The top half of the Ivy marched on towards the postseason last weekend, as Penn and Yale picked up important sweeps. Penn”s huge victory over Harvard gives the Quakers are real shot at stealing the NCAA bid, while Yale now sits one win away from that 20-win mark that historically has meant an invite to play somewhere in March. (Only two teams hit 20 wins and were not invited to a postseason tournament last season, and neither had an RPI as high as Yale”s.) For Harvard, the upset loss at home means that the Crimson need to go to New York and get two W”s to ensure that, at worst, they”ll get a shot at revenge against Penn in a playoff. Princeton”s loss at Harvard all but ended their NCAA hopes, though a strong finish could still propel them onto the NIT bubble. Let”s look at what some smart people around the Internet are saying about Ivy postseason chances, and then I”ll give my updated projections on where each top half team will end up.
ESPN Insider”s Drew Cannon did an excellent job of breaking down the likelihood of the following teams winning or sharing the Ivy title with one weekend (and a Tuesday) to play:
“1. Harvard, 60.5 percent
2. Harvard-Penn tie, 26.9 percent
3. Penn, 8 percent
4. Harvard-Yale tie, 2.4 percent
5. Harvard-Penn-Yale tie, 0.9 percent
6. Harvard-Penn-Princeton-Yale tie, 0.7 percent (this would happen if Princeton finishes the season 3-0, Harvard loses to Columbia and Cornell, and Penn beats Brown but loses to Yale — it would be the first four-way tie for first in Ivy League basketball history)
7. Yale, 0.3 percent
8. Penn-Yale tie, 0.1 percent
9. Harvard-Penn-Princeton tie, 0.1 percent
10. Harvard-Princeton-Yale tie, 0.1 percent”
Meanwhile, looking around the interwebz, I was able to
find some well-thought out NIT bracket projections (nycbuckets.com, nitology.com, and bracketproject.blogspot.com), none of which included an Ivy team in its most recent edition. The former two sites did include Penn, Yale, and Princeton in their “just off the NIT bubble” category. In fact, as John Templon of nycbuckets.com pointed out, three of the top four RPI-rated teams excluded from his NIT field were Pe, Y, Pr.
And now, my thoughts:
Harvard: It”s pretty simple now. The pressure is on, and the Crimson have no margin for error against Columbia and Cornell. Harvard is the more talented team and must take care of business. Two wins would put a lot of pressure on Penn to win out, and as you can see above, the Crimson are still favored to win the the title outright.
But if Harvard does end up losing the title, it”ll have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday. The Crimson”s at-large profile is good, but not great. The RPI is encouraging at #37, though that wasn”t enough last year. They only have one Top 50 win (FSU on a neutral court). Meanwhile, the St. Joe”s win has lost some of its luster as the Hawks are probably on the wrong side of the bubble themselves. The UCF win is solid, but the other four Top 100 wins are against Yale (twice), Penn, and Princeton. All three teams are barely inside the Top 100. Harvard has only faltered badly at Fordham, but a loss at Columbia or Cornell would be very damaging at this point. The resume is right on the cut-line when you compare it to some other bubble contenders (Northwestern, Texas, Miami). I think they”re in at 12-2 with a playoff loss, but not with a loss this weekend. Where are they going: NCAA”s
Penn: Penn fans seem to be really enjoying this unexpected run, and can you blame them? Zack Rosen is a fun player to root for and the man is determined to carry the Quakers to the promised land. Penn, of course, still has a solid chance at winning the league. Yale is a tough matchup for them as they give up a lot of size inside to Mangano and Kreisberg, but Penn has found a way to beat bigger teams many times this year. Finishing at Princeton will be a tough task as well in what is sure to be a raucous Jadwin. If the Quakers are unable to snatch the title from Harvard, they”ve positioned themselves well to be considered for the NIT. With a star like Rosen, a second place finish in the Ivy, and a passionate fanbase eager to turn out at the Palestra, it”s hard to imagine the Quakers don”t get an invite to the CBI or CIT if all else falls through. Where are they going: The CBI
Yale: The Bulldogs are rolling. Imagine if Yale had been able to squeak by in that overtime game at Cornell a few weeks ago. How crazy would this upcoming weekend be then? Anyway, the Elis have already knocked off Penn and Princeton this year. If they can stay calm and
take care of the ball the way they have lately, work the ball inside to their interior weapons, and get out on shooters, the Bulldogs can finish this season with a flourish and hope that Harvard slips up. As a wise commenter noted, even in that unlikely scenario, it”s tough to see Yale keeping it close with Harvard in a playoff– they simply don”t match up well with the quicker, defensively disruptive Crimson. But a shared Ivy title would be huge for the Bulldogs. Will the program pay-to-play in a lesser postseason tourney? With one win this weekend, they should get the opportunity to decide. Where are they going: The CIT
Princeton: Princeton has been rated the #2 team in the league according to many formulas and metrics this season including the illustrious Ken Pomeroy. This is the Tigers” weekend to prove it. Two wins in their final three should get them to a postseason of some kind. The good computer numbers and quality wins (at FSU, Harvard, Buffalo) should be enough for a tradition-rich program like Princeton. Going 1-2 to finish the season would bring some doubt into the equation though. I suppose it”s worth mentioning, just to cover my bases, that the Tigers remain mathematically alive. All it will take is a home sweep this weekend, two losses from Harvard, and a victory over Penn on Tuesday. You never know… Where are they going: The CBI
We”ll be back next week with final postseason projections after this weekend”s games are played to see if the Ivy can grab an unprecedented four postseason slots.