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Tiny Dancers: Harvard Crimson reach third straight NCAA Tournament

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

C (USATSI)
Siyani Chambers is the key point guard for Tommy Amaker's offense. (USATSI)

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- One confirmed, 67 still on their way.

The NCAA Tournament welcomed its first team to the 2014 field Friday night, as Harvard won at Yale, 70-58, avenging its only league loss this season and in the process clinching a third straight conference crown. The Crimson win soothes some of the bad memories from the surprising 74-67 home loss to the Bulldogs back on Feb. 8.

This is Harvard's third straight Ivy League title, but just the fourth in program history.

The Ivy League remains the only conference that does not hold a league tournament, meaning the regular-season champion earns the automatic bid into the Big Dance. (Can't help but wish some other small leagues did this as well, to be honest.) The Ivy League is becoming a conference of mini-dynasties, too. Cornell, which also has only four league titles to its name in program history, went to three straight tournaments from 2008-10. Princeton, whose 26 Ivy crowns are the most among all schools, went in 2011.

But now Tommy Amaker's Crimson have carved out a special era.

Like Cornell's 2010 team that made the Sweet 16, this Harvard group had high expectations entering this season. While expecting any Ivy group to win two in the NCAAs is lofty, at the very least this team was seen as top 25-caliber in the eyes of some back in the preseason. The group's not been totally dominant, but how about this: It's now one win away -- a road game against Brown on Saturday night -- from besting the 2012 and 2013 Ivy campaigns, which featured two and three losses, respectively.

And remember, this team made history in 2013 when it was a No. 14 seed and upset No. 3 New Mexico during the Round of 64.

Amaker has won 20 or more games in the past four seasons. He's built something terrific, something Harvard fans never expected, or even asked for.

Player to know: Siyani Chambers. The sophomore point guard already has the look and feel of a future Harvard basketball legend. He either leads or is second on the team points, assists, steals, 3-point percentage and minutes. And it's hard to narrow it down to just Chambers, as Wesley Saunders, Kyle Casey and Steve Mondui-Missi are all capable of carrying the team on a given night.

But it's Chambers who leads the team in pre-game huddles and is the most vocal and obvious spark when you watch this team play. And it can be very fun to watch play.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 25-4 overall, 12-1 in Ivy
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2013 (reached Round of 32)
  • Jerry Palm predicts: 14 seed
  • RPI: 52
  • KenPom ranking: 33
  • Sagarin ranking: 37
  • Best wins: vs. Vermont, vs. Green Bay
  • Worst losses: at Florida Atlantic, vs. Yale
  • Notable stat: At 39.3 percent from 3-point range, Amaker's team is one of the 20 best in the country from beyond the arc. The team finished the 2012-13 season at 39.8 percent from deep, and we know how that turned out for it.
  • Closing quip: Team is absolutely capable of winning a game or two. It's a veteran group that is basically incapable of being rattled. It will require the right matchup, but after last year's win against New Mexico, Harvard will surprise nobody. Not bracket pickers, not coaches, not anyone.
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