Harvard's NCAA upset: The day after

SALT LAKE CITY — The day after its first tournament win in the program's 102 years, Harvard got ready for its next game. Today's opponent: Arizona, a program that sends players to the NBA often and has been to the tournament 30 times, the Final Four four times and won it all once.

Late Thursday, the No. 14-seeded Crimson's 68-62 win over No. 3 New Mexico reverberated from coast to coast: in Salt Lake City, where New Mexico shuffled off to the airport in shock, to Harvard Square, where it's spring break.

"It's kind of nice to break the stereotype that we're the nerdy kids and show people that we can play basketball as well," said sophomore G/F Wesley Saunders, who scored a team-high 18.

Even in Kentucky, Louisville coach Rick Pitino said he wasn't surprised.

"We're the No. 1 of No. 1 seeds," Pitino said. "We play Harvard 10 times, we might win six, they might win four."

But this is one-and-done. And Sean Miller won't let his No. 6-seeded Wildcats (26-7) coast.

"I believe our team is mature enough to understand that Harvard is really good," said the coach, whose team beat Belmont 81-64. "What they just did to beat a team as talented as New Mexico, that speaks for itself."

Though it's tempting to get lost in a "Geeks to Glory" story line, the rise of Harvard (20-9) has been going on for several years.

Tommy Amaker, a star guard at Duke, was hired as coach in 2007. In 2011, Harvard shared the Ivy League title with Princeton but lost on a last-second shot with the league's sole bid to the NCAAs on the line. Last year, the Crimson broke through, making the tournament for the first time since 1946.

This season, Harvard won the Ivy despite losing captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry to an academic scandal.

"It wasn't anything that any of us would prefer to have happen at our school," Amaker said. "But I think our guys have been able to adjust just like I would expect most young kids to do."

Now Arizona must adjust.

"They're a program on the rise," Wildcats F Solomon Hill said. "And they're making steps in the right direction."

Hello, again: Today's Butler-Marquette matchup is a rematch of a first-round game of the Maui Invitational on Nov. 19. Butler won 72-71 on Rotnei Clarke's buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

"It's definitely going to be a dogfight," Butler F Kameron Woods said. "We expect that that's going to be on their minds, and they are going to come out as hungry and as ready to compete as we are."

Marquette G Junior Cadougan said Clarke's shot was "amazing."

"It's motivation, period, to move on in the tournament," he said. "It's another big game. Every game is a big game in the NCAA Tournament."

Can't be worse: Wichita State's game against Gonzaga today marks the program's first against a No. 1-ranked team since 1967. That came against UCLA, a team that went on to win its fourth of 10 titles under John Wooden. The Shockers lost by 34.

Viewers up: The first full day earned its highest rating in 19 years. The games on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV averaged a 5.5 fast national rating and 12 share, up 4 percent from 2012, the networks said. This is the third season of CBS and Turner's 14-year, $10.8 billion deal to air every game in its entirety, a change that so far has been a ratings success. Ratings represent the percentage of all homes with TVs tuned to a program. Shares represent the percentage of all homes with TVs in use at the time.

Quotable: "None of the guys on the court are NBA All-Stars. He laces his shoes up just like me." — Memphis PG Joe Jackson on today's opponent, Michigan State and PG Keith Appling; Jackson started ahead of Appling for the U.S. under-19 team two years ago.

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Harvard's NCAA upset: The day after 03/22/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 22, 2013 11:22pm]

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