Around the Ivies
Two weeks are left in Ivy League play, which means a couple of things. At Harvard, we are stuck in the romantic abyss between Valentine’s Day and the Owl lawn party, with midterms rising as spring break waits—like a bright Cancun beach—on the horizon. For Princeton and Penn, ’tis the season for championship runs. In a single 40-year run, one or the other won the league 37 times, making the Yale-Harvard football rivalry (with just three similar finishes) a footnote by comparison. Every year, the two face off in the final game of the Ivy League season, with a championship often on the line.
But, for all the hype, Penn and Princeton’s championship hopes have become a lot like River Run. Both were once great, but sterling Harvard youth have put an end to these shenanigans. With its sweep of the pair last weekend, the Crimson moved to 4-0 on the year against its two main rivals.
My apologies, dear reader: there is simply too much to say about Ivy basketball this week to give you anything more than a pithy introduction. Harvard and Yale are tied at the top of the league, Brown, Princeton, and Columbia, are still in the mix, and the Crimson travel to the Killer P’s this weekend. I’m interested to see what the headline guy or gal comes up with for this—how about “Writer, Though Handsome, Neglects Duty”? That ought to work. Onto the games.
COLUMBIA V. BROWN
On paper, the only big loss to graduation the Harvard men’s basketball team sustained this year was that of Christian Webster ’13. But paper can’t tell you much about heart or passion. Paper won’t say anything about relentless noise-making and rabble-rousing. And that’s why, until now, paper never documented the departure of football player and student section leader Adam Riegel ’13.
To witness Riegel in front of a crowd at Lavietes Pavilion was to watch Rembrandt at his canvas. Riegel had an intimate feel for when to make noise (always) and how to make it (obnoxiously). Better yet, he convinced everyone else to get loud with him—and when they didn’t follow a chant, he maintained his composure and kept yelling. Riegel may have had an acute cotton allergy judging by the swiftness with which his shirt would come off, but this body was not on display for that cute Kappa girl in the third row. It was there so that you—yeah, YOU, UP THERE—would be inspired to get on your feet, cast aside all social norms, and stomp around like an ape for two hours.
Much of the credit for the Harvard men’s basketball team’s league-seizing weekend sweep, and in particular for Jan. 31’s win over Princeton, has to go to standout junior guard Wesley Saunders. Against the Tigers, Saunders excelled on both ends of the court, leading the Crimson in points, rebounds, assists, and steals.
At this week’s media conference, Saunders’ numbers prompted an interesting comparison to the last Harvard player to record such a stat line: that sacred object of Crimson reverence, Jeremy Lin ’10. ESPN’s Jack McCluskey summed up the debate in an article on Tuesday, noting that Saunders, like Lin during his senior season, is currently in the Ivy League’s top 10 in nine different statistical categories. But unlike Lin, Saunders is given the assignment of guarding the opposition’s best perimeter offensive player in virtually every game Harvard plays, using his speed and length to block driving lanes and disrupt shots.
When we last convened, dear Around the Ivies reader, the Ancient Eight was filled with high drama. Heading into the final weekend of conference play, Harvard and Princeton were jockeying for position atop the standings with a bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line. After the Crimson took care of business at home against Cornell and the Tigers laid an orange stripy egg all over the Providence floor, the title remained in Cambridge.