SPOTLIGHT ON THE IVY LEAGUE AND BRACKET BUSTER HIGHLIGHTS
SPOTLIGHT ON THE IVY LEAGUE AND BRACKET BUSTER HIGHLIGHTS
You regulars know we do our very best to provide SPOTLIGHT coverage to all the college basketball conferences on the board. The marquee leagues get a few spots during the year. The lesser mid majors get at least one day of coverage, then a bonus day when their postseason tournaments start.
The Ivy League can get lost in the shuffle because they usually play Friday Nights during the week (typically our NBA day in the NOTEBOOK, but not today!), then on Saturday on weekends. Since they play among the most MEANINGLESS games on Saturday in the sport's big picture, we don't talk about them on weekends. This intense academic league doesn't play a postseason tournament either. If we're not careful, we could go through the entire season without crunching the numbers for you in the Ivy League!
Can't let that happen. We decided awhile back that the ideal time to feature the Ivies would be the week Cornell played at Harvard. These were the two best teams coming into league play based on power ratings we respect. Cornell made headlines this year taking Kansas to the wire in Lawrence. Harvard had respectable single digit losses on the road at Connecticut and Boston College. If there was going to be a de facto "championship" game, this was it.
Princeton has surged lately to muck up those plans a bit. Let's quickly review the standings before going any further.
IVY LEAGUE STANDINGS
Harvard's two losses are to the teams in front of them...Princeton and Cornell. The Princeton loss was at home, which means the Crimson will have to win a revenge road rematch to take away any tie-breaker for second.
Princeton's loss is to the team in front of them...Cornell. That was last weekend in a 48-45 grinder that sure felt like a championship game in terms of defensive intensity.
Cornell's loss came to a weak Penn squad the night before the Princeton game. Clearly Cornell got caught looking ahead. The bad news for Cornell is that it was a staggering 15-POINT LOSS! Penn may be in fifth place in the Ivy League standings...but the bottom half of the Ivy League ranks in the 300's nationally. That loss is going to look horrible to the Selection Committee. Should Cornell ultimately win the conferences as they're favored too...their seeding will take a hit.
Our SPOTLIGHT coverage for conferences always features our favorite college hoops indicator stat...2-point defense. Let's see how these teams fare.
IVY LEAGUE 2-POINT DEFENSE
We've seen worse. But, you have to make allowances for strength of schedule in the Ivy's. They play VERY soft schedules by national standards, which becomes more clear whenever they have to step up in class. The contenders have done okay stepping up in class. Those teams at 49% and worse above just get squashed. A true read nationally here would be to add about 6% to each squad. That's what they would allow on two-pointers vs. a real schedule over a series of games. That's what Cornell will be dealing with in the Dance, the likelihood of seeing a quality opponent hit 50% or so on two's. Sure they hung tough with Kansas. They hung less tough in losses to Syracuse and Seton Hall.
Yale at Princeton
Columbia at Dartmouth
Brown at Pennsylvania
Cornell at Harvard (in the big one!)
Brown at Princeton
Cornell at Dartmouth
Columbia at Harvard (look for a potential Harvard letdown)
Yale at Pennsylvania
Biggest games remaining:
Friday February 26th: Princeton at Cornell
Saturday March 6th: Harvard at Princeton (though possibly only for a consolation prize)
Again, there's no postseason tournament here. The regular season champ goes to the Dance. What happens amongst the big three determines that...and Cornell is currently in the driver's seat. The other two teams are in the trunk yelling to get out. Cornell can turn the radio up really loud with a road win at Harvard this evening.
In a sense, Cornell at Harvard is a potential "bracket buster" game. The loser may see their dreams of going to the Big Dance fail to reach fruition. You avid basketball fans know this is BRACKET BUSTER week in college hoops. There are two games (one tonight, one tomorrow), that will really be getting our attention.
TONIGHT: Old Dominion at Northern Iowa
SATURDAY: Siena at Butler
These would be the "big four" this year in our view in terms of danger spots from conferences in BRACKET BUSTER play. As we discussed earlier this week in our mid major roll call (see the archives), you're looking at the projected champions from the Colonial, Missouri Valley, Metro-Atlantic, and Horizon conferences. Should any of these four teams fail to win their post-season tournament, they'd be in good shape to get at-large bids. Well, Butler and Northern Iowa would be sure things. Old Dominion looks like a sure thing based on numbers we respect. Iona could make a case, particularly since they took out Ohio State in the first round of the Dance last year.
Quick highlights of what these teams have accomplished this season:
- OLD DOMINION beat Georgetown at Georgetown (hello!), but didn't have any other breakthrough victories. Neutral site losses to Missouri (4 points) and Mississippi State (14 points) aren't the end of the world considering the caliber of competition. A 13-3 record in Colonial play is certainly a strong bragging point considering the number of fairly good teams in that group this year. A win at Northern Iowa tonight would probably cement their at-large status.
- NORTHERN IOWA is a team that tried to schedule tough...but state rivals Iowa State and Iowa turned out to be not very good this year. The biggest non-conference win in terms of respected power ratings was Boston College...and nobody's scared of Boston College on a neutral floor. A 14-2 mark in a respected league looks great on the resume. The early season neutral court loss to DePaul looks pretty ridiculous in retrospect though. Northern's seed could well be dependent on how they perform tonight. Certainly how WE evaluate the Missouri Valley Conference as a whole for the postseason will be predicated on how that group does this weekend.
- SIENA is a very strong 15-1 in conference play so far, in a league that has some talent. They haven't sparkled outside of conference action as well as they could have though. Double digit losses at Northern Iowa and Georgia Tech were wasted opportunities, as was a 9-point loss at St. John's. A tight 4-point loss to Temple marks the high spot. If a loss is your high spot, you're not likely to get an at-large bid! Siena desperately needs a road win at Butler Saturday to create a non-conference high spot that's a victory over a respected team.
- BUTLER is 17-0 in league play, and has already clinched the top seed for the Horizon tournament! Non-conference highlights include victories over Ohio State and Xavier (teams getting plenty of respect in power ratings). Neutral court losses to Georgetown, Clemson, and Minnesota help provide a fuller picture. Butler can play with anybody. They don't ALWAYS shine in tester spots though. Clemson and Minnesota aren't anything special this season. Butler dropped tournament-type decisions to them in November.
We know your wife is going to try to get you to watch the Olympics tonight. Do your best to check out some of Old Dominion/Northern Iowa on your other TV (ESPN2). Siena/Butler is an early tip off Saturday. You can check out that one with minimum interruption (also ESPN2).
You can imagine that JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK is geared up for a huge weekend! We're riding at a good clip down the road to MARCH MADNESS already...and the speed is about to pick up.
Games of interest for us tonight:
Dallas at Orlando on ESPN
Miami at Memphis
Atlanta at Phoenix
Boston at Portland on ESPN
Plus Cornell/Harvard and Old Dominion/Northern Iowa of course!
Games of interest for us Saturday:
Miami at Dallas on the NBA Network
Ohio State at Michigan State in the Big 10
Texas at Texas Tech on ESPN
Georgia Tech at Maryland in the ACC
Xavier at Charlotte in the A10
Kentucky at Vanderbilt on ESPN
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