In 2015, Dartmouth men’s basketball spoiled Yale’s NCAA Tournament hopes in the closing seconds of the regular season, forcing the Bulldogs to play co-champion Harvard in an Ivy League playoff game. Dartmouth’s win secured fourth place in the league standings, which meant little back then. But this year, fourth place will earn a coveted trip to the Ivy tournament.
“That was already a fantastic atmosphere and game,” says Robin Harris, the league’s executive director since 2009. “If you add to that the excitement that Dartmouth would have been qualifying for the Ivy League Tournament, it would have been off the charts.”
Harris sees plenty of positives in the new four-team postseason format, developed by a working group of coaches and athletic directors. For teams that stumble in the regular season, the postseason provides a chance to recover and have a shot at an NCAA Tournament bid. And for the league as a whole, Harris said, the two-day event creates “a celebratory environment for men’s and women’s basketball together.”
The Palestra, nicknamed “the cathedral of college basketball,” seemed like a natural fit for the inaugural tournament, according to Harris.
“I know Penn is a rival of Princeton, to say the least, and we are going to be making the facility as neutral as we can,” she said. Ivy League logos will cover some of the Penn and Big Five markings, and locker rooms and ticket allotments will be assigned according to each team’s tournament seed.
“This was really done for our student-athletes,” Harris said. “We had been hearing that our student-athletes want to be part of March Madness, more than just the one or two teams that go to the NCAA Tournament. They want to be part of that championship week where all the other conferences were having tournaments, and we were not part of that. That was convincing.”