Saturday’s What to Watch
A large number of important games on deck for this Saturday afternoon and evening. The Penn at Cornell and Princeton at Columbia women’s games do not look to be exciting, but the rest of the games do have strong implications on the Path(s) to the Palestra. So, skip the Olympics (or, at least DVR it so you can eventually watch the skating and hear the always informative commentary from Tara Lipinski & Johnny Weir) and get ready for another exciting day of Ivy hoops.
4:00 pm Dartmouth at Brown (Women) – Ivy League Network
Down 62-61 with 30 seconds to go in overtime, Andi Norman sank a three with five seconds remaining, only her second basket of the game, to give Dartmouth the vitally important win. The Green and White (5-4 Ivy; 13-9 Overall) are now tied with Yale for the four spot and have a season split with their New Haven rivals. The Dark Blue and White still hold the tie-breaker due to their earlier win over first-place Princeton. As a result, Dartmouth’s “Path to the Palestra” involves having a better record than Yale.
Brown’s (2-7 Ivy; 14-8 Overall) loss at home to Harvard, while not officially eliminating them from the Ivy Tournament, was a big blow to their postseason hopes. Finding themselves three games behind fourth place Dartmouth and Yale, every game is basically a must-win at this point.
With a second road game in two nights and all five Dartmouth starters logging between 37 and 45 minutes last night, the Big Green will have to find the energy to run with a Bears’ team that likes to push the tempo and has two of the league’s top three scorers.
6:00 pm Harvard at Yale (Women) – Ivy League Network
After Friday’s games, Harvard (6-3 Ivy; 14-8 Overall) finds itself alone in third place, while Yale (5-4 Ivy; 12-10 Overall) is tied for fourth with Dartmouth. With last night’s 86-74 win at Brown, the Crimson stopped its two game losing streak, earned its first Ivy road win and scored 80 or more points for the fifth time in its last seven games. Yale, meanwhile, had a 16-point lead with just over 11 minutes before collapsing against the Big Green.
The Bulldogs presently hold the tiebreaker with Dartmouth, but a win over their biggest rivals tonight would get them even with Harvard and ahead of both teams for the Ivy Tournament positioning. A loss, though, would put them two back of Harvard and potentially one game behind Dartmouth with four game to go. To win, the Bulldogs will have to find a way to rebound from the physical and emotional exhaustion of last night’s loss, as well as reverse the fortunes of a Crimson team that dominated them 97-73 three weeks ago.
6:30 pm Penn at Cornell (Men) – Ivy League Network
Topping the Dartmouth women, the Big Red (4-5 Ivy; 10-12 Overall) men came back from a 22-point deficit over the last 11:44 of regulation to tie Princeton at 76. In the third overtime, Cornell finally broke away and secured an improbable 107-101 win over coach Brian Earl’s alma mater. With the win, Cornell is tied for fourth with Brown and, thanks to last week’s win in Providence, holder of the first tiebreaker. Penn, meanwhile, was down 14-3 in the first six minutes against Columbia and looked to seldom-used guard Devon Goodman to keep the game within reach. Goodman, who started and went 2-for-13 in last year’s Ivy semi-final against Princeton, responded with a career high 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting in 14 minutes to bring the Quakers within three at halftime. In the second half, the Red and Blue used a late 18-0 run to earn its first win at Levien Gymnasium in six years.
A win for Penn would give them an official spot in the Ivy Tournament. As important as that is for the Quakers, a victory in tonight’s contest seems more vital for Cornell. With Columbia or Princeton guaranteed to have a fourth win tonight, the Big Red need a win to stay ahead in the race for the tournament’s last spot, They will have to find a way to bounce back from 55 minutes of high drama – high tempo basketball to face one of the most disciplined defenses in the country and defeat a Penn team that has not lost at Newman Arena since Feb. 11, 2011.
7:00 pm Princeton at Columbia – Ivy League Network and SNY
The Tigers (3-6 Ivy; 11-13 Overall) shocking collapsed in Ithaca was their fifth straight defeat and left them tied for sixth in the conference with Columbia (3-6 Ivy; 6-16 Overall). The Lions’ could not ride their hot hand in the second half against the Quakers, losing their third straight game, and first conference home game. One of these teams will have to quickly shake off their short and long-term disappointments in order to keep their hopes alive for the Ivy Tournament.
7:00 pm Brown at Dartmouth – Ivy League Network
Brown (4-5 Ivy; 11-11 Overall) split their first two league matches against Yale and followed it up with three straight split weekends. After last night’s 65-58 loss at first-place Harvard, the Bears will hope to continue their conference and season long .500 trend this evening to keep in the hunt for the Ivy Tournament’s last spot. The Big Green (1-8 Ivy; 5-17 Overall) lost by 12 at home to a resurging Yale for their 11th loss in its last 12 games. While not officially eliminated from the league tournament, Dartmouth’s chances are extremely low. They will look to play the spoiler tonight and seek revenge on a Brown team that defeated them 64-62 on a buzzer beating Zach Hunsaker three-pointer.
9:30 pm Yale at Harvard – ESPNU and WatchESPN
Harvard withstood a challenge by Brown last night to stay undefeated at home in league play and remain tied with Penn for first place in the conference. Former first-team All-Ivy and Rookie of the Year, Bryce Aiken, missed his fourth straight game and is again noted to be a game-time decision for this evening’s match. His replacement, Christian Juzang, had 21 points last night and was the KenPom MVP for the second time in the last three games. A more confident Juzang, added to Seth Towns and Chris Lewis, should continue to improve the low-rated offense and make them less reliant on Aiken’s return.
With last night’s victory at Dartmouth, Yale (5-4 Ivy; 12-13 Overall) has now won three in a row and moved into sole possession of third place in the Ancient Eight. Miye Oni’s 15 point, five-assist, one-steal and one-turnover performance was his third straight 100+ ORtg and KenPom MVP game, following six straight sub-100 ORtg performances. With the sophomore Oni looking more like the 2016-17 version of himself, instead of the 2014-15 version of Tony Hicks, the Bulldogs will look to get even stronger for the stretch drive by reportedly bringing back Makai Mason. The former first-team All-Ivy point guard plans to suit up for the first time since almost single-handedly defeating Duke in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
If Harvard can use its dominant defense and improving offense to stop the surging Bulldogs, the Crimson will punch their ticket to the Ivy Tournament. However, if Yale’s big can find a way to contain the Harvard frontcourt, its guards can hold onto the ball and Oni continues to play at his post-Super Bowl level (a lot of ifs, I grant you), then they would earn its fourth win in five years at Lavietes and maintain a one game lead over either of its fourth place competition heading into the last two weekends of the season.