For defending Ivy League champion Princeton, this week is where its hopes for another NCAA Tournament berth will be decided. And the Tigers are going to need some help from their biggest rival to make it happen.
The Tigers have come roaring back into the conference-title race, but not enough to control their own destiny. They enter the weekend of Feb. 24-25 two games behind Harvard in the loss column, and the Crimson have just four games left to play.
Princeton can start to take care of business by winning at Harvard on Feb. 24. The Tigers already beat the Crimson 70-62 on Feb. 11, the lone loss in Ivy League play that Harvard has suffered all year.
However, merely completing the sweep of Harvard wouldn’t be enough to get the Tigers even. It would, however, benefit travel partner Penn, which enters the weekend in second place. Penn follows Princeton up to Harvard, and it would move into first place with a weekend sweep if Harvard loses both of its games. Since Princeton still finishes the year hosting Penn, the Tigers would once again control their own destiny under that scenario.
Another team looking for that to happen is Yale. The Bulldogs had their chance to draw even with Harvard, but they fell 66-51 on Feb. 18. That dropped Yale into a tie with Princeton with three losses in league play.
If Harvard gets swept, however, Yale gets new life. If it can pull off home wins over Columbia and Cornell this weekend, it could rocket back into a first-place tie by following that up with a road sweep at Princeton and Penn the following week.
Of course, all of this hinges on the Crimson faltering at home. That seems unlikely, since Harvard is unbeaten in its own building this year. In fact, Harvard has won its last 27 games in Lavietes Pavilion, the second-longest home winning streak in the nation.
Speaking of streaks, Dartmouth can finally dream of going on a winning streak after ending its 20-game skid. Its comeback victory over Brown got the Big Green on the right track after a ton of close calls, but to actually put multiple wins together will be a challenge since Dartmouth next has Penn and Princeton coming to New Hampshire.
Cornell fell out of the picture after getting swept during the weekend of Feb. 17-18, and the Big Red is just hoping to finish with a winning record in league play. Columbia can’t do better than .500 thanks to six excruciatingly close losses among its seven league defeats, including one on a Penn basket in the final second of overtime Feb. 18. As for 1-9 Brown … well, it’s rooting for Dartmouth to go on another losing streak to end the season so it can avoid last place.
• Penn senior G Zack Rosen was selected the Ivy League Player of the Week for the third time this season. He torched Cornell for 25 points and six assists on Feb. 17, and followed that up with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists in the Quakers’ overtime victory over Columbia.
• Harvard tied its program record by winning its 23rd game of the season Feb. 18. The next victory would make the 2011-12 squad the winningest team in Harvard history, breaking the tie with last year’s squad.
• Douglas Davis moved into fourth place on Princeton’s all-time scoring list. The man he passed to get there was Craig Robinson, the current Oregon State coach and brother-in-law of President Obama.
• Matt Sullivan has found his scoring touch for Brown in Ivy League play. The junior forward has been in double figures seven games in a row entering the week of Feb. 24-25, and he is averaging 14 points per game over that stretch.
• Miles Asafo-Adjei saw his first action since mid-December for Cornell. After suffering a leg infection that caused him to miss 15 games, he was back on the court against Princeton and finished with two assists and a rebound.
• Columbia had not been outrebounded in Ivy League play before the weekend of Feb. 17-18. However, the Lions were outrebounded 30-25 by Princeton and 28-27 by Penn.
• Dartmouth’s David Rufful set a school record when he played in his 110th career game Feb. 18. The victory over Brown also saw him reach another individual milestone when he scored his 800th career point on a first-half free throw.
• Yale’s two lowest-scoring efforts of the season have both come against the Harvard defense. The Bulldogs scored 35 points in a home loss on Jan. 27, 51 in a defeat Feb. 18.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Matchup To Watch: Penn at Harvard, Feb. 25—Assuming Penn doesn’t stumble in a trap game against Dartmouth, it’ll have the chance to at least draw even with Harvard in the Ivy League standings with a win here. The Crimson have already won at the Palestra earlier this season, however, and have been unbeatable at home.
Key Games To Watch:
Princeton at Harvard
The Tigers have had the Crimson’s number over the past two years, but Harvard can bury the defending champs with a win.
Pennsylvania at Dartmouth
Dartmouth is more than capable of catching Penn looking ahead and pulling off the upset; the Big Green nearly toppled the Quakers at the Palestra before falling 58-55 earlier in February.
Columbia at Yale
The Lions are the hard-luck team of the Ivy League, but they match up well with Yale and Greg Mangano thanks to Mark Cisco’s abilities in the middle.
Cornell at Yale
The Bulldogs would be in a much stronger position in the Ivy race had they not lost 85-84 in Ithaca in overtime.
Columbia at Brown
Jesse Agel’s crew looking for a rare Ivy win in its final home game.
Around The League
• Junior F Andrew McCarthy missed the loss to Harvard because of back spasms, but he was back on the court for the Feb. 18 matchup with Dartmouth. He finished with six points and five rebounds off the bench against the Big Green.
• Sophomore G Sean McGonagill was back in the lineup last weekend after missing a pair of games the previous week after taking a hard fall against Penn. He tied for the team lead in scoring with 14 points against Dartmouth while also adding six assists.
• Any notions of Brown pulling off an upset of Harvard were put away early on Feb. 17. After a Sean McGonagill layup got the Bears within 15-14, the Crimson rattled off the next 20 points in a row and wound up leading 37-16 by halftime.
• This is the final home weekend for Brown, which will hold its Senior Day festivities before the Columbia game on Feb. 25. Basically, that means that Jean Harris gets the spotlight to himself, since the guard is the only senior on the roster.
