When Harvard Shot 10 of 72

The basketball team’s brief NCAA appearance in 1946

1946 Harvard basketball team

Two days before the Crimson meet Vanderbilt in the NCAA basketball tournament, the Boston Globe’s senior sports columnist—and longtime basketball fanatic—Bob Ryan plumbed the newspaper’s archives for accounts of the 1946 team’s record and performance, the only prior occasion when Harvard men made it to the show.

Ryan’s salient points:

  • Eight teams played in the 1946 tournament, at Madison Square Garden.
  • Harvard tuned up by playing two games against the Chelsea Naval Hospital club, a team it had already beaten handily, making its record 19-1 before its tournament contest with Ohio State. A win over Rutgers was its only non-New England game. Globe columnist Jerry Nason characterized the level of competition thus: “New England basketball is generally scorned. And Harvard’s basketball is usually rated somewhat lower, on a national scale, than an ant’s spats.’’
  • The team, which improved over its prior-year record of 2-13, did so by populating itself with transfers as World War II veterans returned to, and moved around among, their institutions of higher education.
  • Crimson coach Floyd Stahl, described by Globe columnist Harold Kaese as “extremely thorough” in preparation, was “about as dramatic as a slide rule.”

Getting to the crux of the matter, Ryan notes, “Harvard stunk up the joint and it was a minor miracle it only lost to Ohio State by 8 (46-38). Then, as now, it was very difficult to win when you shoot 10 for 72 from the floor.” (It lost the consolation game with NYU, too, by a score of 67-61, he observes, “closing the books on Harvard NCAA participation for 66 years.”)

Going not very far out on a limb, Ryan concludes, “Whatever happens Thursday when Harvard plays Vanderbilt, the Crimson will shoot better than 10 for 72.”

 

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