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Left photo: Junior guard Jordan Dingle attempts a layup against Dartmouth on Feb 25. Right Photo: Senior guard Kayla Padilla attempts a layup against Princeton on March 3. Credit: Samantha Turner , Abhiram Juvvadi

The end of the road, or the realization of a dream: that is what Ivy Madness represents for the eight Ivy League basketball teams.

The conference’s postseason tournament, now in its fourth year, features the top four teams from both the men’s and women’s regular season standings, all competing for the right to represent the conference in the NCAA tournament, also known as March Madness. Penn is one of just two schools — the other is Princeton — sending both their men’s and women’s teams. Each team will attempt to earn Penn its first Ivy League Tournament championship since 2018, when the men’s team won Ivy Madness at the Palestra.

This year’s iteration will not be held in such friendly territory. It will take place at Jadwin Gymnasium, home of the Princeton Tigers, the team that both Quaker squads will face as their respective semifinal opponents. Let’s take a look at some of the figures and factors that will define both the men’s and women’s teams' chase for the crown.

Women’s Bracket

Semifinal 1: Penn vs. Princeton — Friday, March 10, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

Semifinal 2: Harvard vs. Columbia — Friday, March 10, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN+)

Championship Game: Winner of Semifinal 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal 2 — Saturday, March 11, 5:00 p.m. (ESPNews)

Penn (17-10, 9-5 Ivy): 4 seed

This season for the Quakers has been one of epic highs and cavernous lows. After ripping off four straight wins to start conference play, their momentum was abruptly halted by a 55-40 loss at Princeton, where Penn failed to move the ball and suffered through brutal stretches of offensive stagnation.

That was true of Penn's other losses for the rest of conference play. At their best, the Quakers could compete with anyone; they defeated Columbia and Harvard, the other two teams in the tournament. But they also fell to those same teams in blowout fashion, and lost again to Princeton 71-52 in the regular season finale. Senior guard Kayla Padilla has been brilliant in her last season as a Quaker, leading the team in scoring with 17.5 points per game. But, regardless of how well Padilla plays, the team’s fate will ultimately depend on which version shows up.

Harvard (16-10, 9-5): 3 seed

Penn's record against: 1-1

With the second-highest-scoring offense in the conference, the Crimson have what it takes to make a run in the postseason. Wins over Penn and Princeton are the most notable victories on the team’s resume, and a 35.9% clip from three gives Harvard the firepower necessary to compete with any team.

But the Crimson will have their hands full when they face Columbia, the only team with a more potent offense during the regular season and a group that defeated Harvard in both of their regular season matchups.

Columbia (23-4, 12-2): 2 seed

Penn's record against: 1-1

After winning a share of the regular-season conference title, the Lions have their sights set on a new goal: an Ivy League Tournament championship. Though they dominated the conference for much of the season, the conference's tiebreakers awarded the Lions the second seed. They will arrive in Princeton with a conference-leading 79.4 points per game, the highest rebounding average in the conference, and above all, something to prove.

Junior guard Abbey Hsu, who tops the conference in scoring and three-point percentage, leads the charge for Columbia. She has shown her ability to score a lot, such as when she dropped 35 points in the Lions’ win over Harvard on Feb. 17. But, the Lions’ two conference losses — against Penn and Princeton — both came as a result of poor shooting performances, with the team making 26% of three-point attempts across both games. Columbia lives and dies by the three, but if they keep living, their ceiling is limitless.

Princeton (21-5, 12-2): 1 seed

Penn's record against: 0-2

There is dominant, and then there is what the Tigers have been for most of the Ivy League season. After dropping their first two conference games, the Tigers flipped a switch and won 12 straight, 11 of them by double digits. 

Princeton is spearheaded by their league-leading defense, holding opponents to just 52.8 points per game. And with junior guard Kaitlyn Chen — who was recently named Ivy League Player of the Year — coming in fifth in the conference in scoring, games against the Tigers can get out of hand in a hurry. Riding this huge hot streak, Princeton should be considered the favorite to represent the Ivy League in March Madness. But in a single-game elimination tournament, anything is possible.

