Maybe I and others overrated the Ivy a tad bit before this season started. I actually said that it might be a two-bid league come NCAA Tournament time. Now it appears that there will be an automatic NCAA bid and perhaps no NIT bid.
The Ivy League is currently ranked 17th among 32 Division I conferences according to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, the lowest the Ivy has been ranked since the 2011-12 season, when it was also ranked 17th. The Ivy hasn’t been ranked lower than that since 2009-10, when it was slotted 22nd by KenPom. (The rankings are based on the average adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies of teams within each conference.)
Why is the Ivy’s arrow pointed slightly down at the moment?
Yale, the best team in the league so far, had a close loss at powerful No. 18 SMU and trailed No. 7 Duke by only two at the half, but the Elis also fell mightily at KenPom No. 92 Albany. Yale’s RPI leads the league but it sits at 138. Last year, they were in double digits.
Columbia lost in overtime to a very good Northwestern team but has a plethora of awful losses, such as KenPom No. 210 Fairfield.
Penn’s signature win was vs. La Salle, but even the Explorers are 4-4, with the 15th-weakest schedule in the nation according to KenPom.
Harvard played Kansas close in Lawrence but has lost to Holy Cross and a weak BC team, two sub-200 squads.
Cornell surprised Siena at home but has little else to show for the wear and tear.
Princeton had a chance to redeem the league Saturday, playing Maryland in Baltimore, but the Tigers lost by 21 after taking an early lead on the No. 6 Terps.
Ivy upset opportunities in the nonconference schedule are running out. Harvard plays a top-70 BYU squad in Hawaii Tuesday, Cornell faces off with casino online KenPom No. 54 Monmouth, Penn has Big 5 showdowns with Villanova and Saint Joseph’s, and Princeton travels to KenPom No. 11 Miami on Dec. 29.
What explains the nonconference struggles up to this point, though? One perennial disadvantage for Ivy teams is that they have to go on the road to play tougher opponents. Getting two-for-ones or competition in a neutral setting is infrequent, especially against the likes of Kansas, Maryland and Duke. Give the Ivies credit for playing those teams.
It now appears that last year”s Yale and Harvard teams were superior to any Ivy group this year. Last season, Harvard beat decent UMass, Northeastern and Houston teams and Yale had two veteran pieces in Armani Cotton and especially Javier Duren, who came up big in quality wins over Kent State, Vermont and then-defending national champion UConn.
Only time will tell if the 2015-16 postseason can vindicate the Ivies and keep up the momentum the league has built in terms of relative conference strength in recent seasons.