Can there be any doubt anymore about what Boston College should do, must do?
The only uncertainty for Eagles’ athletic director Brad Bate should be when he can officially seal the deal to make Harvard’s Tommy Amaker the Eagles’ next basketball coach.
Bates may have to wait awhile.
In one of the bigger non-upsets in NCAA tournament history, the No. 12 seeded Crimson beat No.5 seed Cincinnati, 61-57 Friday afternoon in a second round East Regional game in Spokane, Washington.
Who didn’t pick Harvard in their bracket as the trendy lower seed winner? Even President Obama projected what was going to happen.
After 65 years of not-even getting an NCAA tournament bid, Harvard, under the guidance of Amaker, who is finishing his seventh season with the Crimson, have now made three tournament appearances in succession and have won their opening game the past two years.
Last year’s win as a No. 14 seed over New Mexico was unexpected. The win over Cincinnati, which finished tied for first in the American Conference with Louisville, didn’t have the Cinderella feel to it.
The Crimson treated it the same way going into the game, saying they were well beyond the “we’re happy to be here” stage. They were in Spokane to win games.
If the Crimson looked liked the better team at the start, at halfime and at the end, it was because they were better.
Maybe not as athletic, but better prepared and better coached.
The Bearcats suffered the embarrassment of being assessed a technical foul in the first half for not having one of their players entered in the official scorebook.
And while there was joy in the Crimson locker room, the euphoria of winning was countered with a “what’s next”’ mentality, which is a sign of success for any program.
What’s next for the Crimson is a third round game against No. 4 seed Michigan State which won its own tug of seed war against Delaware.
With the victory, Harvard became the first Ivy League team to win back to win tournament games in successive years since Princeton did it in 1983 and 1984.
What is next for Amaker will be more praise and pleas from Harvard to not walk away from a program he has built into an Ivy League dynastic force in 7 seasons.
Some will argue that coming to BC, which is mired in the lower depths of the Atlantic Conference and has not been invited to the NCAA tournament dance since 2009, would be for a step DOWN for Amaker.
Why not continue his building process at Harvard? When Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski retires, Amaker can make a judgment whether to move back into the fast lane of ACC basketball where Amaker began his coaching journey as a Blue Devil assistant.
At Harvard, Amaker can be what Pete Carrill was for 29 years at Princeton, an iconic figure, totally comfortable with who he was and where he was working.
Amaker will hear those arguments. Whether he listens to them, remains to be seen.
There is still part of him that wans to win on a consistent basis at the ACC, Big Ten, Big East level, which is one of the knocks against him when he began his head coaching career at Seton Hall and Michigan.
Bates might have to convince Amaker that now is the right time to come across the Charles River, where he can continue to build his legacy as a Division 1 coach.
It might take a long term deal. It might take more money than BC is comfortable paying.
Neither should be an obstacle that can’t be overcome.
But Bates will have to be patient. It is not time to step into the spotlight just yet.
Let Amaker and Harvard have their moment. Let the players, who have worked so hard to get the Crimson reach this plateau, enjoy the feeling of a winning locker room in the NCAA tournament.
A year ago, Florida Gulf Coast was the designated Cinderella team.
Harvard is not a traditional Cinderella simply because it has now come to the Dance three seasons in succession.
“Anything can happen,” said Amaker when asked about what’s next.
The players said they are also beyond thinking of what they do is an upset.
Leading up to this game, Coach emphasized, and we all talked about just living up to our values and our standards and doing the things that have gotten us to this point,” said forward Wesley Saunders, who led the Crimson with 12 points, while contributing 3 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal. “And so, we felt as though if we were able to do that, that we would have a great chance of coming out with a victory. Luckily, we were able to do that tonight and I guess the scoreboard reflected that.”
Amaker said his team has reached a different level in its mental approach to its role or image in the NCAA tournament
I’ve heard it before and I think that college, in college basketball, you look around, and I’ve heard this before where there really aren’t upsets any more.” said Amaker “There may be some surprises, but I just think when you’re looking at seeds and if you’re playing this time of year, you’re probably a pretty good basketball team, and I think you have to be lucky and fortunate to advance in this great tournament. And we were good and, but we also were somewhat fortunate and lucky, as well.
So, I’m not sure about the upset label. Again, I think in the world that we live in college basketball you look around the country and conference play, tournament play, you see many many different types of teams that come out victorious and it may be a surprise. But I’m not sure the way our game is played throughout the course of the year and certainly with conference tournaments and then post season tournaments, there are not really that many upsets.”
Amaker is right to some extent, although if the Crimson beat Michigan State on Saturday, the word upset would be used again.
In this wacky season of parity, anything is possible, including Harvard taking the court next weekend in a Sweet 16 round game at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
And when it is over, whether it is on Saturday or next weekend or even in two weeks in Dallas at the Final Four, Amaker and BC should make it official and begin their relationship.
© 2014, Mark. All rights reserved.