Six teams compete for Ivy Tournament spot as Columbia’s chances fall to zero
Statistically Speaking is a weekly update on the men’s Ivy League Basketball standings—rooted in the numbers. This week, Columbia is officially out of tournament contention, but we take a look at who could get that fourth spot and who could win the Ivy League.
Going into last weekend, Columbia was ranked the weakest team in the Ivy League by our Elo model. The Lions went on to beat Brown and topple first-place Yale to pick up two wins on the road for the first time in recent history, but even that was not enough to salvage any chance Columbia might’ve had of making the 2019 Ivy League Tournament.
But is there any path at all? Even if Columbia wins twice, Brown loses twice, Cornell loses at least once, and Yale beats Penn, the Lions would still be mathematically eliminated from the tournament thanks to its tie-breaking rules. The Lions have a small chance at tying for fourth place in the Ivy League, but in a best case scenario, they tie with Brown and Penn. In that tie, Penn would have beaten Brown twice this season, so Penn would win any head-to-head tiebreaker and secure the fourth seed.
That’s not to say, however, that this past weekend was unimportant for the Lions. Their performance proves that they’re capable of exceeding expectations, which could bode well for future seasons. Columbia’s wins also drastically increase its chances of finishing in the middle of the table at the end of this weekend rather than the bottom.
Looking further up the table, the winner of the tournament’s fourth seed is far from certain. In fact, half of the league—Princeton, Penn, Brown, or Cornell—could qualify in fourth. Princeton has already secured at least fourth and is far more likely to finish in second or third, but the final three-way contest among Penn, Brown, and Cornell is incredibly close.
Brown (6-6) currently leads Penn (5-7) by a single win, but the two will play in Philadelphia this weekend in a matchup that favors Penn. Plus, as previously mentioned, Penn beats Brown in any tied outcome involving the two sides. So despite its worse record, Penn has a 54 percent chance of making the tournament according to our model compared to Brown’s 37 percent.
On the other hand, Cornell (5-7) could also finish the weekend with a spot in the tournament, but that would require, at the very least, that Brown lose both games and Penn not finish in a three-way tie. But five consecutive Ivy losses have not helped the Big Red’s chances of qualifying, which have fallen to nine percent.
At the top of the table, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton all have the potential to be named 2019 Ivy League Champion, but Harvard is the current favorite. Since Harvard has beaten Yale twice this season, the Crimson secures the tournament number one seed in most tiebreakers, and Harvard just has to do at least as well as Yale and Princeton this weekend to secure a share of the title.
Princeton, too, could join Yale and Princeton, but its fate is not entirely in its own hands. The Tigers would require that neither Yale nor Harvard win this weekend. Only then would they would have a shot at sharing or winning the title.
As of now, Yale is still ranked slightly above Harvard by our ratings and will have the benefit of playing the tournament at home. Furthermore, by finishing in second—a likely outcome—Yale could actually maximize its chances at making March Madness. Our model rates Princeton (likely third place) slightly below Penn (possibly fourth place), but overall the difference would be small.
We will keep you posted with tournament forecasts next week, but for now it seems likely that we’ll see Harvard crowned the champion, with the Crimson having a good chance, along with Yale, at making the NCAA tournament. Princeton, Penn, or Cornell could still make a final play, however, meaning any of six Ivy teams could have its shot against some of the country’s best.
The Change-Up’s Ivy League Basketball model was built by Leo Goldman and Sagar Lal.