It's the Biggest Weekend Of the Year

Cagers Face Cornell In Quest of Ivy Title

The mood that will engulf Briggs Athletic Center after tomorrow night's final regular-season basketball game will reflect a state of pandemonium or profound sorrow.

There will be no in between.

For only a weekend sweep of Cornell and Columbia now stands between the Harvard men's basketball team and at least a tie for its first ever Ivy title.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime dream," says senior Co-Captain Ken Plutnicki. "This is it."

The dream gets underway at 7 p.m. tonight at Briggs, when Cornell totes in its road show for what has become the biggest game in Harvard hoop history. It culminates 24 hours later with Columbia.

"Saturday's game [against Columbia] is not important," Crimson Coach Frank McLaughlin says," "unless we win Friday."

And lest you think that tonight's game isn't important, consider that it's been 83 years since the Crimson had a shot to win a league crown. And then consider that they've only been playing Ivy League ball for 82.

Harvard enters tonight's shootout mired in a three-way tie with Cornell and Princeton for first in the Ivies, holder of an 8-4 record and in control of its own destiny. Two victories by Harvard and one loss by Princeton will send the Crimson on its first-ever trip to the prestigious NCAA tournament.

Weekend sweeps from both the Crimson and the Tigers will force a single playoff game at Yale's Payne Whitney Gymnasium Tuesday for the title and accompanying tourney berth.

And in the mind-boggling event that all three teams--Harvard. Cornell and Princeton--split this weekend, a random drawing would give one school a bye, matching the other two in a semifinal game Tuesday followed by the title game Wednesday.

But "that's too far away," McLaughlin says, admitting, though, that his mind wanders there sometimes. "We've just got to concentrate on Cornell for now."

Especially considering that the Big Red knocked off Harvard, 62-60, in Ithaca, N.Y. earlier this year, and enters tonight as viable a contender for the Crimson.

"This game is just as important to us as it is to Harvard." Cornell Coach Tom Miller says. "We all know what's at stake and for that reason it should be a great game."

It was a great game up in the hinterlands three weeks ago, when the Big Red sank Harvard on a pair of free throws in the closing seconds. Since then, both squads have gone on a few teary of their own. Harvard winning three in a row and Cornell four. Not to mention the fact that the Crimson is on its way to a new NCAA record for team free-throw shooting.

The Ithacans will look to high-scoring freshman guard John Bajusz, almost a shoo-in for Ivy Rookie of the Year honors, to lead the league's worst offense. Cornell is averaging 52 measly points per game, 17.7 less than league-leading Harvard.