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A comeback starts as a seed. It’s invisible. No one in the stands can see it. Most of them never germinate. Out-of-town scoreboards are littered with these unrealized comebacks: 10-point deficits that become 10-point losses.
But once in a while, unbeknownst to everyone watching, something like magic happens. It can start with a play, with a look, with a word. It can start with a coach telling his kids, “This is going to be part of our story.” He looks them in the eye and says, “We’ll look back and say this is one of the moments that helped us win the Ivy League.”
The seed is planted. The 24-point deficit begins to shrink. Three straight layups. A pair of free throws. It peeks through the soil, and, for the first time, there’s a sign of life. A cautious hope ripples through the stands.
A dunk. A three-pointer. Another layup. No longer a bud, the comeback is taking shape. It’s inching upward, willing itself out of the earth, when suddenly it takes off. Two three-pointers, a layup, two more threes. It’s a four-point game. The comeback is almost complete. It’s grown out of nothing in front of our very eyes. But worse than it never being would be to lose it now.
A dunk—two-point game. A three-pointer—the lead! Yet the comeback isn’t finished. It continues to grow. A two-point lead becomes five-points, seven-, 10-, 11-. It’s roots dig deep and grip the earth like a fist. This comeback sticks. Harvard 85, Brown 78. The fourth-largest second-half comeback in NCAA history.
In the aftermath, we can finally see what the comeback was made out of. It started with faith: a coach believing in his kids in their lowest moment. It took character: the Crimson responding to its worst half of the season with its best. It needed talent: 18 second-half points from sophomore guard Christian Webster, 19 total points from sophomore forward Kyle Casey, 10 points and five assists from sophomore Brandyn Curry (carrying the point guard duties by himself), and a dominant 22-point, 14-rebound performance by junior co-captain Keith Wright.
And of course, like all comebacks, it had a little bit of magic, of which Lavietes had plenty on an unforgettable Saturday night.
HARVARD (18-4, 7-1 Ivy) at CORNELL (6-16, 2-6 Ivy)
Harvard is back in Ithaca tonight where it has lost three straight, including an embarrassing 86-50 defeat last season and a 96-75 trouncing the year before. The tables have turned this time around as the Crimson is the title contender. Harvard is the clear favorite, following its 21-point victory over the Big Red three weeks ago.
Aside from the game, Cornell has something else at stake this weekend. This will be my third visit to upstate New York, and on the previous two trips I haven’t been able to find a good meal, settling for warm pizza with congealed cheese and questionable subs each time. A big part of every road trip is sampling the local cuisine, and unless Ithaca steps up its culinary repertoire, I’m declaring its food the worst in the league.
Pick: Harvard 78, Cornell 73
PENN (9-12, 3-4 Ivy) at BROWN (9-13, 2-6 Ivy)
Last Friday, as Penn was trailing by 15 points to the Big Red in the first half, I told Crimson Sports Chair Dennis Zheng that the Quakers would come back, force overtime, and lose for the third game in a row. Guess what happened? Penn forced overtime, and Cornell won 82-71.
The only book I ever read growing up was “An Almost Perfect Game” by Stephen Manes. It’s about a kid who controls a baseball game by filling out his scorecard ahead of time. I obviously have similar powers. So when I say Penn’s winning this game by two, my word is as good as Nostradamus’.
Pick: Penn 71, Brown 69
DARTMOUTH (5-17, 1-7 Ivy) at COLUMBIA (13-9, 4-4 Ivy)
The losses are starting to pile up for Dartmouth; it’s dropped five in a row and 10 of its last 11. During its current losing streak, the margin of defeat has not dipped below nine points. The Big Green hasn’t come close to figuring it out lately, and there’s no reason to think its luck changes tonight.
Pick: Columbia 73, Dartmouth 63
PRINCETON (19-4, 7-0 Ivy) at YALE (12-10, 5-3 Ivy)
Yale took the Crimson down to the wire last Friday, so the Bulldogs can clearly compete with the best, which Princeton is as of now. But the Tigers, despite their undefeated conference record, are not immune to an upset. Four of Princeton’s seven victories have been by four points or less, and you can only win like that for so long before it catches up to you.
The Bulldogs are the second toughest matchup left on the Tigers’ schedule, so a win would be a huge boon to Princeton’s title chances. Perhaps it’s the optimist in me, but I think Yale defends its home court, avenges the four-point loss in January, and hands Princeton its first league defeat.
Pick: Yale 74, Princeton 73
DARTMOUTH at CORNELL
Round two of the most irrelevant matchup in the league. Dartmouth got the best of the Big Red last time, but Cornell has a little momentum on its side now, having won two of its last three and almost beating Princeton last Saturday.
The Big Red is the much better team, and it’s actually beginning to shape up into a winner. I see the home team with an easy victory.
Pick: Cornell 70, Dartmouth 59
PENN at YALE
Penn is freefalling right now. The Quakers have lost four straight, three of them in overtime. It’s actually painful to watch because I like this Penn team a lot. Zack Rosen, Jack Eggleston, and Tyler Bernardini can match up with the top three players on any team (though their skill sets overlap a little—they don’t complement one another as well as some of their Big Three counterparts). Miles Cartwright is one of the most promising freshmen in the Ivies. Jerome Allen is the best-dressed coach in the league. There’s a lot to like, and yet the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
I have to see a reason to believe in a Quaker turnaround before I pick them. Yale is the clear No. 3 in the Ivies right now, and it should defend the Amphitheater.
Pick: Yale 67, Penn 63
PRINCETON at BROWN
I felt a little bad for Brown on Saturday. It was like a night at the MAC where one minute you’re crushing it on the side court against that team with four players—including a small girl and a flat-footed Jeremy-Lin-wannabe, who fires three-pointers against the backboard and yells, “Kobe”—and the next minute you’re getting smoked on the center court with all those seniors who were cut from varsity. You, like the Bears, are probably not as bad as the second game would indicate, but you’re nowhere near as good as the first game either.
If the Bears are truly in that middle ground, then I don’t see them beating Princeton. The Tigers cruise.
Pick: Princeton 72, Brown 64
HARVARD at COLUMBIA
I’m a huge fan of Columbia’s gym. Levien is underground and boxy, so the atmosphere is very contained and intimate. The fans are actually clever and funny; they’re probably my favorite student section in the league. On top of all that, it all takes place in the city, alums come out to watch the game, and there’s a dope pizza place nearby—it makes for a fun night. It will be even better if the Crimson escape with a win, which I think it will.
Pick: Harvard 77, Columbia 71
RECORD LAST WEEK: 7-1 (To date: 19-6)
—Staff writer Timothy J. Walsh can be reached at email@example.com.
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