Small Conference Game of the Day – February 23

YALE at COLUMBIA, 1:30 PM Eastern, NBC Sports Network

Heading into the season, Harvard appeared to be the clear favorite to run away with the Ivy League regular season title and the automatic bid that comes with it.  After the first month of the year, Princeton looked like the one team that might be able to challenge the Crimson.  As we got closer to the start of the conference season, Columbia looked like it might be the team instead.  However, the Ivy League regular season was disastrous for both.  Princeton has already been mathematically eliminated from the conference title race and Columbia sits three games back in the standings with only five games left to play.

With Princeton and Columbia’s failings in Ivy League play, most people would not have been surprised if Harvard had already clinched the conference title by now.  That has not happened.  The Yale Bulldogs, a team given up for all but dead after a 5-8 non-conference record that included losses to the likes of Bryant and Albany and no win better than Hartford, have streaked through the Ivy League season, standing at 8-1 in conference heading into today’s game including a 74-67 win at Harvard (their lone loss is a somewhat mystifying 73-56 loss at Brown).

Yale’s 8-1 Ivy league mark places them half a game behind Harvard with a chance to move back into a first place tie with a win today at Columbia.  Yale controls their own destiny, as winning all remaining games would give them an outright first place finish in the Ivy.  They could even afford one loss, as long as it is not their home contest March 7 against Harvard, and guarantee no worse than a tie and a one game playoff for the Ivy League title.  However, they do need to win games, and today’s game at Columbia plus their next game, Friday night at Princeton, are their two toughest contests in conference other than the Harvard games.

Columbia enters today’s game at 5-4 in the Ivy and 16-10 overall.  The Lions’ 147 RPI is third best in the Ivy behind only Harvard and Yale.  Kyle Smith’s team has been competitive all season, including a game back in November at Michigan State that they were in almost all the way and a six point loss to St. John’s in December.  While the Lions will probably not be in postseason play this year unless the CIT comes calling, they have definitely shown the ability to play with the “big boys” this season.  And they will definitely impact the balance of the Ivy League schedule as they not only host Yale today, but have a trip to Harvard (whom they lost to in double OT last weekend) next Saturday.

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