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MARCH TO THE SEA: Top Goal: Send Crimson To Dance

By Alex M. Sherman, Crimson Staff Writer

You want to know why the Harvard party scene is lacking? It’s because we can’t dance. We’ve never done it before.

When it comes time for the Big Dance in late March and early April, the Harvard men’s basketball team always sits at home, on the couch and without a date.

That’s right, the Crimson has never won the Ivy League Championship since the modern-day NCAA Tournament has existed. And since no team from the Ancient Eight has ever received an at-large bid to the tourney, the automatic bid that comes from winning the conference is the only way to secure a spot in the 65-team field.

Every Ivy team has won the league at least once since 1955, except the Crimson. Even Columbia won once, splitting the title in 1967-68.

Why can’t Harvard win? Frankly, we don’t have good enough players. Penn and Princeton field great teams year after year. Some years, the Crimson can compete with the Quakers and the Tigers. But most times, the Killer P’s are too dominant. And never has Harvard—not once—been a clear-cut favorite to win the Ivy League.

So, how do we get better hoops players in the Harvard system? We loosen academic standards a tad. We generously offer financial aid. And we make a commitment to basketball.

Now, before I get yelled at by the “academics first” in the crowd, let me explain why this is not only feasible but necessary for the betterment of the Harvard community.

There are only 12 players on a basketball roster. Only eight tend to play. And to have a really good team, you only need two great players. If Harvard could convince two big-time high school recruits to come here, we could be a dominant Ivy League team. The prestige of the Harvard name trumps Penn, certainly. It overshadows Brown, Cornell and Columbia. It’s equal to Princeton, at the least. So, why are we perennially near the bottom of the standings?

Harvard coaches will say they are shackled by league recruitment rules and the College’s strict enrollment standards. Well, the College should be doing everything in its power to get the two best players in the conference, year after year. You don’t have to sell out all academic standards when you’re only making a sacrifice for two students.

As far as league standards prohibiting Harvard from getting top players, I’m not saying we have to compete with Duke and North Carolina. But we can beat Penn and Princeton. All Ivy League teams play by the same rules—and the Crimson shouldn’t be settling for mediocrity.

How cool would it be for the Harvard men’s basketball team to be an entry in March Madness? I mean, what if the squad made a run? The school would be in a frenzy...well, at least the Crimson Sports Board would be.

“My first reaction would be to go out into the streets and celebrate the Boston way-—by intense rioting,” said Associate Sports Chair and men’s basketball beat writer Michael R. James. “You know, setting things ablaze, flipping over cars—the usual. Then, I’d look around and realize that I was only joined by the three other Crimson basketball fans on campus, and would shift to a more Harvard-style celebration—like maybe picking up a mocha-latte at Starbucks.”

But seriously, the whole school would rally around a good basketball team. More than any other athletic team, the men’s basketball team has the ability to galvanize students. The football team does not have the opportunity to participate in bowl games or even the Division I-AA playoffs.

The hockey and baseball teams can play in national tournaments, but neither the Frozen Four nor the College World Series can match the hype and intensity of the Final Four. If Harvard upset a big-time basketball program like UCLA, a team of future NBA stars, it would be a shining moment in school history.

The women’s basketball team already did it. Now it’s time for the boys’ to step up to the plate.

March Madness is the most exciting event in sports. And the Crimson sits on the sideline every year, watching the same Ivy teams participate.

We should be sick and tired of losing. We should be making changes. We should be doing everything in our power to get TWO premiere basketball players at this school.

We accept the best violinists, the best scientists, the best poets and even the best actors.

Can’t we entice a couple of basketball players, with the promise of a free ride through school and a Harvard degree, so that we can finally win our small eight-team league?

We’ve got the Charles River, Pinnochio’s and La Flamme! What more do you want?

Our consistent failure is inexcusable and must be put to a stop. Frank Sullivan is a good basketball coach. But without the talent, he can only do so much.

Two players. That’s all the Crimson needs to turn a 50-year disappointment into a program we can be proud of.

It’s time for the losing to stop.

—Staff writer Alex M. Sherman can be reached at sherman@fas.harvard.edu. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays.

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