The arena: Briggs Cage.
The heavy-weights: The Harvard Crimson and the Dartmouth Big Green.
The Purse: the Ivy League championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Even "The Thrilla' in Manila" wasn't this big.
The Harvard women's basketball team's regular season culminates tonight against Dartmouth, in a title showdown that would cause most schedule-makers to salivate.
"Everyone's just excited," junior guard Elizabeth Proudfit said. "This is where we want to be--in a head-to-head competition for the [Ivy League] championship and a trip to the NCAAs."
The Crimson (19-6 overall, 11-2 Ivy) also hope to avenge its earlier 81-77 loss to the Big Green (15-10,11-2), at Dartmouth.
In the defeat, Harvard was victimized by Dartmouth's senior point guard Betsy Gilmore, a penetrator who can finish but prefers to pass the ball.
Last year's Ivy League Player of the Year, Gilmore is the Big Green's all time assist leader, having handed out more than 400 over her career.
"The key is stopping Gilmore," junior guard Amy Reinhard said. "She doesn't score a lot of points, but drives and dishes really well."
The Crimson will also have to contend with Ilsa Webeck, Dartmouth's 6-4 senior center. However, in light of the way Harvard shut down Brown's twin towers--Martina Jerant and Chris Yasaitis--the team feels confident it can handle taller players inside.
"Our defense has changed a lot since the first game," Proudfit said." We've done a much better job stopping [our opponent's] post players."
Although Harvard will pay attention to Gilmore and Webeck, the players feel that they need to concentrate on playing their style of basketball--up-tempo on offense complemented by aggressive "D."
"We need to play our game and get into transition," Reinhard said.
The Crimson is streaking, having won seven straight games and nine of its last ten. The team passed a major test Friday night against Cornell, showing poise down the stretch and pulling out a tough over-time win, 105-99.
"We've been in a lot of close games this year," Proudfit said. "I think we thrive now in that situation."
Tonight's game is without a doubt the biggest game any player on the Harvard team has experienced in a Crimson uniform. In fact, a basketball game this important at Briggs has been as rare as good meal at the Union.
The last time a Harvard basketball squad won an Ivy League title was in the 1990-91 season, when the Lady Cagers took the crown.
"This should definitely bring a big-game atmosphere to Harvard," Proudfit said.
With so much at stake, a knockout is improbable. And like most classic heavyweight fights, this bout may well be decided in the final rounds.
So, let's get ready to rumble!!