Can Cagers Add to History of Upsets?

A Saturday Special

It may have been created to fill a void between football and baseball season, but today, baseball substitutes for no sport. It may even be unparalled in offering some the best upsets in sports--particularly college--history.

Upsets in college basketball share a curious commonality with the inception of the game. The name basketball was derived from peach baskets that served as goals, and the word "upset" originates from the turned up, or upset, such as edges of baskets in the 19th century.

The first game of basketball was played on December 21, 1891, and December has proved to be THE month of upsets in college basketball. On December 23, 1982, the biggest upset in college basketball history occured when Chaminade, a small Hawaiian school of 900 students, defeated then top-ranked Virginia, 77-72.


Upsets struck again this year in December as Cal-Riverside stunned Big Ten powerhouse Iowa, 110-92, in the Chaminade Christmas Classic, ironically. Then, in the Utah Classic on December 28, Alaska-Anchorage handed number-two ranked Michigan its first lost of the season, 70-66.

It's February, not December, but this Tuesday, Harvard will have its chance to pull off one of the greatest upsets in college sports when Danny Ferry and the Duke Blue Devils come to Cambridge.


Duke, a dominant force in the Atlantic Coast Conference, has made five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. The Blue Devils have had two Final Four berths in the last three years and have sat at the top of the national polls for most of this season--until suffering through a string of four losses in January.

The Crimson is 8-10, tied for fourth in the Ivy League.

Last year's score: Duke 121, Harvard 62.

Disparity? That's like asking, "Does Donald Trump have an ego problem?"

Upsets, however, thrive on the uncertainty of sports.

"There's a fine line between programs like Duke's and programs like ours," Harvard Co-Captain Neil Phillips said. "The idea is that we cross that fine line and put up more points than they do."

Exit polls have made political upsets a relic of the past. We'll never see another smiling face like Truman's holding up the proof--Dewey wins--of the unthinkable upset.

But sports cannot be reduced to mere polls and predictions. Teams can befollowed, outcomes can be predicted, but nothingis ever definite.

Harvard Coach Pete Roby believes this isparticularly true for college sports because,"Emotion plays a bigger role in collegeathletics."

Chaminade did not even consider winning. Itonly wanted to play a respectable game.