Men’s Bracket

Semifinal 1: Cornell vs. Yale — Saturday, March 11, 11:00 a.m. (ESPNU)

Semifinal 2: Penn vs. Princeton — Saturday, March 11, 1:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

Championship Game: Winner of Semifinal 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal 2 — Sunday, March 12, 12:00 p.m. (ESPN 2)

Cornell (17-10, 7-7): 4 seed

Penn's record against: 1-1

Speed is the name of the game for the Big Red, who had the conference's highest-scoring offense this season at 82.5, six whole points ahead of second place. But that focus on one side of the ball has also proven detrimental at times — the Big Red dropped five of their last seven regular season games, giving up over 70 points in each of those matchups, and over 80 in four of them.

Yale has the offense to compete with Cornell, as well as the defense to slow them down. Recently-crowned Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year Bez Mbeng anchors a Bulldog unit that allowed the lowest-scoring opponent-scoring average in the conference. But, earlier this season, Cornell downed Yale 94-82 behind an offensive explosion highlighted by a ridiculous 48.1% clip from long range. That is the type of game the Big Red are capable of, and it is what they will need to keep their season alive.

Penn (17-12, 9-5): 3 seed

Last Saturday, the Quakers marched into Jadwin Gymnasium with a regular-season Ivy League title on the line and played arguably their best half of basketball this season, racing out to a 42-25 halftime lead behind 21 points from Ivy League Player of the Year Jordan Dingle and leaving Princeton in the dust. It was the team operating at their final form — a relentless offense, a physical defense, a problem opponents could not solve.

What followed was a perfect example of the reason Penn, who was picked as preseason Ivy League champions, enters this tournament as the third seed. The Tigers climbed back and ultimately won in overtime, taking advantage of long stretches of stagnancy from Penn's offense. 

If the second half of Saturday’s game had gone differently, Penn would have every right to call themselves favorites heading into Ivy Madness. The Princeton loss snapped an eight-game win streak that included victories over Yale and Cornell, and everything appeared to be clicking at the perfect time. But as Penn gets set for a rematch with their nemesis, the burden now falls on their shoulders to prove they have what it takes to finish when it counts.

Princeton (19-8, 10-4): 2 seed

Penn's record against: 0-2

The Tigers are one of the most well-rounded teams in the Ivy League, and it all begins with their veteran leadership. Princeton’s roster features a whopping five seniors, tied for the most in the Ivy League, and they are sound in every aspect of the game. The Tigers rank top three in the Ivy in both scoring average and opponent scoring average, and their rebounding margin ranks 14th in the entire nation. 

That said, there are cracks in the team’s armor. Saturday’s first half against Penn showed how vulnerable the Tigers can be when they are not converting their looks from three, or when 2022's Ivy League Player of the Year Tosan Evbuomwan is neutralized. The Tigers are also 0-2 against Yale this season, with both defeats coming by double digits. Though Princeton has not lost to the Quakers dating back to 2018, they cannot afford to tread lightly.

Yale (20-7, 10-4): 1 seed

Penn's record against: 1-1

Dread it, run from it, Yale basketball arrives all the same. After a 1-3 start to the Ivy League season, last year’s Ivy League Tournament champions won nine of their last 10 games to claim a share of the Ivy League title and the top seed in this year’s tournament. With the conference’s best defense and second-best offense, the Bulldogs are top dog heading into tournament weekend.

But Yale’s only loss during that stretch came on the road at the hands of the Quakers. The back-and-forth matchup was ultimately decided by clutch free-throw shooting and a dagger jumper from Dingle down the stretch sealed the game for Penn. The Bulldogs are most comfortable when they overwhelm their opponents early, but against such elite competition, they may need a wire-to-wire performance in order to make a return trip to the big dance.