Cambridge, MA-- In a move that surprised few but disappointed many, Harvard's dreams of its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1946 as an at-large bid were dashed Sunday night, as the NCAA selection committee left the Crimson off of its 68 team tournament bracket. Harvard had initially hoped to secure a tournament appearance by defeating fellow Ivy League co-champion Princeton on Saturday night, but lost the lead as time expired to a buzzer-beater from sophomore guard Doug Davis, falling 63-62.
Even with the loss on Saturday night, however, there was a fair amount of buzz surrounding the Crimson’s chances of securing one of the “last four” at-large bids. While the Ivy League has never before fielded two teams in the same championship tournament, Harvard presented a compelling resume, including double digit wins over Colorado and Boston College and the 35th-best RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) in the nation.
In the end, a combination of factors—including Harvard’s losses to Yale and Michigan, and relatively weak strength of schedule (140th in the nation)—proved too much to overcome. Certainly not helping, either, was the selection committee’s decision to leave both Colorado and Boston College—two bubble teams from major conferences that, as mentioned above, represented marquee wins for the Crimson—out of the tournament, as well. Even so, Harvard, at 35, had the highest RPI of any team not to receive an invite to the tournament, and was 7 ahead of the next closest non-qualifier (Cleveland State, at 42).
A snub by the NCAA, however, does not mean the end of the postseason for the Harvard Crimson Men’s Basketball team. Shortly after their rejection by the nation’s premier championship tournament, Harvard accepted an expected invite to the NIT. A bit more unexpected to many in the Cambridge community was Harvard’s seeding by the NIT: whereas Harvard had been only hours before a so-called “bubble-team” listed as one of the “first six out” by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the NIT extended to Harvard only a sixth seed (out of eight). More mysteriously, the same major-conference teams that Harvard beat this season by double digits—Colorado and Boston College—are both one-seeds.
As a sixth seed, Harvard will travel out to Stillwater, Oklahoma to face Big 12 foe Oklahoma State on Tuesday evening at 7:30 PM. That game will be broadcast live on ESPN.
Ivy League rival Princeton, who defeated Harvard to claim the conference’s sole NCAA tournament autobid, was seeded 13th, and will play #4 Kentucky on Thursday at 2:45. Last year, Kentucky defeated the Cornell in the Sweet 16 to end the Big Red’s improbable tournament run.