SPOKANE, Wash. -- Even after a 61-57 win in the second round of the 2014 NCAA tournament -- and wins in consecutive tournaments -- Harvard is still one of the easier teams to poke fun at in the big dance. They’re the smart kids playing a rough game, the school from the Ivy League that is allowed into the tournament.
But in his seven seasons with the Crimson, coach Tommy Amaker has put to rest a few of those jabs. And for the third consecutive season Harvard has made an appearance in the Big Dance. Before Amaker arrived, the Crimson's last NCAA tournament appearance was in 1946.
In 2012, the Crimson lost in the first round. Last season as a No. 14 seed, Harvard upset No. 3 seed New Mexico -- its first-ever NCAA tournament win.
And on Thursday in Spokane, the 12th-seeded Crimson took care of business against fifth-seeded Cincinnati. Though the 12-5 matchup is one of the most common upsets in the NCAA tournament, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin was reluctant to call it an upset.
“In my mind, today’s game was anything but an upset,” Cronin said. “They’ve got a great team, tough draw for us. In my opinion they’re one of the best teams we played all year. ... They did not catch us by surprise by any stretch of the imagination.”
The Crimson took advantage of a slow start by the Bearcats, who opened the game by missing 14 of their first 17 shots, jumping out to a 36-29 halftime lead, which Harvard wouldn’t relinquish in the second half. Cincinnati broke out a full-court press, helping to cut the lead to one with just three minutes remaining, but solid play from sophomore guard Siyani Chambers kept the Crimson on top.
Harvard’s win adds to the argument that this is one of the deeper tournaments in recent history. With Louisville and Michigan State both playing as 4-seeds, several teams having a solid shot at the title and star players starring on some under-the-radar team, this year’s March Madness is sure to hold more games like Harvard-Cincinnati, upset or not.