Harvard and Yale, does it get any better than that?? Ok, so unless the question was in regards to spelling bees or science fairs, I suppose the answer is ‘yes.’ But part of the magic of college hoops is that rivalries bring special meaning and significance to games that might not otherwise garner much public attention. Making this fierce rivalry game even more significant is the fact that the Ivy League is the final conference that does not hold a conference tournament to determine its automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament.
Harvard has a better-than-average chance of being the first non-automatic qualifier invited to the NCAA tournament in the modern 64 team era (yes, I know there are now 68 teams. You get the point.) should they need to be, but it is nowhere close to guaranteed. They need to win their league to feel secure on Selection Sunday.
Enter Yale. At 2-0 in the early Ivy League play, they would have to be considered the forerunner to challenge Harvard’s assumed league dominance. A win tonight at home would put considerable pressure on the Crimson to hold serve and win steadily leading up to the February return visit from the Bulldogs. By no means is Yale going to rip through this league at 16-2 or 17-1. However, with no conference tournament and the absolute rottenness of the bottom teams in the league, dropping one early to your chief rival (Penn will also factor in the race) is never a good thing.
Yale has four losses, but all are reasonable for a program of their level; a one point loss to Wake, losses to Florida and Seton Hall and a less-than-impressive loss to Quinnipiac. Harvard, who received votes in the national polls all season long, despite now slipping outside of the Top 25, has done just about everything you can ask of an Ivy League contender. They went to the Bahamas and knocked off Florida State and UCF, en route to the Atlantis title, and also own wins over St. Joe’s, Boston College and Utah (don’t get too excited though, both BC and Utah are dreadful this season…).
Aside from a road loss at a better-than advertised Fordham team, and a road loss to a team they SHOULD lose to in UConn, they have been flawless. In fact, their average margin of victory over the last two months since the UConn loss is an impressive 15.5 ppg. This is against competition that on average is at least as good as Yale.
Rivalries matter, and they can do funny thing to lines, but in this case, I’m sticking with the Crimson to cover the six and a half on the road against their arch rival Bulldogs.