Two Yale wins this weekend would have made the men’s Ivy League basketball race a lot clearer, but the Bulldogs’ two losses have opened the door for a host of different possibilities.
Princeton, Pennsylvania and Yale all have a legitimate chance at an Ivy League title, but the Tigers have the most direct path. At 9-2, the Tigers are in first place and can win an outright Ivy League championship by winning their final three games, at Cornell, at Columbia and at Pennsylvania.
Penn, at 8-3, also controls its own fate, but three straight Quaker wins (at Columbia, at Cornell and at home versus Princeton) only guarantee the Quakers a share of the title. The Quakers would need Princeton and Yale to lose this coming weekend in order to have a shot at an outright championship.
The Bulldogs, in second with 9-3, do not control their own fate. If Yale wins its final two games, at home versus Harvard and Dartmouth, and Princeton loses one of its final three games, it will earn a share of the Ivy League title.
All three teams can win the title outright at the end of the 14-game league season, but the most likely scenario is a tie atop the league standings. If all of the favorites win in the remaining league games — including a Quaker victory at home versus the Tigers — Penn, Princeton and Yale will finish at 11-3 for the first 3-way tie for the championship since the Ivy League was formed in 1956.
In the case of a two-way tie, the two teams would have a one-game playoff at a neutral site to determine which gets to represent the league in the NCAA tournament. In the case of a 3-way playoff, the teams would be seeded by comparing head-to-head records. The two lower seeds would then play a game with the winner taking on the top seed for the right to go to the Big Dance.
In the case where the three teams tie at 11-3, Penn would be the top seed by virtue of having a 3-1 record versus Yale and Princeton. The Bulldogs, 2-2 against Penn and Princeton, and the Tigers, 1-3 against Yale and Penn, would then play each other for the right to take on the Quakers. These games would also be held at neutral sites.
An outright title is a possibility for Yale, but it would require two Eli wins, one Penn loss and two Princeton losses — a highly unlikely scenario. With their fate out of their own hands, the Elis must focus on winning both games at home this weekend and let fate decide the rest.