The Harvard men’s basketball team jumped back into the Associated Press Top 25 and tied a season-high with a No. 21 ranking in the coaches poll this week, but it was an alum of the squad who owned all the headlines.
With three spectacular games in which he went head-to-head with two former All-Stars and a No. 1 overall pick—against whom he averaged 25.3 points and 8.3 assists—Jeremy Lin ’10 quickly became one of the most-discussed items in the sports world.
In less than a week, Lin singlehandedly caused New York City to forget that the Giants won the Super Bowl on Sunday, helped Knicks fans discover that basketball can actually be fun to watch, and made Mike D’Antoni remember how effective his system can be when there’s a true point guard running it.
All of a sudden, Lin was a bigger Broadway hit than "Book of Mormon," the first Harvard affiliate to play the role of the triumphant underdog since Matt Damon in "Invictus," and the first New Yorker ever to excel at driving through traffic.
Linsanity became the talk of the Linternet—trending worldwide three times on Twitter in five days—as the punning industry was revived with sayings such as "Just Lin Baby."
By Thursday night, Lin had a higher player efficiency rating than Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Dwayne Wade, had been praised by Magic Johnson and Steve Nash, had become the first player since Isiah Thomas 30 years ago to put up 28 and eight in his first career start, and the first since LeBron in 2002 to go for 20 and eight in his first two starts.
That’s two Hall of Famers and five future Hall of Famers in one paragraph—not bad company for someone who for two months was believed to be less talented than Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby.
Yes, Linception has occurred, and the dream is real.
While doing all this, Lin was often referred to as "the point guard from Harvard," implicitly reminding everyone that indeed, Harvard has a basketball team and, in fact, it’s very good.
And this weekend, the Crimson’s perfect conference record will be on the line during what will be its toughest road trip of the year. Penn and Princeton are two teams in the upper echelon of the conference, and both are dangerous enough to defeat Harvard on their home floors.
So tonight, as Lin prepares for his toughest task yet versus Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, his former teammates are also in for a big challenge against Zack Rosen and the Quakers (+1 for rhyming!).
HARVARD (20-2, 6-0 Ivy) AT PENN (12-10, 4-1)
Many will likely compare this game to one from two years ago, when a 20-3 No. 22 Cornell squad went into Philly and got smoked worse than a Don Draper cigarette, losing 79-64 to a Penn team that had been 3-15 to that point.
This year’s Quakers are a lot better than 2010’s, and—as Harvard learned in last year’s thrilling double-overtime victory—The Palestra is as tough an arena to win in as there is in Ivy basketball.
Rosen has turned into the league’s best guard, ranking second in the conference with 18.3 points and first with 6.0 assists per game. He has quietly become the biggest Jewish basketball sensation since...um...Omri Casspi? Jordan Farmar? Can we officially count Amar’e now?