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mbb-vs-cornell-devon-goodman

Junior guard Devon Goodman has been one of Penn's most consistent players this season, and he will need to continue to perform at a high level if the Quakers are to get into the Ivy Tournament.

Credit: Alexa Cotler

If you thought the madness wouldn’t start until the Ivy League Tournament, you were dead wrong.

Largely due to a higher level of competition and the relative balance between teams in the Ancient Eight compared to years prior, there remains a plethora of possible tournament scenarios with just four games left to play for each team.

While it is extremely likely that some configuration of Yale (18-5, 8-2 Ivy), Princeton (15-8, 7-3), and Harvard (14-9, 7-3) make up the top three seeds for Ivy Madness, the fourth and final slot is well up for grabs.

Penn men’s basketball (16-10, 4-6) currently sits sixth in the Ancient Eight standings, but it has a real shot at making the Ivy Tournament for a third consecutive season.

Brown (17-9, 5-5) and Cornell (13-13, 5-5) both have a game advantage over the Quakers, but a win last weekend over the Big Red and the chance at a season sweep of the Bears looming in a couple of weeks gives the Red and Blue the opportunity they need to leapfrog both teams.

Cornell’s final four opponents are identical to those of the Quakers, while Brown plays both Penn and the Big Red over that stretch. Losing both of those games would likely seal Brown’s fate.

If the Quakers go 3-1 or 4-0 over their final four, they have a good opportunity to make the tournament as long as they do not lose to Brown. If they go 2-2, it becomes much more difficult. Brown and Cornell would have to both go 1-3 or worse, and that might not even be enough for Penn to qualify. If the Red and Blue lose at least three of their final four games, their season will be over. 

The Quakers’ fate is out of their control, as an undefeated run by Cornell would render any Penn progress useless. The Red and Blue can only hope to improve their chances by winning not just games in general but their most important games.

Considering the craziness of the Ivy League so far this season, it’s likely that any pair of Brown, Cornell, and Penn (or all three) will be stuck in a deadlock at the season’s end.

In the event of a tie, the higher seed is awarded to the team with the best head-to-head record against the other team(s) in the tie. If this does not resolve the stalemate, the tie is broken by comparing each team’s record against the highest seed outside of the tie and going down the league standings if needed. Combined records are used for a tie with more than two teams.

The Quakers have already split their season series with Cornell, and a 92-82 win in Providence, R.I. gives them the leg up over Brown. It could very well be that Penn's last game of the season against the Bears decides the final entrant into the Madness.

It is vitally important for Penn to beat Brown, as the Quakers might not fare well in the latter tiebreaker scenario with a loss. The Quakers have yet to notch a win over one of the top three teams in the league, and defeating Harvard or League-leading Yale will be a tall task.

Brown is in the best shape if it were to come to aggregating team records against the highest seeds, as the Bears have gone 2-2 against the top three. Cornell isn’t in much better shape than the Quakers with only one such win.

None of the teams in contention for the fourth seed have beaten Yale, however, and Cornell and Penn both play the Bulldogs over the next two weekends. If Penn can secure a victory and Cornell suffers a loss, the Quakers would make the tournament if it comes down to the second tiebreaker scenario.

Picking up each individual win is the paramount concern for the Red and Blue as they hope to avoid the most dark and twisted seeding scenarios anyone can come up with. After two more games for each team this weekend, the tournament picture likely won’t resolve itself, but it will become much clearer.

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