With just 14 games to decide a champion, and just three or maybe four losses permitted to remain a contender, every weekend can and does feel like the biggest weekend of the year.
We'll get to the weekend odds down below, but given that this is the last "pre-season" 14-Game Tournament piece, let's start with the generic league-finish odds.
The most interesting historical point to fall out of the analysis is that this is the first time in the Pomeroy era that no Ivy team is a majority favorite (on an allocated basis - the far right column above) to win the league.
Since 2003, the year with the most similar amount of parity to this season was 2008, when Cornell was a 52 percent favorite to win the league with Brown (34 percent) and Yale (8 percent) nipping at its heels.
The numbers indicate that only Harvard, Princeton and Yale have a real shot at the title if the required number of wins is 12 or more. The average number of wins when the Crimson takes a share of the crown is 11.0. For the Tigers, it's 10.8 and for the Bulldogs, it's 10.5. For Penn and Columbia, the number dips to 10.0, meaning that those two teams most often win the league when the simulations produce more parity and a lower number of wins for the champion.
In terms of order of finish, the heavy favorites for 1-2-3 are Harvard, Princeton and Yale, while Penn and Columbia each have a very good shot at the upper division and a decent shot at as high as a second-place finish. Cornell and Brown seem most likely to end in the 5-6-7 range with the potential for a run at fourth, while Dartmouth appears headed to the cellar for the second consecutive year in the post-Alex Barnett era.
FRIDAY NIGHT FEATURED GAMES
Yale at Penn
Since opening the season with back-to-back impressive showings at Providence and Boston College, the Bulldogs have managed to carve out a niche as a solid third in the league.
After stumbling around the holidays, Yale stabilized itself by closing out Brown impressively on the road before shutting the Bears down in New Haven. That hasn't stopped the two teams right behind it (Penn and Columbia) from catching up and potentially drawing even with the Bulldogs.
It's tough to win on the road in the league, especially against a Quakers team that has been heating up lately.
Predictive Model: Penn 66, Yale 64
Columbia at Harvard
Two wins in the travel partner series with Cornell and Morningside Heights is buzzing with contender talk.
The good news is that the Lions will get a chance to take that chatter to the next level and gain a valuable insight into its true ability to contend as it travels to Boston to take on Harvard. Columbia should have no problem scoring - its offense is above-average and the most consistent in the league - but whether it can stop the Crimson on the other end is the real question.
Since the key in these games is to win, not style points, expect the margin to be closer than the predictive model says.
Predictive Model: Harvard 78, Columbia 65
Predictive Model For Other Friday Games:
Cornell 65, Dartmouth 61
Princeton 75, Brown 62
SATURDAY NIGHT FEATURED GAMES
Yale at Princeton
If the 'Dogs can survive as just that in Philadelphia tonight, their reward will be a date with the preseason league favorite in Jadwin Gym tomorrow night.
The reality of the league slate is that Yale could potentially emerge from this weekend as the favorite to win the league with a sweep or be almost completely knocked out of the race if it is swept. This will also be the first big test for the Tigers, who get five consecutive visits from Ivy foes before going on the road for seven of their last nine.
The Bulldogs' strong defense should give it a shot down the stretch, but it's hard to see the experienced Tigers losing a close one at home.
Predictive Model: Princeton 69, Yale 61
Brown at Penn
Unless the Bears can pull off back-to-back upsets at Jadwin, Brown will likely arrive at The Palestra tomorrow night staring 0-4 in the face.
Neither team is particularly stalwart defensively, and both teams have the weapons to score in bunches. If Brown wants to win, it has to slow the pace down and hit some timely threes in order to deflate what should be a raucous Palestra. Penn is 4-0 at home this year against teams outside the Top 100, so it will be an uphill climb to knock of the Quakers in Philly.
Predictive Model: Penn 72, Brown 65
Predictive Model For Other Saturday Games:
Harvard 73, Cornell 61
Columbia 69, Dartmouth 65
EXPECTED WEEKEND OUTCOMES
Sweep - 5.3%; Split - 37.5%; Swept - 57.3%
Sweep - 8.4%; Split - 57.2%; Swept - 34.4%
Sweep - 9.6%; Split - 59.8%; Swept - 30.6%
Sweep - 14.4%; Split - 47.2%; Swept - 38.4%
Sweep - 73.1%; Split - 24.8%; Swept - 2.1%
Sweep - 37.9%; Split - 48.1%; Swept - 14.0%
Sweep - 58.1%; Split - 36.8%; Swept - 5.1%
Sweep - 13.5%; Split - 48.0%; Swept - 38.5%