It’s the most magical of Magic Numbers.
One win. One loss each by Harvard and Princeton. It doesn’t matter, all Cornell needs is one.
The Big Red clinched a share of the Ivy title with its 68-48 win over Penn last weekend, but since the Ivy League eschews tie breakers (normally Cornell would have it, having swept both the Crimson and Tigers), it must wait until this Friday to get its first crack at the outright title and the accompanying NCAA bid.
When it comes to deciphering the league race, it’s simplest at the top. Cornell is first. Harvard and Princeton are jostling for second and fortunately will meet in the Crimson’s season finale at Jadwin Gym on Saturday night in a likely winner-take-all battle for first runner-up. The rest of the league picture, well, that doesn’t get clear until you fall all the way to the bottom and find last place Dartmouth, which couldn’t climb out of the cellar even with a weekend sweep.
And that leaves us with the messy middle. We’ll take a crack at breaking down the four teams with a shot of that coveted last spot in the league’s upper division.
I admit it’s strange to start with the team that is both currently sitting in solo seventh and the only one of the four teams stuck in the middle that Pomeroy predicts will not win another game.
The Lions somewhat surprisingly have the least complex path to solo fourth. Assuming Cornell takes care of business this weekend, Columbia would merely need to beat Brown and Yale to vault past them. While the Quakers are a game ahead in the loss column, two of their three games to close out the year come against Harvard and Princeton, which could put them in serious jeopardy of hitting nine losses.
As stated before, Pomeroy has the Lions as significant (7 point) underdogs in each game, meaning one win is unlikely, much less a sweep, but at least the road is clear for Columbia to take its shot.
Odds Say: 4-10
The Quakers face a brutal schedule to finish up the year with a home contest against Harvard and a trip to Jadwin flanking a winnable game against Dartmouth in The Palestra.
Since 6-8 will (barring a huge upset) be the mark for either solo fourth or a multi-team tie for it, the Quakers have to find two wins in the remaining schedule. Pomeroy says hosting Harvard is Penn’s second-best shot behind Dartmouth, but the Crimson has hit its stride lately, after dealing with significant frontcourt injuries during the meat of the league slate.
Odds Say: 5-9
The nine-year .500 or better league record streak is in ultimate jeopardy this weekend, as the Bulldogs would need to sweep Cornell and Columbia to get it done.
If the favorites hold serve on Friday, including Yale beating Columbia, it should have at least a share of fourth locked up heading into its season finale against the Big Red. Cornell is likely to clinch on Friday, but it’s margin for error will still be nil in terms of seeding for the Big Dance, so don’t expect the Bulldogs to catch the Big Red sleeping.
Odds Say: 6-8
The Bears are one of the league’s hottest teams right now, going 4-2 in their last six to rebound from a miserable 1-5 start, but they collide with league-leading Cornell on Friday night. While Brown did give the Big Red its second-toughest home test of the season four weeks ago, Cornell has too much at stake to come out flat in Providence.
In the likely event that the Bears lose on Friday, they’ll need help from Columbia and Harvard to control their own destiny for fourth on Saturday. In all likelihood, however, a weekend split would give Brown at least a share of fourth place in the league, quite the accomplishment for a team that on February 7th had won just two Division I games in over two months.
Odds Say: 6-8
While this is the final weekend of league play, the traditional Penn-Princeton return game will take place next Tuesday, officially closing out the regular season for the Ivy League. As of now, each of Cornell, Harvard and Princeton have a decent to excellent shot at continuing their seasons in some postseason tournament.