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.”