Mar 22, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT
On Thursday night, Harvard won their first-ever NCAA tournament game in their second NCAA tournament appearance since 1946. That’s impressive, especially when you consider the fact that, when head coach Tommy Amaker took over the program, Harvard basketball was a joke. They had never won a conference title or 20 games in a season. In fact, they had only won more than 10 Ivy League games twice.
Now consider this: Harvard won the Ivy League and knocked off New Mexico in the opening round of the NCAA tournament despite the fact that a) two starters from last year’s team graduated, and b) two more starters from last season, and arguably their two most important players heading into this season, were suspended for the year due to an academic scandal at the school.
In other words, Harvard just won their first NCAA tournament game despite the fact that they lost their four best players off of last year’s team.
So what happened?
It’s simple, really. Harvard has been able to recruit at an unprecedented level for an Ivy League program. They are bringing in kids that are on top 100 lists. They are beating out Big Ten and Big East schools for recruits. And they’re doing it, believe it or not, by selling a Harvard degree.
Back in the summer of 2011, I wrote a fairly in-depth feature for my old site about Harvard’s recruiting and how they were have been able to reel in so much high-major caliber talent. The short version is this: Harvard goes out and identifies all of the talented recruits that they know a) have the grades to get into an Ivy League school and b) care enough about an education that they will consider a school like Harvard over someone in the ACC or the Pac-12. And then the Crimson sell their pitch as well as any program you’ll come across: come here and you can play in NCAA tournaments (see: the last two years) and make the NBA (see: Jeremy Lin), and when you graduate, you’ll have the single most valuable degree that money can buy.
To quote assistant coach Yanni Hufnagel, “Harvard’s not a four year decision, it’s a 40 year decision.”
Obviously, it’s worked. According to his Rivals page, freshman point guard Siyani Chambers was being recruited by Nebraska, Georgia Tech, St. Louis and Washington State. Wesley Saunders, a sophomore leading the team in scoring, was a top 100 recruit with offers from Colorado, USC and San Diego State, per Rivals. 2013 commit Zena Edosomwan was recruited by every school in the Pac-12, including the likes of UCLA, Arizona and Gonzaga.
How do you survive the loss of four starters? Have an absurd amount of talent stockpiled on your roster.
Harvard’s emergence is not without controversy, however.
Ivy League schools aren’t enthralled about the idea that the Crimson are able to recruit at this level. They believe that Harvard has reduced their standards for admission. They aren’t breaking any rules doing so — any recruit enrolling at an Ivy League school needs a minimum score on the Academic Index to enroll — but the thinking is that instead of requiring their basketball players to adhere to a higher standard, Harvard is letting hoopers with the minimum AI into their program.
Regardless of whether or not you take issue with it, that’s how the Crimson were able to go from the laughing stock of the Ivy League to the NCAA tournament’s Cinderella story in just five short years.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Jul 2, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
This is nasty.
Jul 2, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
The Class of 2007 produced some very good players, including one who’s an NBA MVP and others who have developed into perennial all-stars.
Jul 2, 2015, 2:53 PM EDT
I’m a big fan of these, particularly the dark grey ones.
Jul 2, 2015, 12:43 PM EDT
Cell phone addiction is a national crisis.
Jul 2, 2015, 12:17 PM EDT
Can anyone guess what that moment is?
Jul 2, 2015, 10:09 AM EDT
This is something else.
Jul 2, 2015, 9:27 AM EDT
The Golden Bears should still be alright this season.
Jul 1, 2015, 10:05 PM EDT
Dillard becomes Oklahoma State’s fourth addition to the program.
Jul 1, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
Next up for the United States is Italy, and they could run into hosts Greece in the semifinals.
Jul 1, 2015, 8:10 PM EDT
Jones recently received his qualifying score on the SAT, only to inform SDSU that he wanted to be released from his NLI.
Former Illinois women’s basketball players file lawsuit against athletic director, head coach and former assistant
Jul 1, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT
AD Mike Thomas stated in May that there would be an investigation into the allegations.
Jul 1, 2015, 5:03 PM EDT
KD, Stephen and Russ lead the way, and two of those three weren’t even ranked coming out of high school.
Jul 1, 2015, 4:50 PM EDT
Cal already has two members of its 2015 class on campus, and they added another to the mix Wednesday.
Jul 1, 2015, 3:54 PM EDT
He’s currently teammates with a soon-to-be Oregon Duck. Hmm …
Jul 1, 2015, 1:53 PM EDT
That makes three commitments in 24 hours for Cincinnati.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
Terrence Samuel was recruited over at UConn.
Jul 1, 2015, 11:24 AM EDT
Kansas is in South Korea repping the USA in the World University Games.
Jul 1, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino gave his take on the situation surrounding Jarvis Johnson.
Jul 1, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Missouri is missing sophomore forward Montaque Gill-Caesar from summer workouts.
Jun 30, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT
Virginia has some talented backcourt pieces committed in the 2016 class.
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