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The “Other” Crimson Tide

January 18, 2002 Columns No Comments

Harvard: That “Other” Crimson Tide

by Adam Shandler

I am writing this article on the Brooklyn Bridge-bound 6 Train. The rider sitting to my left has generously turned the volume up on his Discman, loud enough so that the other riders might enjoy the latest Jay-Z album.

Ahh, gone are the days when we as commuters selfishly hoarded our musical interests. Now, by simply purchasing a $1.50 MetroCard, I can sample the musical stylings of any of a number of current chart-toppers.

Word of warning: Since my neighbor’s music is loud enough to erode what small amount of concentration I have, I apologize in advance if any of Mr. Z’s lyrics pervade this piece.

Now let’s H-to-the-Izzo of my article . . . and I don’t mean Tom.

Harvard University has always been equated with excellence on so many different levels. I know that when I think of the pinnacle of academic prestige, Harvard is the first school that comes to mind (after DeVry). Yet, there is one area in the excellence department that has eluded the Cambridge, Mass.-school. That is basketball.

2001-02 may be the year that the Crimson not only win their first league title, but return to their first NCAA tournament since 1946.

Yes, I’m talking about basketball here. Not crew or trivia bowl, or even football, which had a solid season in the playoff-restricted Ivy. Frank Sullivan’s team is, as of January 16th, 10-6 and 3-1 in the Ivy League. Very few of their wins will make the underdog-lover go “wow”, but the last two games might at least raise some interest.

On Friday, January 11th, Harvard lost a heartbreaking two-point squeaker to league favorite, Princeton 50-48. It was an unspectacular shooting night for the Crimson (37 percent), but hustle, and a combined 28 points from both point guard Patrick Harvey and junior forward Sam Winter earned Harvard Hoops some respect.

Battling Princeton for forty minutes, only to come up two points short, would have exhausted most teams. But Harvard didn’t have time to think about it. The next night, they hosted the Ivy League’s other juggernaut, Penn. And beat them.

Both teams scored exactly the same number of points after each half (33 and 31, respectively) but Harvard had a little more juice in overtime, outscoring the Quakers 14-11 for a 78-75 victory. It didn’t hurt that hot-shooting Andy Toole of Penn fouled out. Harvey and Winter came up big again, only this time their efforts were not in vain. Harvey scored a career high 28 that night, 7 in the extra session. With this output, the Chicagoan captured Ivy League Player of the Week honors.

It doesn’t get much easier for Harvard in this early Ivy season (the league really didn’t get its engine running until January 11th). The Crimson have faced both preseason favorites at least once and next face Brown and Yale – the two teams that have earned the top spots in the conference by actually playing the games. Tongue in cheek, I know, but let’s face it: Champions aren’t made in the preseason abstracts of sportswriters.

The Brown and Yale games aren’t until February 1 and 2, another loveable quirk about this league. Games are not only played primarily on the weekends, but in between long stretches of days filled by book-cramming and paper-writing. This is, after all, college basketball.

While Harvard technically isn’t the best team in the Ivy League (Brown, Princeton and Yale, each at 2-0 in the conference, are considered better than the 3-1 Crimson), their postseason prospects seem to be developing. Remember, there’s no postseason conference tournament in the Ivy; the top team at the end of the regular season receives the automatic bid to the dance. That could be the double-edged sword Harvard cuts itself on. If they stay consistent, knock off Brown, Princeton and Yale at least once each, and don’t fall victim to any major upsets, the Crimson could squeak out their first Ivy title in the new century. If not, they fall back into that bottomless pit known as “aside from Penn and Princeton.”

Unsolicited Commentary:
• I keep harping on the academic side of college basketball, so I should probably back that up. Did you know that Harvard’s senior center Tim Coleman is an ordained Eucharist Minister? Did you know that junior guard Elliott Prasse-Freeman spent two spring breaks building houses for the homeless in Mexico (while you were watching young co-eds getting sloshed on MTV)? Did you know that seven-footer Brian Sigafoos mentors 8-10 year olds at the Mission Hill after-school mentoring program? No? Now you do.

• Saturday January 19th pits Brown against Yale in a battle of two of the top three teams in the conference. I give the nod to the Bears. Even with a flu bug last week, Earl Hunt registered double digits and freshman Jason Forte, despite his youth, knows how to lead a come-from-behind charge. Just ask Columbia.


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