After Princeton lost to Brown last Saturday, Harvard took over first place in the Ivy League and needed just four wins in order to guarantee their first Ivy League championship. Just four wins.
But it wasn't that easy.
The Crimson were upset tonight on the road against Yale, 70-69, and saw their command over the conference fly away as Princeton narrowly escaped in a battle with upset-minded Columbia, 66-61.
Although leading 69-68 with 55 seconds to go, Yale's Jeremiah Kreisberg gave the Bulldogs back the lead with 41 ticks remaining. Brandyn Curry had a chance to give Harvard the lead with a second to go, but couldn't convert, and the Bulldogs finished off the upset on senior night.
The game was close throughout, as Harvard led mostly down the stretch, taking a 59-53 lead in the closing minutes, before seeing Yale make the furious comeback.
Harvard has had a knack for closing out games this season. They needed two desperate rallies to defeat Brown, once down 24 at halftime, and once down 11 (last night). They also were down by 12 to Dartmouth, who is 1-11 in the league. In a game against Penn at the Palestra, Harvard needed a shot in the final seconds to propel them over the Quakers in double overtime.
Yale on the other hand was coming off an overtime win against Dartmouth the night before, which is surprising seeing how Dartmouth is in a rebuilding season. However, Yale came out tonight with a much better effort.
Will Harvard Beat Princeton Next Saturday?
Princeton will take over first place after beating Columbia. The Lions led 50-44 with about seven minutes to go, but led by Dan Mavraides, Princeton went on a 13-3 run, and was able to pull away from Columbia in the final seconds. Princeton had beaten Columbia by 30 points the last time they met, but the Lions defense was able to prevent the Tigers from taking control of the game.
Since the Ivy League does not play a conference tournament. The winner of the regular season will get the bid to the NCAA tournament. If Harvard wins their final two games next Friday and Saturday (against Princeton), then Harvard will at the very worst be tied for the Conference lead. Princeton still has three to play, and if they win all three, the conference is theirs. However, if they lose to Harvard on the road, and win their other two against Dartmouth and Penn, the League will finish in a tie. In that scenario, there will be a one game playoff, in essence an Ivy League championship, to determine who goes on to the NCAA tournament. The venue will be a neutral location, somewhere as close to equidistant as possible to both Princeton and Harvard.