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Harvard stamps its brand on March Madness

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

Eight Presidents of the United States. Forty-seven Nobel Prize winners. Forty-seven more Pulitzer Prize recipients.

And one NCAA tournament victory.

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Jeremy Lin celebrates after the win. (Courtesy: Jeremy Lin's Twitter page)

Harvard, that bastion of Supreme Court justices, captains of industry and high school valedictorians, continued its rise in men's basketball with a historic 68-62 victory over New Mexico on Thursday in Salt Lake City.

"YYYYYEEEEESSSSSSSSS!!!," tweeted Harvard alum and current Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin. "HARVARD winssss!!! hahahahhah I told you"

If there was anything surprising about the game, it was the Crimson's domination throughout most of the contest, riding hot 3-point shooting and a strong defensive effort to control the contest.

The Crimson, appearing in just their fourth NCAA tournament ever, will face Arizona on Saturday in the round of 32.

[Yahoo! Sports fan shop: Buy gear commemorating Harvard's historic win]

"I'm extremely proud," said coach Tommy Amaker on CBS after the win. "They had to believe. [Before the game] we talked about preparation and we talked about belief."

Generally it takes winning the entire NCAA tournament for a coach to receive a phone call from the sitting president, but in this case it probably wouldn't surprise anyone if Amaker's phone buzzed from the White House as Barack Obama went to law school there.

Amaker, who played point guard on Duke's 1986 Final Four team, has built the Crimson into a legitimate basketball program over the past six seasons. Recruiting has improved greatly. Ranked teams have been defeated. And for the second consecutive year, the team won the Ivy League.

If anything, Harvard was pointing to next season as a potential breakthrough season. The Crimson lost their two leading scorers from last year and this looked like a season to grow the program.

[Also: How to get away with watching NCAA tourney at work]

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Christian Webster celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer. (USA Today Sports)

Amaker is a confident coach however, a man who's been to the big time and has been able to pass on to his players the concept that they are just as good as anyone out there, Ivy League or not.

He's proven to be the perfect Crimson coach. After some success at Seton Hall and Michigan, he's found his niche identifying exceptional students with game and convincing them that they don't have to pass up  any athletic dreams in Cambridge.

Oh, and they'll earn a world-renowned degree that is truly second to none.

These aren't just weaklings that got lucky. Wesley Saunders, who had 18 points, was a four-star Rivals.com recruit who had Pac 12 interest coming out of Los Angeles. Laurent Rivard, who had 17, wasn't well-known coming out of Canada, but he's been among the best shooters in the East the last couple of seasons.

The Crimson took on a Lobos team that spent much of the season ranked in the top 15 and entered the game with a 29-5 record. They won both the Mountain West regular season and tournament championships.

Yet it was Harvard that took the fight to them, forced them into just 37.5 percent shooting from the floor and keeping it reasonable on the boards to the bigger team (31-25 rebounding edge for UNM).

All while bombing in eight 3-pointers to keep the Lobos on their heels.

[Also: Goggles make way for 3-point monocle on opening day]

It's not like Harvard needed a NCAA Tournament victory to feel good about itself or promote its university. Just about every other university in the world is referred to as the Harvard of something.

On Thursday, Harvard finally stamped its brand on March Madness.

And judging by the excited, but hardly over-the-top reaction of Amaker after the victory, the coach doesn't think his team is done. You might as well get used to the Crimson coming for you.

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