First place Yale hosts second place Penn and third place Princeton this weekend in a back-to-back game that could have major implications for the Ivy League regular season championship and the Ivy Madness standings.
Tim Tai, staff photographer
A trio of men’s basketball teams have split above the rest of the Ivy League this season, and all three are playing in New Haven this weekend.
Atop this tight three-team contingent is Yale (14–9, 8–1 Ivy), which hosts second-placed Penn (11-12, 8-2) and third-placed Princeton (17–5, 7– 2) Friday and Saturday at the John J. Lee Amphitheater.
Models created by Luke Benz ’19, a former president of the Yale Undergraduate Sports Analytics Group who continues to analyze and publish odds for the Ivy League men’s basketball playoffs, clearly indicate that all three teams have virtually secured berths already. in Ivy Madness – the league playoffs. basketball tournament, the winner of which receives an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. According to his model, which runs 5,000 simulations of the rest of the regular season, Yale and Penn each currently have a 99.9% chance of doing Ivy Madness. Princeton has a 98.6% chance. But Yale’s games this weekend could have major implications for tournament standings and the league’s regular season championship.
“A weekend sweep would mean Ivy’s regular season title, and with it the top seed of Ivy Madness, would be firmly lost to Yale in the final stretch of the season,” Benz said. “Any results other than a weekend sweep and we are considering [a] a messier picture with the title race likely to remain undecided this past weekend.
The back-to-back, the conference’s last until Ivy Madness next month, comes as the end of the regular season is fast approaching. Yale and Princeton each play three more games after this weekend, while Penn, which has seen no championship games postponed due to COVID-19, faces just two other teams before the top half of the Ancients Eight only travels to Boston for Ivy Madness on March 12 and 13.
According to projections Benz shared with the News, a Yale win over Penn on Friday would boost Blue and White’s chances of finishing first in the Ancient Eight to more than 70% from his model’s current estimate of 57. 8%. A Bulldog win over Princeton on Saturday, unrelated to a result in the Yale-Penn game, would boost that first-seeded chance percentage above 80.
Penn presents the Elis’ first challenge of the weekend, giving Yale a chance to avenge their only loss to an Ivy League opponent this season. Penn beat Yale, 76-68, when the two teams played in Philadelphia last month.
“If Yale is to split the pair, a win over Penn is a bit more important, considering Yale has already beaten Princeton and lost to the Quakers,” Benz added.
In that January meeting at the Palestra, Penn dominated Yale in the first half and led by a dozen points at halftime. Looking back on Ivy’s lone loss, forward EJ Jarvis ’23 said he thought Yale “went flat” in the first half, digging themselves into a hole the Bulldogs couldn’t. recover after the break.
“Even though they beat us, we’re still No. 1 and Penn is No. 2,” Jarvis said. “So if I make the Penn team, I come into the JLA to make a statement. With the top three spots so close in the standings, this game is definitely going to be intense. And if we want to win, we must be ready to play when the ball is knocked down.
The Bulldogs, Quakers and Tigers all enter the weekend with momentum. Penn has won five straight, while Princeton is coming off an 85-40 out against Dartmouth. After last weekend’s 25-point victory at Columbia, Yale’s winning streak stands at six. That streak includes their 80-74 victory at Princeton on January 29, when the Bulldogs started with a dominant first half before losing distance to the Tigers in the closing minutes.
Penn guard Jordan Dingle — whose 20.1 points per game now exceed Yale guard Azar Swain’s 19.1 average in 22 this season — leads the Ivy League in points. He dropped 31 points to lead Penn past Yale last month, posted a new career high last weekend with 33 points in a win over Harvard and is averaging 27.4 points per game over the streak. current five-game Quakers run.
While Yale leads the Ancient Eight in field goal defense and three-point percentage, the Tigers lead the conference in both of those offensive categories.
“[With] players like Dingle and teams like Princeton, we know the coaches have a plan, and we just try to go out there and execute and do our best,” Yale guard Bez Mbeng ’25, who played a key role in locking up Harvard star Noah Kirkwood last week said.
Yale forward Matt Knowling ’24 won the Ivy League Rookie of the Week award on Monday after scoring a career-high 19 points against the Lions. The honor is his third of the season.
The Yale campus has seen an increase in undergraduate COVID-19 cases over the past week and a half, with 253 undergraduate students in isolation Wednesday afternoon. Due to COVID-19 protocols, several Yale players wore masks throughout last Saturday’s win in New York. Starting forward Isaiah Kelly ’23 did not play the game or appear on the bench.
Tim Bennett, assistant athletic department director for strategic communications and athletic contacts for men’s basketball, said he was not aware of any exclusions for games this weekend due to protocols. COVID-19 in a Wednesday afternoon email to the News.
Given updated fan attendance policies that allowed fully immunized fans from outside the Yale community to return to indoor arenas at 75% capacity starting Feb. 11, the slate of this The weekend will also mark the first series of Ivy League men’s basketball games the general public can attend at Yale since the Bulldogs’ last Penn-Princeton weekend in February 2020.
Both games this weekend will start at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN+.