Harvard’s ‘been building towards something like this’

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This is why Tommy Amaker passed on Miami. Well, one of the reasons anyway.

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Harvard’s victory at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament is the latest signal of the Crimson’ arrival on the college hoops scene, all of which began when Amaker – a former star at Duke and coach at Michigan and Seton Hall – took the job in 2008. Since then, Harvard won its first Ivy League championship and the most games in school history (23).

And after beating Utah, Florida State and Central Florida in the title game, the Crimson could be looking at their first-ever spot in the AP poll. That happens, the only thing left is a spot in the NCAA tournament, which would be another first. That’s exactly what Amaker wants.

“We’ve been building towards something like this,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said after Saturday’s win. “It’s nice to see it happen for us. We’ve talked about and worked toward it, but we certainly needed to see it happen, and it certainly happened for us here.”

Still, Harvard (6-0) doesn’t qualify as an elite team yet.

Their defense didn’t allow any team to score more than 50 points during Battle 4 Atlantis, but that’s also a factor of their pace (61 possessions a game). They did turn it on, holding every team below .85 points per possession, but that defense is still only rated 32nd in kenpom.com’s ratings. (Having teams only make 53 percent of their free-throw attempts helps quite a bit.)

But give the Crimson some credit. They’re experienced, smart and deep and have done a good job on the boards against more athletic teams. This also should be expected. They had favorable odds to win the tourney.

“We think when we play well and when we’re together and we’re all in, we can play with anybody in the country,’’ Oliver McNally told the Boston Globe. “I think we displayed that this tournament.’’

They’ll soon get another chance to show their skills. Harvard’s at UConn on Dec. 8. We’ll see then just good Amaker’s team is.

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