Better Know a Conference: The Ivy League

Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

Not a lot of people associate the Ivy League with basketball nowadays, even though they should.

The Ivy League is known for sports, just generally not the ones that people pay a lot of attention to. Still, it makes in roads in the NCAA Tournament every now and then. Princeton has an entire offense named after it and Pennsylvania has been one of the more steady teams from the conference in the NCAA.

The Ivy League is also the most exciting conference to follow because it is the one where the games actually matter. The Ivy League, being the Ivy League, takes the more sporting and fair route -- each team plays each other twice and the winner advances on. There is no conference tournament and auto-bid here.

The Best Team: Although Yale and Harvard have the same conference record, Harvard is the team that belongs up top. The Crimson are the highest rated team according to the KenPom.com rankings and have one of the better defensive teams in the country, rated No. 27 by KenPom.com. Harvard has been the cream of the crop in the Ivy League for the past two years, making it to its first NCAA Tournament in 2012 since 1946. The Crimson lead the Ivy League in both points scored per game and points allowed, and are pretty much at the top of almost every defensive team stat in the conference.

The Contenders: Yale has a legitimate chance at the Ivy League crown, and therefore a NCAA berth, after beating Harvard on the road, 74-67. The Yale Bulldogs will need to keep up the hot streak in conference play, because statistics suggest they are playing a bit above their heads right now. Yale is 5-1 in Ivy League play, but 11-9 overall. Yale has two big scorers in sophomore forward Justin Sears and junior guard Javier Duren. After that, the drop off is pretty steep. The Bulldogs stay aggressive on the glass and are the top offensive rebounding team in the league, which is a good thing since they shoot 42 percent as a team from the floor.

The Brown Bears sit one game back of the Crimson and have a 4-2 conference record. The two losses came on the road at the hand of Yale and Harvard. Brown doesn't have the best offense in the league, but no team plays harder on defense. Opponents shoot 36.5 percent against Brown, the top mark in the conference, and hit just 24.3 percent from beyond the arc. Four of the top 10 players in defensive win shares in the Ivy League are Brown players.

The Best Players: There are probably three major players in the Ivy League who have a claim to this title. Princeton guard T.J. Bray is probably the best of the bunch, but with Princeton's conference record he will most likely sit out the NCAA Tournament this year. It is unfortunate, because Bray is one of the nation's most efficient guards. He is second in the league with 17.7 points per game and is first in assists with 5.5. He has the highest offensive rating in the country, leads the NCAA in effective field goal percentage at 66 percent and has the highest player efficiency rating in the conference.

Of the two competing teams, either Harvard winger Wesley Saunders or Brown guard Sean McGonagill takes the cake. Saunders offensive numbers have dipped a bit this year, but he is still putting up 14.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. He is also Harvard's best defender, averaging two steals per game, leading the Ivy League.

McGonagill is the league's top scorer at 18.3 points per game. He does most of his damage from the three point line as the league's top three point shooter. McGonagill is shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc and averages 3.3 three pointers per night. He is a workhorse for Brown, leading the Ivy League in minutes played, total points scored, three pointers and assists.

The Best Upcoming Games:

Feb. 22: Harvard at Princeton
Feb. 28: Brown at Pennsylvania
March 7: Harvard at Yale
March 8: Harvard at Brown

The Mascots:

Right off the bat, lets just say that many of the Ivy League mascots leave a lot to be desired.

Brown Bears: It is a good thing that Brown settled on Bruno the Bear, because the original mascot, a brown and white burro, was presented for a game in 1902 against Harvard. It hardly lasted because it was "frightened by the noise and the laughter which it provoked." Brown settled on a bear after that embarrassment and often used a live one until the mid-1960s.

Columbia Lions: There was a bunch of uproar when Columbia chose the lions way back in the early 1900s because it was seen as too royal. Lion statues kept popping up all over campus and from then on out the school didn't have much of a choice. Detractors got their revenge by giving the mascot one of the worst nicknames in all of college sports -- Roar-ee the Lion.

Cornell Big Red: Poor Cornell kids. Technically, Cornell doesn't have a mascot, although they have the unofficial bear known as Touchdown. Supposedly, students tried to petition the school to have their beloved red bear become the official mascot but the university denied the cause. Because why be a bear when you can be a term associated with chewing tobacco?

Dartmouth Big Green: See? I told you the Ivy League is pretty bad. Dartmouth's "mascot" harkens back to the first intercollegiate game ever played in school history, a baseball game in 1866. The team wore green that day. That is the reason that has lasted 150 years.

Harvard Crimson: The unofficial mascot for Harvard is John Harvard, the Englishman the school is named after. The school newspaper is named the Harvard Crimson. If any knowledgeable Harvard alums have any more information, I'd appreciate the help here.

Pennsylvania Quakers: Way back in the day, there were quite a few Quakers residing in Pennsylvania. Quakers stemmed from Protestants and were known for their declaration of paciificsm. The Quakers are collectively known as the Religious Society of Friends. Like a lot of things in the Ivy League, it all started out so early that mascots didn't exist. According to the Daily Pennsylvanian, the Quakers are known as that because Philadelphia was known as Quaker City. Either way, Pennsylvania's mascot is a Quaker.

Princeton Tigers: Finally, back to some real mascots. The Tigers would be a cool mascot if Princeton won any sport that needed a fearsome beast. Rather, Princeton has NCAA Championships in fencing, golf and lacrosse. Although, lacrosse can be pretty brutal so we'll give it to them. The Tigers work here.

Yale Bulldogs: This is amazing. Yale beats out all over Bulldog related mascots in the universe because Handsome Dan is believed to be the first live mascot in the entire nation, and since 1889 there have been 16 dogs to hold the position.

How have Ivy League teams fared in the tournament?

The Ivy League has pretty decent success in the NCAA Tournament, but much of that comes from Princeton and Penn. The Tigers have been to the NCAA Tournament 24 times and are known for being giant killers, highlighted by a No. 13 Princeton team upsetting a No. 4 UCLA squad in 1996. Penn found their way into the NCAA Tournament pretty regularly since the 1970s. Harvard and Cornell have each made halfway decent runs in March within the past few years.

Current NBA players from the Ivy League?

Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets

LINSANITY! The lone representative currently playing for the NBA is the player that gripped the nation's heart when he burst onto the New York Knicks with the fury of 1,000 suns. Lin was one of the best players in the Ivy League when he played for Harvard from the 2006-07 season until he graduated in the 2009-10 season.

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