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Harvard Upsets 3-Seed New Mexico, Media Relies on Smart Guy Stereotypes

14th-seeded Harvard upset 3-seed New Mexico in Thursday's NCAA tournament action. (Steve Dykes/USA Today Sports)

The 14th-seeded Harvard Crimson upset 3-seed New Mexico, 68-62, during last night’s “second” round action in the NCAA tournament. The win marked Harvard’s first March Madness win in university history.

Crimson guard-forward Wesley Saunders led four Harvard players in double figures with 18 points, followed closely by Laurent Rivard with 17. Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow led New Mexico with 22 and 15 points, respectively.

The Lobos shot just 37.5 percent from the field, including an abysmal 3-of-14 performance from beyond the arc. Harvard, meanwhile, shot over 50 percent for the game, hitting 44.4 percent (8-of-18) of its 3-point attempts.

Unfortunately, there was a downside to Thursday’s biggest bracket buster: the media relying on “clever” cliches and smart guy stereotypes to highlight the upset.

The AP story begins, “Give those Harvard kids an A-plus in another subject: Bracketbusting 101.”

The ESPN headline Friday morning reads, “Educated Upset.”

In the same way that any article about Tennessee Titans backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick or Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin (who was just a little excited about last night’s win) inevitably mentions their Harvard roots, the school is seemingly incapable of escaping its reputation as an Ivy League school.

That’s obviously not necessarily bad to be known for your high-level academics and nearly unmatched education. But maybe the kids on the Harvard men’s basketball team, celebrating the first NCAA tournament win in school history, deserve to be applauded for their athletic achievements – without everyone raising their eyebrows as if to say, “Hey, who knew those brainiacs could ball?”

It makes it seem as if the Ivies have to “overcome” their academic aptitude, or as if they’re less athletic for being “smart” and “intelligent.” This needlessly diminishes their athletic prowess, solely on the baseless reasoning that they attend a university more renowned for its academic programs than its athletic ones.

After all, no one’s talking about 12-seeds Oregon or California as academic institutions. The Crimson upset of New Mexico is impressive because Harvard is a 14-seed that beat a Lobos team that some prognosticators predicted would make it all the way to the Final Four – not because all their players are (supposedly) more focused on their learning than their layup lines.

About Nick Bohlen - @ndbohlen

Nick is an editor and regular contributor for the Patriots, Celtics, and Red Sox sections of SoB. (Despite growing up in Vermont, just a short drive from Canada, hockey never really caught on with him.) Follow him on twitter: @ndbohlen

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