Last weekend added a thrilling sequence of games to this year’s Ivy League season. Penn dropped its first Ivy game of the season to Harvard, and four of eight Elo favorites missed out on favored chances to pull ahead.
For Columbia, while the games were just as exciting, the results were not. The Lions fell twice on the road by just four- and three-point margins to Yale and Brown. Our predictive Elo algorithm didn’t think it likely that Columbia would win either game away from home, but the Lions now have little leeway heading into the Ivy League playoffs.
Our Elo model doesn’t have high hopes for the Light Blue, which sits tied for fifth place with a record of 3-5. Past games suggest that Columbia is only favored in two of its upcoming six games—home against Brown and away at Dartmouth. With that said, even with probabilities below 50 percent for the other four games, the Light Blue would be expected to pull off at least one upset.
A big source of hope for the Lions is the fact that Columbia will play its next four games at home. The Lions have won their last five games here, so fans will hope for the continuation of a trend.
Our model accounts for home-court advantage in its calculations, but it assumes every host gets an equal advantage. Light Blue fans will hope that Levien Gymnasium provides more support than the average arena, which would result in underestimating predictions from our model.
Keep in mind that an Elo rating models a team’s current ability. It’s an imperfect proxy, but it’s also not static—like a prediction for a game three weeks in advance. We can’t say where Columbia’s rating will be when the Light Blue travels to Harvard, but a win against a big team like Princeton or Penn this weekend would raise that rating for all future games. Elo may give Columbia a 26 percent chance against the Crimson in early March, but depending on the games in between, those odds could significantly improve or worsen.
The Lions will look to begin their ascent by upsetting league leader Penn when they host the Quakers on Friday. Meanwhile, Penn will seek to pull away from Harvard once again. It’s very possible, however, that the Crimson will finish the weekend atop the table and that Columbia will finish in fifth or sixth place, still reaching for the Ivy League playoffs.