CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard basketball players scattered to the various libraries and other quiet spots on campus to study for midterms after watching Princeton win its regular-season finale and force a tiebreaker for the Ivy League's automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
For the Crimson, there was still plenty of work to do.
Harvard has already locked up a share of its first Ivy title ever, but to reach the NCAAs for the first time since 1946 it will have to beat co-champion Princeton in a tiebreaker at Yale on Saturday night.
"It wouldn't be right if it didn't come down to something like this," coach Tommy Amaker said after the Crimson's practice on Wednesday. "We've had two really good games against them. To be in a playoff at the end is very exciting for out team."
Harvard (23-5, 12-2 Ivy) beat Princeton 79-67 last weekend to clinch at least a share of the Ivy championship, but the Tigers (24-6, 12-2) had one game left; they beat Penn 70-58 on Tuesday night to force the tie.
"We expected them to win," Harvard forward Keith Wright said. "It would be awesome if we get it done. But it's going to take the same effort as Saturday, times five."
The Ivy League is the only Division I conference that does not have a postseason tournament. So, while Harvard and Princeton are officially co-champions, the tiebreaker is necessary to determine who gets the NCAA berth.
Harvard and Princeton split their regular-season meetings — the Tigers won at home 65-61 on Feb. 4 — and each team finished unbeaten at home this year.
"It will be our third time playing them. We know each other's tendencies pretty well, and who the key players are," said Harvard forward Kyle Casey, who had a season-high 24 points on Saturday. "I guess you could kind of look at this as a grudge match — winner take all."
Harvard was the last school that had never won an Ivy title. Princeton has won 26, including this one, but it was the first for coach Sydney Johnson, a 1997 graduate who played on two of those champion teams and took over as coach in 2007.
"There's a banner up in Jadwin Gym that says '2004,' and there's a drought there. (This) was my goal," he said Tuesday night. "I don't want to take away from our moment tonight. We won an Ivy League championship. We realize we're sharing that, but we have 26, which is the most in the Ivy League. These guys should be proud of that."
Yale's campus in New Haven, Conn., is about 130 miles from each schools, and though Yale is traditionally Harvard's archrival, there is a bit of history with Princeton, too.
The rivalry between the three schools goes back to the 1880s, when they dominated the early days of college football and formed a Big Three that was the precursor to the Ivy League. (While Harvard and Yale still measure themselves against each other in football, Princeton talks of winning the Big Three.)
"We'll see how many Yalies will be there," Amaker said, "and I'll be anxious to see who they choose to root for."