• Though Columbia is near the bottom of the Ivy League standings, the frustrating thing for the team is how close it has been to contention. Literally. Six of the team’s seven losses in league play through Feb. 19 had been by five losses or fewer.
• Sophomore G Meiko Lyles got a turn in the spotlight on Feb. 18 with his defensive effort on Penn G Zack Rosen. Rosen, second in the conference in scoring, finished with 14 points but went 5-for-16 from the floor. Lyles didn’t shirk on the offensive end either; he led the Lions with 17 points.
• Junior G Brian Barbour scored 25 points when Columbia lost to Penn at home earlier in the season. The Quakers made him a focus of their defense the second time around, so Barbour spread the ball around. He finished with just six points but had eight assists.
• Columbia’s defense let the team down over the weekend. The Lions allowed Princeton to shoot 51.1 percent from the floor, and Penn made 50 percent of its shots.
• Cornell is hoping to turn its road woes around in its final trip away from Newman Arena this season. Entering its games at Brown and Yale, the Big Red is 1-12 on the road, with the only victory coming at Dartmouth.
• Coach Bill Courtney wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort out of the gate against Princeton. He made a mass substitution early, taking out all five starters four minutes into the game with the Big Red trailing 10-7.
• The Big Red isn’t a team that can afford to give away possessions, as was proved in the loss to Princeton. Cornell turned the ball over 19 times against the Tigers.
• Sophomore G Dominick Scelfo played 20 minutes against Princeton, his first time on the court since getting a single minute against Penn on Jan. 14. He made the most of that playing time, knocking down three 3-pointers.
• Freshman F Gabas Maldunas picked up his fourth Ivy League Rookie of the Week award for his work against Yale and Brown. He had a career-high 23 points to go with his 11 boards in the loss to the Bulldogs, and he had eight points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots in the team’s first Ivy League victory of the season against the Bears.
• Dartmouth locked up its first conference win of the season by dominating Brown down the stretch. Trailing 50-43 with less than eight minutes to play, the Big Green held the Bears scoreless from the floor and finished on a 15-3 run.
• The Big Green didn’t make a 3-pointer in the Feb. 17 loss to Yale, going 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. That marked the first time since a February 2010 game against Brown that Dartmouth didn’t hit a shot from long range.
• Heading into the final two weeks of the season, Dartmouth’s top two scorers were both freshmen. Maldunas and F Jvonte Brooks each had 235 points through 26 games, averaging exactly nine points a night.
• Brandyn Curry led Harvard with 18 points against Yale, 14 of which came in the second half. Two of the points were particularly memorable, however. He threw down the first dunk of his college career with just under nine minutes to play.
• Though it defeated Yale 66-51, Harvard lost a chance to blow the Bulldogs out of the water early. The Crimson jumped out to a 35-15 lead in the first half but took its foot off the accelerator enough to allow the visitors to score the next 11 points and get within 35-26 at the break.
• Harvard’s blowout victory over Brown on Feb. 17 gave Tommy Amaker a chance to rest his starters prior to the next night’s game against a tougher Yale squad. No starter played more than 10 minutes after intermission against the Bears.
• Senior F Keith Wright’s next blocked shot will give him the Harvard record for career rejections. He begins the week with 147, tied with Brian Cusworth atop the list.
• Senior G Tyler Bernardini should move into the top 10 of the Quakers’ career scoring list this week. He enters the weekend with 1,435 career points, good for 11th place, eight behind Bruce Lefkowitz.
• Jerome Allen’s team hasn’t been getting to the line in recent games. It had just six free throws on Feb. 18 against Columbia even with the overtime, and it had been held to fewer than 10 attempts four times in the past six games.
• Sophomore G Steve Rennard came up huge off the bench against Columbia. He set a career high with 37 points, including three 3-pointers, and also saw the most minutes of his career. Rennard was on the court for 37 minutes in the overtime win.
• Rob Belcore reached a milestone in the victory over Columbia. The senior forward recorded his 500th career point in the win at the Palestra.
• Sophomore G T.J. Bray paced the Tigers against Cornell by scoring a career-high 16 points. He did that unselfishly as well, dishing out five assists.
• Princeton and Cornell had just 12 fouls apiece on Feb. 18. That clean affair was a rarity for the Tigers lately; in each of the team’s past three home games, there had been at least 35 total fouls called.
• The Tigers-Big Red game was fast-paced, but it didn’t lead to one-on-one play. Princeton was credited with an assist on 20 of its 29 baskets.
• Princeton has a tough weekend ahead of it, starting with a crucial Feb. 24 game at Yale, but the Tigers enter on a hot streak. Their four-game winning streak was their longest of the season.
• This Feb. 25 game with Cornell is Senior Day at Yale, and it should be an emotional one at New Haven. Playing in their final home game will be F Greg Mangano, G/F Reggie Willhite, F Rhett Anderson and G Bryan Katz.
• Though it lost for the second time this season to Harvard last weekend, Yale showed some improvement in its ball-handling. It turned the ball over 22 times when the teams met in New Haven, but the Bulldogs gave the ball away just seven times in the rematch.
• Mangano needs a strong finish on the boards to finish this season averaging a double-double. Entering the final four regular-season games, he’s averaging 18.4 points and 9.9 rebounds.
• Sophomore G Jesse Pritchard got the first start of his college career against Dartmouth on Feb. 17. he played 28 minutes and knocked down a pair of free throws in the victory. He also started the next night against Harvard, played 28 more minutes and did not score.