Junior co-captain Keith Wright led the Crimson with 16 points on a day when four Harvard players hit double-digits in points. Rebounding was more of a struggle: Harvard only managed to grab 24 rebounds compared to 36 for Princeton, including an impressive 14 for the Tigers off of the offensive glass. Sophomore Kyle Casey, who lit up the Tigers last Saturday with 24 points, got into foul trouble early and never seemed to hit his stride, going a lackluster 3 for 8 for 7 points and 4 rebounds.
This is the second time that the Harvard Crimson have lost this season at the Payne Whitney Gymnasium. On February 26th, Harvard lost to the Yale Bulldogs in similarly close fashion. Down 70-69 with the shot clock off, the Crimson ran down the game clock and gave the ball to Brandyn Curry for a last-second layup along the baseline that bounced off both sides of the rim and out. That loss against Yale gave Harvard its second loss in conference play, and helped to set up this afternoon's playoff game.
Even with today's loss, Harvard is not completely eliminated from NCAA tournament consideration. Although the Ivy League has never had two teams play in the NCAA tournament, Harvard is an conference co-champion and sports a strong resume that includes wins over Boston College and Colorado, and a close loss to Michigan. Harvard's RPI, or Ratings Percentage Index, was 32nd best in the nation entering today, and has only fallen 3 to 35th after the loss. ESPN's "Senior Bracketologist" Joe Lunardi puts Harvard on the bubble, although he does list the Crimson (along with BC) as amongst his "First Six Out." Perhaps more realistic for the Crimson would be an NIT bid, which--although not guaranteed to a non-NCAA Ivy League champion--would seem to be a good fit, and is certainly an upgrade over last year's berth in the Collegeinsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT). The Harvard Men's Basketball team has never played in the NIT.