One for the Books
For only the second time in history and the first time since 1946, Harvard sent a team to the Big Dance—the NCAA basketball tournament—this year. The Crimson earned the Ivy League’s NCAA slot with their second consecutive league championship season—after having posted no titles since the Ancient Eight’s incarnation in 1956. In 2011, Harvard shared the Ivy laurels with Princeton, which won a one-game playoff for the NCAA bid by one point, but this year, Harvard secured the title outright on the strength of a 12-2 conference record, one game ahead of Penn’s 11-3. Harvard’s 26-5 overall mark set a Crimson record for victories in a season. The squad also attained the first national ranking in program history, rising as high as #22 in the AP poll and #21 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll.
Seeded #12 in the NCAA’s East Region, the Crimson flew to Albuquerque to face Vanderbilt, the #5 seed. Early on, Harvard opened a three-point lead at 20-17, but Vanderbilt responded with a 13-3 run and sank a trey at the halftime buzzer for a 33-23 edge. The Commodores continued their hot outside shooting to build an 18-point second-half lead, threatening a blowout. But Harvard’s defense clamped down, and with seven minutes left, the comeback started when Kyle Casey followed a dunk with a three-pointer to cut the margin to 12. Offensively, Laurent Rivard ’14 sizzled, netting a team-high 20 points on 6-of-7 shooting beyond the arc. The Crimson doggedly fought back to 70-65 with 1:51 to play, but could draw no closer; the final was 79-70. The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan summed it all up as “the greatest season in Harvard basketball history....They have gone where no Harvard men have gone before. They should be proud.”