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Who wins and why?

I sent my favorite writers who cover the Ivy League and past in-conference Know! Your! Foe! participants four words via email asking for their answers to the question everyone's considering prior to tomorrow's tipoff between Harvard and Princeton.

Who wins and why?

Responses from John Ezekowitz (Harvard Sports Analysis), Andy Glockner (Sports Illustrated), Michael James (The 14-Game Tournament), Brendan Prunty (The Star Ledger), John Sadak (Princeton play-by-play announcer), Jonathan Tannenwald (Soft Pretzel Logic), Brett Tomlinson (Princeton Alumni Weekly), David "Bruno" Wise, Kevin Whitaker (Daily Princetonian) and Bruce Wood (Big Green Alert) after the jump.

Stragglers who have yet to field my querry, forward me your paragraphs ASAP. You know who you are.

Site members, feel free to add your opinions in the comments.

John Ezekowitz
Harvard Sports Analysis

A lot of my thoughts point towards Princeton. The Tigers were stifled by Harvard's aggressive man-to-man in the second half at Harvard, but at Princeton they beat the Crimson four times on backdoor cuts. I can't see Coach Johnson not making appropriate adjustments. Harvard also shoots the three much better at home than they do on the road, even accounting for opponent strength.  But my lingering images from both of the Harvard-Princeton games are of Harvard just being bigger and more athletic than the Tigers. I think if Wright and Casey can stay out of foul trouble (and that is a big if), that matchup advantage wins out. Harvard by four.

Andy Glockner
Sports Illustrated

I've believed all season that "good and experienced" would edge "good and young." I'm not wavering in that for the one-game playoff. Decades of Ivy history support the upperclass team in instances like this and Harvard, while talented, doesn't have that one game-breaking type player that would make me doubt conventional league wisdom. Princeton wins a close one and dances.

Michael James
The 14-Game Tournament

No one can be sure who the winner will be, but I can definitely tell you who the losers are: The fans. More specifically, the fans that got shut out of the limited seating in Yale's Payne Whitney Gym and don't have access to the internet-only ESPN3 streaming product. For them, the most pivotal Ivy contest in nine years will be but a series of moving numbers in some sports website's Gamecast product.

For those folks lucky enough to land tickets, the atmosphere should be electric. All the projections point to a veritable coin flip, and it's hard to argue with that. Harvard will have the advantage if it can get to the line. Princeton will win if it can goad the Crimson into firing from the perimeter early and often. Watch for Harvard to dare Ian Hummer and Kareem Maddox to hit outside shots, while challenging Princeton's guards to make interior ones. Pace shouldn't be an issue (Harvard was the slightly slower team in league play). The only rationalization I've been able to settle upon is that the Crimson can beat you, but the Tigers can force you to lose. I like the latter over the former.

Ken Pomeroy

Harvard 66 Princeton 65, 44% probability. 62 possessions.

Brendan Prunty
The Star Ledger

If Dan Mavraides can do the type of damage that he did last Saturday in front of an away crowd heckling him and his mom, what will he do on a neutral court? Plenty, that's what. Between Mavraides outside and Kareem Maddox inside, the Tigers rise to the top. Princeton 71 Harvard 64.

John Sadak

I'll take the Tigers in the rubber match for multiple reasons.

I like the fact that they played on Tuesday, while Harvard will have sat dormant for a full week. I like the return of the dominant inside two man game with Kareem Maddox and Ian Hummer, including Kareem's biggest scoring day since the win at Cornell seven games earlier and his best combined total of points, rebounds and assists (33) since the Ivy opener versus Brown. That has been the key to Tiger triumphs all season, especially in big moments. Even when it results in inside-outside jumpers or drives for the guards and swingmen, the offense starts with the big guys. I like Princeton's rise to the challenge under immense pressure against a longtime rival on the road, proving its moxie for the umpteenth time this season. I like the adjustments of the Princeton coaching staff with the perfect amount of turnaround time. I like the free-throw disparity from the last meeting to come back to Earth on a neutral floor. I like Harvard's incredibly hot shooting of last weekend (remember, the Crimson connected on 60.5% if its shots and drained 11 three-pointers on Friday versus Penn before it drained 60% of its efforts against the Tigers) to suffer a similar fate. While Harvard fans with good reason like the absence of seniors on the Harvard roster for future success, by the same token I like the extra years of experience for the orange and black in 2011. Most of all though, in big games like this, I like defense. And to me, Princeton is the best defensive team in the Ivy League.

Jonathan Tannenwald
Soft Pretzel Logic

I'm going with Princeton, just barely. I was really impressed by Harvard last Saturday, but for as well as they played, I don't know how much of that was caused by playing at home. After Tuesday's win, Princeton is back on track - and Kareem Maddox in particular.

We've all said throughout the season that Princeton is the best team to win 14 games and Harvard is the best team to win one game. Yes, this is one game, but it's a very particular kind of game. It's the kind of game in which defense wins - and even more so given the difficult shooting background at the Church. So I'll take Princeton by a hair, leaving Harvard fans to sweat out a possible at-large bid on Sunday.

