By Alex Hetherington

Staff reporter

Friday games

Penn at Cornell

Based on the standings, this looks like a big-time matchup: No. 1 Penn vs. No. 2 Cornell in a battle of the Ivy elite. But the reality is that other than Penn, no team has been consistently good in the conference season.

I’d love to see Cornell topple the Quakers, who are playing on the heels of a conference loss for the first time this year. Other than Princeton, who practically had a win wrapped up against Penn, Cornell gave the Quakers their closest home game. With Cody Toppert always capable of a ridiculous shooting night, an upset is possible, but unlikely. Last weekend, Cornell barely topped Harvard and then got handled by Dartmouth. Unless Penn cannot rebound from their loss to Yale (which they lost because they did not rebound), I don’t see the Quakers losing more than one more game this season.

Pick: Penn, because they always win.

Brown at Dartmouth

After bashing Dartmouth earlier this year, I think I will have to give the Big Green a little more respect. Right now, Dartmouth is riding the longest winning streak of any Ivy League team at three games. David Gardner, who has been a force in the paint during league play, ranks seventh in both scoring and rebounding. He is less than a percentage point away from the field goal percentage lead.

Dartmouth is 4-1 at home against Ivy opponents. Their only conference road win was against Brown, so I think Gardner & Co. have to be the heavy favorites to complete the season sweep, especially since the Bears have had a lot of trouble defending inside offense.

Pick: Dartmouth sweeps the season series.

Princeton at Columbia

The Lions haven’t won since January, and although much of that stretch of losses came on the road, I don’t think anyone is that surprised to see Columbia plummet from the top of the Ivy standings.

But I’m also done waiting for the Tigers to come out of their slump. The bottom line is that Joe Scott has failed to get this talented team going during Ivy League play. If Princeton’s shooters are hot, then they should win, but if that’s not the case, expect Joe Jones’ squad to be fired up and Matt Preston to outplay a thin Princeton frontcourt.

Pick: Columbia, barring some fiery Princeton shooting.

Saturday games

Princeton at Cornell

This game starts a run of four straight televised games for the Tigers. I’ll bet YES is kicking itself (they air two of the four), but it wouldn’t blow me away if the Tigers went on a run to close out the season.

Cornell is the worst team in the league at guarding against the three — and guess what is the one thing that has worked pretty well for Princeton this year? Princeton’s zone defense might have some trouble keeping shooters like Cody Toppert under wraps, but Cornell doesn’t hit the offensive glass particularly hard, so I don’t think Princeton’s rebounding woes will be an overriding factor in this game.

Pick: Princeton rights the ship.

Brown at Harvard

Harvard easily beat Brown on the Bears’ home court. With an inside presence that Brown simply cannot defend, I think the Crimson should win again. I hope it happens because there are few people in the league less likable than Jason Forte — one of only three men this season to earn a technical foul at John J. Lee Ampitheater (Caleb Holmes ’08 and Penn’s Mark Zoller received a double technical during a small scuffle near the end of the game last Saturday).

Pick: Harvard wins it in the paint.

Penn at Columbia

It would just be silly to pick anyone but Penn. I don’t think Fran Dunphy is the kind of coach who would let his talented team suffer a midseason collapse after one loss — listen up, Joe Scott. Columbia’s Preston shouldn’t provide any serious matchup problems here.

Pick: Penn secures at least a share of the Ivy crown with its second win of the weekend.