An epic battle was staged on Thursday night in one of college basketball's best rivalries, as North Carolina defeated Duke, 85-83. But there was a more significant battle taking place at the Palestra the next two days -- more significant, at least, in terms of filling out the brackets in March. "I don't want to diminish what I saw with Carolina and Duke, but they're both going to the NCAA Tournament," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "These [Ivy League] games are critical. Each game is a huge, huge event. That's why our league is so unique and so different." The Ancient Eight is unique because it is the only league in the nation that does not have a conference tournament at the end of the season. Thus, each game is vital to securing an NCAA berth. And this weekend's results helped make the Ivy League picture a little bit clearer. After only the second weekend of Ivy League play, it already looks like either Penn or Princeton will win the Ivy League Championship for the 13th consecutive season. Both the Quakers and the Tigers swept this weekend's home contests against Yale and Brown to increase their Ancient Eight records to 4-0. Moreover, the two teams increased their leads over the next best Ivy team by two games in the loss column very early into the season. Before Friday, Yale led the Ivies with a 3-0 record, but a 61-51 loss to Penn followed by a 62-49 loss at Princeton sent the Elis reeling into fourth place in the Ivy League standings. However, the Elis should not be dismissed just yet. They played without starting center Neil Yanke this weekend (he sat out with a sprained ankle). And Penn and Princeton's road to the Ivy crown still must go through New Haven, Conn. Harvard can't be counted out either. The Crimson split their weekend, beating Cornell 65-57 and losing at Columbia, 65-55. But despite that loss to the Lions, Harvard jumped one spot in the standings to third place. If recent history is any indication, Yale and Harvard cannot afford to lose another Ivy League game and still claim the league crown. The last time the Ivy League winner had three conference losses was in the 1989-90 season, when Princeton won the title at 11-3. Although the Crimson have two more losses than the undefeated Quakers and Tigers, Harvard -- along with Penn and Princeton -- still has control of its own destiny. If Harvard runs the table, it will clinch at least a share of the Ivy League Championship. The Crimson have yet to play Penn or Princeton, so they could potentially hand both teams a pair of losses. Also, Penn and Princeton still need to play each other twice, giving either one team two more losses or each team one more loss. Although the Crimson technically just need to win their last eight conference games to win a piece of the title, Penn and Princeton are clearly the frontrunners to represent the Ivy League in the NCAA Tournament given their 4-0 records. Now the question lies -- which one of the Ivy League powerhouses will take home the 2000-2001 crown? "I think Penn is a better team," Brown coach Glen Miller said. "Penn's more talented. As you well know, Princeton has a unique style of play and it requires a lot of preparation and a lot of discipline defensively." "They're tough to score on too, but I think Penn is a better team. I think Penn will improve as they go along and get their confidence back and be a terrific team down the stretch."Comments powered by Disqus
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