Sports | Sports Columns

In the Ivies, anything goes

That was quite a game, right? Tense the entire time—no clear winner until the end. The teams really kept it interesting.

Oh, you thought I was talking about the Super Bowl? No, I was stuck in the Spec office last night, so I couldn’t watch that. I’m sure that was a good game, too, though. No, I’m talking about the Princeton-Harvard men’s basketball game.

Since Princeton is much closer than Providence, and I was already planning on attending Columbia’s game at Yale on Saturday, I kicked around the idea of traveling to New Jersey on Friday for this battle of Ivy heavyweights. That idea never panned out, though, as I slept until 5 p.m. on Friday. Instead, I switched back and forth between listening to the audio for that game and watching the video feed from Brown. (No, I haven’t been diagnosed.) And boy, did the game live up to expectations.

The Crimson, picked to finish second in the Ancient Eight, went up by 11 just six minutes into the first half, but the Tigers cut the lead to just one by intermission. Princeton went on a similar tear in the second half, going up by 11 five minutes into the second stanza, only to watch its lead evaporate to just two with 18 seconds left to play. The Tigers came away with the win, 65-61, suggesting that their prediction for a first-place finish would turn out to be accurate.

But that all changed the next night when Princeton hosted cellar-dweller Dartmouth. While at the Yale game, I was tracking the other Ivy scores on my phone, and I was shocked to find the Big Green beating the Tigers 12-3 five minutes in. Eventually, the universe righted itself and Princeton won 68-53, but Dartmouth kept it close well into the second half. And this was less than 24 hours after the Big Green got destroyed by Penn.

That is what is so great—and terribly frustrating—about Ivy League basketball: Anyone can win on any given day. Even last year’s historic Cornell squad dropped a game in Philadelphia to a Penn team that would finish 5-9 in the league.

This year’s Cornell squad started its Ivy season 0-4, losing twice to our very own Lions before falling at Dartmouth and Harvard. If you had asked me how I thought Cornell would fare at Yale and Brown this weekend, I would have bet on them being 0-6 today. Maybe they could have pulled out a win against the Bears, but no way would they even come close to beating the Bulldogs.
The Cornell-Yale game was not even close to a blow out, though. In fact, had the Big Red forward Errick Peck’s layup gone in with four seconds left to play, Cornell would have probably walked away with a 72-71 victory instead of a 71-70 defeat.

Given the heartbreaking nature of that loss, and Brown point guard Sean McGonagill’s jaw-dropping, 39-point performance against Columbia the night before, it would not have been at all shocking for the Big Red to drop to 0-6 in conference play. But instead, Cornell—a team that had been averaging 65.2 points a game before Saturday—dropped 91 points to win its first conference game this season.

If you’ve made it through my somewhat-coherent ramblings about the awesomeness that is the “14-game-tournament,” then you’re probably wondering what this all means for Columbia.
For me, at least, it means hope springs eternal. Sure, we should have beaten Brown this weekend and we probably could have beaten Yale. Yes, we can’t expect to win if we only show up for one half and if our leading scorer has only 12 points the whole weekend. The argument that fellow columnist Jim Pagels made on Friday (“Ivy title out of reach for this year’s squad,” Feb. 4) is even more valid following this weekend’s sweep.

But, in the Ivy League, last weekend has almost no bearing on this weekend. If the Lions can make the right adjustments, if they can play a complete game, if Agho can find his groove again, then they have a fair shot at taking at least one game this weekend.

This past weekend killed any shot the Light Blue had at fighting for the title, and it likely spoiled their chances at a top-three finish. But it didn’t doom their whole season. At least, I hope not.


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