With six games remaining in the league season, the question for a Harvard squad coming off yet another wrenching loss to the Tigers--the second double-overtime defeat at Jadwin Gym in the last four years--is whether the team can avoid a repeat of last year’s post-Princeton dissolution. The circumstances this year are slightly different, of course. In 2006, the squad blew a last-minute lead at home to fall on a buzzer-beater in the final second, which lead to a string of six more losses, a swoon that served as the emblem for Harvard’s most disappointing season in recent memory. This year’s team held an eight-point lead early in the second half last Friday night, but was slowly bled to death over the remainder of regulation and two overtime periods by the infamous Princeton scheme. But despite the differences, the two defeats represent the same threat--an extended losing streak as a direct result of the psychological torment of Harvard’s personal demon. And unless someone steps up for the Crimson, it is a threat that could easily become realized down the stretch, as Harvard is on the road at Brown and Yale this weekend before returning home to face the Penn/Princeton axis once again.
HARVARD (10-12, 3-5 Ivy) at BROWN (7-16, 2-6)
The Crimson, however, will staunch its wound on Friday night in Providence. Harvard always seems to play well at the Pizzatola Center, the sad little arena on the north side of the Brown campus that plays host to a Bears squad that has lost its last two games and nine of its last 11. Harvard has won two straight at Brown, and last year, Goffredo scored 30 points in a ringing road defeat of the Bears early in the league season, back when there was still authentic hope that it was finally Harvard’s year. Harvard by six, as Goffredo gets out of his personal shooting rut to post a game-high.
HARVARD at YALE (10-11, 6-2)
Unfortunately for the Crimson, Yale’s John J. Lee Amphitheater is the anti-Pizzatola. When Harvard comes to town, the place gets downright raucous. A verbally vicious student section that seemingly sits right on the court and the unsettlingly loud blaring of the rowdy band situated under the far basket combine to create a home court advantage unparalleled in the Ancient Eight. Harvard knows all about that, having lost seven straight games in New Haven, and Drew Housman knows better than most--the then-freshman point guard was maliciously heckled every time he touched the ball en route to a 2-of-10 shooting night last year. Housman claims he’s primed for the challenge this year, and after last Friday’s 33-point performance, you had better believe him. With Yale still in the title hunt, only a game behind Penn, the Crimson also knows it can deal a potentially crippling blow to the Bulldogs’ season on their home court, sweet revenge for past abuses. Yale is playing too well, though, and the anti-Harvard energy at the Lee is too great: the Bulldogs will pull away late.
Now, on to the rest of the Ivy slate…
COLUMBIA (13-9, 4-4) at PENN (15-8, 6-1)
If Columbia shoots 11-of-13 in the first half from three-point range, as it did in dismantling Harvard, the Lions will shock the Quakers in Philly. If it shoots anything less, Penn will take care of business. The league’s big bully had its early burp in a road loss to Yale, and will be looking to methodically zero in on the league crown from here on out.
CORNELL (13-9, 6-2) at PRINCETON (10-11, 1-6)
Cornell’s last three games have been decided by a total of four points. The last two of those were wins. That’s what’s known as Princeton basketball. The Tigers are still nursing their wounds, having fallen to 1-6 on the season after this past Tuesday's loss to Penn. They’ll keep it close but in the end will be beaten by their own game--the three-point shot--as the crumbling of the great Tigers tradition continues.
DARTMOUTH (8-13, 3-5) at YALE
Dartmouth came up with a one-point win at Princeton last Saturday, but these days, that’s no great achievement. The Bulldogs will survive the classic trap game, buoyed by its fans, who by now will have begun to realize that their squad is hard on the heels of Penn.
COLUMBIA at PRINCETON
Pass. Oh, alright, fine: A cornered Tigers squad shuts down Columbia’s three-point shooting and executes its own offense to perfection to the tune of 60 points, an exceedingly rare mark for Princeton nowadays. Tigers win.
DARTMOUTH at BROWN
A real yawner at the Pizz, as two bottom-half teams play out the schedule in a meaningless game. Dartmouth will win, handing Brown a ticket to visit Princeton in the cellar.
CORNELL at PENN
This is, without a doubt, the game of the week--if, of course, Cornell can stave off the Tigers on Friday. Assuming that happens, this contest becomes enormous for both teams, but especially huge for Cornell, which would control its own destiny in the Ivies by beating the Quakers. It doesn’t seem likely, considering Penn shellacked Cornell in Ithaca earlier in the year, but the learning curve for the Big Red’s stellar freshman has been steep. One of those frosh, guard Ryan Wittman--son of Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Randy--will show off his basketball bloodline with a late dagger from deep to stun the Quakers at the buzzer.
—Staff writer Caleb W. Peiffer can be reached at email@example.com.