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The anticipation was building yesterday in Washington Heights, as the Yeshiva University Maccabees were set to begin their Skyline Conference Championships journey. Despite the gym being practically empty when I entered hours before tip off, I could already feel the tension that comes along with postseason basketball, the emotional stress which results from a 40-minute game which could determine whether or not the last four months of hard work and effort will culminate in euphoria or anguish. Yet as I sat in the top row of the Max Stern Athletic Center on Tuesday night, overseeing the behind-the-scenes departments of MacsLive which make our production so special, I could only wonder:
We waited 64 years for this?
Before the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, before John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and well before Texas Western became the first team to win the DI National Championship while starting an all-black lineup, Yeshiva University joined the NCAA. With the legendary Bernard “Red” Sarachek at the helm, the Macs performed about as well as a Jewish team with other priorities and no home gymnasium could have been expected to play. With Sarachek retired, the Maccabees hit a low point in 1973-74, when they finished with a 1-19 record as a member of the Knickerbocker Conference. YU would slowly but surely improve in the years after, and eventually went on to have 14 seasons in a row without a losing record.
In 2018, the Macs sealed an automatic bid to the NCAA DIII Tournament for the first time in program history. A year later, they set a school record by winning 9 games in a row; the streak would reach 17 before a home loss against none other than Farmingdale State. Yet prior to this season, the Macs had not only never been nationally ranked; they had never clinched a one seed in their conference’s playoffs. The Macs cracked the D3hoops.com Top 25 in late January, and on February 11th, when #21 Yeshiva won their 21st consecutive game, they locked down the top spot in the Skyline. YU would end the regular season with three more victories, finishing with a perfect record in conference play.
Along the way, the excitement surrounding this record-setting team has intensified. The high expectations coming into this season have been elevated to the sky, and the Macs’ fan base seems to be growing by the day. The MSAC has essentially been filled to maximum capacity for the last month of home games, and MacsLive’s viewership numbers have risen to unprecedented levels.
However, all of this does not come without its negatives. It appears as if the Yeshiva fans have come to believe that they can just come to the gym, be entertained, and watch the Macs blow out their opponent. Instead of getting loud and taking advantage of playing on their home court, they now come out to observe—but only observe—an incredible spectacle.
The Macs run off of the energy in the MSAC. For whatever reason—although presumably, it is related to the win streak and national ranking—people believe that these playoff games are a cakewalk. This could not be further from the truth; every team which plays us from here on out is quite literally fighting for their lives.
In the last few months, the Yeshiva players have busted their tails, spent countless hours in the gym, and ruined their sleep schedules. We didn’t work to get home court advantage so that 1000 people could sit on their hands. Anyone who went to a YU home playoff game before last season knows how loud the Max Stern Athletic Center crowd can get, and understands the energy which our fans can create. They remember the deficits which this team has overcome, the runs which the Macs have gone on, arguably fully due to the loyal Blue and White supporters. If the Maccabees want to win their second Skyline Conference Championship in three years, we need to make that gym the worst nightmare for opposing teams.
On Tuesday night, the crowd was meh, at best. The Macs, too, seemed to play without an inner fire, allowing Merchant Marine—which plays at the third slowest pace in DIII—to control the tempo. The MSAC felt lifeless, and while Yeshiva won easily, they played arguably their worst game at home this season. If YU plays like that against Farmingdale State, and the crowd doesn’t push the Macs, the Rams will be in great position to pull off the upset.
The fans can undoubtedly alter the trajectory of this game. If you’re not coming to impact the game, then why are you coming? We can help make this season much more than historic.
Let’s make some noise, and carry the Macs to the Championship!