By Jeff Goodman
Harvard has never been ranked in the Top 25.
That needs to change Monday when the new poll is released.
"Honestly, we're not too worried about that," Harvard junior Kyle Casey said moments after the Crimson knocked off Central Florida to win the Battle 4 Atlantis title on Saturday night. "It would be great for the program, but the voters make that decision."
The Crimson is now 6-0 and has knocked off a Top 25 team in Florida State and won the title by beating a UCF squad that dispatched No. 4 UConn in the semis.
"This was our goal," Crimson junior Kyle Casey, who led the team with 15 points, said moments after the 59-49 win over UCF. "It's exhilarating ... I think we were the only ones who believed we could win it."
This Harvard team may not be imposing, but Tommy Amaker's team held its three opponents - Utah, FSU and Central Florida - to just 35 percent shooting. The Crimson also outrebounded all three of its foes, including a mammoth Florida State squad by 10.
"We pride ourselves on our defense," Casey said. "I don't think anyone scored 50 on us over here. Collectively, we locked up on the defensive end."
These guys play as a team. Unselfishly. There's no one hunting shots - or playing for the next level. A typical offensive possession involves at least four or five passes. While the offense wasn't stellar on the trip, it'll improve and become more efficient as the season progresses.
Casey is the most talented player on the team, veteran big man Keith Wright may be the most productive, Oliver McNally is another vet who brings leadership and intangibles to the table - Laurent Rivard stacks up with the nation's most potent perimeter shooters. Then you've got the underrated Brandyn Curry, who was terrific running the team.
"He was phenomenal," Casey said of Curry. "He led our team and was the floor general."
And now Harvard has quality depth with a talented freshman group. Steve Moundou-Missi gives the Crimson another athletic forward while Jonah Travis, Corbin Miller and Wesley Saunders all figure into the rotation.
"Bench and balance," Casey said. "Coach always preaches how balanced we are. We buy into the system and that's what makes us hard to guard."
Harvard is the heavy favorite to win the Ivy League this season after missing out on the NCAA tournament last season following a one-game playoff loss to Princeton, but now the Crimson have a resume win - and brimming confidence - that could aid its seeding down the line. Harvard will play at Vermont and then at home against Seattle in its next two games before traveling to Storrs with a national television contest against UConn.
"I think the country knows that Harvard's not a pushover," Casey said.
If they didn't already knows, they should know now.Photo via Harvard Athletics