Tonight’s best game figures to take place in Manhattan, where a hyped-up meeting of brothers has some significance beyond bloodlines this year. The other games on the slate aren’t the most exciting fare, as two contenders don’t figure to have any problems at home against 2-4 teams, and the fourth game features a pair of likely also-rans.
Yale (9-10, 5-1 Ivy) at Columbia (12-8, 3-3 Ivy) – 7:00 pm ET
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In past years, Columbia-Yale games have generated interest more because of the coaching matchup than any real impact on the standings. That’s different this year, as the Bulldogs enter the game in first place in the league, and the Lions are looking to justify their high expectations after stumbling badly out of the Ivy gates. The series between the Jones Brothers has been one-sided so far, with elder brother James winning five of the six meetings. Each side enters with considerable momentum after sweeping last weekend, and both programs have very compelling reasons to need this game.
Columbia and Yale both really have slowed things down tempo-wise in league play, so this one might not be as high-scoring as past meetings have been. Factor in two defenses that have been playing well of late and strong defensive rebounding for each team that should prevent a lot of second-chance points, and this one could be played in the 50s. Both sides are capable of having a hot night from the outside, so it could come down to who is able to hit their shots. With the exception of the Lions’ first-half explosion at Harvard, the Bulldogs have been the much better offense team recently, so this would seem to favor the visitors.
Pomeroy says: Yale 62, Columbia 63
Brown (7-14, 2-4 Ivy) at Cornell (11-9, 4-2 Ivy) – 7:00 pm ET
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It might be tempting for the Big Red to look ahead to Saturday’s big showdown with Yale, but it doesn’t have to go very far back to see what can happen on an off night in this league. It will be interesting to find out how a young Big Red team bounces back from the crushing loss at Harvard last time out. Meanwhile, no Ivy team has been more inconsistent than the Bears, who have had some amazing offensive games this season, as well as some nights when they couldn’t do much of anything scoring-wise. Between Mark McAndrew and Damon Huffman for Brown and Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale for Cornell, expect to see a lot of guard scoring and a lot of shots going up from the perimeter.
This showdown between coaches using derivatives of the Princeton offense ultimately may come down to the defense. Cornell has refashioned itself into a strong defensive team in Ivy play, holding opponents to a league-best 0.92 points per possession. Brown’s defense hasn’t been nearly as stout (1.06 points per possession), but the Bears may benefit from a Big Red offense that has gone into a bit of a slump the past few weeks. Steve Donahue starts a pair of point guards, which should help matters against Brown’s 1-3-1 halfcourt trap. A bad omen for a Brown team that has made its living at the free throw line offensively this year: Cornell is fouling less frequently than anyone else so far in league play.
Pomeroy says: Brown 55, Cornell 63
Dartmouth (7-12, 2-4 Ivy) at Penn (12-8, 3-1 Ivy) – 7:00 pm ET
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Dartmouth hasn’t won at The Palestra since 1997 and doesn’t figure to end that streak this year. Assuming the report in the Valley News is correct and Leon Pattman didn’t make the weekend trip, Penn enters the game as a very heavy favorite. Even with Pattman in the lineup, the Big Green had lost three straight. It will encounter a Penn squad looking to take out what had to be an intense week of practice following the poor effort at Yale. Terry Dunn is going to need big games from more than one of his guys to hang around in this one.
The talk of cheesesteaks probably is premature, given Dartmouth’s moderate pace of 65.0 possessions per 40 minutes. However, when Pattman was sidelined at the beginning of the season, Massachusetts and George Washington both came close to the century mark. However, those games were characterized by a high numbers of turnovers by the Big Green, and it has done a very nice job of minimizing those mistakes the past two months. It will be important for Dartmouth to continue to do so against a Penn team that looks to force turnovers and get out in transition. The Big Green has been fouling more than anyone else in the league, so Penn will need to do a much better job at the line than it did in the loss at Yale.
Pomeroy says: Dartmouth 60, Penn 81
Harvard (10-10, 3-3 Ivy) at Princeton (9-9, 0-4 Ivy) – 7:30 pm ET
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During its skid, Princeton has been encountering a steady diet of zones. However, Frank Sullivan is predominantly a man-to-man coach, and it will be interesting to see if he zones the Tigers as heavily as the other coaches. Harvard’s perimeter defenders have had all sorts of problems staying in front of their assignments this season, but Princeton doesn’t have many guys capable of putting the ball on the floor and driving to the hoop. This might be a game where Edwin Buffmire or Justin Conway can be effective by exploiting the Crimson’s on-ball defense. You can bet Sullivan would love nothing more than to add to Princeton’s misery after all the heartbreakers his program has lost to the Tigers over the years — particularly at Jadwin Gym.
Princeton relies more on the three-pointer than anyone else around, so Harvard will need to stay on its toes defensively to prevent wide-open looks. The Crimson draws the unfortunate task of facing the Tigers on Friday night, when Kyle Koncz figures to be able to give Joe Scott more minutes after resting his injured foot all week. For its part, Princeton needs to avoid putting Harvard on the line, where it is deadly effective (78.5 percent in Ivy play). Expect to hear a lot of pleading for a tighter zone coming from the home bench tonight, given the Crimson’s focus on interior scoring. It will be interesting to see which team’s pace prevails, as this is the battle between the league’s most uptempo and deliberate teams, with Harvard at 71.9 possessions per 40 minutes and Princeton at just 50.2.
Pomeroy says: Harvard 57, Princeton 61