Down the Stretch: Will Harvard Take the Ivy League Automatic Bid?

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Down the Stretch: Will Harvard Take the Ivy League Automatic Bid?
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Does Last Weekend's Loss Have Amaker Questioning the Crimson's Chance at a Title?

In attempt to break down all 31 conference tournaments, there is no better place to start than with the conference who competes in a tournament all season long. 

The Ivy League is the only Division I conference that does not hold an annual conference tournament. A true test of time as teams must put together an entire conference slate of success as opposed to sneaking in by winning a few games in an abbreviated tournament.

Heading down the final stretch, the Ivy League has five teams left in contention. Here is the breakdown for the final three weeks of the season.

1. Harvard 21-3 (7-1 Ivy League)

The Crimson of Harvard were the preseason No. 1 pick for the Ivy League. Tommy Amaker has done a sensational job with the Harvard hoops program. After a tough ending to last season, Harvard looks to essentially seal the conference title with a win over Yale on February 18. The Crimson are led in scoring by Kyle Casey and Keith Wright. The talented due are both shooting over 50 percent from the floor on the season. 

2. Yale 16-6 (6-2 Ivy League)

The Yale Bulldogs have had a very impressive 2012 campaign to date. Yale boasts an impressive 16-6 record and trails Harvard by just one game. The good news for Yale is that they have an opportunity to jump back into first place this weekend as they take on Harvard. The bad news is that the Bulldogs have squared off with the Crimson once already this season, a game in which they lost by 30 points. At this point Yale seems to be the one serious contender in Harvard's way. The question is whether or not they can compete with the Crimson this weekend.

3. Pennsylvania 13-11 (5-2 Ivy League)

 

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The Quakers of Penn have done a nice job hanging around the top of the conference this year. Two devastating losses have put Penn in a tough spot. A talented team who played the likes of Temple, Villanova, UCLA and Davidson in close games still controls their own destiny with remaining games against Yale and Harvard. If Penn can figure out some of their late game issues, they may have a chance down the stretch.

4. Cornell 10-12 (5-3 Ivy League)

While Cornell is technically still in the hunt, it will be an uphill climb for the Big Red if they want a chance to dance. The bright side for Cornell is that they are riding a bit of a hot streak, including a huge overtime victory against Yale last week. The down side for Cornell is that four of their final six conference games are on the road. Cornell would need to beat Harvard, Princeton, Penn and Yale again if they wanted a chance at the title.

5. Princeton 13-10 (4-3 Ivy League)

Princeton finds themselves in the top half of the conference again. Princeton is a team that has battled the major demon of inconsistency. With wins over Florida State and Harvard, Princeton definitely has the ability to do some big things within the Ivy League. The bad news is that time is running out. Like Cornell, Princeton would have to win out and potentially receive some help from the bottom-tier teams along the way.

While the Ivy League doesn't pose the excitement of a conference tournament, there is still plenty to be interested in. In a league where every game matters, teams must bring their "A" game every single night. A rigorous schedule of Friday and Saturday games can wear these teams down to a point where anything can happen on any given day. Sit back, relax, and enjoy these last few weeks of Ivy League basketball as this year's conference may send a team that has some real potential to win a NCAA tournament game this year.

MY PREDICTION: Harvard 

The Crimson are too deep and have great coaching on their side heading down the stretch. While I would not be surprised to see them drop one more conference game along the way, I think Crimson takes the Ivy League crown and is a serious threat in the NCAA tournament.

Harvard would be looking at seeding anywhere from 7-13 depending on how their season concludes, but this is most certainly not a team for people to sleep on.  

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