By all accounts, the first-ever Ivy League basketball tournament was a grand success, thanks in large part to the event’s host, the Palestra.
The 90 year-old arena was a sight to behold this past weekend, with throngs of fans wearing their school colors proudly, cascading cheers and chants upon their respective teams, choosing to forgo the comfort of their seats and opting instead to stand at attention for the full 40 minutes.
For those fans donning the Red and Blue, the tournament was a triumph — at least in part. Penn women’s basketball backed up its dominant regular season by blowing away the competition en route to an Ivy title. While the men’s team was unable to replicate this result, the Quakers proved their mettle as well, taking an unbeaten Princeton squad to overtime in the semifinals.
Although disheartening, that overtime loss might ultimately have a positive impact on the Penn basketball community. Some have suggested that if Penn had beaten undefeated Princeton, the chances of the Ivy League Tournament returning to the Palestra would be slim, as home court advantage would be considered the culprit behind Princeton’s demise.
However, thanks in part to the men’s team’s loss, there has been a groundswell of support for the Palestra as the venue of the future tournaments, even among Penn’s rivals.
“I’ve been very clear and very adamant in my opinion. If we’re going to have a conference tournament, in my opinion — and no one cares what I think — but I’ve felt that we should have it here at the Palestra,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “This is a historic venue. It’s an amazing basketball facility and arena, amazing history and tradition, as we know. So for me, personally, if we’re going to do it, having this venue in our conference to me, we should rally around that and showcase that.”
Amaker’s words echo the rationale of Ivy League executive director Robin Harris when she officially announced the tournament’s inception.
“The group felt very strongly that we have a historic and venerable environment within our own league, and that we should fully take advantage of having our tournament there,” Harris last year.
Whether or not Harris and company apply the same standards for choosing the tournament’s 2018 location remains to be seen, but the idea of the Palestra as the tournament’s permanent home is well-supported, even by those who’d gain the most by seeing it move.
“Everyone wants me to say I don’t like it here, and that’s not true,” said Princeton coach Mitch Henderson.
One can only wonder if Henderson would be singing a different tune had his Tigers lost that semifinal matchup.
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