Tweak the Ivy League Tournament tiebreakers

That Penn win on Saturday night … I’m kind of speechless. I tried my best to capture the moment for CSN Philly, but that was just a stunner of an ending. As a Penn alum, that Jackson Donahue shot is something I will not forget for a long time. To be fair, even if I wasn’t a Penn alum, that game was a thriller to attend.

With that being said, I do want to raise one quick issue about the Ivy League Tournament. I will still gripe that it should be just three teams, but if that had been the case going into tonight, we would have been robbed of a pretty fantastic moment.

No, my issue is with the tiebreaker. Obviously, it didn’t come into play with Columbia’s loss. But if Columbia had won, Penn would have gotten the Ivy tournament bid not because they had a better record, or had won the head-to-head, or even because they had more wins against the top teams. Instead, it would be Cornell’s win over Brown in a meaningless game Saturday night that would have been the difference.

And that just doesn’t make sense. The Ivy League’s tiebreakers make some sense overall. Head-to-head should, of course, be the first tiebreaker and, sure, having the next tiebreaker decided by wins over the top seeds in the conference is pretty sensible. Got to beat the best to be the best, right? But having that second tiebreaker carry throughout the standings to even the teams hovering above last? That’s a huge mistake. A game that was essentially for a share of sixth place has no business deciding important who’s in/who’s out issues.

I’d propose cutting that tiebreak at the teams slated to take part in the Ivy tournament and then let any subsequent knot be brought to the third tiebreaker. I personally enjoy the idea that the Ivy League could have its seeds chosen by a combination of metrics, pretty fitting for a league that prides itself on GPA.

I understand that the aforementioned metrics factor in out-of-conference play, and that isn’t ideal. But I think a tie shouldn’t be broken by choosing between whether a team split with Cornell and swept Brown or vice versa.

And if you don’t like the third tiebreak, the fourth tiebreak is the perfect one: a coin flip. What is better than a coin flip? Tails never fails would be put to the ultimate test in a due-or-die 50-50 chance. No, that wouldn’t be exactly fair, but when you’re deciding between decidedly even teams, you’re not going to get true fairness. The only true fair thing would be to have a one-game playoff (I would highly advocate for this on the Monday or Tuesday before the tournament). In the end, I am team entropy and would also enjoy a coin flip.

But if you’re reading this, people in charge, please change the second tiebreak. It’s small, I know, but it would be worth it. Let’s not let meaningless games decide meaningful things.

5 thoughts on “Tweak the Ivy League Tournament tiebreakers”

  1. It is hard to know where to start when discussing how poor the current design, location and timing of the tourney is. It doesn’t appear that much serious thought was put into it. I think that the League should step back, consider how to address the many valid criticisms of the stinker we now have and start again from scratch. First question: should we even be having this conversation while the IL is receiving only one bid?

  2. The league decision makers should take a close look at what happened today in the Patriot and MAAC tournaments. In the former, conference champion Bucknell (25-8, 15-3) pulled out a close win AT HOME against Navy, the league’s #4 team (16-16, 10-8).

    In the MAAC, Monmouth (27-5, 18-2), which ran away with the conference title, had to play an away game at #4 seed Sienna (16-16, 12-8) and dropped a nail biter in the face of boisterous cheering from the home squad’s fans.

    In the Ivies, #4 seed Penn, with a losing record in conference and overall, gets home court advantage over league champ Princeton, the first undefeated league team in a decade. This is a farce.

    The Ivies should either discontinue this thing next year or reward the winner of the conference by playing the games on its home court.

  3. The interview with Robin Harris made it quite clear that a major reason, if not the overriding reason, the tournament is structured in its current format was the desire to hold the men’s and women’s tournaments together.

    I’ve got nothing against the broad objective of elevating the women’s game but, right now, the tail is wagging the dog.

    The tournament must be held either at a true neutral court or on the home court of the regular season winner. Otherwise, we’re simply revealing that we place more emphasis on social engineering and progressive causes than competently running a fair competition for our one lone NCAA bid.

  4. As happy as I am that Penn had something to play for until the very last minute of the season and it is much needed confidence boost to a rebuilding program, I agree that the integrity of the league champion is at stake. What happens if the Tigers lose to Penn by 30 on Saturday? After my night of celebratory debauchery, I will concede that a great team will be deprived of a well-earned trip to the NCAA tournament. Princeton, no matter what happens this weekend, is our best representative on the national stage. I also think as this is all a money/exposure driven process, I understand the league’s desire to use the Palestra. It is the largest and most historic venue and adds to the overall ” Ivyness” of this initial event. However, the league champion deserves a homecourt advantage. They have earned it. If not, then a neutral court has to be used. It is very possible that Princeton could lose if not to us then to the victor of HY. The league will have then won the 2 day Ivy tournament battle while losing the 2 week national NCAA war.

    (That being said, I still hope we win Saturday. I’m sorry I just can’t help myself).

    The AQ

  5. I think the tiebreaker for any tie in which a team’s season might end should be a one-game playoff at the tourney site on the Friday night. I wouldn’t care if Brown-Cornell was the deciding factor in who’s the 1 vs. 2 seed, but if it had ended Penn or Columbia’s season, it would have been a real shame. And we all miss the one-game playoffs already, let’s bring them back in some fashion!

    The rush to judge the conference tourney before it’s even been played has been hilarious. Of course it will be disappointing for the League if an inferior team represents us in the Big Dance, but we dare not judge until we see what new things this tourney does bring the League in terms of exposure and excitement (based on this year’s freshmen, I dare say it’s already helping recruiting).

    I agree a true neutral site would be ideal, but we’re all saying this without knowing what the budget for the tourney is, and what they’re being charged (I’m sure pennies on the dollar) for two days of Palestra use. I’m sure other venues that have been bandied about by us know-it-alls — such as the Nassau Coliseum — would be double or triple what they’re paying for this year.


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