Hey, 1979 Penn Final Four Team? Don’t worry, you’re safe! And for that matter so too are the 1976 undefeated Indiana Hoosiers. Might as well throw in the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins. The 2014-15 Harvard Crimson men’s basketball team is not going undefeated. And it’s probably not going to the Final Four.
But let’s put Sunday’s one-point loss on a neutral court to a good Holy Cross team that had given the Crimson challenging games in each of the past two years in proper perspective … a perspective that all the Crimson-haters throughout the league often forget.
This is a very good Harvard team, incredibly athletic, with a mix of seasoned veterans and young learners. They were probably worthy of a No. 25 preseason AP ranking and will probably end up near that recognition as well.
But what they have to learn, and what other nationally ranked Ivy League teams of recent memory (Cornell, Princeton – although that wasn’t so recent) had to learn, is that a national ranking brings with it expectations and pressure to perform like a nationally ranked team every night. And frankly, that’s not easy for an Ivy League team, nor should it be.
The Crimson should expect to be treated every game with loud, intimidating aggressiveness, both on and off the court. Sunday was no different. The raucous crowd at Boston Garden (sorry TD Bank, I can’t call it anything else) was decidedly pro-purple, outnumbering Crimson fans in a manner not befitting both schools’ similar enrollment numbers (and the Holy Cross Faithful had to travel a lot further). And the pressure on the court was perhaps the most troubling aspect of the game, forcing Harvard into the most telling and disturbing statistic of the game – 24 turnovers.
But let’s not panic. The ranking will go away for now, but the pressure won’t. And the Crimson are just too good, and too experienced, to not adjust accordingly. Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders have been playing together for too long to continue making mistakes against pressure. And Steve Moundou-Missi is too much of an athletic freak not to put up better numbers.
In short, the Crimson will be fine. They still have to play UMass, Northeastern, Boston U., Vermont and BC (all except BC before the Ivy season begins). So they’ll have the opportunity again to “win Boston,” and prove Holy Cross was a speed bump in greater New England (they don’t play UConn this year). I’m guessing that the Crimson end up right about where they started the season; nationally ranked, Ivy League Champs and 20+ wins, and where another NCAA Tournament win would prove that they indeed, do belong.