There were more than a few people who believed on Selection Sunday that the New Mexico Lobos were capable of not only making the program’s first-ever Sweet 16 appearance, but possibly even getting to Atlanta.
Harvard put an end to those ambitions in Salt Lake City, upsetting the 3-seed in the West Region by the final score of 68-62. The win is the first-ever NCAA tournament victory for the Crimson, who advance to take on 6-seed Arizona on Saturday.
Harvard controlled tempo and shot 52.4% from the field, outscoring the Lobos by 15 points from beyond the arc (24 points on 8-of-18 shooting for the Crimson). Wesley Saunders led four players in double figures with 18 points and Laurent Rivard added 17, hitting five of his nine shots from beyond the arc.
The Lobos (37.5% shooting on Thursday) entered the game shooting just 42.3% from the field on the season, and despite having offensive threats such as guards Tony Snell and Kendall Williams they aren’t a team that’s going to light it up offensively.
Defense is what’s made the Lobos so successful in Mountain West play, and defense was what they would need in order to make a deep tournament run. Harvard was efficient and hit timely shots, which ultimately led to the Crimson pulling off the biggest upset of the tournament to this point.
Harvard’s victory is the first for a 14-seed since 2010, when Ohio knocked off Georgetown. In total 14-seeds have won 17 games in the history of the NCAA tournament, and given the circumstances surrounding Harvard’s season simply making the tournament was an accomplishment.
The withdrawal of point guard Brandyn Curry and forward Kyle Casey having to withdraw from school, the fortunes of the Crimson rested partly on the shoulders of freshman Siyani Chambers and sophomore Wesley Saunders.
With those two leading the way Harvard managed to repeat as Ivy League champions and pick up the program’s first NCAA tournament victory. Arizona will offer up a significant challenge on Saturday, but in the aftermath of their win over New Mexico it wouldn’t be wise to rule out the Crimson.