Jeremy Lin’s alma mater is headed back to the dance.
It’s been 66 years since Harvard University clinched a bid into the NCAA tournament. The year was 1946 and the tourney had only eight teams competing, with the Crimson representing New England. Back then, the NIT championship was the more prestigious tournament, which saw that Kentucky top Rhode Island, but Harvard took pride in their postseason berth after a 4-25 record the previous two seasons. Harvard eventually lost to the Ohio State Buckeyes, 46-38, in the regional semifinals, but at the time, no one could have predicted that it would take the Ivy league powerhouse nearly seven decades to make return trip to the dance. But on the last regular-season game of the 2011-2012 college basketball season, fate finally decided it was going to rule in Harvard’s favor.
A year after stealing the Ivy League crown from Harvard on a devastating buzzer-beater, and as one of only two Ivy teams to beat the Crimson this season, Princeton gave Harvard’s alumni an unexpected gift. Princeton defeated Pennsylvania -the other Ivy team to beat Harvard this season- 62-52 on Tuesday night. The Tigers held the Quakers to just 17 points in the first half and survived their second-half rally. Penn needed a win to tie Harvard at the top of the Ivy standings and force a one-game playoff, but by virtue of the Quakers loss to the Tigers, Harvard was able to clinch its first-ever Ivy League title and earn their first automatic NCAA berth since ’46.
Harvard finished one game ahead of Penn (11-3, 19-12) with a conference record of 12-2 and 26-4 overall and managed to avoid second consecutive season of having to play in an elimination game. Last year, the Crimson lost a one-game playoff to the Tigers on a last second shot for the Ivy’s automatic NCAA berth and failed to receive an at-large bid after sharing the regular season title with Princeton. This year, they received a helping hand from their academic rival. The Tigers finished the season with disappointing 10-4 conference record and 19-11 overall.
“We are thrilled and honored to have an opportunity to compete in the 2012 NCAA tournament,” Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker said in a statement. “This is a tremendous moment for Harvard University, our basketball program and our community. Go Crimson!” (Photo)