While each Ivy League men’s basketball team already has two Ancient Eight games under its belt, conference play will finally be back in full swing this weekend with the start of Friday/Saturday back-to-backs, a staple of Ivy hoops. Teams will play 12 conference games apiece over the next six weeks, and now seems like as good a time as any to take a breath and offer some power rankings before the chaos ensues. These power rankings are not purely analytical. Rather, they seek to capture a combination of statistical ratings and performances in conference play both now and in the future.
1) Yale (12–3, 2–0 Ivy)
After a pair of wins against Brown, Yale clearly sits in the driver’s seat in the Ivy League. The Bulldogs certainly benefited from a few lucky calls in last Friday’s 79–71 win over the Bears, but they deservedly sit atop the conference standings through two games. Yale’s 12–3 record marks the program’s best 15-game start since the 1945–46 season, and its rating of 6.6 is better than the average NCAA tournament team and leads the conference per the Yale Sports Analytics (YUSAG) model. The Elis have a 99 percent chance to reach the Ivy League postseason tournament, hosted in Yale’s own John J. Lee Amphitheater.
2) Penn (12–6, 0–2)
Penn has struggled with injuries all season long. But if fully healthy, the team could have been playing the best basketball in the conference. While off to a rocky 0–2 start in the Ancient Eight, the Quakers took care of business against Philadelphia rivals St. Joseph’s and Temple to cap an impressive undefeated Big 5 season, giving the school its first outright city championship in nearly two decades. If Penn can find its three-point success that was missing in its two losses to Princeton, it should be able sweep its New York road trip this weekend.
3) Brown (12–6, 0–2)
The Bears see themselves at 0–2 in league play following two close losses to Yale. Despite the losses, Brown’s +4.0 YUSAG ranking is second in the Ancient Eight. Furthermore, having already played Yale twice, Brown, along with the Elis, has the easiest remaining schedule of any team in the conference. The Bears still have an approximately 75 percent chance to make Ivy Madness but need to start turning wins on paper into victories in the standings to make such a goal come to fruition.
4) Harvard (8–7, 1–1)
Harvard’s talent is undeniable, so its 8–7 record has to feel like a bit of a disappointment in Cambridge. A third straight trip to Ivy Madness seemed like a sure bet at the start of the season, but with roughly seven in 10 odds, the Crimson’s current position is certainly more tenuous. The return of All-Ivy point guard Bryce Aiken has sparked a two-game winning streak, yet the Crimson only managed to squeak out a five-point win over Dartmouth last Saturday. For Harvard to get on its first three-game winning streak of the season, it’ll have to knock off Yale on Friday.
5) Dartmouth (10–8, 1–1)
Even though Dartmouth failed to beat Harvard last weekend, it has to feel good about a series split, including an 18-point win over the Crimson that gave the Big Green its first 1–0 start in conference play since the 2006–07 season. The Big Green lives and dies by the three, and its 39.8 three-point field goal percentage ranks tenth in the nation. After being picked eighth in the preseason media poll, Dartmouth has established itself as a legitimate playoff contender.
6) Princeton (10–5, 2–0)
On the court, Princeton seems to have turned around its early season struggles and comes in to this weekend’s action as the winner of five straight matches, tied for first in the conference. Off the court, the Tigers lost All-Ivy guard Devin Cannady indefinitely due to a suspension following an arrest in an off-campus incident. While the 2–0 start certainly boosts the Tigers’ playoff changes, it remains to be seen how much the loss of the sharp-shooting Cannady will set them back.
7) Cornell (9–9, 1–1)
Cornell managed to split its two games against Columbia, though in order to make it to Ivy Madness for the second straight year, the Big Red really could’ve used a sweep against the Lions. In 10,000 simulations of the remainder of the Ivy League slate, it took 7.4 wins on average to reach the conference postseason tournament. Cornell, along with Columbia, has the toughest schedule remaining and will need to score some upsets behind the leadership of likely Ivy League player of the year Matt Morgan in order to continue its season into March.
8) Columbia (6–10, 1–1)
Like its Empire State travel partner, Columbia will rue not being able to sweep Cornell. With so many games left to play, it’s hard to say that any one game will be the reason Columbia finds itself on the outside of the four-team bracket, but few road games are more winnable than at Cornell. If the Lions fail to make Ivy Madness, they will certainly regret failing to get the job done in Ithaca. Columbia will need to tighten up its three-point defense — ranked among the worst in the nation — if it hopes to make any serious run at the postseason.
Luke Benz | firstname.lastname@example.org .