So as things stand, Penn men’s basketball is currently tied with Columbia at 4-6 in the league for fourth place — the crucial, last spot to be invited to this year’s inaugural Ivy League Tournament. The winner of the new postseason tournament is the recipient of the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament later in March, making the promise of finishing fourth or higher in the conference all the more enticing.
But — Penn, or Columbia?
In years past, the two teams tied with the same record would have a one-game playoff to determine the champion. Now, however, there are a series of tiebreakers that should determine the rankings.
First would be head-to-head. between the two teams as it kickstarted its comeback in the league from rock bottom to fourth just two weekends later — but the two teams meet again this Saturday in a high-stakes clash at Columbia. If the Lions were to win, but still end the season on the same record as the Quakers, the scenario would have to go to the next tiebreaker.
The second tiebreaker is decided by which team beat the higher-seeded remaining Ivy League opponent. This scenario currently favors Columbia, as the Lions beat No. 2 Harvard earlier this season. If Penn can nab a win against the Crimson in its last game of the regular season to bring this tiebreaker to a deadlock, however, then things would go to yet another level.
The third decider of who gets into the tournament comes from an aggregation of rankings agreed to before the season by all of the coaches in the league. Among these are the RPI and BPI (Basketball Power Index) — and thankfully for Penn, those ratings currently favor the Red and Blue. It’s highly unlikely that Columbia and Penn come to a stalemate in this tiebreaker, but there is one final way to break the deadlock, should the teams need it.
A coin toss.
As unlikely as it is that the first three tiebreakers would fail to decide a fourth-place finisher, the fate of the Ivy League’s bid to March Madness could lay at the hands of a coin.
That being said, after Penn’s 0-6 start to conference play, the team has turned red-hot and won four in a row, and the last three by convincing margins. Meanwhile, Columbia has lost its last four. If these trends continue, the tiebreakers might have to be used to determine the third-place finisher, after Penn beat Yale to bring the team’s two match-ups this season to a split.
The Quakers and the Lions will showdown on Saturday in the de facto fourth-place playoff. At least if Penn loses, you’ll now know what decides who goes to the Tournament in March.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.