The Game 3.0

There are games ... and then there are Games. And then there
There are games … and then there are Games.
… And then there”s this Game.

The Game 2.0 was supposed to be for all the marbles. Yale defeated Harvard in that one, but the next night, Dartmouth stole the marbles back from the Bulldogs. The Big Green’s miracle win versus Yale last Saturday will give Harvard a second shot at Yale this weekend. You have questions about this game? Read on for the answers.

The matchups I wrote about prior to the Yale victory will certainly be important once again, but an eventful week has passed since that article, so let’s look at some unique keys to this game:

1. The Palestra and the fans

Over the last two years, Harvard is 2-0 versus Yale in New Haven, and Yale is 2-0 versus Harvard in Cambridge. With the one-game playoff at a neutral site (the Palestra, which seats 8,722, the most of any Ivy League arena), the question of which team will get the fans on its side is an important one (though each team has rallied in hostile territory lately).

This isn’t just about which fans will “travel well” or which team will have the most fans supporting them (I’m certain both fan bases will be there in full-force); it’s about which team can get their fans (as well as “neutral” fans) into the game early and keep them in the game all night.

The slight advantage here has to go to Yale. Their underdog status in the Ivy League plus their closer proximity to Philadelphia than Harvard’s assures that most neutral basketball fans from the Pennsylvania area will be pulling for the online casino Bulldogs.

As always, both teams can influence the fans’ influence on the game simply by controlling the momentum on the floor. In neutral-site games, however, this momentum control (and crowd control) becomes particularly important.

2. Three-point shooting

Friday’s Yale victory over Harvard was decided by three-point shooting. Harvard shot an abysmal 2 for 17 from three-point land, while Yale was able to catch fire from behind the arc, going 7 for 16. This will be a matchup featuring Harvard’s Corbin Miller and Yale’s Jack Montague, but it will also involve the complementary three-point shooters: Justin Sears, Javier Duren, and Armani Cotton for Yale, and Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders for Harvard. Yale players not named Montague went 7-for-14 from downtown in the last Harvard-Yale game, while Corbin Miller went 0-for-8. Three-point shooting will be a huge factor, and it will certainly require a team effort for both squads. In their first meeting of the season in New Haven, Harvard subdued Yale with only three three-pointers. This proves that Crimson players don’t have to shoot the lights out from beyond the arc to win. But they also can’t shoot atrociously, as they did last weekend versus Yale.

3. Who’s going to step up?

Harvard has three first- or second-team All-Ivy players (Wesley Saunders got the nod for the first team, and Siyani Chambers and Steve Moundou-Missi made the second team, with Moundou-Missi also earning Defensive Player of the Year honors). On the other side, Yale has two first-teamers (Javier Duren and Justin Sears, the latter of which was also named Ivy Player of the Year). Harvard quite possibly has the best player in the Ivy League in Wesley Saunders (yes, I’m looking at you, Ivy POY voters), but outside of the Crimson’s top three guns, point production has been scarce: in the Crimson’s loss to Yale, players who were not recognized as “All-Ivy” shot a combined 4-for-19 from the field for only 10 points. Look for center Kenyatta Smith to be the fourth offensive piece of the puzzle for Harvard on Saturday. For the Bulldogs, in addition to Duren and Sears, Armani Cotton and Makai Mason have been consistent scorers down the stretch recently. These two have to be sparkplugs for Yale all night if they want to go dancing. Both teams’ top guns will show up on Saturday night at the Palestra, I have no doubt. Victory will go to the team whose complementary players step up and stand out.

“This is it,” I wrote one week ago, referring to both teams’ penultimate game of the 2014-15 regular season. “The Game 2.0” was called the biggest Harvard-Yale basketball game ever. Well, guess what? That wasn’t “it,” and Saturday’s Harvard-Yale game (“3.0”) is shaping up to be one of the biggest Harvard-Yale games ever in any sport. And while I cannot predict the outcome, of this much I’m certain: There will be no “Game 4.0.”

3 thoughts on “The Game 3.0

  1. I’m surprised that you didn’t mention what I consider to be the biggest variable affecting this game: the mindset of the Yale team, especially that of Player of the Year Sears.

    The loss against Dartmouth has been described elsewhere as “last second” or “dramatic.” That doesn’t begin to tell half the story. Yale’s mental collapse was history-making, one of the worst in the annals of Ivy basketball and arguably the single greatest brain seizure ever.

    Does the team come out ready to redeem itself? Will Yale be thrilled to receive a second chance to win a tournament bid after blowing their first one? Or will the Yale team be tentative and unsure, haunted by the possibility of becoming the most famous goats in the history of Bulldog sports?

    • Not that I care, but I think you are being a little harsh in the single greatest brain seizure department. Dartmouth is not a pushover and the Harvard game was mentally and physically draining. If i had to pick a team to win today i would first shoot myself, then pick Yale. Do I think they will win the rematch? No. I think Harvard is probably a better overall team and that seemed evident in the last match up. Should be interesting theater though.

      One more thing—the idea of Amaker cutting down the nets in The Cathedral absolutely revolts me.

      The AQ

      • AQ, when speaking of the greatest brain seizure, I wasn’t referring to Yale simply losing to Dartmouth. As you note, the Big Green were no pushovers.

        I was talking about three errors in judgment over the course of the last 35 seconds of the Dartmouth game, each worse than the previous, culminating in arguably the greatest mental error in the history of Ivy League sports.

        (1) Jones tells his guys to pass the ball to their best free-throw shooter Duren, but then has the other four players stay too far away to receive a pass. Duren picks up his dribble early, perhaps not knowing that the possession arrow points toward Dartmouth. He gets tied up for a jump ball and a turnover. Mental mistake One, forgivable and certainly not fatal.

        (2) Dartmouth is inbounding the ball with 2.3 seconds left, but has no time-outs left. In that situation, a coach on the defensive CANNOT call time out. With ten seconds left, disorganization is a friend of the offense. With two seconds left, disorganization is a friend of the defense. Let the offense inbound and take your chances that your guys can put up enough defense to prevent a good look at the basket. When Jones chose to call time out, he allowed Dartmouth to set up a called play, a length-of-the-court pass to a receiving corps with a scripted game plan. Mental mistake Two, very serious in my book. And then of course:

        (3) Sears, with a good look at the pass coming the entire length-of-the-court, bats at the ball as it’s headed out of bounds. This is the single greatest mental error in the history of Ivy sports and it ended up costing Yale the outright championship and its first NCAA bid in 53 years.

        Collectively, (1) (2) and especially (3) are the brain seizure to which I referred. Do you disagree, my Palestra pal?

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