Friday night is usually a light slate in college basketball, but that’s when the Ivy League takes center stage. All eight institutions are regularly in action in the first half of back-to-back games. Friday night features the early Game of the Year in the league as Yale (16-4, 4-0 conference) will play host to preseason-favorite Harvard (13-6, 2-2).
Last season, Yale was swept in the regular season by the Crimson. However, that was the first season in which the Ivy League moved its four-team postseason tournament from the Palestra in Philadelphia to a rotation of all campus sites of its member institutions, and Yale got to host. The men from New Haven were able to take advantage of that and defeated Harvard in the championship game to earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
This season, Harvard was the runaway selection to win the Ivy with its top nine scorers back, including unanimous All-Ivy pick Bryce Aiken, fellow All-Ivy pick Chris Lewis and 2017-18 Ivy League Player of the Year Seth Towns. Injuries, however, started to take their toll.
Aiken has played only seven games with a foot injury and has not played since Dec. 21. Towns hasn’t played at all. He tore cartilage in his knee during the 2018 Ivy League Tournament Championship Game vs. Penn (68-65 loss) and has not played since. He missed all of the 2018-19 season and had another surgery in early January and is not likely to play this season, either.
Towns looks as if he will be ready to play basketball again in June, but it will be somewhere else. The Ivy League does not allow redshirts, so Towns had to put his name in the transfer portal last month. Harvard was swept on the road last weekend — a 75-72 overtime loss at Penn and a 70-69 defeat at Princeton. Now the Crimson are two games behind league co-leader Yale and this is essentially a must-win spot for them.
Harvard coach Tommy Amaker is 9-3 straight-up and against the spread in road games vs. Yale since his arrival in Cambridge. In spite of all the injuries, Harvard (7-11 ATS) has four senior starters who now have their backs against the wall — going to New Haven to face a team that has won 13 of its past 14 games and currently ranks as both the best offensive and defensive units in the league. Yale also currently possesses the best ATS record in all of college basketball at 14-4 ATS.
Meanwhile the other co-leader in the Ivy League, Princeton (9-8, 4-0), travels this weekend for a road double-dip at Cornell (4-13, 1-3) and at Columbia (6-14, 1-3), who are both tied for sixth place in the league. Penn (10-7, 2-2) also plays the same two teams over the weekend.