Around the Ivies
Though the climate is relatively similar across the New England and Mid-Atlantic region, I will likely pack my winter coat as I depart for Ithaca, N.Y., this weekend to cover the Harvard-Cornell game. The barren land around the Finger Lakes just screams “frozen tundra,” even well before the onset of winter. But more on Cornell later.
You really couldn’t have drawn it up any better. Storylines abound as the Ivy League prepares to hold its first ever men’s basketball tournament. Rivalries? Check. History? Hell yeah. A shot at perfection? You got it. Saturday’s semifinals feature the Ivy League’s best basketball rivalry and the conference’s oldest one. Penn and Princeton will take center stage early Saturday afternoon with Harvard and Yale to follow.
Conference tournaments are a funny thing. They provide the best teams with a few extra games to show the Selection Committee that they are deserving of a top seed or a few days off before the NCAA Tournament begins. They give streaky squads the ability to turn a good run into the Big Dance or to shoot themselves out of an at-large bid and fall into the NIT. They give Gonzaga students an excuse to spring break in Las Vegas and Monmouth diehards a reason to road trip to Albany. Next weekend, for the first time, the Ivy League will be able to experience all of the excitement and quirks of one when its top four men’s and women’s teams converge on Philadelphia.
We’re going to learn a lot about the Yale men’s basketball team this weekend. The Bulldogs are losers of its last three and find themselves sitting two games behind Harvard for the second spot in the Ivy League and two games ahead of Penn, a team that streamrolled the Elis in New Haven last Sunday. The team’s recent play has raised some questions about how good Yale really is. Wins over the Bulldogs by the Crimson and Quakers have served as signature Ivy League wins for both programs, but given Yale’s poor performance, are those wins really as valuable as they seem?
With the Cornell men’s basketball team trekking to Cambridge for a Saturday evening showdown with the Crimson, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the 2009-2010 Big Red team that helped put Ivy League basketball back into the national conversation.