Thursday, February 3, 2011

14-Game Tournament: Where Were You On Feb. 3, 1989?

No, it wasn't the day the Berlin Wall fell. It wasn't the day when the Tiananmen Square protests came to a head either. And, nope, it wasn't the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (though that was Feb. 2, so good guess).

February 3, 1989 was the last time that Harvard defeated Princeton at Jadwin Gym. The victory marked the end of a 4-2 spurt over six years for the Crimson in New Jersey, a run which came on the heels of a 25-year road losing streak to the Tigers.

The current skid (21 years and counting) hasn't been entirely smooth sailing for Princeton. One of Harvard's worst teams in school history took the eventual Ivy League champion Tigers to double-overtime in 2004 and the Crimson pushed Princeton to overtime again in 2007 without Brian Cusworth, who had exhausted his eligibility midseason. Every time, however, the Tigers have found the extra clutch basket to escape with the victory.

Rarely do the games yield many style points, but Princeton would be just fine with more of the same, if it means another crucial league win.


Harvard           22             6           11             3
Princeton           23             7           11             3
Yale           15           13             8             6
Columbia           17           11             8             6
Penn           14           14             8             6
Brown           11           17             4           10
Cornell             8           20             4           10
Dartmouth             7           21             3           11

Total        1        2        3        4        5        6        7        8
Brown 0.0% 0.1% 0.9% 3.5% 12.4% 40.8% 30.0% 12.3%
Columbia 2.5% 12.0% 29.0% 29.0% 23.0% 3.9% 0.6% 0.1%
Cornell 0.0% 0.1% 0.8% 4.2% 11.8% 41.1% 31.5% 10.5%
Dartmouth 0.0% 0.0% 0.1% 0.3% 2.0% 13.9% 30.4% 53.3%
Harvard 64.6% 27.4% 6.1% 1.6% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Penn 3.6% 10.1% 27.4% 28.0% 24.0% 5.4% 1.3% 0.2%
Princeton 48.6% 38.7% 8.6% 3.1% 0.9% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0%
Yale 5.1% 15.1% 34.9% 26.3% 15.8% 2.6% 0.2% 0.0%

With its sweeps last weekend, Harvard and Princeton go from 74% to win the title to 91%. Yale, Penn and Columbia make up the other nine percent, in that order.

Of the simulations where Penn sweeps this weekend and Tuesday, the Quakers jump to 16.7% to take home a share of the title (from 3.6%). Of the simulations where Princeton sweeps this weekend and Tuesday, the Tigers jump to 70.6% to take a share of the title (from 48.6%). Finally, of the simulations where Harvard sweeps this weekend, the Crimson jumps to 88.0% to win a share of the title (from 64.6%).

In other words, a sweep by any of the three teams above will drastically alter that team's chances, and in the case of Princeton and Harvard, will install the sweeping team as prohibitive favorites for at least a share of the Ivy title.


Harvard at Princeton

The two hottest teams in the league square off at Jadwin Gym, as the Crimson enter the contest winners of eight straight, while the Tigers have won 12 of their last 13.

Princeton's defense has slipped since last year, primarily due to its relative inability to force turnovers (2010 TO Rate - 23.7%, 20th nationally; 2011 - 18.7%, 268th nationally), but its incredible shooting percentage margin (53.5 eFG% on offense, 47.6 eFG% allowed) has kept it at the top of the Ivy League.

The league office named Kyle Casey a co-player of the week - an important sign for a Harvard team that has been struggling to find an interior scoring threat to complement Keith Wright. Casey is also important to the Crimson on defense, where he helps anchor a frontcourt that is 68th nationally in block rate and 109th in defensive rebounding.

The key battle will be Princeton's Ian Hummer and Kareem Maddox versus Casey and Wright. The team that gets the better of that showdown will likely get the victory as well.

Predictive Model: Princeton 68, Harvard 65

Columbia at Brown

Without Peter Sullivan and already at 0-3, the Bears were supposed to be left for dead in Ivy play.

Then, 38 minutes later, Brown found itself up six at Penn, but couldn't hold the lead and fell in overtime. Even in the loss, the Bears showed some fight without their captain - certainly enough to get the Lions attention in what will be a crucial road weekend for Columbia.

Brown's Dockery Walker has come to play (free-throw line woes, notwithstanding) over the first four games of the league slate, but the rest of the team has been a real mixed bag.

The two worst defensive teams during the non-conference slate have been much better during the young Ivy season, and it will be interesting to see if that trend sustains itself as league play moves forward.

Predictive Model: Brown 72, Columbia 70

(NOTE: The Predictive Model score has Peter Sullivan's impact in the numbers, and if you remove him, the Lions are probably slight favorites here.)

Predictive Model For Other Friday Games:
Penn 68, Dartmouth 56
Yale 69, Cornell 62


Columbia at Yale

If the Lions and Bulldogs survive Friday night unscathed, it would set up the first of many 14-Game Tournament elimination games. While a split would keep Columbia at 4-2 in Ivy play - still technically in it - the odds would be even more heavily stacked against it.

Yale's Austin Morgan looked like a POY contender during the non-conference slate but has had a disastrous run thus far in league play. Morgan is shooting 8-for-34 from the field, including 4-for-15 from three and has been responsible for almost a quarter of the team's turnovers. Greg Mangano has played the role of a POY candidate, which is the only reason the Bulldogs aren't out of it, but if Morgan can't snap out of it soon, the Bulldogs will be eliminated in short order.

Meanwhile, the Lions have taken care of business to set up a pivotal road weekend. Brian Barbour has been outstanding all season, posting an offensive rating in the top 100 nationally. Mark Cisco has been great interior offensive presence as well. Through in star Noruwa Agho, and Columbia is poised to remain in the Ivy race, if it can sweep this tricky road trip.

Predictive Model: Yale 72, Columbia 65

Harvard at Penn

While the Quakers and Tigers have a relatively predictable weekend with a 50/50 game against Harvard and a should-be-gimme game against Dartmouth, the Crimson face an incredibly volatile one. If it beats Princeton on Friday night, it travels to Penn with a chance to put a fair deal of distance between itself and the field. If it loses to the Tigers on Friday night, it will arrive in Philly almost desperately needing a victory.

The Quakers depend on a top four which is extremely talented offensively. Beyond those four, however, the drop off is pretty extreme, as Penn is without Mike Howlett and Dan Monckton. When Tyler Bernardini finds his shooting touch and Jack Eggleston takes over inside, the Quakers can be a formidable foe. What's held them back is getting consistent production from either, as well as freshman shooting guard Miles Cartwright.

For Harvard, the key will be pounding Penn's weak interior defense forcing either made buckets or trips to the free throw line. If the Crimson settles for a bunch of threes against the Quakers, it will be hard pressed to exit The Palestra with a victory.

Predictive Model: Harvard 68, Penn 65

Predictive Model For Other Saturday Games:
Princeton 71, Dartmouth 53
Brown 70, Cornell 67


Sweep - 36.6%; Split - 47.9%; Swept - 15.5%

Sweep - 10.3%; Split - 45.9%; Swept - 43.8%

Sweep - 7.3%; Split - 42.1%; Swept - 50.6%

Sweep - 0.3%; Split - 12.9%; Swept - 86.8%

Sweep - 22.7%; Split - 53.4%; Swept - 23.9%

Sweep - 33.4%; Split - 59.7%; Swept - 6.8%

Sweep - 62.0%; Split - 37.0%; Swept - 1.0%

Sweep - 60.5%; Split - 34.6%; Swept - 4.9% 

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