Blog Entry

Waiting for tourney bid is like watching Ivy grow

Posted on: March 4, 2011 4:49 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 5:19 pm
Harvard coach Tommy Amaker

Posted by Eric Angevine

I don't know about you, but I had kind of gotten used to seeing our first auto-bid get locked down in late February, not early March.

That's the luxury Cornell's brief run atop the league gave us - they had no top rival that challenged them down to the wire.

That's not the case this season, as we wait and hope that Saturday's game between Princeton (22-5, 10-1) and Harvard (21-5, 10-2) gives us some measure of closure. It's not a certainty by any means. Princeton must play its remaining games on the road, including the head-to-head with Harvard. Should they stumble in their visit to Massachusetts, things get interesting, since the Ancient Eight don't play a conference tourney.

Now, I didn't get into an Ivy League school (didn't bother to apply, actually), so I can't tell you all the tiebreakers and mathematical possibilities that go into this. Fortunately, the Ivy League website has handled the cranial heavy lifting for me:

If Harvard and Princeton both win OR both lose Friday:
• A Princeton win Saturday would clinch the outright Ivy title for the Tigers.
• A Harvard win Saturday would force Princeton to defeat Penn Tuesday, March 8 to necessitate a playoff.
• A Harvard win Saturday, coupled with a Princeton loss at Penn Tuesday, would give the outright Ivy title to the Crimson.

If Harvard wins Friday, Princeton loses Friday:
• A Harvard win Saturday would clinch the outright Ivy title for the Crimson.
• A Princeton win Saturday, coupled with a Princeton win Tuesday at Penn, would clinch the outright title for the Tigers.
• A Princeton win Saturday, coupled with a Princeton loss Tuesday at Penn, would force a playoff.

If Harvard loses Friday, Princeton wins Friday:
• A Princeton win EITHER Saturday OR Tuesday at Penn would clinch the outright title for the Tigers.
• A Harvard win Saturday would only result in a playoff if Princeton loses at Penn Tuesday. Harvard would not be able to have an outright title if it loses Friday and Princeton wins Friday.

The playoff sounds interesting, doesn't it? Here's more from the same press release:

The Ivy League conducts a playoff in men's basketball when two or more teams title for the regular-season title. The tied teams share the League championship and the playoff game(s) are conducted merely to determine the team to receive the League's automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship. While it has been a while, a playoff is not new to the Ancient Eight in men's hoops. The League has conducted seven men's basketball playoffs in its history, the last coming in the 2001-02 season when Penn, Princeton and Yale tied for the Ivy title. Penn won the NCAA Tournament bid by defeating Yale in Easton, Pa., after the Bulldogs had gotten past Princeton two days earlier at The Palestra.
So, really, the Ivy's rules generally lead to either the first bid of the season, or, in a scenario like the 2001-2002 season mentioned abovce, one of the last.

Assuming that both teams win their Friday night games, Saturday's tilt should actually be more exciting than a conference tourney game: no odd, cavernous neutral sites in this one, just a capacity crowd at Lavietes Pavilion.

Honestly, I kind of hope they end up tied. I'd love to watch a Princeton-Harvard playoff game for the auto-bid.

Photo: US Presswire

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