In the immortal words of Mel Brooks, "It's good to be the king."
For about as long as anyone can remember, the Harvard women's basketball team has gone into Providence feeling a lot like David facing Goliath. Brown has won their last six meetings dating back to the 1990-91 season and has also captured the Ivy League title during those three years.
This time the tables are turned. The Crimson (4-1 Ivy, 12-5 overall) is tied for the top rung of the league ladder with Dartmouth, while the Bears (3-2 Ivy, 7-10 overall) are in a three-way pile up for third place with Penn and Princeton.
So for tonight's matchup at Brown, Harvard will ride the bus down knowing that it is actually the favorite.
"If we stick to our game plan," junior Elizabeth Proudfit said,"[such as] playing our full court defense and running the ball, we can beat anyone."
Those are confident words, but nevertheless words that can be backed up.
Simply stated, the Crimson's offense has ripped apart defenses this season. Harvard leads the Ivy League in scoring at 79.5 points per game (Princeton's next with 66.7), scoring margin, field goal percentage, and rebounding margin.
The team scored 92 points against Columbia last Friday night. In Wednesday's Celtics-Cavs game, neither team scored that many.
Against Brown, however, things will be a little bit more difficult. The main obstacle in front of a Harvard victory is Brown senior center Martina Jerant, who last week became the Bears' second-leading all-time rebounder and is only 22 from the top spot.
To boot, she is a rather large obstacle--literally--standing at six-six. In contrast, Harvard's center, captain Tammy Butler, is only six-one.
On the defensive end, Jerant's size clearly poses a problem. According to the Crimson, Jerant is mobile for her size, so once she gets the ball it's tough to stop her.
"She's a legit six-six," Proudfit said. "Also, she's coordinated. The focus on defense is to put a lot of pressure on their guards and help out as much as we can."
On the other side of the floor, things are more optimistic. Butler and her paint-mate, freshman power forward Allison Feaster, should be quick enough to get around this Hancock Tower, especially given the Crimson's running style.
And, hey, when you're the top scoring team in the Ivy League, you aren't going to change your style even if the other team's center is eight-six.
But Wait--There's Another Game!
With all this talk about Brown, it's easy to forget that Harvard does actually plays someone else this weekend.
That someone else would be Yale. At 2-3 in the Ivy League and 8-9 overall, the Eli are not in the upper echelon of the conference, but at the same time the Saturday game will not be a cakewalk for the Crimson.
Senior forward/center Mary Kalich is the Bulldog to watch out for. Kalich leads her team with 17 points per game. Senior forward Bari Porter is the Eli's top rebounder, averaging 8.53 boards per game.
Of course, neither of those numbers crack either Tammy Butler or Allison Feaster's numbers. If the Eli cannot contain Harvard's explosive offense, Yale may be forced to try to keep pace in a shootout, which would be quite difficult.
"We're going to focus on the defense," junior guard Amy Reinhard said. "If we can hold them on defense we can win."