Managing expectations is a skill in coaching just like any other, and Tommy Amaker did that expertly, calmly guiding his team to a program-best 13-1 conference record and another bid to the NCAA Tournament.
As I reflect on the last four years, I realize now that my greatest competitive battles at Harvard have come not at the MAC or in an Ec 10 lecture hall, but with my rear planted firmly on some species of futon and my hands wrapped around a small video remote.
For the Harvard men’s basketball team, winning is becoming a habit—but on Thursday, it never looked easy. In a game in which every inbounds pass, every layup, and every free throw had to be earned, the Crimson did just enough to stave off a hard-charging Cincinnati squad, 61-57.
Now, as it enters its opening game in the NCAA tournament Thursday afternoon against Cincinnati (27-6, 15-3 American Athletic Conference), Harvard has a chance to re-assume the exciting identity of the underdog—and relief has given way to a different feeling.
The appeal of March Madness lies in its unpredictability. The odds of filling out a perfect bracket are worse than 1 in 100 billion, which you recognize to be true every year on the first Friday of the tournament when your surefire Final Four pick is upset by the No. 15 seed.
It would be hard to find a more intense matchup, as the league-leading Crimson battled a Princeton team that, though it was out of the conference race, still clung tightly to its pride and to its 24-game home winning streak over its Cambridge rival. And as the final seconds ticked down at Jadwin Gymnasium Saturday night, the faces of the Harvard players wore an expression not seen in this building in a couple decades: big, wide grins.
After getting rescued by two football players, Touchdown then “walked back to the hotel alone,” because godless, marauding killing machines never require supervision on their trips back to continental breakfast.
On paper, the only big loss to graduation the Harvard men’s basketball team sustained this year was that of Christian Webster ’13. But paper can’t tell you much about heart or passion. Until now, paper never documented the departure of football player and student section leader Adam Riegel ’13.
The Crimson’s usual sources of scoring were not delivering, and stepping into the void was freshman forward Zena Edosomwan, whose contributions on the night illuminated both how far he had come since the beginning of the season and how much could be in store for his Harvard career.