Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Party Like It's 1946...(maybe)

While Daily Onions might show a little bias to Syracuse and the Big East, we are an equal opportunity blog. With Championship Week in full swing, we want to make sure that we don't forget about the smaller conferences, and notably the smart kids who genuinely put the student in student-athlete.

In case you didn't know, we have some late season drama in the Ivy League this year. Since this conference doesn't have a postseason tournament, the regular season champion gets the automatic bid to go dancing. Tonight marks the final game of the regular season, and once again the match up between Penn and Princeton will dictate who wins the conference. This time though the two teams vying for the bid will be Princeton and...Harvard.

Current Princeton Head Coach, Johnson (5) learned from the best
Here's the situation: If Penn holds serve on their home court, the historic Palestra (where Daily Onions has knocked down a few jumpers during an informal shoot around), Harvard wins the Ivy League outright and heads to the NCAA tournament. If Princeton wins, they force a tie atop the standings and a one-game playoff. That winner-take-all game between Harvard and Princeton will be on Saturday at Yale. The best part about all of this, is that Harvard beat Princeton this past Saturday in Boston to guarantee themselves at least a share of the title. After the victory, it was bedlam as the fans stormed the court, while Tigers Head Coach Sydney Johnson had his team stay on the bench and watch the celebration. I'm sure Princeton will have those memories in their mind as they take the floor tonight, hoping for the chance to seek some revenge on Saturday.

If Harvard is able to get into the tournament, whether it be with a Princeton loss tonight or in the playoff on Saturday, it will be their first appearance since 1946. In fact, Harvard is the only Ivy League school not to win a league championship since it was formed in 1956. Part of the reason for Harvard's recent success comes from the sidelines. Hired for the 2007-08 season, Tommy Amaker has watched his team go from a squad that went 3-11 in league play his first year, 6-8 in year two, and 10-4 last year (the first time they've had a winning record in conference since 96-97). The Crimson were third in the standings in 2010 behind Cinderella Sweet 16 Cornell and Princeton.

Will Amaker and Co. have more to celebrate?
Amaker and the Crimson posted a program record for wins with 23 this season, while only dropping five (all on the road - George Mason, UConn, Michigan, Princeton and Yale). They also had an impressive road win over a ranked Boston College team (Harvard's first win over a ranked opponent ever) for city bragging rights. For those of you scoring at home, that's three losses to out of conference teams that all should be in the NCAA tournament, as well as a win over a team from the ACC, that will also most likely be in the tournament. Pretty solid resume if you ask us.

We'd love to see Harvard end the drought and head to the tournament next week, but we are also excited for the potential of what this week has in store. If Princeton can win tonight (they needed OT to beat Penn at home a few weeks ago), Saturday's playoff will truly be something special. For a conference that doesn't have a conference tournament, it will be 40 minutes, between the top 2 teams in the league, with the winner getting to dance. That right there, is why they play the games.

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