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For me, the most interesting story leading into March (April) Madness is Princeton’s buzzer-beating Ivy League Conference win over Harvard on Saturday. Despite losing, Harvard still held onto a share of the league title, something the Crimson hadn’t done in its basketball history, which goes back 100 years.
Each of the other seven Ivy League programs has won at least one men’s title. Of the 34 varsity sports listed on the Harvard Web site that compete for Ivy championships, 33 have won at least one. Eleven women’s basketball Ivy championship banners hang at one end of Lavietes. There is ample, empty space at the other end.
Despite its loss Saturday, Harvard hoped for an at-large bid, which would have been a first in Ivy history. The league is so small and non-competitive versus national competition (usually*) that only the conference winner gets an automatic bid. This might have been a different year, but, alas, no dice.
* I say “usually” above because 15 years ago today, on March 14, 1996, Princeton pulled off one of the greatest upsets in basketball history. It’s in my Top 10 favorite sports moments, for sure. Why? No connection to Princeton or the Ivies. That’s for smart folk like Rob, Peter, and Diane. No, I’ve just always loved Pete Carril. I loved that Princeton won it with a textbook backdoor layup from the ’50s. I loved that it was UCLA that fell. Not because I have anything against UCLA, but because it was such a big basketball name to slay.
Anyway, here’s a wonderful — simply wonderful — walk down memory lane about that game, with updated quotes from Carril and Gabe Lewillis, now an orthopedic surgery resident, who made that beautiful layup.
There have been bigger upsets and better games, but Princeton-UCLA connects with people in a way the others don’t. It is almost a CBS bylaw that every March Madness montage includes one clip of the rumpled Carril, a game plan rolled up in his hand, celebrating his final college victory.
What’s your favorite NCAA memory? Do you have any reason to root for any particular team this year?