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As often occurs in the days following Selection Sunday, the debate has begun over which teams should and shouldn't have gotten into the NCAA tournament.
For the first time ever, a great deal of the discussion has centered around the Harvard men’s basketball team, whose RPI of 35 was the highest of any squad not to be offered a spot in 2011's Madness.
Many analysts have argued that the Crimson deserved a spot in the 68-team field over squads such as UAB—which did not beat a single team in this year's tournament—and, to a lesser extent, VCU, which finished in third place in the Colonial Athletic Association with an RPI 14 spots lower than Harvard’s. Other bubble teams to make the tournament over the Crimson included Clemson (RPI 57) and USC (67).
In an ESPN poll taken during Selection Sunday, half the country felt the Crimson deserved an invite to March Madness. Here’s a look at what others have said regarding the Crimson and the Dance:
ESPN’s Jay Bilas tweeted that “St. Mary's and Harvard should have been in before UAB and VCU. This is not about major or mid-major. This is about best teams, in order.” He added on ESPN’s Bracketology that “You know who really got jobbed? Harvard...Harvard has as good a case, if not better, than UAB and VCU.”
ESPN’s Dick Vitale stated on the same program that “If you’re going to honor NCAA, the true, genuine definition of a student athlete, does it get more so than up there at Harvard? Think about it. They beat Colorado. They beat Boston College at Boston College. They beat Boston U, that’s in the tournament. I think that you could make a great case for Tommy Amaker and Harvard.”
On ESPN’s Outside the Lines, analyst and former Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried said, “I think [the Crimson] did [deserve an at-large bid]. If you look at who some of the teams that were selected in late–I think UAB and VCU are the teams everybody is talking about...I look at Harvard, I look at who they beat, I look at their RPI, when you compare teams against one another, Harvard to me rises to the top."
Before the bracket was announced, Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe argued both Princeton and Harvard should be put into the tournament and asked, “So would it somehow disturb the natural order of things in the college basketball world if the tournament committee rewarded an Ivy cochampion with an RPI of 35 that was beaten in a playoff game on a shot with no time left?..If there’s any justice, the letters following the ‘N’ in [Harvard’s] postseason tournament will be ‘C,’ ‘A,’ and ‘A,’ not ‘I’ and ‘T.’”
On ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption Monday, co-host Michael Wilbon said, “Don’t tell me Penn State had to be in...don’t tell me Illinois had to be in...don’t tell me Harvard had to be out at the expense of one of them.”
ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan wrote that “Harvard...could make an argument that its resume is legitimately better than UAB's. At least the Crimson beat somebody.”
Sports Illustrated’s Dan Shaugnessy called Harvard the biggest snub of the tournament, ripping the selection committee by saying, “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...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.”
Shaugnessy’s colleague at Sports Illustrated, Andy Glockner, deemed Harvard one of his biggest snubs.
The Sporting News’ Michael DeCourcy tweeted that “If there's room in [ESPN’s Joe] Lunardi's bracket for USC, I just can't see how Harvard gets left out.”
NewsOK, discussing Oklahoma State’s matchup with the Crimson in the NIT, wrote that “Harvard had the resume of an NCAA Tournament team.”
The newspaper quoted Harvard coach Tommy Amaker as saying his players were “heartbroken and devastated” by the snub.
But despite its strong profile and Big Dance near-miss, the Crimson received only a six-seed in the NIT, and thus must travel to Stillwater, Okla., where it will take on the Cowboys tonight at 7:30 p.m. There, on national television, it will have the opportunity to prove its doubters wrong–NCAA and NIT selection committees alike.
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