Brett Tomlinson
Princeton Alumni Weekly

As Bruce Springsteen once sang, “Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king, and a king ain’t satisfied ’til he rules everything.” The Tigers have gone from poor (6-23 in 07-08), to rich (20-plus wins last year), to king (Ivy co-champs). Now they have a chance to rule everything. Of course, you could say the same of the Crimson – but they’re not from New Jersey. Princeton 63, Harvard 60.

David "Bruno" Wise
Know! Your! Foe! - Brown

It's hard to pick, and I think it will be close, but I go with Harvard to win this. Too much firepower, too much ability to score inside, too many really good three point shooters. Key stat to watch is Harvard's shooting percentage - if it's close to 50%, then they're hitting their threes and getting to the rim, and they're winning this game. (Plus, it's their year and they're due. They have to win it once, right?)

Kevin Whitaker
Daily Princetonian

In the first meeting, nearly everything broke right for Princeton: Wright and Casey spent most of the second half in foul trouble, Harvard missed 13 of 16 threes and they were playing in Jadwin Gymnasium, where the hosts have not lost in 13 months. In the rematch, nearly everything broke Harvard’s way: the Crimson was playing the biggest game ever held in its Lavietes Pavilion – where it too has not lost in 13 months – and the hosts shot 60 percent from the floor and 90 from the line. Saturday’s game, though, will be held at a neutral site, and presumably both teams’ luck will even out, making a close contest quite likely. Both offenses often stagnate when trying to protect a late lead; Harvard is better-suited to close out a game from the line but commits more costly turnovers and won’t get second chances. With all signs pointing to a pure toss-up, look to the basketball gods, and 26 league titles don’t lie. Princeton 66 Harvard 63.

Bruce Wood
Big Green Alert

Princeton Wins.

This year's Super Bowl notwithstanding, I'm a huge believer in the idea that the first time you advance to a playoff or postseason you are wide-eyed, a little uncertain and at a disadvantage. Coach after coach has told me the same thing, whether it is the Division III NCAA basketball tournament, an Ivy League women's basketball playoff or Ivy baseball. Experience helps. Granted, neither the Princeton nor the Harvard players have been in a playoff like this before, but Sydney Johnson has and there are others around him who have, including Gary Walters. Not so at Harvard. Having a sense about how the day will unfold works in Princeton's favor and will make the difference in a close game. Unless of course a little experience at Duke makes any difference ;-)

lee gladden said,

March 11, 2011 @ 5:46 pm

My mind says Harvard, but my heart says Tigers by 2, because Harvard won’t shoot as well or get as many calls as they did in the Cambridge game, and Tigers are ready for a peak performance by Hummer and Kareem, and Tigers are better on D, and Sydney will make just enough adjustments in this super-challenging game with a great foe to get us the win!

R.W. Enoch, Jr. said,

March 11, 2011 @ 6:20 pm

Princeton has a substantial advantage, being the team that lost last time going into a competitive rematch (as Harvard was last time), because they have much more room and opportunity to adjust coming out of the previous game. There are quite a few other factors I expect to swing the Tigers' way:

1) Psychology - Harvard lost only twice this year: at Yale and at Princeton. Put the Cantabs against one of those teams in the other one's gym, and the Crimson are likely to have butterflies going into this match-up. As other's have said, Harvard is also younger and less experienced in the post-season.

2) Karma - The refereeing is likely to be a bit more even this time out. Despite Princeton's break down in the second half, they still would have had a chance to win the game if the FT disparity had not been 12-30. This reversal could also mean foul trouble for more Crimson players like we saw at Jadwin. It's also unlikely that Harvard's shooting percentages will be as unconscious in J.J. Lee as they were last weekend in Cambridge.

3) Momentum - Princeton is hot off an exciting road win where they were able to restart the fire under not only their offense and defense, but also their competitive spirit. Harvard is hot off two awkward practices Monday and Tuesday, followed by a deflating ESPN3 viewing party Tuesday night.

If Harvard shoots the lights out again, the odds of a Tiger victory are pretty slim. Otherwise, I give it to Princeton: 69-65.

Steven Postrel said,

March 11, 2011 @ 6:46 pm

I look for a return to defensive form for the Tigers. Curry will not penetrate at will this time, even if Kareem has to guard him (that penetration had a lot to do with Harvard's shooting percentage in the last game). Wright will get fronted with weak side help ready to rotate. Normal officiating will get Casey into early foul trouble.

Princeton may have turnover trouble but will find enough offense to slog out a close one, 61-58.

I think.

Stuart Schulman said,

March 12, 2011 @ 12:51 am

my key to the game: guard play. If davis and mavraides are 'on', and can keep Harrvard from saggng on Hummer and Maddox, it's no contest. If they're both shooting bricks, Tigers are sunk. They just need to be credible and productive threats.

Prediction: 77-70 Tigers in an hard fought game.

Glenn Morris said,

March 12, 2011 @ 9:07 am

This win comes from the heart and no player wears it on his sleeve or arm like Dan Mavraides.. The game is a stage made for seniors just as it was for Sydney Johnson in 1996 and Brian Earl against NC State in 1999.
Kareem Maddox steps up for the same reason.

"With it or On it"

Peter Delacorte said,

March 12, 2011 @ 6:18 pm

Ken Pomeroy was right on the money, except for the winner.

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