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Harvard’s path to the elusive NCAA Tournament bid just got tougher

February 26, 2012 Columns, Full Court Sprints No Comments

Harvard is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious institution of higher learning. Many of the brightest young people grow up dreaming of attending the school, unless you’re like me and dreamed of going to MIT (or Cal Tech) because of engineering. The university has produced a number of high achievers in just about every field imaginable.

On the hardwood, it’s been a different story. Harvard has had seasons of 20 or more wins, and they’ve been to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and NIT the past two seasons. But they have yet to get to the holy grail of college basketball, the NCAA Tournament. That has eluded them, including last year when they went to a one-game playoff against Princeton and lost on a buzzer-beating jumper in New Haven. And after Saturday night, they might be on a path to such a game once more, as Penn came to Lavietes Pavilion and stunned Harvard 55-54 on Senior Night.

Harvard could have clinched a tie for the Ivy League title on Saturday night with a win. They would be two games up on two teams, including Penn, with a trip to Columbia and Cornell remaining. Instead, they are tied in the loss column with Penn and could be headed for a one-game playoff with the Quakers. It’s far from a given, as the Quakers’ still have to go to Princeton after hosting Brown and Yale, but now both teams equally control their own destiny since they are even in the loss column. And by now, one can figure Harvard is taking nothing for granted.

For Harvard, it was a tough loss to take. At times, it looked like they would will their way to victory by their defense, as the offense struggled for a lot of the night. Their defense kept them in the lead. But with Zack Rosen willing Penn back into the game, it was Penn whose defense ultimately gave them a chance to win the game. As good as the Harvard defense was, Penn’s defense was even better in the second half, holding Harvard below 32 percent shooting. For the game, they forced 20 Harvard turnovers.

Harvard could be back in the same position it was in a year ago come a day before Selection Sunday. After Saturday night, that is more likely than it was at the beginning of the day.

 

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Andy Katz of ESPN.com reported that Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun is planning to return to the sidelines for the regular season finale on March 3 against Pittsburgh.

Kansas beat Missouri 87-86 in overtime, rallying from a 19-point deficit in the second half. With the win, the Jayhawks clinch a share of their eighth straight Big 12 title.

Staying in the Big 12, Iowa State hasn’t been talked about much in regards to the NCAA Tournament. But after a 65-61 win at Kansas State to improve to 11-5 in conference play, they should at least be a borderline lock.

Purdue scored a big 75-61 win at Michigan that will certainly help its NCAA chances. It was Michigan’s first home loss of the season.

Alabama got JaMychal Green back for Saturday’s 67-50 win over Mississippi State, although it was Levi Randolph who led the way.

St. John’s snapped Notre Dame’s nine-game Big East winning streak, which was a program record. It’s amazing that record was set with this team, but it’s one more reason Mike Brey should run away with Coach of the Year in that conference.

Saint Mary’s won its first outright West Coast Conference title in 23 years with a 67-60 win at San Francisco.

Drexel captured the CAA regular season title outright by winning at Old Dominion. The Dragons already had the top seed locked up. VCU will be the No. 2 seed by virtue of its 89-77 win over George Mason.

Rhode Island handed Saint Louis a damaging 64-62 loss, although as weak as the bubble is this year the Billikens may be able to come back from this for an at-large bid.

 

Sunday’s key matchups:

 

Wisconsin at Ohio State
Florida State at Miami
Cincinnati at South Florida
Pittsburgh at Louisville
Iowa at Illinois
California at Colorado
North Texas at Denver

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