Few Ivy writers and commentators doubted when the 2015-16 Ivy League schedule was released that March 5 would have significance to the Ivy race. Some felt that it would feature two teams tied at the top, Yale and Columbia.
It does have significance but Columbia was eliminated from Ivy contention by Yale’s win over Cornell Friday night. But the Elis now have to face a rugged Columbia team before a sold-out crowd at Levien Gym. The Elis won at Levien last season, 63-59, but there is a lot on the line this trip, which could give Yale its first outright Ivy championship since 1962 after a Princeton loss at Harvard Friday night that gave the Bulldogs their second consecutive share of a league title. A playoff at the Palestra on March 12 to determine if Yale or Princeton receive the automatic NCAA Tournament bid will take place only if the Bulldogs lose Saturday night and Princeton wins its final two contests, at Dartmouth and hosting Penn.
Yale also found itself in a position to secure a NCAA Tournament berth in its final regular season game last year, only to lose at Dartmouth, 59-58, and subsequently lose to Harvard in the Ivy playoff game at the Palestra.
Yale beat Columbia 86-72 in New Haven last month with Jack Montague present. Justin Sears notched 27 points and Brandon Sherrod posted 25, making 24 free throws between them as the Elis got good looks in the paint. Columbia did not shoot well, especially from long range (9-for-31 from three), and Maodo Lo was the only bright spot with 21 points on 9-for-17 shooting.
An interesting adjunct is that Princeton entered this weekend with an RPI of 33 and Yale with an RPI of 51, yet no commentator has either pegged as a NCAA Tournament bubble team. That is perhaps based upon no quality out-of-conference win by either, but no one can doubt that they both played some tough nonconference games. Yale may have been better served this weekend on the road, with the Montague controversy currently existing on Yale’s campus. Look for Yale to win narrowly and claim its first NCAA Tournament berth in 54 years.