The University of Pennsylvania’s men’s basketball team has a few new fans.
When Yale travels to Dartmouth and Harvard for a pair of road games this weekend, the Bulldogs will also be cheering on the Quakers.
There are numerous scenarios in which the Elis (8-11, 3-3 Ivy), despite a 3-3 start in the Ancient Eight, could still come away with the Ivy League title. But in all of these hypotheticals, the Bulldogs need help from other teams, most importantly Penn (10-8, 3-2). This past Tuesday night, the Quakers kept up their end of the bargain, defeating Princeton (11-7, 4-1), previously unbeaten in the league, at the Jadwin Gym.
On Saturday, Penn takes on Cornell (10-9, 5-1), also above the Elis in the conference standings.
“It’s ironic [to support the Quakers],” Yale guard Alex Gamboa ’05 said. “It’s unfortunate that we put ourselves in that position.”
The Quakers have won at least a share of the league championship four of the last five years.
Regardless of how Penn or any other team in the league does, the Bulldogs themselves have to take care of business this weekend.
“If we play good sound defense, we’ll be fine because I think we’re better than both teams we’re playing this weekend,” Yale head coach James Jones said.
Harvard (3-17, 1-5) and Dartmouth (2-17, 1-5) are tied for last place in the league.
It was the Bulldogs’ defense that keyed their wins over Columbia and Cornell last weekend. The Elis held the Lions to 43.2 percent shooting from the floor and the following night limiting the Big Red to a season-low 48 points — 27 points under Cornell’s season average.
Yale was able to shut down Big Red guards Ka’Ron Barnes and Cody Toppert, the first and second leading scorers in the conference, respectively.
Tonight, Yale will have to contain another talented duo — Dartmouth’s Leon Pattman and David Gardner. Pattman, a freshman, leads the teams in scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (4.9 rpg) and has already been named Ivy League Rookie of the Week six times this season, including the last four weeks in a row. The second half of the Big Green’s 1-2 punch, Gardner, is regarded as one of the best scorers on the block in the league.
Tomorrow night, the Bulldogs take on arch-rival Harvard. The Cantabs have struggled this season, but nearly pulled off a miraculous upset over Princeton last weekend before falling to the Tigers in double overtime.
“They came pretty close to beating Princeton,” center Dominick Martin ’05 said. “We can’t take them lightly. They’re one of our biggest rivals — in everything. It’s going to be tough.”
According to Jones, the team that wins the Ivy League will have to win at least 11 games, leaving the Bulldogs with no margin for error.
“Every game is as important as the next,” Jones said. “I don’t care if we win by 10 points, by one point. If we could win by a half a point, I’d take it. We just have to keep on winning.”
Gamboa confirmed Jones’ thoughts.
“There is no question we have to win the rest of our games,” Gamboa said. “Obviously we need a little help, but if everything plays out, I think it’ll work out for us. I don’t know if we’ll be able to win the league outright, but if that’s case, then we could have a playoff like we did my freshman year.”
That year — the 2001-2002 season — Penn defeated Yale in the final round of the playoff. Should the two meet again this year in a playoff, the only team Yale will be rooting for is its own.