When the men’s basketball team takes the court at John J. Lee Amphitheater Friday and Saturday nights, it will not only be for heated contests against archrivals Harvard (15-5, 4-2 Ivy) and Dartmouth (4–16, 0–6) but also for start of the crucial second half of the Ivy League schedule and a chance to crack the top three in the Ivy League standings.

The Elis (9–14, 3–3) find themselves sitting in fourth in the Ivy League, trailing Harvard by a game and coming off a big win at Columbia last Saturday. That game saw Yale captain and the Ivy League’s second-leading scorer Alex Zampier ’10 score his 1,000th career point, making him the 23rd Bulldog in history to accomplish the feat. Zampier is poised to make another mark on the Yale record books this weekend, as he is currently tied with Daniel Okonkwo for the most steals in school history with 157 career takeaways.

Harvard comes in already having tallied its highest win total since the 1996–’97 season. The Crimson have taken games from Boston College and George Washington, while two of its five losses have come against Big East powers Georgetown and Connecticut, another to No. 22 Cornell last Friday. They are led by point guard Jeremy Lin, who, at 17.3 points per game and 4.5 assists per contest, is one of 11 finalists nationwide for the Bob Cousy Award for the nation’s top point guard.

The Big Green is still in search for its first win in Ivy League play. Much of the struggles can be attributed to the offensive end — not one player is averaging double-figures in scoring this season. The offense is led by David Rufful and Ronnie Dixon, both of whom average 8.1 points per game.

On the other end, the defense currently stands third in the Ivy League, yielding an average of 64 points per game to opponents.

Interim head coach Mark Graupe is at the helm for Dartmouth, having taken over after the player-induced resignation of Terry Dunn on Jan. 14.

With a weekend sweep, the Bulldogs would assure themselves at least a share of third in the Ivy League standings. To accomplish that, the Elis will have to have a big weekend on the glass, as they have yet to win a game this season when outrebounded (0–8). Head Coach James Jones (16–4 career against Harvard and Dartmouth) will look to forwards Mike Sands ’11 (5.8 rpg), Greg Mangano ’12 (5.6 rpg), Jordan Gibson ’10 (4.0 rpg) and center Paul Nelson ’10 (5.5 rpg) to control the paint and keep the Crimson and Big Green off the boards.

Mangano racked up his third double-double of the season in his last outing, a 12-point, 10-rebound effort against Columbia.

“Our goal is winning an Ivy League Championship.” Mangano said. “Play in the paint is important to us. Good play in the paint it sets up the rest of our offense.”

That offense, averaging 67.6 points per game, will have to outscore a potent Crimson attack that is shooting 47.9 percent from the field — but also averaging 17 turnovers a contest. Yale will look to maintain the latter average, rather than the former, as they look to continue their climb up the Ivy League standings — and renew the heated Harvard-Yale rivalry — when action tips off at 7 p.m. Friday in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.