Columbia Almost Certainly Out of Tournament as Race for Fourth Heats Up
Statistically Speaking is a weekly update on the men’s Ivy League Basketball standings—rooted in the numbers. This week, we’ve essentially ruled out a Columbia run for the Ivy League Tournament.We focused on a closer look at who still could make it to the tournament and who could win the league.
With 0.3 seconds left in a tied overtime matchup against Penn on Friday, first-year Maka Ellis’ lay-up won the game for Columbia and ended the Lions’ six-game losing streak. After defeating Penn, Columbia entered its game against Princeton the following evening with renewed hope for the Ivy League season, only to lose to the Tigers by 18 points.
Columbia’s win over Penn—which we predicted would happen 22 percent of the time—was its second win out of six of its Ivy games this season that have been decided by three points or fewer. While this victory was an improvement, it wasn’t enough to start talking about an Ivy League Tournament bid.
At the beginning of the season, our model gave the Lions a nine percent chance of qualifying. Now, we can safely say that their chances are next to zero. After losing to Princeton, Columbia is all but mathematically eliminated from the tournament and can focus on growth and development moving forward.
Columbia’s chances of qualifying for the Ivy League Tournament were diminished not only by its recent loss, but also by the increasingly competitive race for fourth place. As Penn went 1-1 last weekend and Cornell 0-2, Brown seized its opportunity, picking up two wins to become the favorite in a three-way race for the tournament’s fourth and final seed. Brown’s strong performance last weekend has even given the Bears a realistic shot at finishing in third, which would keep them from playing what will likely be first-seed Yale in the tournament’s first round.
Going into this weekend, Brown has two home games in which it is favored to win, while Cornell and Penn, last year’s top finishers, will struggle to keep up on the road. Our Elo-based predictions give Columbia a 30 percent chance of slowing Brown down when the Lions visit Providence on Friday. The Cornell-Brown game on Saturday could determine who gets the last qualifying spot.
On Saturday, Columbia may face its toughest matchup yet, facing Yale, the strongest Ivy team by our ratings. The Bulldogs remain the favorite to win the Ivy League and snag the tournament’s top seed. We give Columbia a 15 percent chance of beating Yale and disrupting the race for first between Yale and Harvard.
With four games left this season, our simulations suggest that Yale is slightly favored to win out over Harvard. Princeton still has a roughly nine percent chance of stealing that top spot, especially if it can beat Harvard on Saturday.
Next week will be the last week of uncertainty. We will keep you updated on who is out of the competition and who has serious chances of making it to March Madness. Three teams are vying for the Ivy League title and six teams have real chances at making the Ivy League Tournament. For Columbia and Dartmouth, the rebuilding process will start soon as each side seeks to avoid finishing at the bottom of the table.
The Change-Up’s Ivy League Basketball model was built by Leo Goldman and Sagar Lal.