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Mon March 18, 2013
Harvard Crimson Head to Tourney for 2nd Straight Year
It’s now only happened three times in 67 years: Harvard’s men’s basketball team is going to the Big Dance.
The Crimson leave for Salt Lake City today for a first-round matchup Thursday against New Mexico.
But according to Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker, it was Sunday’s selection show that became a small source of tension.
“It kind of got late into the show before our name was called, and so I joked around, asking our guys if they think that the committee forgot about us,” Amaker said.
Just in case they did, Harvard could have reminded them that they earned an automatic bid by winning the Ivy League title.
“But, you know, I think when we saw that our name, the Harvard brand, the logo, and our name was up there, it was just jubilation,” he said.
It’s the second straight year Amaker has led Harvard to the NCAA tournament. The school will also be this year’s lone representative from New England. In 2012, the Crimson were bounced out of the first round by Vanderbilt. That experience, said senior guard Christian Webster, has made the squad more relaxed and confident about this year’s tournament.
“Last year, I think we were a little nervous, but this year the feeling of calm and relaxation, I think that will help us and just help us to focus on the game and just play ball,” Webster.
But the road to calmness and relaxation was not easy when Harvard began its season. They were without captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, who both withdrew from school amid their alleged involvement in last year’s Harvard cheating scandal. Amaker called their loss a tremendous blow to the team, but says his players quickly embraced their new roles.
“You’ve asked a lot of people to get out of their natural comfort zones and do things differently,” Amaker said. “And I can’t say enough about how these guys have embraced that, have adjusted to that, and have thrived in that. We always talk about, you know, just maximizing who you are and where you are and that can change by the hour over the course of a season.”
Webster described the changes as an ongoing process. One particular change was his and teammate Laurent Rivard’s new roles as co-captains.
“We both came into the year not thinking we were going to be captains,” Webster said. “We figured we were going to be leaders on the team, but not captains. But just trying to be more vocal, that’s something we both struggle with and that’s something we’ve got a lot better at.”
Harvard is still beginning to shape up third-seed opponent New Mexico. But odds makers don’t like their chances. Sporting News’ The Linemakers gives Harvard odds of nearly 10,000 to 1 of winning the tournament.
Yet it’s not expectations that are on the minds of Amaker and his players.
“We have a theory here and our philosophy is that expectation or expectations is an external word and the only thing we worry about is our internal word and that word is standard,” he said. “And what we find out is that our standards are probably going to be higher than anybody’s expectations anyway.”
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