Harvard wins Ivy League to earn tourney bid, but it's about what comes next
Harvard is the first team in the NCAA tournament field with a 70-58 win at Yale, but we already know that isn't enough.
That is the testament to what Tommy Amaker has wrought.
It's what the Crimson do with that, with a third straight outright Ivy League title and third straight NCAA bid.
A gleeful team gathered near the bench to soak in the moment with the fans that followed them to New Haven, Conn., on Friday night.
But Harvard didn't linger long before Amaker demanded a full sprint to the locker room. There was more work to be done.
Harvard, as a No. 14 seed, notched an upset win over New Mexico in the round of 64 last year before bowing out to Arizona. That alone sweeps away the cuteness about merely making the tournament. The discussion is about how equipped the Ivy League champion is to do that or more, which in some ways is maybe as good as it gets for Ivy League champions.
That is naturally debatable even if the result was not on Friday. Harvard swamped Yale early, leading by 14 before the game was seven minutes old and shooting 56.8 percent from the floor overall. When the Bulldogs threatened just a bit, slinking within single digits late, Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders drained door-slamming three-pointers. It offset the almost unthinkable 14-of-32 effort from the free throw line, though Yale might call it even after missing all 14 of its three-point attempts. Given that Harvard's lone league defeat was a home loss to the Bulldogs on Feb. 8, the emphatic nature of a pressurized win on the road was duly impressive.
But can the Crimson crack the second weekend of the NCAA tournament? That is the direction to which the conversation is forced now. Cornell did it not so long ago in 2010, and Harvard entered Friday just outside the top 50 in the RPI standings. Last year bumped up the bar. As did this season's win over Wisconsin-Green Bay and a narrow loss to Connecticut, while shorthanded. The assessment of Harvard's staying power in March might never be unambiguous. But in that way it's a fine commentary on how remarkable this program build by Amaker has been.
Harvard is the first team to win four straight Ivy League titles since Penn did it from 1993-96. It is the first Ivy League program to reach 20 wins in five straight seasons since Penn did so six times from 1970-75, and it can match the program record for victories with a win at Brown on Saturday.