After Cornell lost the eight seniors and head coach that led the Big Red to their magical run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament last season, many believed that that the Ivy League was in rebuilding mode so to speak. College Basketball's gurus were saying that this would be a wide open season for the Ancient Eight, with no team really capable of dominating.
Harvard (10-1) and Princeton (9-1) won Friday to improve their records, thus eliminating both Columbia and Yale from title contention. A win from Harvard tomorrow against Yale or a Penn loss tomorrow from Cornell would eliminate the Quakers meaning that the only teams still vying for the conference title would be the Crimson and the Tigers.
Since the Ivy League is the only conference that doesn't play a conference tournament, you have to win the title outright in the regular season. That is why that slate of games is known fondly as the "14-game Ivy League Tournament".
The Crimson did not have an easy time of it tonight though. They were down 11 at halftime to Brown (3-8). They came back to win by six, 74-68. This was the second time this season they needed a furious rally to defeat the Bears. A few weeks ago at Harvard, the Crimson trailed by 24 at halftime, before obliterating Brown in the second half. Last weekend, Brown became the first team to defeat Princeton in league play.
Princeton had an easier time of it tonight as they dispatched of Cornell at home. They blew the game open in the second half, en route to an 84-66 win led by 20 points from sophomore Ian Hummer. It was an excellent way to rebound from the tough loss to Brown as they head into their game tomorrow against a strong Columbia team. The Lions weren't too strong against Princeton the last time they met, as the Tigers dismantled Columbia on the road in their first meeting, 76-46.
Despite being tied in the loss column, Harvard does have the edge in the Ivy race. Princeton and Harvard will meet once more, next Saturday, at Harvard. If Harvard can win their next three games, including the one next Saturday, the championship is theirs. Princeton still has four remaining games. It really appears as if the game on March 5th will be a conference championship. Princeton defeated Harvard in their first meeting at Jadwin Gym.
Even if one team should fail to make the NCAA tournament, they will certainly be considered for an NIT bid, because both teams have surpassed the 20-win mark. Should they fail to make the NIT, one team will definitely be selected for the CBI or CIT. Both Harvard and Princeton were represented in the CBI and CIT last season. They are part of the lower level tournaments, for major conference teams that couldn't compete with the best, and for mid-major teams that were unable to gain a bid into the NCAA tournament.
Either way, there is plenty more basketball to be played.