Forty years ago, in the Palestra, the Yale men’s basketball team lost in overtime to Wake Forest. It was the last time the Bulldogs played in the NCAA Tournament.

Thirty-nine years ago, in the Bronx, Yale lost to Princeton 65-53 in the game that broke a tie for the Ivy title and sent the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament. Bill Bradley, who would go on to win a gold medal in the Olympics and two NBA championships, had 23 points and grabbed 13 boards.

This weekend, the Bulldogs return to the Palestra and face Princeton again, but things are a little different this time around. This time, we’re playing to solidify a berth, not advance, in the NCAA Tournament, and for an outright Ivy title, not a tie.

But the biggest difference between those two games that took place four decades ago and the two that are going to take place this weekend is simply that this time we’re going to win.

This isn’t just some let’s-go-Bulldogs-and-hand-out-free-T-shirts prediction. We’re not going to win simply because we’ve been mentioned on ESPN and the Associated Press is writing stories about Yale Basketball. And we’re not going to win just because it’s the first time we’re on top of the Ivies, or because every Yalie from Chris Dudley to the President hopes we’re going to win.

We’re going to win because we have to.

We’re going to win because if we don’t, either Princeton or Penn is going to reenergize themselves for the last week of the season and find a way to sneak into March Madness for the 37th time in 40 years and 14th time in a row. We can’t let that happen. Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, Brown, and even Harvard are all depending on us. Dick Vitale’s depending on us. The President’s depending on us!

Understand, Yale Basketball is on the verge of changing the tide of Ivy League basketball forever, and if we let this opportunity slip through our fingers, it will be 40 more years of P-team domination. If we win both games this weekend, not only is the 2002 Ivy League Championship ours, but so is 2003’s and so is 2004’s. The freshmen and sophomore Bulldogs score 73 percent of Yale’s points, and there are no seniors on this year’s team.

Everyone knows that if we sweep the weekend, we could be in the NCAA tournament. Not everyone realizes that if we sweep the weekend, we could be the next Ivy League Basketball dynasty.

This weekend could be the biggest in Ivy League Basketball history. We have to win — for God, for Country, and of course, for Yale.