Friday Games

Cornell at Dartmouth

In this new era of parity in the Ivy League, I’m beginning to think I should just pick all the home teams. But despite Dartmouth’s win over Brown, I can’t put much faith in the Big Green. At 0.9 points per possession, Dartmouth’s offense is about as exciting as its hometown. There is not a single Big Green representative in the league’s top 10 rebounding and scoring lists. They may be a good defensive team, but I still give Cornell the nod.

Pick: Cornell, but just barely.

Penn at Brown

I mentioned parity before, but Penn’s games have included no such thing. At 7-0 Penn is winning by a whopping 16.1 points per game in Ancient Eight contests. Brown point guard Jason Forte may be the conference’s best player, but Tim Begley of the Quakers is pretty close — and he gets a lot more help from his teammates. The bottom line is that per possession, Penn scores more than any other Ivy League team and allows its opponents fewer points than any other squad. I do not think Penn is as good as its 7-0 record, but Brown is not the team to knock them off.

Pick: Penn rolls.

Columbia at Harvard

It’s been a while since both of these teams were in the middle of the Ivy League pack. But Columbia is sinking from its early Ivy lead, while Harvard has gradually proven itself to be a solid team. The Lions barely bested the Crimson on Jan. 30, and since then, Columbia has lost four straight games. Harvard has won two of their last four and pushed Yale, currently playing close to the best ball in the league, in a tight game.

Pick: Home-court advantage and momentum make this a solid Harvard win.

Saturday Games

Cornell at Harvard

It’s normally a good Ivy League basketball axiom not to pick Harvard to win both of their weekend’s games. Columnist Ben Feit makes two straight foul shots more often than Harvard wins both games of an Ivy weekend. Neither has happened this year.

But I think someone might break the ice in the next couple of days — and I’m not betting on Ben. Cornell is the favorite, but I think the fact that Harvard can cover Big Red center Eric Taylor with at least two different players might be important. Taylor is the worst free throw shooter I’ve ever seen — with all due respect to Ben — and the Cantabs will be able to spread fouls between their two big men.

Pick: Harvard (again!) in a close one.

Columbia at Dartmouth

I think this game will be won and lost the night before. At 3-5, both teams are at a crossroads in their seasons. Down the more familiar path for both squads is a seat near the cellar of the league. Columbia looked like it would avoid that fate this season and I think a win the night before could reenergize the team to make a final push toward the upper half of the Ancient Eight. But should the Lions lose their fifth straight game, I think it will be tough to best Dartmouth at home. A similar logic applies from Dartmouth’s perspective. If Big Green loses badly at home the night before, I expect them to give up and acquiesce to their usual Ivy League position (on the bottom). Just based on talent, I think Dartmouth’s collapse is the more likely scenario.

Pick: Columbia in a struggle.

Princeton at Brown

This might have looked like an important game at the beginning of the season, but now the most pressing question is, “Does anyone even care?”

Princeton and Brown are, with half of the Ivy season complete, the two worst teams in the Ivy League. I don’t think anyone believes that is true talent-wise, but it’s been the reality of their 2005 Ivy campaigns. I think Princeton is certainly capable of being a much better team than Brown is. At some point the Tigers have to turn it around, right?

Pick: Princeton gets its revenge.