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Ivy Madness seeding scenarios: The fourth seed is Penn’s to lose

Yale, Harvard and Princeton are locks for three of the Ivy League’s top four seeds.

Pennsylvania v Villanova Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Just one weekend of conference play remains in the Ivy League regular season.

While Yale, Harvard, and Princeton have all clinched spots in the four team Ivy Madness postseason tournament to decide the Ancient Eight’s March Madness automatic bid, much is still up for grabs in terms of the final spot — not to mention settling seeds and first round matchups. I’ll summarize the 256 possible scenarios from the final weekend of play to detail each school’s range of outcomes.

Here’s a quick refresher of the tie-breaking rules, but a full list of those can be found here.

Tiebreaker 1: Head-to-head
Tiebreaker 2: Record vs. 1-8 in descending order
Tiebreaker 3: Blend of analytical rankings


1. Yale (10-2 Ivy)

Yale has already locked itself into a top 2 seed in the conference tournament by virtue of sweeping Princeton. Yale’s scenarios next weekend are fairly straightforward. A win against Harvard on Saturday clinches an outright Ivy League regular season championship, along with the 1 seed in the postseason tournament. Even if they lose to Harvard on Saturday, the Bulldogs can still attain the top seed at Ivy Madness with a win against Dartmouth on Friday and a Brown victory over Harvard that same night. Critically, Yale has already ensured that it will avoid facing the Crimson in Cambridge in the first round of Ivy Madness, as Harvard is the only other team that can knock Yale off the top line.

2. Harvard (9-3)

Currently sitting in second place in the Ivy League, Harvard can end up as any of the top three seeds in the postseason tournament. Having already beaten Yale in New Haven a few weeks ago, Harvard simply needs to finish a game better than the Bulldogs in the final weekend of the season to swipe the top spot. A weekend sweep would be sufficient, as would a win against Yale in conjunction with a Yale lose to Dartmouth the night earlier. In the case that Princeton (currently 8-4), Harvard, and Yale all finish 10-4, Harvard would be the top seed based on the best head-to-head record amongst those three teams.

If Harvard and Yale both go 1-1, Harvard would be the second seed. Either Harvard finishes at 10-4, a game behind 11-3 Yale and at least a game ahead of Princeton, or it finishes tied in the standings with Princeton. Harvard would win the tiebreaker by virtue of a win against Yale, something the Tigers could not achieve in two meetings with the Bulldogs.

Harvard can fall as low as the 3 seed but that only happens if Harvard loses its final two contests against Brown and Yale, while Princeton sweeps Columbia and Cornell.

3. Princeton (8-4)

Princeton has the clearest path going into the final weekend of play. The Tigers can claw their way up to the second overall seed by sweeping Columbia and Cornell at home, and watching Harvard lose both of its weekend contests against Brown and Yale. Unless all of this occurs, Princeton is locked into the 3-seed.

T-4. Penn (6-6)

The Quakers have a number of scenarios in which they can obtain the 4th seed, which I’ll list from most straightforward to most complex.

