MARCH MADNESS: Inside Princeton and Harvard's Ivy League Basketball War

Princeton band

Photo: Dashiell Bennett/Business Insider

The Ivy League is the only conference in Division I that does not have a season ending tournament.But when Harvard and Princeton both tied for the regular season title this year, only one of them could have the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The solution: A one-game playoff — held at Yale University, a neutral site, roughly halfway between both schools — for all the marbles.

We took the trip up to New Haven last Saturday to watch this once-in-a-lifetime event. (Harvard has not been to the NCAA tournament since 1946 and had NEVER won an Ivy League basketball title before this year.)

Yale's gym is not much bigger than a mid-sized high school gym, but the close quarters added to the intensity of the game.

The arena looks more like a cathedral than a gym, but it wouldn't belong to the Bulldogs on this night.

Princeton gathers for the pre-game huddle.

The band looks more nervous than the team.

Harvard's cheerleaders get in the game.


Here's the tip!

The crowd was split 50-50. Yale reserved the middle section for its own students and alumni, but none of them showed up!

Princeton's Dan Mavraides hoists an early 3.

This ref seems to enjoy his work ... and the orange guys...

Harvard's Kyle Casey throws one down.

Trash talk: Ivy League style

Harvard's student section tries to ramp up the pressure.

There was a lot of back and forth in the first half, but Princeton's Douglas Davis kept this team in the hunt.

Some halftime music from the Crimson band. Harvard led by 7 at the break.

Here's Brandyn Curry with the drive and dish ...

... to Keith Wright for the slam!

Wright scores again to keep Harvard on top.

Crimson coach Tommy Amaker works the referees.

Princeton refused to go away though. Davis drained this three to give his team its first lead of the second half.

The Tiger fans appreciate it.

One Harvard student tries to pump up his mates.

With just 11 seconds left, Brandyn Curry scores in the lane to give Harvard a one-point lead.

With 2.8 seconds to go, Princeton plans its final possession.

You probably know what happened next....

The crowd goes wild!

Some where in there is hero Douglas Davis. He said falling to ground after his game-winning shot was his only mistake as the crowd ended up on top of him.

The agony of defeat.

Tiger Matt Brown is getting a hug from this guy, whether he wants it or not.

The Harvard students are crushed.

Davis, the Hero, cuts down the net.

Forward Ian Hummer is still in shock.

Princeton fans continue the celebration.

Not many NCAA Tourney sites will let you practice on the floor after the game.

Princeton's heroes answered media questions after the game.

Princeton got a 13 seed in the NCAA. Harvard is in the NIT.

Davis heads back to the locker room after a long day, and a job well done. He's also got a memory that will last the rest of his life.

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