As Ivy League play begins in earnest Jan. 13-14, it’s time for the contenders to show the rest of the league what the nonconference slate of games have taught them.
Columbia and Cornell have the most at stake. Neither is considered to be a favorite to win the league, but the Lions have won 11 of 12 entering the weekend and Cornell did win three championships in a row before faltering a year ago.
In previous seasons, these schools were travel partners who opened on successive weekends with back-to-back games against each other. This weekend, the schools instead serve as the hosts for Princeton and Pennsylvania in the traditional Friday-Saturday schedule.
The games are no less meaningful for the visitors. Both the Tigers and the Quakers have designs on the league crown, and Harvard’s not going to lose much in the league. Any defeat hurts in a conference whose regular-season champion goes to the NCAA Tournament, and neither squad wants to find itself in a hole after the opening weekend.
• Cornell has to shoot the ball well to win, because the Big Red has been terrible on the glass this season. It had been outrebounded in 13 of its first 14 games, including its final pre-Ivy tuneup against Division III Albright.
Key Games To Watch:
Princeton at Cornell
The Tigers get back on the road against a Big Red squad that has struggled with injuries and inconsistency in nonconference play.
Princeton at Columbia
Assuming the Tigers can top Cornell the day before, this will be a test of Princeton’s offense and its depth.
Penn at Cornell
The Quakers can’t afford a loss here if they want to challenge for the title.
Around The League
• Cornell ended a five-game losing streak by beating Albright 78-60 on Jan. 7, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Big Red. Bill Courtney’s team trailed in the first half against its Division III opponent before getting it together. Cornell looked sloppy for much of the contest.
• The Big Red doesn’t have a great record thus far in 2011-12, but it has been very good in its own building. Cornell was 5-1 at home through Jan. 8, but it had lost its first eight trips away from Newman Arena.
• Miles Asafo-Adjei had missed the last six games through Jan. 8 with a leg infection he sustained on the Big Red’s trip to Illinois.
• Errick Peck had missed the first 14 games of the season with a knee injury. There was no timetable for his return.