Courtesy of Luke Benz
Believe it or not, it’s almost exactly halfway through the Ivy League men’s basketball conference season. With each school already having played six Ancient Eight opponents thus far, just eight games over the next four weekends remain to determine which four teams will duke it out in Ivy Madness. After a fairly chaotic weekend of play filled with upsets, it is as good a time as any to offer up some power rankings of where teams stack up at the halfway mark in the conference campaign. These power rankings are not purely analytical. Rather, they seek to capture a combination of statistical ratings and performance in conference play both now and in the future.
1) Yale (15–4, 5–1 Ivy)
After stumbling against Harvard last weekend, Yale has strung together three straight double digit conference wins and sees itself alone atop the Ivy standings for the first time since the 2015-16 season, when the Bulldogs last won the Ivy League and upset Baylor in the NCAA tournament. Miye Oni ‘20 is making his case for conference player of the year, after powering a potent Eli offense past Penn and Princeton with 56 points on the weekend. The Bulldogs have an 88 percent chance of getting the top seed in the postseason tournament, per the Yale Undergraduate Sports Analytics Group (YUSAG) statistical model.
2) Harvard (11–8, 4–2 Ivy)
A weekend split against Cornell and Columbia may leave a sour taste in Crimson fans’ mouths, but there was still a lot for Harvard to be excited about. Finally healthy, All-Ivy guard Bryce Aiken dropped 44 points, including a buzzer-beater worthy of SportsCenter, in a triple overtime win over the Lions that is already an instant Ivy classic. Perhaps tired legs can be to blame for blowing a 13-point halftime lead against the Big Red the following night. Harvard still has a roughly 80 percent chance of reaching Ivy Madness, and a win in hand against league-leading Yale will come in handy in any potential tiebreaker.
3) Cornell (12–10, 4–2 Ivy)
Cornell arguably had the best weekend of any Ivy team, beating Harvard and Dartmouth on the road and moving into a tie for second place. A win over Harvard is a great tie breaking advantage for the Big Red, but the games will only get tougher from here. Cornell, along with Columbia, has the toughest remaining schedule of any Ancient Eight squad. Nevertheless, this was the weekend the Big Red showed that it has the potential to reach the Ivy postseason for the second straight year.
4) Penn (14–8, 2–4 Ivy)
Penn has yet to put together a complete Ivy League weekend. While the Quakers won at Brown by double digits, they fell to Yale by a similar margin the next night. Though Penn has embraced the three-point shot and shoots more threes than any team in the Ivy League, the Quakers have not sunk many of them and are only shooting 32.6 percent from the field in conference play. Penn will benefit from having six of its final eight games at home, as it looks to make the Ivy postseason for the third straight year.
5) Princeton (12–7, 4–2 Ivy League)
The Tigers were swept in road games at Yale and Brown this weekend, results which knocked them from atop the conference leaderboard into a three way tie for second. The return of All-Ivy guard Devin Cannady from suspension gives the Tigers a boost for the end of the season, but Princeton’s struggles on the offensive glass and from beyond the arc are potential Achilles heels if this team hopes to make a deep run in March.
6) Brown (14–8, 2–4)
Brown’s win over Princeton on Saturday was as close to a must-win game as one can have at this point in the season. Staring a 1–5 record in the face, the Bears found a way to win and remain in the hunt for a postseason berth. The Bears, who will benefit from having the easiest remaining schedule (tied with Yale) amongst Ivy teams, will likely have to sweep their Empire State roadtrip to remain in the hunt. In over 10,000 simulations of the remainder of the season, 7.5 wins were required on average to get the final Ivy Madness playoff spot, just above Brown’s average of 6.9 wins.
7) Dartmouth (11–11, 2–4 Ivy)
There is no better bet in Ivy sports than Dartmouth winning on National Flannel Night. The Big Green crushed Columbia by 16 points to salvage a weekend split. With three of its four conference losses coming by a margin of five or fewer points, the Big Green has experienced an unlucky streak. Dartmouth needs to win those types of close games to have a chance at the postseason and has just a three percent chance to do so, according to the YUSAG model.
8) Columbia (6–10, 1–5)
Four straight conference losses have all but eliminated the Lions from postseason contention. A heartbreaking triple overtime loss at Harvard on Friday made for an instant classic, but the Lions surely would rather have a win in hand than a spot in the SportsCenter Top-10 plays. Facing the toughest remaining schedule of any team in the conference, Columbia will need a miraculous turnaround in the second half of the season to have any chance at reaching Ivy Madness.
Luke Benz | firstname.lastname@example.org