As we head into a weekend full of conference tournament action, one of the most intriguing leagues to watch will be the Ivy. Cornell leads the pack as the No. 1 seed after a perfect regular season within the league, while Yale, Penn and Princeton round out the tournament field.
There are a lot of things to be learned from this tournament, but let's preface the action with five big questions that beg to be answered.
1. Will Princeton learn from last week's loss to Cornell?
Princeton and Cornell played last Saturday at the Big City Classic at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Cornell cruised past the Tigers, 17-11, showing dominance in their ability to confuse the Princeton defense.
Princeton's defense is young and relatively inexperienced, but last week put some hair on their chest. Rob Pannell put up nine points for the Big Red, and Princeton had no answer for his wealth of skills.
Princeton must readjust before the re-match Friday night. If they do not, Princeton will miss out on the NCAA tournament in a year that began with very high hopes.
2. Can Yale secure a bid to the NCAA tournament?
Yale is the No. 2 seed in the Ivy tournament and has an opportunity to lock up a bid to the NCAA tournament. They can obviously secure a spot by winning the title outright, but a dominating performance in the semifinals against Penn could boost their resume enough.
If they can beat the Quakers, a losing effort in the finals would be overlooked by the selection committee, and the Bulldogs would still have their name called on selection Sunday.
3. Is Yale playing their best lacrosse right now?
Yale has been playing well recently, highlighted by a close loss to Maryland a few weeks back. Brandon Mangan has been clutch for the Bulldog offense, a unit that has been able to keep the team in games.
If Yale's defense keeps playing well, Yale could be primed for a run in the NCAA tournament. If not, they could be dismissed relatively early.
4. Can Penn play the spoiler?
If Penn can somehow figure out a way to win two games this weekend, the entire country will be in awe. Not only would a league title propel Penn to the tournament in the only way possible, but they would also take up a crucial automatic bid, with Cornell getting an at large bid instead of the predicted AQ.
If this happens, the Ivy League could take up the three spots in the bracket, leaving other conferences scrambling for their postseason lives.
5. How good is Rob Pannell?
We all know that Rob Pannell is one of the best players in the country. The bigger question is whether or not he is one of the best players of all time.
If he can propel Cornell to a league title and a deep tournament run, he could go down as the best player in conference history, and one of the best the game has ever seen.
He certainly has an impressive supporting cast, but every Batman needs his Robin (or 5 of them).