Archive for Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Harvard’s upset still hot topic

March 19, 2008

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— Whether it's in a bar, a job interview, or just walking down the street, the reaction is similar for members of the 1998 Harvard women's basketball team. Just the mention of being a former Crimson basketball player inevitably leads to this question: "Were you on THAT team?"

As many fans filling out their tournament brackets this week know, a No. 16 seed just doesn't have much of a chance at beating a No. 1.

That matchup has happened 148 times in either the men's or women's tournament, and the 1998 Harvard team remains the only one to pull that most improbable feat, beating Stanford 71-67 at Maples Pavilion in a game that still resonates for members of both teams 10 years later.

"It's almost comical how often it comes up given that it was 10 years ago," said Suzie Miller, who hit the shot that put the Crimson up for good with less than 2 minutes left in the game. "I interviewed at Stanford for a job in emergency medicine a few years ago. Out of nowhere, in one of my interviews someone said, 'Do you really think we'll accept you after what you did to Stanford in 1998?' Of course he was joking and they accepted me."

One of Miller's Harvard teammates, Alison Seanor, watched a tape of the game for the first time last year and was shocked to find out how close it actually was.

"I was kind of nervous watching it even though I knew the outcome," she said.

The memories from that game are still vivid for the players, from the chants on the bench, the flashcards coach Kathy Delaney-Smith showed to call out plays because the gym was so loud, to the feeling they had looking up at the final score as they celebrated.

That's not quite the case on the other side.

"I don't even remember it," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "I never watched it. I never thought about it. I really kind of blanked it out. Quite a defense mechanism."

Before 1998, Stanford had been to six Final Fours and won two national championships the previous eight seasons, losing by one point in overtime in the semifinals to Old Dominion in 1997.

The difference between the teams was much smaller than usual for a No. 1 and a 16 seed. Stanford lost two key players to injuries leading up to the game, while Harvard came in with a 22-4 record.

While the Harvard players are willing to make room for another team when necessary, they are still savoring their place in history.

"Sometimes that's not such a good thing being in a club in which no one else is a member," Seanor said. "But this is pretty special.

"I'd be happy for a team to do it but there is a little bit of something deep down that's special about being the only one."

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