Depending on the outcome of tonight’s game in Philadelphia, we could see the first NCAA Tournament bid awarded, or the drama could extend to the end of the regular season — and possibly beyond. Elsewhere, a pair of New York teams eyeing contention next season look to close out strong at home against second-division opponents, while two coaches in very different positions face off in Princeton.
Yale (13-12, 9-3 Ivy) at Penn (19-8, 10-1 Ivy) – 7:00 pm ET
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This one was supposed to be for the Ivy title, and it still might be — but only for Penn. By avenging their only Ivy defeat up in New Haven, the Quakers would clinch their third straight Ivy title and seventh in the last nine seasons. Should the Bulldogs take the season series for the first time in 40 years, they’ll give themselves a fighting chance of winning a share of a title and forcing a playoff game. In the first meeting, Penn’s 8-for-21 free throw shooting and the raucous Dawg Pound were the difference, as Yale pulled out the 77-68 upset. Casey Hughes kept Ibby Jaaber in check, holding the defending Ivy League Player of the Year to only six shot attempts on the evening, while putting up 15 points and 13 rebounds himself.
The game features the top two offenses in Ivy play, with Yale at 1.11 points per possession and Penn right behind at 1.10. Top two offenses in the league. Both teams have very good free throw differentials, getting to the line frequently while limiting opponent free throws. Yale has been rebounding very well and should have an advantage on the boards, but the Bulldogs are vulnerable defensively inside, which is an area where the Quakers are strong. Yale needs to watch the turnovers as it has throughout Ivy play, because Penn forces them at a high rate. It will be interesting to see what the student turnout is like, with Penn’s spring break beginning today.
Pomeroy says: Yale 66, Penn 77
Dartmouth (9-16, 4-8 Ivy) at Columbia (14-12, 5-7 Ivy) – 7:00 pm ET
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This is a game both teams want badly. For Columbia, it’s a must-win if it is to enjoy its first .500 Ivy season since 2000-01 and finish in 4th place or better for the first time since that season. From the Dartmouth perspective, a first-division finish still is possible, but it’s going to take a win tonight at Levien Gym to keep them alive. When these two teams got together in Hanover last month, it took some late, clutch three-point shooting by the Lions to get the win.
Dartmouth has been rebounding much better since the previous meeting, but they’re still at a disadvantage against the larger Columbia frontcourt. The Big Green has an excellent 19.5-percent turnover rate, and that doesn’t figure to rise against a Lion team that doesn’t force many turnovers. Dartmouth will need to defend the three-point arc better than it has to this point, as Columbia has proven itself to be a good outside shooting team. The Lions need to play better defensively on the interior, because the Big Green looks to get most of its scoring in close and with midrange jumpers.
Pomeroy says: Dartmouth 57, Columbia 66
Harvard (11-15, 4-8 Ivy) at Cornell (15-11, 8-4 Ivy) – 7:00 pm ET
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Harvard’s shocking upset of Cornell back on February 3 in Boston is a big reason the Big Red is looking ahead to next season instead of dreaming of an Ivy title. In light of that, Steve Donahue’s team has no excuse for not getting up for this one. In that first game, Cornell shot just 7 of 24 (29.2 percent) from three and hit only 5 of 11 (45.5 percent) at the line, while falling behind 41-27. The Big Red is assured of finishing no worse than third in the league, but a win combined with a Yale loss would move Cornell into a tie for second place at 9-4. The Crimson is 0-5 away from home in the league, so it is down to two chances to grab a league win on the road.
The Big Red isn’t likely to shoot the three as poorly as it did in the first game, but it could be Andrew Naeve and Alex Tyler who have the big games inside against a very weak Crimson interior defense. Turnovers have been a big problem for both sides, who enter seventh and eighth in turnover rate in Ivy play. Watch the battle of the boards, as these are two of the better rebounding teams in the league, particularly on the offensive boards, as illustrated by the 38 combined second-chance points in the first game.
Pomeroy says: Harvard 68, Cornell 78
Brown (10-17, 5-7 Ivy) at Princeton (11-14, 2-9 Ivy) – 7:30 pm ET
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It wouldn’t seem like much would be at stake in this game for the 2-9 Tigers, who would need to win their final three games just to avoid finishing in the Ivy cellar for the first time ever, but this is a game Joe Scott needs. With the two games after this against two of the top teams in the league, the embattled Princeton coach could be staring at a 2-12 league record if his team falls to Brown tonight. Conversely, Craig Robinson has done one of the top coaching jobs in the league this year, taking a shorthanded roster that lost its best player early this year and leading it to a respectable mark in a tough Ivy League. In the previous meeting in Providence, the Bears busted open a tight game with a well-timed run late in the second half and rolled to a 63-48 win.
The fabled Princeton offense has been struggling mightily in Ivy play this year, with the offensive efficiency all the way down at 0.87 points per possession. The Tigers figure to get a lot of open looks from the outside against a Brown defense giving up a league-worst 40.9 percent from behind the three-point arc. These are the two worst rebounding teams in the league, but Brown proved much mightier on the glass in the first meeting. Both coaches look for a lot of turnovers — particularly steals — out of trapping defenses, so this one could come down to which team takes better care of the ball.
Pomeroy says: Brown 45, Princeton 46