The Ivy League Conference Tournament Title and its associated automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament will come down to a battle between the last two regular season champions.
In the third of four games on Saturday afternoon, the Yale Bulldogs defeated the Harvard Crimson 73-71, earning advance to the tournament final tomorrow. The Bulldogs led by 10 at one point, before holding off a Harvard run in the final minutes in order to secure the win. The Princeton men's team — who won their game earlier in the day — looked on as the Bulldogs punched their ticket to the final alongside them.
This will be the third meeting between the teams this season. The first game took place at Jadwin Gymnasium in mid-January, where the Tigers won 66-58. The second meeting — also a Tiger win — came in February with a score of 71-52. In that second meeting, sophomores Devin Cannady and Myles Stephens showed great performances, scoring 29 and 20 points respectively. This season, five different Princeton players have scored in double digits against the Bulldogs; Stephens has even done so in both games.
It has certainly been a tale of two games for the Tigers' offense this season against Yale. In their first meeting, the Tigers shot only 38.9 percent from the field, including an abysmal 25 percent from beyond the arc. However, those scores changed drastically in the second game, when the Tigers shot 59 percent from the field — one of their highest marks of the season. In both games, Princeton’s defense was suffocating, holding the Bulldogs to under 40 percent shooting in each matchup. The Tigers' defense also out-rebounded the Bulldogs and forced more turnovers in near-dominant fashion.
One advantage the Bulldogs have over the Tigers is their championship game experience; the Bulldogs were forced to play a de-facto championship game against Harvard in 2015 to determine the Ivy League champion. While the Bulldogs lost that game, players that remain from that team gained some valuable experience, some of which was put on display today as the team took its revenge against Harvard. However, after today’s OT thriller on Princeton's part, it seems like the Tigers have plenty of valuable experience of their own.
The championship game will take place tomorrow at 12 p.m. After spending 10 weeks at the top of Ivy League, the Tigers must only best this one last opponent in order to win the inaugural tournament, a wire-to-wire dominance of the league, and a bid to the 2017 NCAA Tournament.