  • Penn wins more games this weekend than Brown and at least as many as Dartmouth, giving it sole control of the fourth seed.
  • Penn splits home weekend with Columbia and Cornell, then and Brown beats Dartmouth but loses to Harvard. Both Penn and Brown would be 7-7 and tied head-to-head. Brown would be 0-2 against Yale and 1-1 against Harvard, while Penn would be 1-1 against each of those teams. Thus, Penn would progress to the Ivy tournament on Tiebreaker 2 regardless which order Harvard/Yale finish in at the top of the standings.
  • Penn and Brown both go 2-0 this weekend, and Yale wins at least one game against Harvard or Dartmouth. This ensures Yale finishes above Harvard in the standings, which progresses Penn (who has one win against Yale to Brown’s zero) through on Tiebreaker 2 by virtue of a better record against Yale. If Harvard finishes above Yale, Brown would beat Penn going 2-0 vs the Crimson, compared to Penn’s 1-1.
  • Penn splits a home weekend with Columbia and Cornell, Brown beats Harvard but loses to Dartmouth. Penn also needs Yale to beat Dartmouth or Harvard. Penn and Brown would finish at 7-7 and Dartmouth could finish at 7-7 if it defeats Yale. Penn and Dartmouth have a single win against Yale, while Brown does not. Penn has one win against Harvard to Brown’s two and Dartmouth’s zero. As long as Yale is ahead of Harvard in the standings, Penn would advance on Tiebreaker 2 (Brown would be eliminated by virtue of the worst record against Yale, and then Penn has a better record against #2 Harvard than does Dartmouth).
  • Penn and Brown go 0-2 and Yale beats Dartmouth. Penn, Brown and Dartmouth are all tied at 6-8. All teams are 2-2 head to head amongst this group. Penn would have the only win against Yale, and Penn would have as many wins against Harvard as Brown and 1 more than Dartmouth. Either Yale would finish in first in which case Penn would advance on Tiebreaker 2, or Yale would finish in 2nd in which case Dartmouth would be eliminated on Tiebreaker 2 and subsequently Penn would beat Brown by having a better record against #2 Yale.

T-4. Brown (6-6)

The Bears have a number of scenarios in which they can obtain the 4 seed, listed from least to most complex:

  • Brown sweeps Harvard/Dartmouth on the road, Penn goes 1-1 or worse vs Columbia/Cornell at home. Brown would finish 8-6 while Penn and Dartmouth would finish at best 7-7, leaving Brown in sole possession of fourth.
  • Brown beats Dartmouth on the road and Penn is swept at Columbia/Cornell at home. Under this scenario, Penn would be 6-8, Dartmouth could be at best 6-8, and Brown would be 7-7.
  • Brown beats Harvard on the road and Penn is swept at Columbia/Cornell, and Dartmouth loses to Yale or Yale loses to Harvard. In this case, Brown would be 7-7, Penn would be 6-8, and Dartmouth would be either 6-8 or 7-7. If Dartmouth beats Yale, it would be 7-7 and would possess the tiebreaker over Brown if Yale finished higher in the league standings. Hence, Brown would need Yale to finish below Harvard so it could advance on Tiebreaker 2 by virtue of a 2-0 record against the Crimson.
  • Both Penn and Brown sweep their respective weekends, while Yale is swept by Dartmouth and Harvard. Both schools would be 8-6 and finished 1-1 head to head. Penn was 1-1 against both Harvard and Yale, while Brown would be 2-0 vs Harvard and 0-2 vs Yale. Thus, Brown would need Harvard to finish ahead of Yale in the standings, which (given the Harvard loss to Brown in this scenario) could only happen by Dartmouth and Havard sweeping the Bulldogs.
  • Brown beats Harvard on the road and Penn splits 1-1 vs. Columbia/Cornell at home, and Dartmouth loses to Yale or Yale loses to Harvard. In this case, Brown would be 7-7, Penn would be 7-7, and Dartmouth would be either 6-8 or 7-7. If Dartmouth beat Yale, it would be 7-7 and Brown would lose a three-way tiebreaker if Yale finished ahead of Harvard, as both Penn and Dartmouth would have defeated Yale. Thus, the Bears would need Yale to finish below Harvard so it could advance on Tiebreaker 2 by virtue of a 2-0 record against the Crimson.

6. Dartmouth (5-7)

Despite an awful 0-6 start to conference play, the Big Green is somehow alive for the last spot at Ivy Madness.

A lot needs to break right to see Dartmouth make its first ever Ivy League tournament. In addition to sweeping Yale and Brown at home, Dartmouth needs to pray that Cornell and Columbia — the bottom two teams in the league standings — can somehow both upset Penn on the road. If all of this happens, Dartmouth would either finish in sole possession of fourth place at 7-7, or tied with Brown. If it finishes 7-7 with Brown, the Big Green also would need Harvard to beat Yale.

The Big Green and the Bears split their head-to-head, but the Big Green would edge the Bears in the tiebreaker based on a win against Yale in this hypothetical tie — as long as Yale finishes ahead of Harvard in the league standings.