Will Harvard Be the Cinderella of the 2013 NCAA Tournament?

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IMarch 22, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 21:  Wesley Saunders #23 of the Harvard Crimson reacts in the second half alongside Tony Snell #21 of the New Mexico Lobos during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at EnergySolutions Arena on March 21, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Harvard pulled off a gigantic upset over No. 3-seed New Mexico, 68-62, in the round of 64 of this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament, the first true day of March Madness.

On a day that was otherwise quiet on the buzzer-beater and shocking-upset fronts, the Crimson's victory was clearly the biggest surprise.

Most years, No. 12-seed victories are wildly applauded. But Thursday, two No. 12 seeds, Cal and Oregon, flew under the radar, despite toppling fifth-seeded opponents.

But the Bears were Pac-12 contenders, and the Ducks were Pac-12 champions. Each was just a three-point underdog as a No. 12 seed, taking away from the traditional upset mystique that surrounds No. 12 seeds.

No. 14 Harvard was an 11-point underdog against the third-seeded Lobos.

Looking ahead, was the win over New Mexico the end of the line?

Can Harvard pull off the incredible and win a few more games?

Will the Crimson be the Cinderella of the 2013 NCAA tournament?


Do They Have the Mystique?

Some of the previous underrated programs, like Gonzaga, VCU and Butler, have grown and become more mainstream after their tournament success.

This year's March Madness is looking for a new underdog team to get behind, and Harvard might be that squad:

  • The win over New Mexico was the Ivy League school’s first NCAA tournament win in three appearances (1946, 2012 and 2013).
  • The Crimson have won the Ivy League title two straight seasons.
  • Last year, Harvard broke into the AP Top 25.
  • Harvard beat Cal (another Day 3 winner) earlier this season and was one point away from taking down Saint Mary's just before New Year's.


Do They Have the Charm and Charisma?

This Crimson squad has an allure and attraction that will make people pull for them. And that is no doubt helped by the "No. 14" attached to their school for the tournament.

That makes the Crimson a charming watch already, but these guys can be pretty entertaining. In a day when the skill of shooting the basketball has become rare, they can launch it—and launch it accurately.

Harvard is the:

  • No. 6 three-point shooting team (40.3 percent).
  • No. 10 field-goal percentage team in the nation (48.4 percent)
  • No. 9 effective field-goal percentage (55.2 percent) team.

The Crimson flashed these skills against New Mexico, hitting 52.4 percent of their field goals and 8-of-18 three-pointers while missing only four of their 20 free throws.


Does the Glass Slipper Fit?

Just a few hours ago, any honest person would have to admit that Harvard was no more than a first step for New Mexico to finally break through and make a deep run in this year's tournament.

After all, the Lobos, on paper, were one of the best teams in the tournament (No. 2 nationally in RPI and strength of schedule).

But because Harvard pulled off such a shocking win, we now look at them differently. What's more, it wouldn't be a surprise (at this point, anyway) if the Crimson were to knock off an inconsistent sixth-seeded Arizona to break into the Sweet 16.

Other schools had March Madness dreams of forcing their foot into the magical slipper—Davidson, Saint Mary's, Bucknell.

A new Cinderella may be stepping forward, and the slipper seems to fit perfectly.