Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Crimson Acknowledge Friday's Importance

Image courtesy of Harvard University


by Scott Reed
WHRB Sports

Following Saturday's win over Dartmouth, the Harvard Crimson this week will return to the road to face Yale on Friday in New Haven in a game that could go a long way towards deciding the Ivy title. Each team is 2-0 in Ivy play after sweeping home-and-home series with weaker league teams (Harvard with Dartmouth, Yale with Brown). The Bulldogs are considered by some to be the chief challengers to the favorite Crimson this season, as Yale was picked 2nd in the preseason poll along with Princeton, and any Ivy contender will say that although all league games are important, the potential of tagging a title challenger with a loss elevates the significance of a match-up like this.
"Obviously they're [Yale] a favorite, and with fourteen games and no league tournament, you can't drop games against any team, but against a team that you know, is favored to hopefully be finishing up at the top, then yeah [its important]," says Harvard senior guard and co-captain Oliver McNally. McNally also pointed to Harvard's recent frustration in Payne Whitney Gym as a motivating factor, saying "we've got to exorcise some demons in that arena." The Crimson lost two buzzer-beaters in New Haven last year, a 70-69 thriller to Yale and that heartbreaking neutral-site playoff match-up with Princeton.
Harvard coach Tommy Amaker also recognized the significance of the game Friday, although he cautioned that most of the Ivy schedule had yet to be played: "It could very well be viewed as maybe the first one of the first marquee or big games of the conference season," said Amaker of the Yale game, "[but] I think there are going to be many more."
And of course, its also a contest between Harvard and Yale, a rivalry that demands significance no matter the teams or the records. Amaker on the rivalry: "Even without the significance of ranking, and how Yale is playing, them knocking us off last year... its still Harvard-Yale, so even if we were coming in with winless records ...it would be a big game for us to suit up for and be excited to play and I'm sure they feel the same way." McNally added, "Its Harvard-Yale, so whetever sport its in, it holds a little more meaning."
Harvard has been in games like this before under Amaker, though never as the favorite. Two years ago the Crimson, undefeated in Ivy play, traveled to Ithaca for their first matchup with heavy league favorite Cornell. Harvard was overmatched, losing 86-50, and had to play catch-up to the Big Red the rest of the season. Last year, Harvard faced a similar situation in its matchup with the favored Princeton Tigers on the road. Princeton won that game in a close battle, but Harvard was able to win the rematch in Cambridge in the regular season finale to claim a share of the conference championship. This week, Harvard again faces a chance to get a step ahead of one of its main competitors - a win means a leg up on Yale, while a loss means that the Crimson start from behind in a race that, given the whims of the NCAA selection committee, there is usually no prize for finishing second.
McNally is looking forward to the challenge: "We'll be really hyped up and ready to go, but I mean hopefully we have a mature team that will come in as focused as we did against Dartmouth and for the other teams we play in the league."

Scott Reed is the play by play broadcaster for Harvard men's basketball on WHRB and GoCrimson.com. He may be found on Twitter at @ScottReedWHRB

No comments:

Post a Comment