The men’s basketball team says that every weekend in the Ivy League is equal, but this weekend just might be more equal than others.
The Bulldogs will head up to Hanover, N.H., to face Dartmouth (4–20, 0–8 Ivy) tonight before traveling to Cambridge for a showdown with Ivy League-leading Harvard (21–3, 7–1 Ivy) on Saturday.
In a conference where every game counts towards determining the Ancient Eight champion and the recipient of the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, head coach James Jones and several players said that both games were crucial. “We’re always excited to play Harvard,” forward Brandon Sherrod ’15 said. “But you’ve got to take it one game at a time.”
That does not mean that the Elis will not be looking for blood in their rematch against the Crimson.
When Yale last battled the Cantabs Jan. 27, its archrivals stole the show and demolished the Bulldogs 65–35 in front of a sellout crowd at the Lee Amphitheater.
The Elis still seemed shell-shocked the next night when they went down 23–15 early against the bottom-dwelling Big Green before ending the first half on an 18–3 run and winning 62–52. The Bulldogs are determined not to let the shadow of the “Basketball Game” affect the game against Dartmouth this time.
“If you beat Harvard but lose to Dartmouth that doesn’t help,” forward Greg Mangano ’12 said. “We control our own destiny.”
In order to keep their destiny within reach, the Elis will have to win out. In that case, even if Harvard wins every game except for Saturday’s showdown at Harvard Yard, the Bulldogs will be assured at least a share of the Ivy League crown for the first time since 2002.
The Bulldogs are now just past the halfway mark of their season, as they have played every Ivy League team at least once. In the six games remaining, Jones said the Ivy League competition will become even more cerebral.
“[After the first game you] see coaches put wrinkles into their offenses,” Jones said. “Now in the second time around the coaching becomes more important.”
Coaches’ strategies are nothing without execution on the court, however. Both the Big Green and the Crimson have players who can create problems for the Bulldogs.
Jvonte Brooks, freshman forward and three-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week, leads Dartmouth. He paces the team with nine points and adds 8.5 rebounds per game.
Forward Kyle Casey tops the balanced Crimson attack with 11 points per game while forward Keith Wright contributes 10.6 points per contest.
The Cantabs’ greatest strength is not scoring however, but defense.
Harvard leads the Ivy League and is fourth in Division I in scoring defense by allowing a miserly 54.2 points per game.
Both the Big Green and the Crimson may also gain an advantage from the long road trip the Bulldogs will face. More than 300 miles separate New Haven from Cambridge, with a stop in Hanover in between. Although not as far as last week’s odyssey to Ithaca, Jones said this weekend presents its own challenges.
“It’s not as bad as the Cornell road trip — nothing is,” Jones said. “Back-to-back road trips are tough. That’s the nature of the beast [playing in the Ivy League].”
With a win tonight, the Bulldogs would secure a sweep of Dartmouth for the third consecutive season.