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Ivy League Basketball

I realize that Harvard’s basketball fortunes are not a topic of wide interest. But the NYT has seen fit to publish a piece about them tomorrow, so I may as well piggy back on and say a few words.

Yes, it’s true, Harvard has a chance to win its first Ivy League title. Princeton and Penn have dominated for decades, with Cornell atop the pack more recently. This year, at last, could be Harvard’s year, and it’s been a long time coming.

Harvard’s fortunes were supposed to change with my class, which included some highly touted recruits, most notably a kid named James Brown out of high school basketball power DeMatha Catholic in metropolitan DC. Freshmen weren’t eligible to play varsity sports in those days, so we had to wait until sophomore year to see what difference our class would make. I had forgotten just how well we did. Tomorrow’s NYT article observes that “Harvard had only one outright second-place finish in its history (1970-71, behind perhaps the best Ivy team ever, the 28-1 Penn Quakers.)”

I can tell you one school we lost to that year: UMass. They had a pretty good junior, whom I looked forward to seeing in the rematch that would take place a year later in Cambridge, but he left UMass after that ’70-’71 season for the ABA and basketball history. We had much in common: both from Long Island; both with the same last name (up to a perturbation in spelling); both future doctors. He became Dr. J. I became Dr. R.

I did go to the Dr-J-less rematch in 1972. We lost. The team didn’t do as well in junior and senior years as in sophomore year. Our star, JB, ultimately abandoned his pro basketball dreams to become a television personality. And we have waited 40 years for another shot at an Ivy title. We lost to Yale by a point last weekend. That hurt. Now we have to beat both Princeton and Penn at home this weekend. And then we’ll see. A possible league playoff game awaits to determine who makes it into the NCAA tournament.

Go Crimson!

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