Welcome to the final regular installment of the Small Conference Game of the Day. While a few conferences will continue their regular season play into Sunday, March 4, those conferences are the ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12…none of which (other than arguably the Pac-12) qualify as small or mid-major conferences.
For today’s final regular installment, we are going to actually feature three games. The first two come, of course, from the Ivy League. Harvard, after pulling out an overtime win last night at Columbia, travels to Cornell (7pm, espn3) while the Penn Quakers host Yale. The automatic bid can be clinched by Harvard tonight with a victory AND a loss by Penn. If both teams win or both teams lose, then Penn would need to beat Princeton Tuesday night to force a one game playoff next weekend. If Penn wins and Harvard loses, Penn would need to beat Princeton on Tuesday night to clinch the bid, while a loss there would force a one game playoff as well.
It is somewhat fitting that Cornell and Princeton, while both eliminated from being able to win the bid, will play a role in determining whether or not Harvard makes the NCAA tournament. In the past 25+ years, only three teams from the Ivy League have made the Big Dance: Penn, Princeton and Cornell. In fact, if Harvard is able to make the tournament this year, they will break the longest streak of missing the field for a team that has been in at least one NCAA tournament before. Their last bid was in 1946! (and on a side note, they will hand that title off to conference-mate Dartmouth who was last in the field in 1959).
Of course, I mentioned that there were three games that I was featuring tonight. While the two games in the Ivy are the focus, it is hard to pass up a regular season game that will result in the winner’s season continuing and the loser going home. The third game for today comes from the Southland Conference where Sam Houston State heads to San Marcos, Texas to take on Texas State. Only the top 8 teams, regardless of division, qualify for the Southland tournament. Seven spots in their field have been clinched, but the eighth will be awarded to today’s winner. As such, today’s game is a de facto playoff game, and worthy of mention in this column as well.