Tonight’s Princeton-Harvard tilt at Lavietes Pavilion will make the winner an Ivy contender — at least for one night — and will almost certainly kill the loser’s chances of getting in the Ivy title chase. It’s the one truly intriguing matchup of the evening, as the other three teams still realistically alive all play teams with four or more league losses already.
Virtual elimination game
As much as people complain about the venues around the league, it’s the crowds much more than the facilities that makes for a great game. With both games on the banks of the Charles already sold out, the weekend promises some excellent environments for basketball. Ever since Kyle Wente’s game-winner at Lavietes in 2001, Princeton and Harvard have gone down to the wire at least once every season — with the majority of those thrillers coming in Boston. Last season the Crimson got a huge monkey off its back when it took down the Tigers for the first time since 1998-99.
This is a make-or-break game for both teams. Princeton looked good in back-to-back games for the first time all season last week, and the Tigers need to string together another weekend sweep before we can close the book on their struggles outside the league and consider them an Ivy contender. A win tonight validates all the talk of Princeton being back, while a loss makes last weekend look like nothing more than a brief ray of sunlight on the otherwise cloudy day that has been the Tigers’ season. Harvard already has lost twice on the road, and with the trip down to the P Country still remaining, the Crimson almost certainly has to sweep both games this weekend. So a loss tonight to Princeton would render tomorrow night’s much-awaited clash with Penn almost meaningless.
Last weekend the Tiger matchup zone did a great job keeping the ball out of the post and collapsing on the opposing big men when they got the ball down low. With Harvard’s advantage inside with Matt Stehle and Brian Cusworth, you can expect Princeton to again pack things in down low to take away the inside game. This means Harvard’s perimeter players are going to have to be hitting their outside shots, something the Crimson hasn’t done well this year aside from Jim Goffredo. Harvard is an 8-point favorite, which has to be some sort of record for the Crimson against Princeton.
In other action tonight, Penn is a big favorite at Dartmouth in the Quakers’ first road game of the Ivy season. Leon Pattman is questionable with his ankle injury and will be a gametime decision — though it’s probably not going to matter either way. Yale’s also comfortably favored over Columbia in Jones Bowl V, with both teams coming off terrible weekends. It’s at The Church, so the Bulldogs should cruise. Finally, Cornell is a slight favorite at Brown, as the Big Red seeks to stay alive in the title chase with a win over a Bears squad that looked absolutely lifeless last weekend.