Harvard shakes one monkey off its back
December, 5, 2011
By Eamonn Brennan | ESPN.com
Harvard hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1946. For much of those 65 years, it hasn't come close. Caring about the success of your basketball team is so very garish, don't you agree?
Of course, things have been different since Tommy Amaker arrived at the school. Harvard has put more resources and institutional backing behind its men's basketball program, and Amaker has thrived in those conditions, recruiting and refining what must be the best collection of talent to don the Crimson uniform in the school's history. Given that talent, college basketball fans have since the end of last season assumed that Amaker's talented Harvard team had what it took to end the school's most ignominious streak. This would be the year, at long last, the Crimson returned to the NCAA tournament after a 65-year drought.
Through eight games, that prediction is looking dead-on. The Crimson are 8-0 with a Battle 4 Atlantis title (and a win over Florida State) in their quiver, and their status as the favorite to win the Ivy League title is without reproach. (A better question, perhaps, is whether Harvard can go undefeated in Ivy play this season. We'll see.)
Mitchell LaytonGetty ImagesTommy Amaker and his Crimson are 8-0 through the start of the 2011-12 season.
In the meantime, though, Harvard finally rid itself of another less infamous program marker. Today, for the first time in school history, the Crimson are ranked in the AP top 25 (and, for that matter, in the coaches' poll, too). Surely the school's final clubs -- and the only thing I know about final clubs are what I saw in "The Social Network," which I can only assume was 100 percent accurate (kidding) -- are currently celebrating accordingly.
In fact, Harvard's move into the No. 25 spot AP poll (it's No. 24 in the coaches) removes the school from one of the least desirable lists in the sport, the list of schools that have never been ranked in the AP top 25. According to ESPN Stats and Info's Jeremy Lundblad, among the schools that have been in Division I since the AP poll began in 1948-49, there are now seven programs that have never been ranked. They are Brown, Citadel, Colgate, Furman, Lafayette, Lehigh and William & Mary.
Make no mistake: This is an accomplishment for Harvard. Considering how little attention has been paid to the school's basketball team throughout history, and considering the lows the Crimson have experienced, even something as inconsequential and non-predictive as top 25 poll inclusion must feel like a major victory.
Still, it will pale in comparison to Harvard's final goal -- an NCAA tournament berth. If early results are any indication, not only will Harvard wrestle that monkey of its back this season. It may just make some March noise in the process.