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The biggest NCAA tournament snub: Harvard (seriously)


It might amuse you to know that there were folks in Cambridge and greater Boston who actually watched CBS' Selection Show thinking that Harvard had a chance to receive an at-large big to the NCAA tournament.

Silly people. As the draw unfolded it became clear that Harvard wasn't getting and invitation and they were never taken seriously. No way. No how. The big shots in the smoke-filled room were not going to have two teams from the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament.

No, no, no. The bubble teams -- the ones truly snubbed -- were identified by CBS as Mississippi State, St. Mary's, Virginia Tech, Alabama, Colorado and Boston College.

Nobody bothered to include Harvard in that group, even though the Crimson beat both Colorado and BC. Even though the Crimson had an RPI of 35.

Harvard was not taken seriously, even though Princeton got a 13 seed. That's Princeton, another team Harvard beat. That's Princeton, the Ivy League co-champs (along with Harvard), who beat Harvard by one point on a last-second shot in a one-game playoff at Yale Saturday afternoon.

There was virtually no difference between Princeton and Harvard this season. Just one shot. And Princeton got a 13 seed and Harvard got dissed. Not even worthy of bubble talk.

The estimable Bob Ryan, my Basketball Hall of Fame colleague, who has seen approximately 10 million college games, suggested "put 'em both in'' after watching the thrilling one-game playoff. Ryan submitted that Harvard (23-6) might be as worthy as some of the mediocre teams from the power conferences or some of the mid majors who didn't have great seasons.

Nope. The Crimson didn't get a sniff.

Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, who has coached at places like Michigan and Seton Hall, described his players as "heartbroken and devastated.''

But no one is saying the Crimson were "snubbed.'' Ivy League wannabe's are not even worthy of discussion as bubble worthy.

In a 2011 NCAA world of booster nitwits, transcript forging and colleges serving as a minor leagues for professional sports, there is no place for an academic institution with a fight song that includes the phrase "fight fiercely, Harvard. Demonstrate to them our skill.''

I am not making this up. Harvard's is the only fight song that includes the word "albeit."

Harvard once was synonymous with football success (Harvard Stadium is the reason football fields today are 53 1/3 yards wide -- look it up), but that was in the days of leather football helmets, long before the NCAA gridirons were overtaken by behemoths from faraway places like Oklahoma and Alabama.

Harvard hoops has never known glory. For decades Crimson tall fellows played in a small gym that rested atop the university swimming pool. There was a flicker of hope four decades ago when a guy named James Brown (you may have seen him in studio on NFL Sundays) came to Cambridge, but the Crimson were never able to win an Ivy Championship.

Obama's Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan (Harvard captain, '87), is another Harvard hoopster who couldn't get it done. And did I mention Golden State Warrior rookie Jeremy Lin?

Harvard has been playing basketball for 100 years and is still waiting for its first league championship (the Ivy League was formed in 1954). Harvard offers 34 varsity sports and men's basketball is the only one that's never won a league championship (this year the Crimson were officially co-champs).

Ivy League basketball championships are usually won by Princeton and Penn. Those schools even made it to the Final Four. Princeton got there under the leadership of Bill Bradley (a team that had a bench player named Larry Lucchino).

Harvard's only appearance in the NCAA tournament was in 1946, back in the days when the NIT was bigger than the NCAA.

Amaker's 2010-11 Crimson went 12-2 in the league, but the one-game playoff at Yale was the one that mattered. When Douglas Davis's buzzer beater splashed through the bottom of the net, the boys from Cambridge were crushed once again. This will be Princeton's 24th trip to the tournament.

An Ivy League team has never received an at-large bid to the tournament. It doesn't matter that Cornell won two games in last year's dance and went to the Sweet 16. No. This is a tournament with 11 teams from the Big East.

There's always going to be room for John Calipari, who has already had two Final Four appearances vacated, but there's no room for Harvard. They can play in the NIT as a No. 6 seed. Then they can go back to inventing Facebook and sending those twin rowers to the Olympics. The NCAA tournament is always happy to proceed without any representation from Cambridge.