weekend in front of a raucous crowd of its own, and they may struggle in this road contest.
Penn 63, Columbia 61
CORNELL at PRINCETON
One thing’s for sure about Princeton: this team has a kid who can shoot the leather of a basketball in freshman Doug Davis. The frontrunner for Ivy Rookie of the Year, Davis is averaging 13.7 points per game, and is coming off two strong performances in two big wins for the Tigers.
Unfortunately for Princeton, Cornell has one of the best guards in the league in junior Louis Dale, to go with fellow junior sensation Ryan Wittman–the preseason favorite for Ivy Player of the Year–averaging 18.7 points per game, second behind Dartmouth’s Barnett.
The Tigers are tough at home, but as hard and as ironic as it is for me to say, it’s still just Princeton. They come back to earth this weekend.
Cornell 72, Princeton 55
CORNELL at PENN
This is the big one. The game that all the Ivy League will be looking toward. The whole enchalada. The whole kid and kaboodle. The whole—stop me, please.
The Palestra, the raucous crowd, the old guard of Penn’s past championships, the new guard in Cornell’s dynamic team.
If Cornell is to lose any game this season, it could be this one. If Bernardini, Rosen, Eggleston, and crew can play the way they did late at Harvard, it could be hard for the Big Red to overcome.
But it won’t be. Frankly, Penn is too young, and Cornell is too good.
Cornell 68, Penn 62
BROWN at HARVARD
All this talk of Ivy League Player of the Year races got me to thinking—I forgot the people’s favorite, Mr. Jermemy Lin. He’s one of only a handful of players in all of NCAA basketball to be in the top ten in every major category in his league–points, steals, rebounds, assists, FT percentage, 3-point percentage—you name it, he’s up right at the top.
If the team can respond and post a good record this year, he may take home the prize. But, as Harvard says every season, there’s always next year. Harvard must have this game or it may risk a repeat of last year’s historic slide.
Harvard 69, Brown 58
COLUMBIA at PRINCETON
It’s tough for any team to take two games on the Killer P’s home courts. After a deflating loss to Penn the night before, I suspect Columbia will come out strong against Princeton.
The Tigers will also be bruised and battered from the pounding they took a night before courtesy of the juggernaut that is the Big Red. Advantage: Lions.
Columbia 58, Princeton 50
YALE at DARTMOUTH
Who is going to stop Alex Barnett? He’s it for Dartmouth, but at home, he’s been able to get the team two big wins. It all depends on which Bulldog squad shows up, but I expect them to shut down Barnett. Yale gets a much-needed win. Yale 56, Dartmouth 52
—Staff writer Walter E. Howell can be reached at email@example.com.